Summer evening, late. The road traveled lies within city limits, moonlight over a pastured landscape, blackened shadows of barns line a ridge while cattle bed down within a barbed wire fence. Along the road moves a car, sporty red, fairly new, the driver, a young woman. She’s tired, her fatigue earned by a previous late night and then an all day job, followed by another late night.
She drives with windows down, a sultry breeze skims in and out, occasionally scented with mowed grass and wild lavender. A pop station plays a top forty list, barely audible. The road is as familiar as the rest of her routines. It is the route home.
Her mind wanders over the day, and the evening. She’s just left the home of a friend. She should have been in bed hours before. An internal thought floats, I’m too tired to be out driving, followed by a vague movement in her peripheral vision. She automatically turns her head to see-only it’s not possible anything could be there, just outside a car going forty-five m.p.h. She’s right.
There is nothing there.
Another thought blooms, I’m so tired I’m seeing things. Seconds later, a row of mailboxes snagged by the car’s high beams also captures the surprising view of an old man. He is bent over, as if to pick up something on the ground, while glancing back at her over his shoulder. She swerves to avoid him, and looks at her rear view mirror.
There is nothing there.
Inexplicably, she is filled with a sense of dread. As she passes an old abandoned house, she senses something, a presence, a nightmare quality awareness entering the car. The passenger seat, she feels she shouldn’t look there. She can’t explain why. Heart rate elevates, hands get sticky on the wheel as she tells herself, act normal. Act like nothing is wrong. Turn up the radio. Sing, if you can. At the old grist mill, even if the light is red, go through it, DON’T STOP. You can’t stop.
She can’t explain why she’s having these thoughts, yet, her hand goes to the radio and music fills the car. She hums because she can’t form words. She thinks of the word evil. Uninvited evil. The stop light is at the bottom of a long hill. It’s RED. She swallows and her heart bumps erratically. Foot on the gas, her driving is somehow steady. She keeps humming. The grist mill is to her right. The old wheel is turning, and frothy water spills in a cascade. She hasn’t slowed down. The light is still red.
Twenty feet from the light. She is going too fast. She plans to run it.
It flips to green.
Ascending the hill beyond the light, she is suddenly at peace. The past minute or so dissolves into night air. There is no explanation for what she just experienced, only relief she no longer feels that strange sense of foreboding.
If I wrote horror stories, I’d use this material in some way, as a beginning for someone’s world falling apart, where they can’t tell what’s real, what’s not, are they crazy, or are they really experiencing events which get more bizarre and scary. But I don’t write horror, and in some ways I’m glad, I almost scared myself writing this. 🙂
And here’s the thing, this is a true story. This happened to me about twenty-five years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. So why make a blog post about it now? Because…about a month ago, I watched Abigail for the day. I took her to my Mom’s for a visit, and the drive to take Abigail back home took me down this road for the first time in many years. I thought about it for the first time in a long while. My question has always been, what the heck happened? What WAS that?
What do you think it was?