It was some sort of insect or worm, but what kind Eric couldn’t tell.

He crouched to try and see better into the guy’s mouth and that’s when it got him.

Whatever the creature had been flew, or jumped out of the guy’s open mouth and latched onto Eric’s cheek.

Eric screamed and fell back. He clutched at the thing. It was long and cylindrical and squirmed wetly in his two hands like a thick, yet short, snake. But he could feel a hard, chitinous shell beneath his hands and millions of writhing legs.

On his back on the floor of the bus, Eric tried pulling the thing from his face but it clung too tightly, biting into his flesh as blood dripped into his ear.

He squeezed, hoping to crush the thing, but its shell was too thick.

He pulled again with all his might, screaming as it tore from his face, taking a good portion of his flesh along for the ride. It writhed in his grasp, twisting and turning as it chittered and hissed. He couldn’t make it out clearly through the tears but could see that it was about a foot long and shaped like a large sausage but with a whip-like tail protruding from it’s far end.

The thing continued to squirm and hiss as Eric tried to stand, holding the creature out before him. His eyes cleared and he could see a mouth, ringed with hook-like, segmented appendages. Like black fingers ending in claws. They raked at the air as if trying to bite him. A scorpion worm. It was the only thing he could think of to describe it.

He rose, his breathing coming in quick, sharp gasps, the scorpion worm held out as far as his arms would stretch. It fought against his grasp, seeking freedom. It was something he could not allow.

Standing now, he swung his arms like swinging a baseball bat and struck the thing across the top of the closest seat back. That took some of the fight out of it.

He struck it again and again. A fourth, and then a fifth time until the once writhing obscenity hung limply in his hands. He let it drop to the floor with a dull thud.

He scrambled to the front of the bus and retrieved the phone. There was no way that guy was still alive. Not with something like that in his mouth.

He swayed for a moment as he looked down at the phone’s screen. His vision blurred and everything swam in an out of focus. He shook his head.

“Come on,” he said. “Get your shit together.”

The phone’s screen came into focus and he dialed the three numbers.

“911, what is your emergency?” The operator asked.

“I have a dead guy on my bus,” Eric said. He didn’t mention the scorpion worm. Better not to at this point.

“May I have your location?” Replied the operator.

“Yeah, I’m, uh-” he began. But his words failed him as a coyote jumped into the bus from the open door.

“Sir?” The operator asked. “Your location?”

Eric backed away from the coyote down the center aisle of the bus. It followed.

“Uh,” he said once again. It was the only word his internal dictionary was able to call up as the coyote continued moving toward him. It was the coyote of his dream. He could see the thing’s insides dragging along behind it, leaving a trail of wet gore in its wake. What he had managed to keep down before suddenly spewed out of his mouth and painted the seats next to him.

“Sir, could you give us your location?” said a voice from far away.

Then he heard a chittering hiss behind him and he spun. The scorpion worm was clinging to the ceiling of the bus a few feet away.

Eric whipped his head back around to the front of bus to find the coyote gone.

“Sir, are you still there?” came the voice again. It was coming from the phone.

“I, uh,” Eric said, watching the spot where the coyote had been.

“Sir,” the voice on the phone said, “where is your location?”

“I’m at, um —” he was finding it difficult to speak, to put his words together. “— the coyote.”

Then the thing, the shiny black scorpion worm, was right above him.

It dropped atop him.

Eric screamed.

“It’s got me!”

“What has you sir? What is your location?” the voice on the phone continued to ask.

But Eric couldn’t answer. He could only scream as the thing bit into his shoulder and pain bolted down his body as something hot and wet began to flow down his back. He tried to fight back, tried grasping at the thing, but it had begun to burrow into him.

“Sir, I’ve been able to pinpoint your location,” the voice said. It came from the floor. He’d dropped the phone. “Emergency units are on their way.”

He fell forward onto his face as he felt the scorpion worm dig deeper and deeper into him.

His last thought, before the blackness took him, was of his father.

The knowledge of whether the thought was good or bad dropped into the black void with Eric.

Here ends Chapter One

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