Julio X. Palomino

The November Featured Writer is Julio X. Palomino

Feel free to email Julio at: julio666@gmail.com


by Julio X. Palomino

I don’t know what had gotten into Mom, but she wasn’t okay. She had floored it, driving around in short circles in the middle of an abandoned parking lot on the eastside of town, where nothing much stood except for abandoned warehouses and boarded up houses. The sun was blotted out by something dark. I couldn’t get a long enough look at what it was because I was stuck inside a nightmarish carousel with my mother. An image of that carnival ride that looked like a spaceship came to mind.

The doors in the SUV were locked. There was nothing I could do.

“Mom! Stop! Mom!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, over and over incessantly. Her head was turned to the right and she was staring at the thing in the sky. Her brown hair looked electrified; standing up, suspended in the air and touching the roof of the car.

My heart was hammering in my chest. What the hell was going on with her?

While the car kept going around and around, counter-clockwise, I hung on by sitting sideways with my back up against the door. I started kicking at the window, trying to smash it so I could escape. But when I did, my mom whipped the steering wheel to the right, and it sent me flying against the other side. My head hit the glass so hard I almost passed out.

“Mom! Stop!”

The car nearly tipped over when she turned the wheel back to the left. I caught a glimpse of a pole getting closer and closer. The SUV was burning rubber; the endless sound of squealing tires against egg-cooking-hot asphalt was tormenting.

My mom was gone. Whoever it was that sat in the driver’s seat was somebody else, and I had to keep telling myself that. I wouldn’t dare move closer to her, because if I did, I had a feeling she’d react the same way—the sudden defense mechanism of turning that wheel.

From where I sat, I caught a glimpse of her eyes. They were no longer hers at all. They were bloodshot; the rest of her face was pulsating. The veins were bulging out from her neck, her forehead, and her cheeks. Her mouth was opened wide in a savage grin, spittle spewing out as she continuously hissed like some rabid animal. Her teeth were nicotine stained, but while she kept on snarling, I swore they had looked more like fangs.

I closed my eyes because I was getting nauseous again.

I’m going to have to do something, I told myself. Despite the fact that we were spinning around at such a high velocity, I made one final attempt at stopping the SUV. I jumped in between the seats, grabbed the keys in the ignition, and in the seconds that it took for my hand to land on them, my mom’s clammy hand landed on mine. Half of my body leaning in the front while the rest of me was still in the back, my feet were planted firmly against the cushion of the backseat.

Mom’s face turned a few inches, mechanically to the right, her eyes were staring past me—that savage, inhuman grin mere inches away.

I could smell her breath. She didn’t smell human; it was an animal-smell.

She made a sound in her throat. I couldn’t make it out. It was like the sound someone makes when they gargle warm salt water.

Before she could turn the wheel, I grabbed the key and pulled. I proved stronger but we had been going too fast. As soon as the keys were in my hand, the SUV flipped.

A groaning sound erupted, followed by the explosion of glass from the windshields shattering into a million pieces. My head hit the roof with a loud thomp, and it wasn’t until the second roll when the SUV finally landed, suddenly still and eerily quiet.

Time stopped. I could hear pieces of the car falling on to the asphalt—loud clinging and clanging. I was lying on the ceiling of the car, twisted underneath my right arm. I tried twiddling my fingers, but a sharp pain shot across my entire right side. I gave out a shriek.

I tried to move, but I was stiff and felt as though I were moving underwater.  I straightened and began to crawl. The palm of my hand landed on shards of glass, digging into the flesh. I screamed again and dropped onto my stomach. The glass threatened to go through my clothes; to pierce my chest. I laid there for a while, struggling to gain motivation to try again.

What about Mom? I turned, and she was still belted in her seat, suspended in the air. To my horror, she was still transfixed, her head pointed in the direction of the sky. She was still hissing, sounding like a deflating tire.

“Mom, please, just snap out of it already, please?”I whimpered.

I turned slowly and laid down on my back, still feeling shock, and I tried to crawl my way out with a potential broken arm. I used my only free hand. I looked up and saw the world upside-down.

I can do this, I can do this, I kept repeating in my mind, hoping for a surge in motivation.

I bent my knees and pushed, sliding out like a snail. Eventually my head made it out of the gaping square hole, the sun blinding me while I made it out. Some of the shards of glass had cut holes into my shirt. I felt a stinging sensation in the small of my back, but disregarded it. The pain in my arm was much worse.

When I got to my feet, I shielded my eyes with my other arm until my eyes adjusted. The turned-over SUV’s tires were shifting from left to right, left to right. In horror, I noticed my mom doing the turning, robotically, her chin against her chest.

“Mom! Get out of the car! Please… Please, Mom,” my voice trailed off .

I turned. I saw something in the sky that looked like a blotch, but couldn’t make out what it was. Suddenly a loud explosion sounded and I jumped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

There was a streamline of vehicles, some of them crashing into each other and sailing through the air. One red car sped down from an overpass and slammed against another at an intersection and burst into flames. Other vehicles made their way down hills, cutting through suburban neighborhoods like charging infantry, towards the abandoned parking lot.

And then an image of locusts popped in my head. What the hell… are they coming after me? I thought.

I turned around once again to take a better look at what I had seen in the sky. I squinted and saw that the blotch of darkness was slowly filling the sun like a solar eclipse. But this was different; it looked like the mouth of a snake, expanding and struggling to swallow its prey whole.

I stood—silent, frozen, confused. I had no idea what my next move should be.

Then I realized that I had to save my mother. I reached into the SUV and tugged at her. She remained immobile and refused to help me help her. I tugged at her seatbelt, trying to unfasten it, but I couldn’t because of her upside-down weight upon it.

I turned again, because the immediate threat was speeding down in the direction of the parking lot. One of those oncoming cars would kill me. I felt their malignant determination. I thought of all those silly movies my Dad use to watch. One in particular came to mind: the one with the cars that came to life to kill humans.

Before I knew it, my legs were moving faster than I had expected them to. I felt guilt about leaving my mother behind, but I knew I would never get her out of the car by myself. I’d have to get help.

The brick warehouse was about a half-a-mile away. I could make it just before the first twenty-or-so cars showed up to greet me. All the while, I cradled my arm.

I was hoping that the loading dock was long enough and high enough to shield me from any oncoming vehicles. My heart was pounding and sweat dripped into my eyes,

 Keep moving. You’re almost there. Come on.

The sunlight was slowly darkening. The long, looming shadows were swallowing everything in their path. The edge of the darkness was creeping closer and closer.
Check your pockets for your cell! I searched and patted my jeans and there it was. The bulge.

My ugly, blocky Kyocera was in my left pocket! Thank you, thank you, thank you, I thought.

I spotted a red door at the end of the loading dock. First shelter, then 911.


There was a small flight of stairs on the left side. I ascended them as quickly as I could. Once I was in front of the door, I tried the handle. I wasn’t surprised to find it locked, and regardless, I grabbed at the handle and pulled, screaming while I did.

I turned around, my back up against that red door, and slid down to the ground. I punched 911 into my cell phone, and my heart crashed when there was no signal. I lowered my head, placing my forehead in between my knees, and cried.

Cars roared into the parking lot. They started doing their circles, looking like large swirling atoms. Others crashed into each other, again and again. I stood up, eyes widening as I caught something floating in the direction of the blotch.

Like a giant flock of birds, were hordes of people, either dead or unconscious, drifting across the sky. Heads were bent low, arms and legs hanging limp. They were all being pulled, magnetized by that giant apparition swallowing the sun.

Before darkness consumed everything, I saw people getting pulled out from the windows of their vehicles, joining their lifeless flock in the sky.

I gripped my cell phone and activated the flashlight. All I could see was the edge of the concrete platform. All I could hear was my own breathing.

In a desperate effort to save myself, I stood up and turned to grab the door handle a second time.

My shoes lifted off the ground.         

Julio X. Palomino was born in Miami, Florida, and now lives in Everett, Washington state. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Western Washington University and is currently working on a new novel.