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There are two main routes that one can use to get from Napa to San Francisco. The first curves around through Emeryville, crosses over the Bay Bridge, and eventually arrives in the Financial District. Every mile of the journey is well-lit, populated, and dotted by familiar signs of civilization. The same details are partially true of the second path, save for a long stretch of road that first crosses some hills, then eventually guides travelers through a dark, silent, and eerily isolated valley.
It was there that I encountered something truly horrifying.
I had recently become acquainted with a young woman who was unlike anyone I had ever met by that point in life. She was beautiful and brilliant, and we seemed to share an almost supernatural connection. Looking back, I realize that hormones and mild infatuation were playing tricks on my mind… but at the time, she and I were both not-so-secretly entertaining the idea of us being soul mates. The magnetism between us was so profound, in fact, that it prompted me to share everything about myself with her: We took a weekend trip to Napa (my hometown), spent some time with my friends, ate dinner with my parents, and just delighted in the sense of closeness that we both felt.
Then, not long before we headed back to the city, the young woman and I decided to stop by a yard sale that we’d seen. Somehow or other, we got drawn into a conversation with the people selling their possessions – a middle-aged man and woman – who claimed to see a spiritual link between me and my companion. They congratulated us on having found one another, but also offered a word of caution, hinting that some dark, otherworldly force would be attracted to our happiness.
“It will see you,” the woman told us, “and it will try to feed on your love.”
It was creepy, to say the least, but other than where romantic fantasies were concerned, neither my traveling partner nor I put any stock in the metaphysical. We thanked the couple for their time, exchanged a few passing well-wishes, then got in the car and headed back to San Francisco.
About a half an hour later, we found ourselves on that stretch of empty road. The sun had set beneath an overcast sky, and the only visible lights in the area were those at the front of my car. Perhaps I was just mildly shaken by the warning that we’d received, but as we traveled that open expanse of nothingness, I started to feel like I was being watched. The young woman agreed with me, describing a sense of being stalked by some unseen predator. I gripped the steering wheel, keeping my eyes on the road… then shouted with terror and alarm as an enormous beast seemed to jump out of nowhere.
The impact was jarring, and I had to swerve to keep control. “Are you okay?!” I asked of my companion.
“The eyes…” she whispered. “Did you see the eyes?”
“No,” I confessed, “I didn’t. What did you see?”
“They were red. They… they looked at me.”
When we came to the first streetlight, I pulled off to the side of the road. My limbs were still shaking as I climbed out to assess any damage… and with some confusion, I found that there wasn’t a single dent or scratch visible, let alone any sign of a collision.
“That’s impossible!” the young woman protested, having heard my report. “That thing was enormous!”
“Come look at this,” I replied.
I waited as she joined me near the front of my car, then leaned down and gently ran my finger across its hood. A thin, slightly cleaner line was left behind.
“I don’t understand,” the girl said. “If something hit us, how could there still be dust?”
“Maybe something didn’t hit us,” I replied. “At least… maybe not something in the physical world.”
It was an utterly ridiculous thing to say, of course. The logical explanation was that we’d hit a wild boar, which had impacted the car in such a way as to not leave a mark. A combination of adrenaline and fantastical thinking had made us see the situation as being more otherworldly than it actually was, and we’d let ourselves get swept up in the terror of it all.
Still… we drove the rest of the way back to San Francisco in silence, all the while feeling like we were being followed.