I spend most of my Thursday nights driving. I drop the girl off at home and then I go, I just go anywhere. I need those few small moments where I can feel completely free from everybody.
There’s a road that stretches around an old garden shop that my friends all worked at for a few years. It started just outside the South of the city, a little road that veered right so suddenly that I was doing twenty under the limit just so I can spot it on time. It led past the garden shop and into straight blackness. I’ve been on that road a few times with some other friends and I can predict most of the turns and stops far before I see them. As I left the light of the city, I flashed on my high beams and made the sudden right onto the road.
I must’ve turned in too quickly; gravel and dust filled the back window of my car, sort of a dark cloud that took away all light from the city behind me, just for a moment. The tires lost traction and I start to veer into the ditch, fortunately saving myself with only inches it spare. My little Toyota Tercel is not the best thing for dirt roads, but it’s enough to get what I want out of it.
The road stretches far beyond my sight, fading into a chilling darkness. It has a few houses, small farmlands and barns strewn along it, each with their own twisting paths. The trees above loom over, cracking all the light coming from the sky above. Long branches stretched towards the ground, like long fingers pointing. I pick up more and more speed as the road starts to straighten out, watching the edge of my headlights guide my way to a tranquil place, far beyond the worries of mine or any others.
Up on the lip of a hill is a spot that overlooks the city, a popular place for many of the teenagers here in the south end, often seen with many couples solidifying their nights and the occasional group of stoners who like to simply watch things. The road leads up to this place, curving right until the top is reached. As I climb it, I can already see the taillights of four or five cars already up there, all minding their own business. I see a darker road; far less travelled upon, emerge on my left, avoiding the city-watchers. I’ve never seen this road before, but I figure that if I have a full tank and stay one hour within the city, what the hell? Might be worth my while to see something I haven’t seen before.
This road runs directly West and is completely straight, with no houses, farms, or barns peppered along its curb. Even the trees have disappeared, opening up the view to a vast farmland with hills on both sides of the road, just cutting off the sight of any further land.
I stay on this road for a long time. My iPod is on shuffle and much of the music is hitting all the right notes I want to listen to, mostly that of Led Zeppelin. There is nothing like blasting “Stairway” to shut out all the noise outside. It must’ve been twenty minutes before I started to worry.
The hills on both sides of the car have grown so close to the road that they have turned into walls, blocking any sight around me; a tiny valley that seemed to stretch into infinity. I figured I should just turn around and come back the way I came; I didn’t make any turns so it should be easy for me to follow it all the way back. So I pulled over and made a U-turn. I even signaled for it, I don’t know why I did, but for a second, that signal light caught something that stopped me in my tracks. It was tall and looked like a man, but it couldn’t have. It could have been a bush that the shadows made to look taller, even thinner. I waited there for a few seconds with my headlights on that spot, but there wasn’t anything.
My car kicked into the highest gear and I was sailing. I wasn’t going any faster than I needed to be, since there are tons of deer that like to run out in front of things out here, but fast enough that I was breaking the limit more than I was obeying it.
From behind me a light started to fill my mirror. I couldn’t make out what it was at first, but it was definitely headlights, and they were coming closer. I start to slow down, but still keeping momentum in the case that it might be one of the highway rangers making the rounds on the deserted roads. But something told me that whoever this person was, they weren’t carrying a badge.
Closer and closer the car got. Gaining on me like they were being chased by something. As the car became clearer, it zoomed pass me in the oncoming lane, honking frantically. It could be a couple kids out for a kegger, I don’t know. It didn’t really alarm me until I look in the rear view again.
Behind me was a face with no features, pale as paper, staring at me. It didn’t move, didn’t even react to the bumps on the road. It was just there, like a picture on a screen, staring back at me. I was so freighted that I almost lost control of my car, drifting into both the left and right lane as I tried to grasp myself. I look behind me and there was nothing, not a single thing. The air hung fuller than before, almost damp, and every breath filled my lungs with a thick, moist air.
It was the same thing as earlier, from the turning signal.
I am terrified. I push down hard on the gas, starting to speed past untouched places on my speedometer. I begin to wonder if this is what that other person was running from and if they got out.
Then, I see a dim red light ahead of me: the other car. This time it is going slower, almost a cruising speed. I don’t know if they think they are okay, but if it just got to me, then it is most certainly able to get to them. I start to honk frantically at the car as I speed past it in the oncoming lane. It doesn’t move.
I look in my rear view again and then I see something. Not it, but me driving the other car. I start to feel an upset feeling in my stomach, like I’m about to throw up. That couldn’t have been me, it couldn’t have. I shake my head to compose myself and put the road back into my view.
My eyes cleared and the headlights behind me disappear into the blackness. I am finally out of this, and I can start to see the hills spread apart to where they were in the beginning. I let out one laugh at the situation and rub the sleep from my eyes.
When I open them up again, that thing stood in front of my car, dark and hunched over, staring back at me with the same non-existent eyes. My wheels catch on the gravel as I try to avoid it and I run full speed into the ditch, flipping the car over. I begin to think about why I chose this road. There could have been any other.
I crawl out of the wreckage with as much strength as I have left, and just before I fall asleep, a Toyota Tercel is driving down the road I just came, blasting “Stairway to Heaven”.
I didn’t even bother to scream.
Credited to Will C.