He is tired, his aching feet are heavy and it has already been a long day, he gets out of the car, the engine still running, but the front tyre of his car has burst.
His mind and his soul are so burned out from the bullshit of the day to day that he can't even be mad about this. But he is mad when he checks the boot of my car - the puncture kit is gone, and the spare tyre already occupies one of the back tyres - a fact he now laments, he had forgotten to replace this a couple of weeks back when he had gone over some loose cobbles.
He retrieves his phone from the cup holder under his console, and of course, the display indicates that there is no signal.
He sighs and pockets his phone, he gets in the car and rolls it to the side of the road, he turns off the engine and gets back out.
On his way here he had passed a small petrol station, it had only been a couple of miles or so back the way he came, and whilst he wasn't sure how much farther society was in the other way he knew that this was there so he would need to make his way there, or at least far enough that he would get signal to call for roadside assistance.
He closes his car door and fishes his torch from the boot of the car. Closing the boot he then engages the lock and begins to walk forward. He turns on the torch and before him deep into that dark night he can see only the straight road and the old, dark trees, the almost seem to lean over the road, as if reaching out to each other.
He moves forward and as the light from the torch bounces from the trees and the faint lines on the road, he begins to feel ever so slightly like he is being watched.
The colours of the world almost seem to have drained, as if he is now in greyscale, he pushes on, certain that the movement he keeps 'seeing' is just in his mind, as if there is something there, waiting for him to look before it might jump out.
But he keeps on, keeping his torch highlighting this path, but then he stops, he is certain he heard something, a rustling sound, the creaking of branches or the crunching of leaves.
He stands still for a moment, there somewhere between light and dark, somewhere between awake and nightmare, he rubs the tired and fear from his face and scolds himself for being afraid of nothing, of the sounds and the wind.
He lowers his head, and begins to push on, widening his stride, he can feel his heart thumping and can hear his own tired and frightened breathing, why had he not replaced that tyre?
He then stops with a start, there on the edge of the pool of light cast by his torch is something he cannot explain, something that makes no sense.
He nears the car and glances a number of times at the licence plate, and sure enough, it is his. His hands begin to tremble softly, this is very wrong. He begins to consider that maybe he is dreaming, or more accurately having a nightmare.
He turns and turns, he is in panic, his heart thumping harder and harder against his ribs.
Then a small voice whispers.
"Are you lost, sir?"
He looks to where the voice comes from, and there at the side of the road, by a tree is a small girl in a violet dress, with a wide blue cummerbund, white knee-length stockings and blue shoes.
The tree branch hangs in a way that it covers her face, but no matter how the man leans he cannot make out any features on her face.
"Little girl, are you lost?"
"I am fine sir," her voice is strange, beautiful, yet something about it is wrong, and this wrongness sends chills down the spine of the man, who moves a step to his left, the girls face remains covered. "Are you lost?"
"My car... where are your parents?"
"They are sleeping, sir."
The man takes a step closer, and the girl steps back.
"I just want to help, can you come closer to the light?"
"Children don't like light, sir." Her wrong voice is older than her frame, he knows this right away, but he cannot say why. Behind him, he hears footfalls and giggling. He turns but sees nothing.
He looks back to where the girl had been and feels a chill running through him. The girl is gone and in her place a young boy.
He is wearing a shirt, shorts, socks that come halfway up his shins, black shoes. Like the girl, the boys face is covered, but the man cannot see how.
"Where is the little girl?"
"She went to play with the others" the boy spoke, his voice has the same wrongness as the girl, however, the boy is somehow more wrong.
"What is your name lad?"
"We don't have names here sir. And we don't like the light."
The man takes a step back and feels something cut his thigh he spins and points his torch but there is nothing there, he quickly gets in his car and turns on the light inside the car, his leg is wet with blood, he turns on the engine and his headlights.
There at the edge of the light a row of children, all dressed in old outfits, all their faces are hidden by the un-light of the dark woods, he presses down on the gas but the car doesn't move. Each of the children move their hands as one and reach into their pockets, the each slip a small switchblade from their pockets.
The girl in the violet dress steps forward and the man sees her face, the light dies and he screams.