Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
When I saw the car for sale on Craigslist, I was shocked. Not only was it a good price, decent shape, and reliable brand – but it was custom built for someone who didn’t have legs! Both of my legs had to be amputated due to a childhood illness. Obviously, it made driving a lot more complicated. I learned to drive on a specially equipped car that had the gas and brake powered through a hand crank instead of pedals. I drove that thing for a decade before it was stolen. I still think about those bastards who took it…
I immediately called the owner. He said he had the car altered for his daughter, who became a paraplegic after a car accident the year before. Even though he had it altered his daughter refused to use the car and had given up driving all together. He said the car itself was bringing her a lot of sadness so he wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. We arranged to meet that afternoon.
I could not contain my excitement. I took out my favorite prosthetics (the ones my girlfriend Dana had painted koi fish on) and fastened them in. Usually cars that were built for someone like me cost way too much to even fathom buying. Being disabled in this society is expensive! But this guy was selling the car for 1K. 1K! I would have given him three times as much and laughed it off.
Two o’clock finally arrived and I bused over to the seller’s place. It was in a nice neighborhood just twenty minutes or so from downtown. I got a few stares from my fellow passengers but I was used to that. It’s not every day you see a guy with fish on his legs. I got off a little early and walked to the house.
I which house it was because the car was sitting right out front. It was beautiful. I walked up so quickly I almost didn’t see the woman sitting on a picnic table in the yard. She was older than me, maybe in her early 40’s, with white hair. She wore a thick black coat. I waved to her but she didn’t take her eyes off the car.
“Hey, I’m Finn! I’m here about the car.”
Slowly she shifted her gaze over to me. The look on her face was one of fear. “There is something living in the backseat,” she said softly.
“Sorry, what?” I was sure I had heard wrong.
“There is something alive in the backseat.” She opened her mouth as if she were to say more but then shut it and turned back to the car.
A man rushed out of the house. “You must be Finn! I’m so sorry I didn’t see you walk up.”
“It’s no problem.” I rubbed my arm awkwardly. “Hey, so she said there was something living in the backseat? Is there like a rodent problem or something?”
The man turned around and saw the woman. “Oh shit, Jane is out here. I’m really sorry. She isn’t right in the head.” He ran over to her. “I told you to stay inside!”
“He deserves to know what’s living back there!” she shrieked at him.
He grabbed her and hoisted her up in his arms. Over his shoulder he called, “I’ll be right back, Jane needs some rest.”
As she was carried into the house she screamed, “Beware! It took my legs but it wants a life!”
When they both disappeared behind the door I strongly considered bolting out of there (which would have been hard to do, since I didn’t have my running prosthetics on). Jane must be the daughter he mentioned in his ad, considering the fact that she didn’t walk. For some reason I had pictured her younger. This situation was really weird. It didn’t sit right with me. But on the other hand, the car was such a good price…
The man came back outside with a bit of sweat on his brow. “Sorry about that. I thought she was inside. Jane is…well, she just has a few extra screws loose at the moment.”
“Is she okay?” Looking back that was a stupid question, but it was the only thing I could think of.
“The accident really got to her. Even though it’s been a while she can’t let go of it.” He sighed. “As you heard, she’s even invented some sort of thing living in the backseat. She’s convinced this is what caused her accident, not the fact she was drinking too much.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said quietly.
He shrugged. “But enough about the past. The car is in really good shape. After the accident I had the entire thing rewired-”
“Sorry, but are you saying this was the car that she was driving when she crashed?”
He shuffled, looking away from me. “Yeah, guess I should have mentioned it in the ad. But like I said, there’s nothing wrong with the car. No damage from the accident at all. I added the special hand cranks for her. It drives perfectly. Normally I would be asking a lot more, but I just need it gone. I think for Jane to heal it needs to be with someone else.”
I took a test drive and he wasn’t lying – the car was perfect. If not for the mileage you might have thought it was brand new. Driving again was amazing. For the past year I had to rely completely on the bus or Dana to get me anywhere. This would change my life.
Despite the strangeness of Jane and her odd comments, I bought the car. The man was so happy he nearly teared up. “You won’t regret this,” he said joyfully. I drove to the DMV, got the plates, and felt a freedom I missed dearly. I was on four wheels again!
I headed straight to Dana’s. She was going to be so excited for me. With this new car maybe I could try and find a better job, and finally get the money for an engagement ring. The thought of proposing made me even happier. Dana was perfect for me in every way. She was strong when I was scared, she was calm when I would freak out – we balanced each other. I was head over heels for her. I knew that everything was going to work out.
That’s when I heard the rumble. It was quiet at first, like a typical car sound. But as I kept driving it started to change. It began to sound more like a peculiar whisper. With every bump the whispering was louder. My first reaction was annoyance. I thought the car was in perfect condition but clearly something was wrong. I figured I’d take it to the mechanic tomorrow.
I spent the night with Dana, going over our dreams for future. She fit so nicely in the crook of my arm. I dated a few girls here and there, but Dana was my first real relationship. Not only did she not care about my amputations, she celebrated me and my disability. We ran a marathon together last year. I never would have finished without her encouragement. I couldn’t wait to marry her.
In the morning it was hard to get out of bed. Dana was still asleep, curled up beside me. I kissed her forehead. I had decided that I would take the car in early to be looked at, and then get a start on the job hunt. I put on my everyday prosthetics and headed out.
I was half way to the body shop when the rumble started again. I rolled my eyes. But before too long I noticed something odd in the rearview mirror. Every time I glanced in that direction something red flashed behind my seat. It was like a shadow. It disappeared right when I caught sight of it. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I couldn’t help but think of Jane. “There is something living the back seat.”
At the mechanic I watched as they did a thorough inspection of the car. They checked under the hood, in the seats…everywhere. They couldn’t find anything that made a rumbling noise. In fact, they said the car was in better shape than it should be for its age. I pushed back a little, asking again if there was any way an animal could be living in the car somewhere. Their exact answer: “Unless it’s invisible, there’s nothing living in your car.”
I felt embarrassed. Of course there was nothing in my car. I was being stupid. Jane was just a woman who was deeply affected by her accident. I headed back home.
I hit the first red light and something pulled my hair. I swung my head around but there was nothing. My shoulders got tense. I looked in the rearview mirror. The red flash bled into my seat. I kept staring, trying to catch another glimpse. The car behind me honked. I looked forward and realized the light was green. Reluctantly I went ahead.
Not even a minute went by before I felt nails on my neck. I turned around but again nothing was there. I tried to focus on driving. “You’re freaking out,” I whispered.
The whispers replied, “Out out out.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and saw what looked like a sick red arm sticking out behind my seat. It recoiled in an instant. Suddenly there was a resounding crash. The air bag slapped me back to the seat, my neck pinned sideways. I screamed but my lungs were compressed. I must have rear-ended the car in front of me. It was my fault, I hadn’t been paying attention. My imagination had nearly gotten me killed.
The air bag deflated quickly and the police were on the scene. I had completely smashed the car in front of me. Luckily there was no one in the backseat of their car. Strangely, my car had no damage. Not even a scratch. I realized slowly that I had only just gotten the car and hadn’t bought insurance yet. Needless to say I spent a lot of time apologizing and talking with the police.
When the incident was finished and we had all run out of things to say, it was time for me to drive home. I dreaded it. Clearly Jane had gotten into my head. I was seeing things, hearing things…I felt like I was going crazy. Even while I was talking to the police I felt insane. They asked what happened to cause the crash. I had to pause and decide whether or not to say “Something in my backseat was talking to me and I saw a red arm and I wasn’t paying attention to the road.” Instead I just told them the last part. “I wasn’t paying attention to the road.”
Before getting into the car I called Dana. I told her about the crash but left out the thing in the backseat. She told me to come over. Her apartment was actually closer, so I agreed. Plus some snuggle time could make this all go away. Hesitantly I got into the car. I inspected the backseat as thoroughly as I could. There was nothing there. Nothing wrong with it.
Slowly, I pulled into traffic. I drove as slow as possible. The people around me were not happy with my speed and I got honked at quite a few times. But I didn’t care. I was not going to endanger any more lives. I spent the entire time in the car in a tense, statue-like pose. All of my muscles were ready for anything. I realized my hands were shaking a little. Stop it, I told myself. You’re making this all up.
It was a miracle that I made it to Dana’s without incident. I almost cried when I pulled in front of her apartment building. She was outside waiting for me, a concerned look on her beautiful face. I got out of the car and went to hug her. She backed away, worried. “What is it?” I asked.
She was looking at the car. “Who is that?” she pointed.
I followed her finger with my eyes. There, sitting in the backseat with its face pressed against the glass, was a figure. A red human-like figure. One large eye was open and nearly digging into the window. It raised an arm as if to wave before completely disappearing.
I felt like fainting. But Dana, being the person she is, turned to me. Her chin was squared and she was angry. “We’re going to that bastard who sold you this thing and getting your god damn money back.”
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