Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
Driving down the road far from home, on my way back from work – I’m surrounded by pastures and rural country houses. Late in the night, dark but backlit by a pale moon I drive fast, but not too fast. I’m tired. The day’s work has pushed me over the edge, and all I want to do is sleep. I count the houses and horses to keep myself awake.
In the near distance, I see shadows which could be easily mistaken for figures. I’m tired, so chalk this up to another trick of the eyes on a weary mind. I look to the houses, scattered over the fields – cast like brush seeded to the wind. The irregular distancing sets a stark contrast to the order and grid-like fashion of cities – setting up an almost alien landscape to anyone but a local. The darkness comes and goes, as the moon shines brightly over field and road. The light feels to be blinking as if struggling to preserve some memory of daylight.
Turning back to the road, I feel I glimpse a lone figure in a Pasteur close to the road. It’s strange, what with wild animals, for any soul to be out and about at this time of night. I turn to try and catch a glimpse of the figure, but the clouds cover any chance of recognition, and by the time the light is high again I’m too far down the road to tell. No matter, the road is long, and it’s none of my business what some local yokel does on a Thursday night.
The light rises and falls, almost feeling rhythmic in is metering, clouds speckled in a darkened grey sky. Not a light in any house, no lights on the road, only my headlights to keep me company. There are no other cars on this two-lane road, but should there be? Eleven looms close, and the city is far away.
Suddenly, I see a figure in the near distance, as the light rises. Too dark to make out features, it looks like they’re looking out into the distance, and at the fence in a pasture off to the right-hand side of the road. As I get closer, the light dims again, but not too dark as to make all the details disappear – I can see this figure has on a jacket and jeans of some kind. Strange for someone to be wearing a jacket this far south during the summer be it night time or not. I lean to the passenger side to try and make out more of this figure, but it’s almost as if the moon doesn’t want me to, and the world descends into a deep darkness again.
I pass where the figure should be, and look into my rear view mirror for a long while after, hoping to catch some image of the man in the distance, but the moon seems to hide from me. I give up and return my full attention to the road in time to glance another figure, standing just outside the ditch, at the edge of my headlights.
“What the f-“ I say, before regaining my composure. The figure is gone to the distance long before I can catch any detail. My heart starts to pound, looking for any logical reason for so many people to be outside, standing along the road, out in the countryside. Cults, scarecrows, and other possibilities flutter through my mind before leaving me in a sour disposition. Nothing feels right.
The moon seems to attempt a return just as I notice another figure, further down the road, in the middle of the ditch. He seems to be looking off down the road away from me, but I catch glimpse of what appears to be a long nose and pale skin. Not a shock in itself, but terrifying due to the black jacket and jeans the figure wears. Just as I close on the figure, the moon dives away, leaving me in a blackness that seems to suffocate and drive home my isolation, and defenselessness out here in the sticks.
Turn around or keep going? The question reverberates in my head for the better part of 15 minutes. Turn around and go back, find another way home? Do I plow onwards and hope I’ve reached the end of this line of figures steadily approaching me – one figure at a time?
I decide to take a chance. If I see one more figure, I will turn this car around and haul ass back to the interstate and find a new way to my own home. We’re within half an hour of my home city at this point, too close to turn around unless something terrible happens. I’ve not been shot at, and see no way someone could easily harm me in my car.
The moon is refusing to return. I look around at the pitch black around me, realizing the only light I see is the dash and my headlights. The darkness suffocates, and seems to push in on me from all sides. I lean forward to cling to the only light I have on my travels and notice something peculiar. The lights that sheltered me and pushed out all the way to the fences and tree-lines I whizzed past outside the ditches along the road were no longer in my vision. I could barely see the depths of the ditch to the sides of me – no more than 5 feet to either side. What was worse, I barely had a car’s length of visibility in front of me.
No fog was in my way, all that I could see was darkness. It felt like driving through space, the void spewing forth a road beneath me, and consuming everything behind me. I turned around, and realized that even with the dash, I couldn’t see my back seat. All that was behind me was pitch black.
This panicked me more than anything else. I turned back to the road and nearly wrecked my car.
There he was, standing at the edge of the road, facing just ahead of me. A pale, sickly cheek hung below a deep tunnel-like eye socket. Time seemed to slow as I zoomed past, turning to keep this figure in my sight. The figure reached the edge of my light, lining us up eye to eye for a split second – and I could swear this gaunt, sickly man smiled at me. A somber, happy smile filled with the strangest kind of care and ease. If I had gotten this look from anyone in a different situation, I would have been disarmed by its nature – even from such sickly looking a man. All it did for me now was send a chill and panic through me the likes of which I’ve never known.
Gone into the abyss, I made up my mind. I turned fully back to the road, drove for some seconds, and then turned my car around almost swinging the back end of my vehicle off the other side. Either I pass through this nightmare the way I came, or I ran the figure over. I drove like a madman, passing 100 miles per hour, pushing towards 120.
No man appeared in my vision. Instead of the ghastly vision I saw, a small figure wearing a yellow rain jacket stepped out in front of my car.
I swerved on instinct, terrified of hitting someone’s child, before realizing there was another figure in the on-coming lane – the man. The man was facing me, the extent of his thin, gaunt, skeleton-like face being apparent. His exposed body was thin, his hair framing his head in an Einstein-esque way. His clothing was old, and worn through in place. I swerved back, completing the fastest serpentine maneuver I’d ever pull off in my life, and continuing to haul tail down the road. My pulse was pounding, I was dizzy and out of breath, as I felt a hand close around my shoulder from behind.
I stand in a snow covered field, facing out towards the distance. Pitch black surrounds me, and the cold seems to burn into my skin. I see houses scattered like bushes seeded by the wind. The moon passes behind clouds, and I cannot move. I’m stuck still. Panic grips me, and I can not move. I cannot breathe. I begin suffocating, but do not pass out. I drown in my inability to move or hear.
In the distance behind me, I hear the sound of a car engine rumble.
Credit: Whispers in the Dark
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