‘Yo! Wasn’t that movie lit?’ exclaimed Kody as he walked out of the theatre. Dakota rolled her eyes. She smiled just in time for him to spin around, face her and hop down the stairs backwards.
What a dork, she thought. She had high hopes for this date when he rolled up to her middle-class home in his yellow Mustang and perfect smile. But then, she noticed that the guy matched his car. He blended so well with the vehicle, with his neon yellow shirt, that he looked like a gorgeous head with sea-blue eyes, perfectly aligned bleached teeth, golden curls for days, and a car attached to his head.
He had stepped out of the vehicle and met her at the door. He went around to the car’s passenger side and opened the door for her. Dakota thought he was charming, a perfect gentleman, even. Once the door was gently closed—that should have been the first sign that he was odd—he crouched and produced one of those fuzzy cloths from his pockets. Wiping the vehicle down, Kody murmured something she didn’t catch and stood back up. Pocketing the cloth, he sauntered over to the driver’s side, flashing his perfect smile, and they were off to the movie theatre.
Most of the way there, Kody spoke of his car and its perfect curves. He referred to it as she and baby. How cringe is that? Dakota’s cheek twitched, and she wrinkled her nose, murmuring. ‘Jeez, get a room.’
She should have demanded he take her home at that point, but he was so handsome. Instead, she figured she’d watch the movie and call for an exit afterwards. During the flick, the guy had tried the old yawn-stretch move on her in the theatre. Who does that?
Now that the movie was over, it was time to call Cheyenne and fake an emergency. A small surge of adrenaline flooded her body, causing her heart to skip a beat and a thin film of sweat to appear on her brow. Her phone was gone. In its place was a small wooden token.
Dakota mentally retraced her steps, trying to think of the last time she had felt her phone in her back pocket. As she turned the wooden coin in her fingers, she calmed down. Her phone was missing; it wasn’t the end of the world.
An image of Cheyenne dropping off Dakota’s mail came to her as she wondered where the trinket had come from. It had been nestled between two letters. Yes, she remembered the coin. Cheyenne said she had never seen it before. Dakota didn’t recall pocketing it, but here it was.
She smiled as she felt the symbol carved on one side of the coin. It was a simple line with three branches at the top, reminiscent of a broom standing on its handle. On the other side were needle marks etched around the edges.
Dakota sighed and mumbled, ‘I wish this stupid date with this loser would end.’
‘Deal,’ came a male voice. Dakota scanned her surroundings to find the speaker, but she and Kody were alone on the theatre’s stairs. Dakota shook her head and dismissed the word as her imagination. She shivered and pocketed the coin. Almost immediately, the panic of losing her phone returned.
‘Where the hell is my phone?’ asked Dakota, her accusing gaze falling on Kody.
‘I don’t know, must be in the car,’ he said, but he didn’t offer his device. Dakota strolled over to Kody, swearing to herself that she would never agree to a blind date again.
The day became night while the movie played. An unsettling feeling tickled at the back of her mind. Dakota searched the parking lot for any sign of danger and the source of her foreboding. Everything was quiet. She frowned. The crickets weren’t chirping, and the cars on the busy street were silent.
Kody sipped his drink, making a loud, rude noise, bringing her attention back to him. He cocked his head and studied the cup, shaking it a little. They reached the bottom of the stairs as Dakota’s annoyance reached new heights. Satisfied his drink was empty, Kody threw the empty cup in the trash.
Where had Cheyenne found this guy? He checked off every single box of Dakota’s pet peeves and then some. Yes, he was gorgeous, with the perfect tan, bod and bleached-blond hair. He was also rich, so at least he had that going for him. But why would she set them up if she knew Dakota would hate this guy?
Kody’s hand brushed up against hers as they walked into the parking lot. Surprised, Dakota pulled hers back and wrinkled her nose in disgust. Then her date did the unforgiving. He ruffled her hair. Dakota yelped and smacked his hand away.
‘What the hell, Kody?’ She sneered at him and stopped walking. With an undignified harrumph and a stomp of her foot, she fished out her compact and a light pink brush from her purse. After fixing her hair, she applied another layer of bright red lipstick and checked her mascara.
Suddenly, chills ran up her spine. She stopped what she was doing and scanned the area once more. The uncanny silence hurt her ears. ‘Kody?’ she asked with a slight tremor in her voice.
‘What is it?’
Dakota saw Kody standing under a lamppost, looking like a wounded puppy.
‘Isn’t it quiet?’ she asked.
Kody shrugged, ‘It’s probably just because of the high volume in the theatre. Your ears need to adjust to the world outside. Everything seems fine to me,’ he replied. ‘So about the movie, wasn’t it great?’
‘Mhm,’ she replied absently, still trying to figure out why everything but them was silent. Dakota wondered if Kody might have been correct. He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to expand on her answer.
Struggling to recall a good scene from the movie, she picked a mundane situation that happens in every horror flick.
‘When that thing came for the hikers, they should have stuck together instead of running their separate ways,’ she said.
‘They always split up, don’t they?’
Kody snort-laughed. At this, Dakota smiled, even though the sound grated her already frayed nerves. Her gaze moved to the far end of the parking lot, where Kody parked his car under a lamppost. Only three vehicles remained in the lot. She looked up at the waning moon and the scattered stars in the sky.
It wasn’t that late. Dakota wondered why the lot was so empty. It had to take more than two to four employees to run a theatre…
Dakota’s sense of unease increased as the world around her spun. She stood still as Kody rambled on.
‘Yo, Dakota, you good?’ asked Kody.
‘Yes, yes, I’m fine.’ Dakota smiled at the young man, who then grinned at her. She looked away from him as her gaze fell upon the yellow Mustang: Kody’s baby. A shadow stood beside the vehicle, extending a long onyx arm across the hood. Adrenaline started to course through her veins as her fear spiked.
Something was wrong. Dakota tried to remain calm by reminding herself that she wasn’t alone. Kody was…well, apart from being a loser, Kody was a dude. If it turned out that the voice, the silence and now this shadow were not her imagination, then the least he could do was put up a fight and give her a chance to escape.
‘Kody, there’s a—’ she hesitated, unsure how to describe the uncanny shadow. The more she stared at it, the more it seemed to beacon her to it. The thing was incredibly long and lithe. Sharp silver claws glinted in the light, and golden eyes stared back at her. It moved like a dark ghost around the vehicle and reached across its hood. Then it vanished.
‘A what?’ Kody tugged on the white lace of his expensive runners and stood. Dakota frowned, looking at him. His shoe must have come untied, and he missed the shadow. Typical.
‘…a shadow thing. It was really weird. It touched your car.’ She frowned and squinted, trying to find the shadow in the dark.
‘A shadow thing?’ he asked incredulously. ‘It touched my car? Oh, hell no!’
Kody sprinted off in his neon yellow t-shirt and white shorts. He whipped out his white fuzzy cloth as he ran. Dakota chuckled. What was he going to do, spank the person with a cloth? Come to think of it, she would definitely pay to see that.
‘No one touches my baby!’ yelled Kody as he ran to his car, one fist balled up and the other holding the material, ready for a fight or a wipe down.
Dakota sauntered over to the car, still chuckling.
Kody crouched beside the vehicle, searching for a sneaky vandal to fight. She halted mid-step, watching as the creature appeared from the surrounding shadows. It grew in length and width.
Fear gripped Dakota, and she instinctively reached for her missing phone. Instead, she held the wooden trinket in her hand. The terror she initially felt at the sudden appearance of the shadow creature seemed to recede.
The thing leaned onto the hood of the yellow car slowly and carefully. It moved in a sensual dance, rubbing itself across Kody’s baby. Its suggestive movements made Dakota uncomfortable. She could easily imagine Kody caressing his vehicle in a similar manner.
Dakota was mesmerised by the display before her. She scrunched up her nose and came to her senses. Surely, she was hallucinating or dreaming. Maybe it was all a trick of the light, she thought. Shadows were shadows; they were not things. They were not opaque, and they were not capable of such actions and sensuality. Shadows simply didn’t have make-out sessions with cars.
Dakota scolded herself for her thoughts being in the gutter. It had to be an elaborate prank set up by Cheyenne. Yes, that was it. She was still mad that Dakota had stolen her boyfriend last year, even though she dumped him as soon as Cheyenne found out.
The shadow’s golden gaze met hers.
‘Shit,’ she exclaimed when golden eyes formed in what looked like the face of the shadow-thing. White fangs appeared from a smile stretching eerily across its jet-black face. Either her friend had splurged on a prank, or this was a supernatural entity.
Suddenly, she heard the creature calling to her, its baritone voice whispering in her mind.
Dakota, I have come to save you from your torment.
The words made her shiver, a wave of pleasure and excitement crashing against her. Her salivary glands activated, and heat rose throughout her body. The fear she had felt only moments ago was gone. Dakota wanted to go to the shadow creature and let it wrap itself around her, feel its embrace.
As she stepped closer, she felt the coin grow warm in her hand. She hadn’t realised she was still holding the trinket. She glanced at it and returned it to her pocket.
The cool fingers of dread returned and traced her spine. Dakota shuddered. She closed her eyes, trying to sort through her thoughts. The thing was gross and oily, like a pool of tar; why would she want to go to it? It didn’t appear human, and, on top of that, it would ruin her make-up and hair.
When Dakota opened her eyes, her sense of foreboding grew, and she swayed unsteadily. The shadow had vanished. Kody stood from his search for the vandal and wiped down his Mustang.
‘Did they hurt you, baby?’ he cooed to his non-sentient car. ‘Did you see where the vandal went? I didn’t find whatever you said you saw,’ said Kody, now directing his words to her.
‘He just… disappeared,’ answered Dakota.
‘He?’ asked Kody.
‘I assumed, but it could be anyone. The shadow-thing… he…it…’ Dakota thought of the golden eyes, the teeth, and the entity caressing the car. If it would have touched her in the same manner… Heat rose again to her cheeks, and she smiled weakly, embarrassed. Dakota crossed her arms over her chest and peered into Kody’s blue eyes. A flash of gold disappeared as fast as it appeared, and his eyes smiled knowingly. He returned his attention to the vehicle.
‘Are you okay, baby?’ he cooed. Although Kody faced the Mustang, she felt he was addressing her. An image of Kody sprawling over his car suggestively intruded on her thoughts. She wrinkled her nose and muttered, ‘Eww.’
Kody’s wiping motion caught momentarily, but he quickly recovered and continued to clean his Mustang.
‘He’s gone now. I think I want to go home,’ said Dakota. Kody stopped wiping his car and stood behind her. He reached for her shoulder to comfort her. As his skin touched hers, goosebumps rose across her arms. She stepped away from him bumping against the card and turned to face him. His lips curled into a smile.
Dakota’s eyes went wide as she felt something warm crawl up her leg. Looking down, she saw a black pool of shadow inching up to her knees. With a terrified scream, she squeezed her eyes closed.
‘Woah there, Dakota. Everything is fine!’ said Kody. He let go of her and stepped back but the thing was still moving up, sending pins and needles up her leg.
‘Help me!’cried Dakota. She unconsciously reached for the wooden coin. Dakota no longer felt pain or fear. Her breath caught at the pleasure pulsating through her body. She hated herself for her reaction to this creature. The pins and needles now felt like a million tiny lips kissing her olive skin.
The world spun as Dakota dropped the wooden trinket. Fear and adrenaline rushed through her body. Her heart pounded against her chest, and sweat formed on her brow.
Instead of the warm summer night, Dakota suddenly felt cold. She could no longer feel the tendrils crawling up her legs. When Dakota tried to move, she could not. She fearfully opened her eyes. The parking lot, the car and Kody were gone. Instead, she was in a dark room. Inches from her face were golden eyes in an ink black face. They studied her as she struggled against her invisible restraints.
‘Let me go!’ she screamed.
‘Why would I do that? You just got here,’ answered the creature with a sultry voice.
‘You are holding me against my will!’ she cried as she tried to stand. Her wrists and ankles were bound to her seat.
‘Am I? I distinctly recall you wishing for the date to be over and following the Dunk-a-Date instructions to the letter to summon a rescue,’ stated the dark creature. Its voice was now more like a salesperson’s than the sexy baritone it had used earlier. Dakota frowned. The shadow’s golden eyes were now peering at her from an angle as it awaited her answer.
‘I didn’t know I was doing anything,’ exclaimed Dakota.
‘Aw, I see. You didn’t read the fine print. Well, now, I guess we have a problem. You see, we gave you the full service. We even created this body for your consciousness to reside here while one of our people has to go through with the end of the date with the boy, lied the entity. ‘I feel that we have upheld our end of the bargain, and now, you must pay for services rendered.’
‘What fine print? Where? Why would I pay for anything. You kidnapped me!’
‘The fine print on the wooden coin, of course. No one reads the fine print,’ the shadow creature sighed, then produced a magnifying glass. The trinket appeared in its inky hand, and he held it before Dakota. The coin was bathed in magical light, permitting her to see.
Looking through the magnifying glass, she read, Dunk-a-Date: We save you from a date. No awkward scenes or goodbye kisses. Just Goodbye. Leave it all to us and enjoy the ride! *Terms and conditions apply and are subject to change without warning.*
‘You touched the rune and wished for the end of the date; we made that happen. Do you think we do that for free?’ asked the creature. The coin vanished from his hand. An instant later, Dakota felt the familiar wooden coin in her right hand as her captor placed a long, thin hand on her arm.
Dakota felt her desire stir inside her once more. She shivered as the shadow watched her, smiling like one of those salespeople on television trying to sell whitening toothpaste. She inhaled deeply, shuddered and opened her mouth to speak. Instead, a moan of desire escaped her.
‘D-d-don’t touch me,’ she said weakly.
The creature chuckled and released her. Dakota felt a sudden wave of loneliness and cold. She longed for him to touch her again, but she needed to stay rational. She opened her fingers and the coin dropped to the ground with a muffled thump.
‘I didn’t know about your magic stuff,’ she whined, ’what even are you?’
‘Well, that’s a good question with a complicated answer, but all you need to know is that I have many names, though all human cultures would agree that I am a Trickster,’ he proudly answered.
Dakota snorted, ‘You don’t say…what do you want from me, Loki?’ she finally asked with a bite to her words.
‘I’m not Loki. But to answer your question, our service is complete; we made a deal. The terms of payment are quite simple and fair: A date for a date.’
Dakota’s brow knotted.
‘You want me to go on a date with you?’ she said, half-concerned but willing. She breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow, that he wasn’t human didn’t bother her in the least.It couldn’t be worse than that douche, Kody.
The shadow creature chuckled.
‘Of course not. You are to be a Dunk-a-Date stand-in for someone else once our services are requested.’
Dakota deflated. ‘So you’re telling me you saved me from a date with a dork just to have to go through a different date with a different dork for someone else?’
‘Now, you get it,’ he replied.
Dakota looked at the thing, incredulous, waiting for it to chuckle, and tell her he was kidding.
After a slow count to three without a comeback from the creature, Dakota summoned her calmest, most matter-of-fact voice, and said, ‘No.’
‘No. I would go on a date with you, but a date with a dork? No thanks. Pass,’ she said casually.
‘Mmm,’ his low baritone voice rumbled through the room. Dakota felt something round in her hand. It was the wooden trinket from earlier with the upside-down broom rune. Suddenly, inappropriate thoughts came to the forefront of her mind. She imagined the shadow creature, him, wrapping himself around her, the thousands of lips kissing her flesh. He would take her here, in this dark and mysterious room, her wrists and ankles chained. Her desire raged. She watched him move closer, tugging gently at the shackles keeping her in place. She bit her lower lip and gazed at him seductively. The creature loomed over her, the same intensity in his eyes. It was about to happen. She moaned quietly, lifting an eyebrow, when he stretched a long, inky arm over her head.
With a click, a red light strobed overhead.
Mood lighting? Sweet.
The shadow creature stayed where he was, breathing onto her skin, causing goosebumps and waves of desire to wash over her. The light changed colour. The room was plunged in glowing green light. Dakota’s eyes focused on his. He moved back ever so slightly, and his jet-black face brushed up against hers, causing her to moan in pleasure once more. He leaned close to her ear and brushed her dark hair away.
‘Look around, Dakota,’ whispered her captor, with his deep, sultry voice.
He pulled back and stood before her. In the dim light, Dakota observed her surroundings. She was lying on a yellow velvet chaise lounge, her wrists and ankles shackled to the cement floor, limiting her movements. Across the room was a sizable luxurious office desk with runes carved into the legs. Behind was an equally fancy and expensive chair. On the desk was a computer and a landline phone. A life-sized photograph of a yellow Mustang covered the wall behind the desk. Just above the picture of the cursed vehicle that she hated so profoundly was a sign written in yellow letters. It read Dunk-a-Date.
She squinted, confused. Dropping the trinket to the floor, terror gripped her once more.
‘What the—’ she scanned the rest of the room, aware of dozens of pictures of scantily clad women, but her gaze stopped on one. Under the picture of the dark olive-skinned girl with slanted green eyes and long brown hair were the words: Cheyenne, Employee of the Month.
‘Bitch,’ seethed Dakota. Cheyenne had tricked her, and now she was being held captive by a sometimes-sexy beast.
A familiar chuckle came from her captor. The voice was not that of the salesperson nor the deep and sultry one; instead, it was that of Kody.
‘Hey, Dakota,’ said the shadow creature in a mock greeting. ‘Surprise!’
‘Oh, hell no!’ exclaimed Dakota.
‘Hell yes,’ replied the thing that was Kody but did not look like Kody. ‘Well, now that all the conditions have been satisfied by both parties and an opportunity for the wisher to accept the offer of employment in exchange for the services of Dunk-a-Date, which have already been provided and rejected,’ said the shadow creature in his best salesperson reading the fine print at the end of an advert, ‘It’s time to pay up, Dakota,’ he added in his Kody voice.
‘I hate you and your Employee of the Month,’ mumbled Dakota.
‘I’ve been nothing but fair. You wished to be difficult,’ replied the ink-jet shadow creature formerly known as Kody, standing next to her, sharpening his silver, razor-sharp claws.
‘I change my mind; I’ll work for you,’ she replied as fear crept into her blood.
‘It’s too late. You did not take the opportunity given to you. Cheyenne was happy to comply, and not only did she set us up, but she gets all this.’ If he had eyebrows, she knew he would have wriggled them. As he was, he smiled and swiped his long, thin arms up and down, showing off his supernatural shadow body.
Dakota groaned. Then, it dawned on her that if she had given Kody a chance, she wouldn’t be in this position, or would she? There was no way to know.
She sighed sadly as the creature morphed momentarily into Kody. He looked exactly how she had left him, like a Disney Channel surfer boy with a winning smile. He crouched beside the yellow chaise lounge. Leaning next to her ear once more, he whispered in the deep, sultry, baritone voice that made her shudder.
‘I’m hungry,’ Kody said, his blue eyes changing back to gold. As he stepped back from her, his tanned skin became saggy, and began melting and drooping. She turned her head to face him, and their lips touched. Her terrified and lustful amber gaze locked with his. His previously perfect bleached white smile now appeared sinister, as it stretched all the way to his dripping ears before the skin slipped off his face.
All her desire and hope, brought on by the magic coin, disappeared as the previously warm fingers of the shadow creature sliced through her flesh, and she screamed. The formerly Kody-thing before her went into a frenzy and seemed to revel in her fear. Now that his human skin and clothes were lying in a puddle on the dark office floor, and all the terror drained from her, the Kody creature wrapped itself around her.
His body rippled, growing longer and caressing her as millions of tiny pinpricks perforated her skin. Dakota was paralysed mid-scream as his venom coursed through her body. Her eyes stared past the hungry beast who feasted on her human flesh. She could still feel pain, but she was trapped, unable to do anything but breathe.
The door to the office opened and let in a bit of light. A familiar voice interrupted the feast.
‘Sir, your car has been cleaned and waxed. We have a new customer. I will schedule the date for tomorrow. I hope you enjoy your meal.’
Kody lifted his head from her and stilled his bladed claws. Blood and skin dripped from his maw. He turned to smile at his employee, ‘Thank you, Cheyenne. I’ll be with you when I’m done here.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ answered Dakota’s ex-friend. ‘Enjoy your meal.’ She closed the door with a soft click, and Kody smiled at Dakota.
About the Author
Geneviève is a 42-year-old mother of three who lives in Canada. She also has a cat named Thor, God of Thunder, protector of Asgard. She started writing short stories at age 12 and French poetry soon after. Fascinated with mythology, psychology, and the supernatural, she likes to blend her favourite subjects to create unique stories.