Recently, I came across a a cover song. Loved it. And of course, I was inspired by it. So I wrote the tale below. In the vain of the legendary ghost stories we have all heard, Tales From The Crypt, and campfire stories. Also, my take on the girl driving with headlights flashing behind her story. Enjoy.
“I-t’s s-o h-o-t, h-e-r-e. C-a-n‘-t w-a-i-t t-o s-e-e y-ou! <3. Send.” Carver texted his wife while filling up his tank at the first gas station he had seen for miles. He wiped his brow with his sleeve and lifted his Ray-Bans over his forehead to get a better look at the vast stretch of road in front of him.
“Geez. Thank God for air-conditioning.”
The pump stopped and Carver looked at the price.
“3.79 a gallon. Yep. That’s about right.” He pulled his shades over his eyes and remembered to grab some snacks and a drink or two for the drive. His cell went off. It was a text from his wife:
“Please be safe! Almost home, baby! <3.”
Carver smiled and walked into the store and bought a few things to make his trip a little more bearable. As the cashier, a haggard looking older man, rang his order up, Carver put on his hands on his hips.
“Boy, it’s hot, huh?” he asked the cashier.
The cashier grumbled and started bagging the items.
Carver’s brow went up and he exhaled. “Okay then, thank you. So…nothing for another, what 100 miles or so?” he asked.
The cashier cleared his throat. “It’s actually a lot cooler today. And the next station is 228 miles from here. Try and get there before the night falls. All kinds of things come out at night, ya know,” he said leaning in towards Carver.
Carver stood, bags in his hands, staring at the cashier.
“So I’ve heard. Thank you.”
He left the store.
“Seriously? Is there like a script these people pass around?” He mumbled to himself. “All kinds of things come out at night, ya know?” He said in a tone mocking the old man. “Uh, yeah. Owls, bats…geez.”
He popped the hood to double check the oil. Then he heard a sound. A thud. He peered over the hood but there was no sign of anybody or anything.
“Great old man. You got me paranoid now,” he whispered. He slammed the hood down and got in his car. “A little Deftones anyone?” he asked. He opened his soda, took a big gulp, and put the car in drive.
A few minutes later he was singing at the top of his lungs, “I feeel liiike moooooore!” Deftones. Digital Bath.
Minutes turned to hours and the sun was completely set. He was making the best of his solitude and the long trip in the desert, cranking the volume, singing louder and louder with every song.
He hadn’t noticed that it was night but when he did he took it in stride.
“Oh, well. Almost to the other stop by this time.” He looked at the clock on the display.
Only two hours had gone by. That means he had nearly two more hours of driving before he reached the station. He exhaled and drove on, turning the volume up once more. He thumbed through his iPod until he found what he was looking for. “Ah, Across The Sun. Separate Ways. Yes, thank you,” he said smiling.
The bleak stretch of road lengthened before him and he grabbed the steering wheel tight and began singing.
“Here we stand! Worlds apart, hearts broken in two, two, two!” He hit his fist against the steering wheel. “Sleepless nights, losing-“
Then he lost his concentration as he passed a young women walking on the road. He pressed the brakes as hard as he could, not thinking. He was a good, caring man. And this woman, in the middle of nowhere concerned him. The car came to a halt in the middle of the road.
“What the?” Carver looked into the rearview mirror and the girl was already running towards the car.
She reached the window and tapped on it, looking in at Carver. She was beautiful. Her dark hair lay atop her shoulders and in it she wore a bright blue and yellow feather.
He hesitated for a moment but unlocked the door. She sat down and didn’t say a word.
“Hi, I’m Carver. You…you okay? Out here? Alone?”
She said nothing just sat and caught her breath.
He remembered a few miles back seeing a car on the side of the road but it didn’t mean anything to him until now.
“That car back there…yours?” he asked her.
Again he got no response.
Sensing her nervousness he attempted to calm her.
“Look, again, I’m Carver and just know I’m happily married and us meeting here on this long and winding road is a coincidence and we’ll get you some help. I’m not a psycho-killer!” he smiled.
She hadn’t looked at him until he said psycho-killer. She turned slowly to him and turned slowly back.
“Okay,” he said and started to drive.
“Well, I’m coming back home from a long business trip away from home. I made regional manager. I would’ve flown but, you know…” the more he talked, the more uneasy his passenger seemed to grow.
“Okay…uh, you like music? I’ll tell you what. Next station is some time away. I understand you might be a little uncomfortable with all of this…so…” He turned up the volume and focused on the road.
Carver began singing under his breath and he looked through the corner of his eyes at the girl. She shook her head from side to side suddenly. He turned his head towards her and frowned as if he was imagining it.
“Did you…did you say something?” he asked, looking at her then at the road.
She said nothing.
He clenched his jaw but shrugged it off.
Hmm,” he mumbled.
A few minuted later, the girl shook her head again.
He turned quickly.
“What? Did you say-do you need something?”
She said nothing, only stared out in front of her.
The drive then started to feel longer and longer with each minute. And Carver was regretting his rash decision to pick up this stranger.
He gulped and leaned forward to change the song. He noticed her skin was clammy and she looked nervous.
“Okay. Do you need anything?! Are you okay?”
This time she shook her head as if in response to his question.
He was growing frustrated and could only think of doing two things. Stop the car and leave her in the middle of the desert or ignore her. She obviously had a harder time dealing with her car breaking down. Who knows what she was shaking her head about. Maybe she left home. Maybe she ran away from a life of boredom, seeking a new lot in life.
These were Carver’s thoughts. He was not about to leave her, so he leaned back and drove.
But once every few minutes, she would shake her head. Each time more violently than the next.
He gripped the wheel and tried his best to ignore it. He kept watch at the clock and mileage and with every minute, he came closer to the gas station and leaving this strange and very unsettling girl there. He would give her some cash and be on his way home.
He saw the lights of the gas station in the distance. Made it, he thought to himself. Made it.
He turned to the girl. “Almost.”
He turned back and once agin the girl shook her head, gripping the top of her legs tightly.
“Alright, look! Right there! There’s the store. I don’t know what’s going on! But after we hit that store…I mean good luck and everything but I mean…you’re behavior is…is pretty effed up!”
She didn’t react to his louder tone only shook her head once again and by this time the store was only a mile away.
He turned to her and shook his head.
“Psh.You know, a thank you would have suff-“
Then suddenly the girl turned her waist towards Carver and yelled in the most haunting, visceral scream he had ever heard!
Carver’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest as she yelled, and he jumped off his seat.
“What?” he yelled.
The girl looked behind them and shook her head.
Carver looked in the rearview mirror and his whole body shook. His eyes widened and he turned the wheel hard, loosing control of the car. “What the f-?!” he yelled before slamming his car into a steel post out side of the gas station.
The air bag deployed and Carver’s forehead was cut open, Separate Ways blasting from the speakers. He was gravelly injured.
Hearing the ruckus, a number of customers and the attendent ran out to help.
“Dammit! We got another one! Call 9-1-1!” the cashier yelled. “Call 9-1-1!”
The song blasted louder and louder.
“Sir! Sir, you’re going to be okay! Sir?” the cashier yelled.
Carver tried lifting his head and could see the girl sitting next to him, seemingly unharmed, looking down at him. This time, she nodded, and he fell into unconsciousness after whispering, “What the f…?”
“Another one? What do you mean?” One of the customers asked the cashier.
He looked at the customer then down to Carver.
“Years ago…there was a madman. Stanton Pearl was his name. He was crazy.” He looked down the long, dark and lonely road. “He killed six people in this desert. He had a girlfriend. I forget her name. Betty? Betsy? I don’t know. They say when she found out what he did, she ran from him and tried to call the authorities. She ran, shaking her head in disbelief. She didn’t make it. He killed her too. They say her last words were: “Stanton, no!” He was caught and killed on the spot. Legend says they both haunt these roads. One trying to kill. The other…trying to stop him…” He turned his attention back to Carver. “Hold on tight, sir! They’re coming! They’re coming…”
“…and if he ever hurt you, true love will not desert, youuuu…oh, nooo!”♫