I’m excited. This date is the date. Rebecca is the hottest girl in the office, and I’m the one who she agreed to go out with! I check my reflection one last time in the window as I get into my car. “Getting in the Outback for some Outback!” Ha. Nailed it. I’ll have to tell Rebecca that joke. She’ll like that. I turn the key and head out for what will be a fun evening.
I’m not that far down the road before I hear it. The chime…..my god….the sound. It’s finally happened. I thought I had more time. “Damn it, Eric.” , I mutter under my breath, but there’s no sense in beating myself up now. It’s too late. I watch in horror as the blood red needle drops, like my heart does into my stomach, all the way to E. Oh, how that glowing E mocked me as it steadily bored itself into my very soul. Why the hell didn’t I fill up last week before the LAW changed?
I think back on the time before. Before those idiots had changed the LAW. Things were so simple; pull up, tell them how much gas you wanted, pay, and then leave. Now, thanks to the LAW, I’d have to pump my own gas. Which, by the way, is complete bullshit. I had lived in Oregon my entire life. What they hell did I know about pumping my own gas?
“Get your shit together, Eric!” How hard could this be. People in other states could pump their own gas. You got this. I slowly turn off the road and pull into the gas station. Okay…breathe…..you got this. I get out of the car. It’s so much colder now than it was when I left my house. After cursing myself for not bringing a jacket for the date, I make eye contact with a guy across the parking lot, getting out of a station wagon. We both smile.
“You ever do this before?”, Station Wagon Guy says.
“Nah. First time I ran out after the LAW changed.”
“Yeah. Me too. I figure, what’s the worst that could happen?”, he says as he approaches the pump.
He’s right. I’m being silly. I slowly walk to the pump. Seems pretty standard. Wow, they’ve got a TV on it now. That’s cool. I look down only to see….three different nozzles?!?! What the hell, man?!? My car only has one spot to put the gas. “shit.” I look up at Station Wagon, he’s staring in disbelief at the same thing I am. Also, when did it get so cloudy?
“Whoa! Does it matter which one I pick?”, Station Wagon asks.
Station Wagon puts his hand on the middle nozzle, only to stop and decide on the far right. He puts his newly acquired apparatus into his car and squeezes the trigger. I see a flash of light. It’s so stupid; in the flash I see a…. creature, I guess. It’s got the body of a kangaroo but the face of a….little cricket? Maybe I should call Rebecca; clearly I’m not feeling well. I look back up at Station Wagon. He’s still pumping….only he looks….a little older.
Before I can even register how dumb that sounds I see it. I see the Kangaroo-Thing again. In front of my eyes, Station Wagon is getting older.. He looks like he’s in his 50’s now. He’s desperately trying to pull his hand from the trigger, but he can’t! My god, he’s screaming now! He’s older….70s……80s…..he’s nothing but skin and bones. I can’t move, I can’t scream as his eyes pull back into his skull, his muscles evaporating from his body, and his skin stretches tight against his skeleton. For a second he’s just a skeleton standing at his car. I have a brief thought of the cartoons I used to watch as a kid. A gasp escapes my mouth as he crumbles to dust and blows away. Somewhere, the Kangaroo-Thing laughs; it is a sound more horrible than anything I’ve ever heard.
I turn back to my car only to realize I’m facing the pump again. I quickly try to run. It’s pointless; I’m back at the pump. I look up to see the Kangaroo-Thing sitting, perched upon the gas station. I can see now that it has a hard shell on its back. The cricket mouth opens, and I smell gasoline.
“PUMP.” It hisses, flooding me with that sickeningly sweet smell of gasoline. I almost pass out. I stare down at the three nozzles. Swallowing hard, I grab the middle one. I stare up at this demonic thing. Before I can speak it bellows, “PUMP!”
My hands shaking, I put the nozzle into my car. I squeeze the handle and silently pray that I made the right choice. I hear the flow of gas, the numbers start to spin, and the TV comes on. The TV is filled with the image of the Kangaroo-Thing. My eyes shoot back up to the top of the gas station; it’s gone. I can’t bear to look at the TV screen; every time I do, my blood runs cold. Instead I watch the numbers spin.
They’re going up, both the gallons, and the price. Even to a guy who’s never pumped his own gas that seems normal. I blink and the numbers are spinning the wrong way. No that can’t be right. It’s getting hard to focus….I’m just so… sleepy….thoughts…hard…..date….Rebecca….gas….Empty…..Full……pump…..pump…..pump…… I see Kangaroo-Thing. It feels like I’m floating towards it. It opens its pouch. I don’t want to go in, but it feels soooo warm and I’m so sleepy. I can’t fight it.
I’m not standing by my car anymore. I’m standing inside a white room. There’s a window across from me. Behind me, the white stretches for what seems like forever. As I walk to the window I see….me. That can’t be me; I’m still standing by my car, pumping gas, like nothings happened.
“Oh my god….I’m inside the TV.” The words barely leave my mouth before the “me” pumping gas turns to stare. “Not Me” smiles, his eyes cold and black. He stops pumping gas and removes the nozzle. As he places it back on the pump I hear him laugh. It is the laugh of the Kangaroo-Thing.
Darkness starts to creep in. The TV is turning off. I can’t see. I can’t feel anything. One last thought enters my head and I can barely say it before the darkness takes everything.
“Why? Why did they make this legal?”