An unidentifiable sound was blown toward her on the wind, and she slowed. It was impossible to tell what was making it, but it had an unmistakable sound of fear and hopeless melancholy to it. Her oil ran cold, but she kept driving, reasoning that it was just the wind in the grass. But there it was again, a high, lonely whimper of someone or something in unspeakable pain. She rolled to a halt and listened hard, for the sound was barely above a whisper, and sounded almost as if it were coming from miles away. The chill in her frame, however, told her it was close.
"H-hello?" she said, voice cracking in terror. The voice responded, slightly louder, a hollow, high moan. It was behind her.
She turned slowly, trembling, but nothing was there. It called out again, from somewhere in the grass, and the car couldn't drag her eyes from the spot where she knew it was.
The grass rustled and parted slightly, but all that was revealed was darkness. Not the darkness of the night around her, but something much deeper, something you couldn't see into, no matter how you strained. It grew from the spot, crawling like an oozing bloodstain, and then the car began to whimper in fear, because whatever came out of that darkness was the embodiment of pain and loneliness.
It wasn't a vehicle, it wasn't an animal, it was just fear and loathing, with a sunken face smeared with blood, a gaping, whimpering mouth filled with the same darkness that surrounded it. It heaved itself from the grass on four disjointed, malformed legs and gasped a horrible, rattling gasp that sounded like a dying breath. The woman screamed...
...and Fillmore choked slightly on his soda with a sputter, eyes glued to the drive-in movie screen.
"Oh, man, why do they always stop to look? Just run!" he said. "I wouldn't have stuck around."
He was talking to himself, for the spot next to him normally occupied by the World War 2 Willys Jeep was vacant as it was every Halloween. Most of the other cars were there for the midnight showing, McQueen clinging to an annoyed looking Sally who kept telling him it was just a movie, Doc rolling his eyes and Sheriff more occupied with his snacks than the movie. Other than Sarge, the only vehicle that wasn't present was the timid Red, who opted to go to bed early after giving out treats to the younger trick-or-treaters.
"Do you get free refills on the jumbo sized drink?" came the loud voice of Mack from the back row, followed by a series of hisses and shushing from the crowd.
An hour later, the movie ended as all horror movies do with a vague ending and a last minute fright, leaving the normally laid back Fillmore feeling slightly edgy. As the vehicles filtered out of the drive-in (Mater's frame shaking audibly from the crowd) the bus waited for everyone else to exit before making his way home, high-beams turned on even though the streets were fairly well lit even at this hour.
As he was nearly home, a group younger looking vehicles, too old for trick-or-treating but too young to be at home on Halloween night were driving in the opposite direction. They were all male, most of them muscle cars or modified hatchbacks, and they stopped when they reached the bus, two of them guffawing in laughter.
"Wow, you sure went all out on your costume, old man!" the leader said, his voice slurred, and it was clear that most of them were drunk. "So you're supposed to be a hippie, are you?" He was a Ford Mustang.
Another car spoke up, an unidentifiable hatchback. "I think he really is a hippie, man, he's a Volkswagen bus...they're all hippies..." he said, swaying slightly."
"Man, go back to the sixties!"
"You got any drugs on you? I bet you're so high!"
"Haha, you don't even need to dress up, you look like a goof in a costume twenty four seven!"
Fillmore chuckled, but he was clearly intimidated, and tried to calm his engine. He put on his best unconcerned smile, hoping the group would become bored with him and move on if he didn't react, but one of them, the Mustang, had shoved him drunkenly, and the bus couldn't help but cry out slightly in fear and surprise. He checked his mirrors, but everyone else had gone home for the night. There was no one to help him.
"You got any drugs on you?" the Mustang asked again, and Fillmore realized he was serious. He tried to smile, though his axles were trembling.
"I think you guys have had enough for tonight, don't you think?" he said, trying to keep his voice quiet and agreeable.
"We're just getting started!" one of them hooted, and the Mustang shoved him again.
"Hey, man, you don't need to get hostile..." Fillmore said, backing away slightly, and the entire crowd of them broke into loud laughter.
The Mustang's drunken face contorted into a sneer, and he lifted a tire to strike the bus, who winced and waited for the tire to connect, but it never happened. He slowly opened his closed eyes to see what had happened, and his tank gave a relieved turn when he saw that the Mustang's tire had been caught and was now being twisted back painfully by the deeply treaded tire of a Jeep.
"Aren't you kids out a little late?" he said, finally releasing the Mustang's tire, who hissed in pain and twisted it back and forth, wincing.
"Aren't you out a little late, grandpa?" sneered the hatchback, but he was quickly buffeted into silence by the Jeep's tire, who was presently raised high on his axles, glowering at him. Like all bullies, the group of them were not interested in picking on someone who was going to fight back, and they backed away, worried.
"Watch the paint..." the hatchback said, and Sarge snorted.
"Why, did you ladies just get back from the spa?" he spat, and his voice sounded positively dangerous, brimming with rage he was barely controlling. He was smaller than any of the cars in the group facing him, but he had more bearings than all of them put together, and the entire group knew by looking at him that he wouldn't hesitate to hurt them if they pushed their luck.
"Hey man, can't you take a joke?" the Mustang said. "We were just passing through, right guys?" he said, then drove off at a rather undignified speed, his cronies following quickly in his wake.
Sarge turned and watched them go, trembling with rage, and Fillmore smiled at him fondly.
"Thanks, man..." he said, reaching out a tire to place it on the Jeep gratefully, but Sarge was too fast and dodged out of the way.
"Don't touch me in public," he said, and Fillmore dropped his tire with a sad smile.
"I missed you at the movies," the bus ventured to say, watching as the last of the cars vanished from view in his rear-view mirror. The Jeep seemed to calm somewhat then.
"You know I don't do those stupid movies," he said, then drove back to his hut. Fillmore followed him wordlessly, and Sarge turned on him.
"You look like a little lost puppy, you know that?" he said, lip curling. Fillmore lowered his front end and raised his back like a dog that wanted to play, laughing loudly at Sarge's disgusted look.
"Shoo, then," the Jeep said, turning to go inside. Fillmore frowned.
"How come you always hole yourself up in your hut on Halloween?" he asked, and Sarge stopped short. His voice came out in an offended tone that far exceeded his usual grumpiness.
"It's a stupid holiday," he said.
"Well, you hate Christmas, too, and you don't hide, then, sirdude."
"That's because people don't jump out and scare you on Christmas."
"I just can't stand disrespectful youth."
Fillmore paused again, choosing his words carefully.
"There's lots of those on Christmas, too, Sarge..."
"Shut up, hippie. What are you, Dr. Phil? Goodnight."
"Can I come in?"
Sarge turned, raising his hood slightly. "I'm not in the mood," the Jeep said, and Fillmore chuckled.
"No, I just wanna come in..."
There was a very long silence in which all that could be heard was the sound of the wind rustling through the grass. Fillmore shivered slightly. It reminded him of the movie he had just watched. Sarge noted this, figured the bus must be scared, and allowed him to enter.
"Thanks, man," Fillmore said, driving inside. The front of the hut, which was the store, was in darkness save for the headlights of the two old vehicles. Sarge only grunted in reply and headed into the living room, where the TV and a small lamp illuminated the immaculately clean living space.
The Jeep settled onto a mat in front of the TV and went back to watching the news. Fillmore drove into the room and settled a considerable distance from him, not wanting to push his luck. There was something odd, just like every Halloween, about Sarge's behavior, and the bus could tell his friend was one edge.
He knew why, of course, whether he ever had the courage to mention it. It was because Sarge was afraid, but not of Halloween, or ghosts, or ghouls. He had seen enough real-life horrors to make movies and children in costumes a joke.
After about an hour in which neither of them spoke, Fillmore finally ventured to say, tiredly: "Sarge, y'know, I know some things come back to haunt you and all, but you don't need to spend Halloween so lonely every year."
He winced slightly, expecting a quick, loud retort, but it didn't come. Sarge merely sighed.
"Some things just don't leave you. I don't need people sneaking up on me tonight. It might not end well."
Fillmore's face softened into a touched smile, and he drove forward, unable to keep himself away from Sarge any longer. That admittance, the bus knew, meant a lot. Sarge had just given in, however slightly, and it was almost an honour.
He reached a tire out to touch the Jeep for the second time that night, and their eyes met, Sarge's burning with a 'don't you dare touch me,' look. Fillmore looked back at him, considered it, and ignored the warning, placing the tire in what he hoped was a comforting gesture on the Jeep's frame. Sarge growled.
"Hippie, I'm warning you..."
"I hear you, I just ain't listening, man," Fillmore said softly, pulling even closer. "C'mere, man, you need this whether you know it or not."
And he pulled him close into a hug, Sarge growling and struggling and here and there landing a few kicks on the buses face, who merely closed his eyes and bore it with a smile.
"Let me go, let me go!"
"I'm chasing the monsters away."
"There's no such thing as monsters!" Sarge said.
"Not anymore," Fillmore said, and Sarge finally relaxed with a defeated sigh.
"Why don't you ever listen to me?" Sarge said, and Fillmore chuckled.
"Because you don't know what's good for you. I owe you, man. You helped me, now I'm helping you."
Sarge looked as if he wanted desperately to think up a reason for the bus to let him go, opening and closing his mouth, stammering here and there, but the sensation of Fillmore's lips planting a gentle kiss on his side caused him to fall silent. He flicked off the television and leaned against the bus, and try as he might, he could find no monsters left.
He lay staring at the wall for some time, until the bus' faint snoring reached him, and he smiled slightly. He tried to move, but Fillmore clung tight and pulled him near with a mumble. Sarge relented, deciding he was going to be spending the night in his living room, and started to drift off himself.
Outside, someone set off a firecracker, and the resounding crack split the silent night air, but the half-asleep Sarge didn't flinch.