The first step towards getting help, they say, is admitting you have a problem. Of course, there's no 12-step program for owning a carnivorous car, so I had to solve this one myself.
The usual solutions presented themselves: sell it, smash it, leave it unlocked in a high crime area. I wasn't prepared to sell it because that wouldn't be solving the problem, it would just be pawning it off on someone else, and to a certain degree I'd be responsible for whatever deaths they caused, and I didn't need that on my conscience. Dave's death had been an accident, but ultimately I had been the cause of his death and it was something I'd have to live with for the rest of my life. But to knowingly pass along something like this would be tantamount to selling a rabid animal.
So what do you do with a rabid beast? You destroy it. But I was starting to listen to the back of my mind that had never completely outgrown ghost stories, and it told me that monkey paws like this never ever went gently into that good night. At best, it would just find a way to follow me home. At worst, it might consider me food.
That last thought, however, triggered another. Dave had been consumed and I had only been threatened away, yet of the two I had placed myself in the greater danger. Perhaps the act of owning the Yellow Peril enforced a kind of magical contract -- "Keep me fed and stay away from my tank and I won't kill you." After all, I still didn't know if the car could drive itself. Maybe it needed an owner to bring it food.
Or maybe it silently cruised the streets at night, looking for stray pets and homeless people.
"I assure you, this sort of thing happens all the time," the lawyer said, assuring me not one bit. "People who have found themselves in situations like Ms. Whitmore's often seek to put the record straight. Perhaps she feels some remorse for involving you in this sordid affair." He proffered the envelope in my direction once again.
"Mister, you have no idea how sordid it really is," I said, snatching it from his hand and closing the door. It had been a week since Dave's... accident... and I hadn't been sleeping well. I felt like I had betrayed him, not reporting his death to the authorities, but what could I have said? That my car fell on him, consumed his flesh and drank his blood, leaving no trace? That would have only made me look crazy. Perhaps even seem like Mandy's accomplice in the disappearance of that child she'd confessed to. And if I was jailed, what would become of the car? Sold at police auction, to another hapless victim...
I'd just left the garage when I'd regained my senses. An employee, a customer, someone would realize that he was missing and call the police. After a few days, he'd become a missing person, and some time after that, a statistic.
A statistic. On the drive back, I'd started counting the numbers of flowers on the Peril's hood. I'd stopped when I reached two dozen, sickened and frightened. This wasn't a car -- this was a tool of mass murder. This was Ted Bundy prettied up with sunshine and flowers. This was...
This was a scathing political statement, come to think of it. A car that ran on human blood. A car that, according to Mandy, was there when Katrina devastated the oil refineries and drove gas prices upwards. A car whose model was known for its extravagant consumption of gas.
If this curse was spontaneously formed, it was hellishly poetic karma. If it had been placed by someone, this was nothing short of magical terrorism.
Either way, if I didn't figure out a way to deal with it soon, I was fucked. I had not been sleeping well, and increasingly I had found myself behind the wheel of the Yellow Peril, cruising the streets during the early morning hours as I came out of whatever fatigue-induced fugue had compelled me to start driving. I suspected that it was the car itself, preying on my addled, sleep-deprived brain. Even with its incredible mileage, I was steadily running through its fuel reserves. It was down to a quarter tank and, I suspected, its hunger grew as the needle fell. It would have to feed again soon.
I went to get another beer from the fridge. My current strategy was to drink myself into a stupor each night, rendering me incapable of driving. Or, in a worst case scenario, spectacularly crash the Peril into something large and immobile, though I suspected that if that happened it would probably start eating the rescue crews.
The letter. I'd forgotten it already, but it was in the hand that was reaching for a beer. With unsteady hands, I opened it.
Animals will do in a pinch, it said in what I assumed was Mandy's handwriting. But they don't last long.
Humans are better.
It prefers children though. Guess they're more innocent.
I figure a baby will last it a month or more.
I vomited on the kitchen floor.