The tiny car shuddered, and Lowell could feel the accelerator begin to go limp.

“No!” he cried. Lowell pressed the pedal to the floor, and systematically pumped it., as beads of sweat dripped down his pallid features. If he could only get over the crest of the next hill . . . But gravity wasn’t cooperating, and neither was the car. With a final spasm, the engine fell silent, and the car began to roll backwards. Lowell guided it onto what passed for the shoulder and threw the parking brake.

“What’s the matter?” Deacon asked from the passenger seat. His tiny glasses were fogged from the lack of air conditioning, and perspiration plastered his sandy hair to his head.

His only reply was a stream of inventive invectives, as Lowell hammered at the steering wheel.

Some time later, Lowell looked up. “We’re out of gas.” he said, as if Deacon had just asked.

“What?” Deacon glanced at the dashboard. “It says we’re half full!”

“It always says that.” Lowell muttered, opening his door and stepping out.

“Then look at the odometer!” Deacon cried.

“It doesn’t work either.” was the reply. “I just have to guess.”

Deacon flung his door open and leapt out, just as Lowell popped the trunk.

“What do we do now?” he asked.

“I’ve got a gas can in the trunk.” Lowell said.

“Thank God.”

Lowell slammed his hands down on the trunk’s rubber seal and swore. “An empty gas can.”

“Empty?”

“It’s like a game of chicken–either I lose and fill the tank, or the car loses and stops.” Lowell said, holding up the empty can. “I used this the last time I won.”

Deacon gave the car a halfhearted kick. “What now?”

“We walk.”

The town had an eerie stillness about it, a kind of emptiness that cut into Carl more deeply than the chill February breeze. Walking down the street, not a soul stirred: the sidewalks were vacant, the cars were parked and locked, and the store windows were fogged and frosted. Carl knew that the subzero temperatures had forced everyone indoors, but he still felt a kind of grinding uneasiness as he walked along.

A shape appeared at the far end of the block. Carl felt a bit of relief in seeing another soul, and was about to cry out a friendly hello when he noticed something very strange about the other person’s gait.

“Hey, are you all right?” he said. A moment later he gasped—a sound that quickly became a shocked yelp.