The Phantom Snatchers

Photo by Bart De Greef on Unsplash

The readouts didn’t change no matter how far they travelled down the desolate, rocky road. There was nothing to read but hardy shrubs that refused to budge in the constant, howling winds.

“Anything?” Gary gripped his jacket tight, keeping his hood pulled down.

“Fuck all,” Monica turned the readout to him, and he squinted in a torrent of wind to look for himself. “There’s nothing here Gary, the phantom snatchers are just a local myth. The people who go missing out here probably die of hyperthermia and then the wind blows them into these godforsaken shrubs!”

“I really thought this was a real one,” Gary drooped, “Fine, we’ll go back to the hotel. Bloody folk tales.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever find real ghosts, honey.” Monica shoved the ecto-scanner into her coat pocket and huddled up to him. “But hey, any excuse to take your wife out to a lovely location!” she gestured to the desolate heath.

“Anything to make you huddle up to me!” Gary laughed, wrapping his arms around her, “Come on, let’s get back to the village and have a hot shower.”

They turned back along the almost endless roadway, heading towards the remote town made famous for its stories about phantom snatchers on this empty, lonesome stretch. Just an old wives tale it seemed, to scare the kids into not coming out into the constant wind.

“Hey,” Gary perked up as they walked, “Is that wind dying down?”

Monica wanted to believe him, but was hesitant, waiting for the next gust to pick up at the same rate as her hopes. But he was right, the biting cold was less awful, the abrasive blowing across her face was abating.

“And I thought it would never stop!” Monica cheered.

The last gust died out with a pitiful whimper and the couple was left marching in silence, save for the crunch of boots over wet stone.

“Kinda eerie though isn’t it?” Monica said after a few minutes.

“I don’t give a shit, I can feel my face again!” Gary replied. He puffed a breath of condensed air, “And I can see my breath again!”

Mist crept up from the shrubbery in the still cold. It came up in puffs, sporadically, filling the expanse on either side of the road.

Monica cocked her head, the puffs of mist that rose from the shrubbery came rhythmically, just like Gary’s misted breath, just like hers. . . She slowly reached into her coat and pulled out the ecto-reader, pointing it towards the strange phenomena.

“Something up, dear?” Gary said. He leaned over her trembling shoulder and looked through the screen, his face draining of what little colour it had remaining.

Imaged on the readout, were panting, invisible beasts, only emerging now that the wind had died down.

“What do we do?” Monica whispered. But Gary did not answer, she looked over her shoulder to find him a locked visage of shock and torment as he dissolved into a layer of warm air that bore his shape. The wind picked up again, blowing his mist phantom into nothingness as the creatures dwindled back into their shrubs.

Monica was left alone on the desolate road as the screaming winds tore at her trembling form.

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