(from Scary Fucking Stories)
Something about this road, I don’t know what it is, how it can be so beautiful during the day, and be so damn creepy at night. It’s something to do with the long stretches where trees canopy the way, giving you that feeling like you’re driving through a living tunnel.
Like I said, during the day, it’s beautiful. Beams of light, cutting through openings in the leaves, it almost has this magical feel. Almost like you’re in some fantasy movie, and just around the next bend you’ll find a unicorn grazing on berries or whatever the hell unicorns eat.
During the night, though, it’s a totally different story. That magic tunnel feel, it becomes claustrophobic, like the trees are leaning in close to grab you. I get this feeling, as I drive along, listening to talk radio, that something is watching me.
The radio crackles static. Did I mention this was the country? Yeah shitty reception, fields full of shit, animals wandering around shitting on everything, that’s right…, the country. Better than the city though, I’ll give it that much. I’ll take mosquitoes and cows and corn over people any day. Preferences, you know we all got them.
I’m on my way to my uncle’s. Haven’t been back this way for years, but I fall right back in, things look like they haven’t changed at all. I’ve been on the road, making a living state to state, city to city, setting up computer servers and networks for a conglomerate owned mostly from sources in Dubai. The last few years, it’s been a blur of airports and shitty hotel rooms. Lonely, for sure, but the money is good. My uncle heard I was back in town and invited me out. Hell, I figured, it’s been forever, might as well come out and visit. So here I am, riding along this old country road, wondering how much coke I have left. You pick up terrible habits on the road, just saying.
When I was in high school, we would drive all night on through here. It goes in a circle, hence the name Loop Road. We’d drink beer, smoke joints, sneak off in the woods with girls, you know, high school stuff. Good memories.
And the damn radio, it’s going crazy. I reach over to switch the channel and my breath jumps right out of my chest.
There, for a second, I see a white eyeless face peeking at me from the floor board, down there in shadows underneath the dash. It turns, just barely visible, but surely a face. It smiles. I damn near scream, but my breath is gone.
And suddenly it’s just a piece of paper, fluttering down there by the passenger seat. Jesus Christ, mind’s playing tricks on me.
Then I look up, laughing to myself for being such a pansy, and I see I’m careening off the road, heading right towards a parked car. The last thing I see before the airbags go off are taillights, and I think, same model as my mine.
Everything goes black.
I come to, I don’t know how much later. I notice two things immediately, my nose is bleeding, and white smoke and dust float about the air around me. That fucking airbag jumped out my steering wheel like Mike Tyson.
I feel anger creeping up from my stomach. Anger at myself, and anger for the dumb bastard who parked his car on the bend of a fucking canopied country road. I push the airbag away from me, undo my seat belt and step out into the night air. One of my headlights illuminates the car mine has entangled with. It is the same model as mine. What are the chances of that? My grill has swallowed up his trunk and bumper, and my car, sits cocked at angle, that one headlight shining through his back window.
I fumble for my cell phone, find it in my jeans and start calling out, Hey, Hey are you alright!? No one answers me.
I’m a little wobbly, but besides the nose, I think I’m alright. I was doing forty at least, before I came to a dead stop thanks to this asshole. I’m walking up to his driver’s side, dialing 911 on my cell, watching blood drip from my nose and pitter-patter on the asphalt and of course, this is the country… there’s no fucking reception. No service, and not a single fucking bar on my cell.
“Hey,” I call out, “Hello???”
Smoke bellows up from my hood, and I know, with my luck, it’s got to be the radiator. Of course it is. That’s my luck. I see the car I hit, its grill smashed into a tree, I don’t know if I did that or if it had already wrecked. And stranger still, his driver’s side door is open, and there’s no one inside.
Looking into his car, it’s a mirror image of mine. The airbag is out, hanging there deflated and flat as a pancake, an inkblot of blood splatter on its face. I’m just imagining this guy walking up, holding his nose, and us, here in the dark like two peas in a pod.
I call out a few more times, my voice seems to go no farther than I can reach with my own hand. I take a seat in my car, try and try to get a signal on my cell, and find I can’t get the damn thing to ring or even send a text message. Fucking figures, my nose has won’t even stop bleeding.
I’m wondering, you know, what do I do? Just sit here and wait? Wait for someone to come by and help? If I leave the scene, is that a hit and run crime? Seriously, what the fuck? I know this place, I think, there’s plenty of little houses along the way. I’ll just walk till I find one, use a house phone and that’s that, I’ll just go from there.
I open my trunk, find the emergency road kit, and light a flare. I set a couple of them behind my car and in front of the one I hit. I take a flashlight with me. If this were anywhere else in the country, I could walk along just by the light of the stars and moon, but not here. The trees above are so thick, it’s a total black out.
About to leave, I stop and write a note, and slip it into the wiper blades of the asshole’s car. I leave my name and number and simply say I went to find help. What I want to say is something more along the lines of Hey Asshole, thanks for parking your car right around the bend. Thanks a ton you fucking retard.
So along I walk, cutting swaths in the dark with my flashlight. The road twists and turns, up into hills, and down around them. The night is quiet. No rustle of night animals, no coyote off in this distance, the only sound is my shoes, slapping against the asphalt.
Which made it much easier, when from behind me, I hear Hey! Hello? It’s distant, just a whisper on the air, but there was no mistaking it. Someone was calling out. Maybe the asshole I hit. I turn, naturally heading back, not even thinking that I just walked damn near half a mile just to turn around. Should’ve waited, damn. This guy better have a good excuse why he left the wreck. Something like buddy you scared the shit out of me, I mean seriously. I went down to the creek and cleaned shit off myself. You were knocked out in the car, I didn’t want you to see all that…ahem…shit.
I start to jog, and I’m calling back, telling whoever it is that I’m coming, hold up. Aches and pains are radiating through me, mostly in my chest. I’m guessing from the sudden jolt against the seat belt, and I’m thinking, goddamn I don’t remember walking this far off from the wreck.
And finally I come around the bend, panting a bit. My jog comes to a halt, much like my car had done not too long ago. Something isn’t right. There before me is the car I hit, its grill smashed into the tree, but my car…my car is missing.
What the hell? How…how did someone drive off with my car? Did a tow truck come by here? I walk up, my face contorted into a stupid bewildered squint. I think my lips are probably even puckered out, posed for another question. Once again, I’m calling out into the dark. I notice the flares I set have burned out, and I see the note I left under the windshield wiper, only it’s moved up a bit now. I pluck the note, read my name and number and the simple sentence I had left and underneath it, someone has written:
I heard you and I came back and waited. I’m going to look for help I saw some lights up ahead. Did you take my car???
I pause. Lights up ahead? Did you take my car? Seriously, what the fuck is going on here? Now I’m not only confused, but I’m even more pissed than I was before. This night has got to be the dumbest, most irritating night of my life, and I was starting to get the feeling it was only going to get worse.
So I sit and wait. I brood, I pace back and forth. I think about punching this asshole in the face so very fucking hard as soon as I see him. I try the cell, again no fucking service. I’m getting impatient. My uncle doesn’t even live five miles from here. I’m about to hoof it there and just say fuck this asshole, I’m seriously thinking about pressing charges.
With that thought, I rummage through his car, find a pen and note pad (oddly enough, just like the one I carry with me) and I start to jot down his license plate number. I make it halfway through and stop. This is my license.
“What the fuck!!!”
I spin on my heels, I yell into the dark. “Do you think this is fucking funny or something!?” I don’t know who I’m yelling at, I’m just yelling for the hell of it at this point. I’m half expecting a crowd of people to jump out with a camera crew and a douche with a microphone. You’re on candid camera! No such luck. I kick his car, MY car.
Or wait…maybe they just changed the plates?
I have to stop, I sit down. None of that made any sense. If they would have taken my car out of here, I mean, surely I would have heard it. I head someone yelling out here for fucksake, I would have heard another car, or seriously I would hear an owl fart out here it’s so fucking quiet.
A part of me just wants to lie here in this car, just fall asleep and wait for anyone to show up and take me fucking home. I plop in my seat, his seat –whatever- I run my fingers through my hair. Close my eyes.
` I wait till I can’t stand it anymore.
And I find myself walking, flashlight swinging left and right in the dark. I have to keep myself from muttering. If I find this guy, I’m going to fucking murder his balls so bad. God what a fucking night!
I check my cell like a nervous habit. No bars, no connection. Just little o’ me power walking in the dark, mad like a fucking bee, who seriously wants to sting your ass. My inner monologue is on a warpath, I’m cussing this guy under my breath, saying shit that could probably get you arrested.
I hear a branch, a snap of old dried wood, crackling in the woods beside me. My flashlights cuts right to it, and for just a split second, a reflection is caught. Two big rounded eyes, I knew that’s what they were, because they turned and moved when my light caught them. My heart leaps in my chest, trying to jump right out of my throat, and I jerk the path of my light back.
My heart rate pulses.
My hairs stand on end,
But there’s nothing there. No other sound, no movement. I tell myself to breathe.
It’s just a deer. A deer, or a big ass dog or cow or something.
I force myself to turn away, to keep walking. A few more steps and crunch, another twig snaps off to my right. I jerk the light, I see nothing. Emotion swells up inside of me.
“Hey, Goddammit,” I roar. “Hey!”
The words are swallowed up by the dark. I’m alone out here. Alone in the fucking dark, screaming at an animal in the fucking woods. That’s me. The crazy guy with blood all over him, screaming at the wild life.
I roar it till my side hurts, I roar that feral anger and fright till I feel my sphincter tighten, so one body part doesn’t override the other make a boom-boom in my pants. It’s a war cry, primal caveman rage. If I’m lucky, someone might hear me and call the cops, or whatever fucking animal in the woods would turn tail and book it out of my general goddamn vicinity.
My throat hurts, a sharp pain shoots down into my chest. I stop yelling, I search the woods, walking away, my beam hitting trees and casting a shadow on the trees behind them. Nothing. No sound.
Just the click-clack of my shoes on the pavement.
Just me in the dark.
I hate to admit it, but I’m unsettled. I’m pissed, bewildered, and now something is stalking me in the dark. That or I’m just letting my imagination get to me. When another snap of a twig comes from off to my right, I try like hell to ignore it, but still, my light zips in that direction. I see nothing, I keep walking.
As I turn come around a curve, I see some lights up ahead in the darkness. Just a couple red, flickering lights. I don’t know if they’re taillights or even tiki-torches, but I kick it up a notch. Almost at a jogging pace now, and I hear something, even still, trotting out in the woods, keeping pace with me. I shine my light constantly, waiting for a deranged hillbilly or a horny buck to come charging out of the darkness but nothing does. For all I know it’s a local house cat, stalking me, practicing its long forgotten hunting skills.
And now I’m close enough to see those lights for what they really are. They’re road flares, sitting on the ground, next to a car that looks suspiciously like mine. Two emotions bubble up inside me, confusion and inexplicable rage. I choose rage, and use the confusion like gasoline to fuel the flames.
Totally forgetting about whatever was in the woods beside me, I shoot into the treeline and turn off my flashlight and instead use the low light of my cell phone to find my way. I have half a mind to sneak up on this asshole and bash him with my mag-lite, the son of a bitch.
And now I find myself creeping, stalking, one lone little Indian, in business slacks and dress shoes, preparing myself for battle, or at least a very loud screaming match. And here I am, just off beside the car, a couple trees deep in the shadows, watching the road flares burn, waiting for any sign of movement, or a noise or anything I can swing this fucking flash light at.
And nothing happens. No one comes, nothing moves. My patience comes to end, and I’m tired of crouching out here, waiting for a spider or a tic to make a meal of me. I tromp out of the trees and…
It’s my car, my license plate.
Frustration, pure and fiery, inconceivable frustration boils inside my head. I’m so hot, the edges of my vision begin to blacken, the center of my vision red with blood anger. I know this feeling, it’s that pure animalist viciousness that comes right before a fight.
My head swirling, I walk to the front of the car, and there…there’s the note, tucked beneath the windshield wiper. Again, I pluck it out, unfold it…
It reads, down there at the bottom, beneath my original sentence, and the next one the asshole left:
When I find you bitch, you’re DEAD!
That’s it. I’m too pissed to think straight. My mind cannot grasp how I made it back to my own car, or how it was possible for me to walk in a complete circle right back to the same place I had left. I’d kept straight the entire time, following the road forward and not taking a single turn. The only thing that makes sense is that somehow, some fucking prick is playing a deranged and sick game with me, and I do not appreciate it in the least bit. I crumple the paper in my fist, shove it into my pocket and kick the fender as hard as I can. I roar into the night.
“Come and fucking get me then bitch,” I howl, “I’m right fucking here! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!? YOU FUCKING PUSSY BITCH! COME ON THEN!”
I expect nothing, but what I hear is a giggle. Clear as day, a fucking giggle from the woods I had just walked out of, and then followed by the sound of branches and leaves crunching.
Oh fuck you. I pop open my trunk, pull the tire tool out. Flashlight in one hand and tire tool in the other I rush into the trees. I’ve never seriously considered murdering somebody, but this guy has pushed me to the ends of my patience. Kill me? I’m dead? Oh fuck no buddy, I’m going to beat your brains in like strawberry jam!
Trees blur past me, as I follow the snaps and crunches ahead of me. I don’t know how far I’ve run, and I don’t care, the farther in the better, because when I find your ass, no one’s going to stop me from fucking your face up all to hell and back.
And I come to a wall of brush, bushes that grow along the trees so thick my light barely can cut through them. It’s either thick black berry bushes or wild roses, and there’s no way I can make it through there on foot. Hell I couldn’t drive a car through that shit. I know plenty well from when I was kid how thick those things got.
I shine my light, going left and right following the length of bushes, they stretch out farther than my light can reach. I know this bastard is out here, somewhere. The woods are thick though, he could’ve ducked behind a tree and I never would have seen him. I could’ve just ran right past his ass. I turn from the bushes, half expecting the dick to be sneaking up on me and
I hear the giggle again…
…Coming from the bushes.
I turn back…
Eyes…multiple sets, red and fierce burn and blink at me from the depths of the bush…
There’s no way…Not even a deer can get in there…
The giggle comes again, the sound of a child’s from that overgrowth…
And I find that I have never been so terrified. My blood turns cold, my knees try to buckle. My hands go weak and I damn near drop the flashlight. I find myself running, running back to my car, too scared to look back over my shoulder.
Please God, Please Jesus help me, please, please please…
I burst from the tree line, running so fast I can’t stop myself from slamming into my own car. I turn back, flashing the light through the trees, scared like I’m five years old all over again.
What the fuck was THAT???
I’m dreaming, that’s what it is. This is a nightmare, a scary, realistic nightmare, but that’s it. That’s the only thing that makes sense. That or I hit my head harder than I thought and it knocked me stupid.
And nothing, just trees and dark caught in my flashlight. I try to slow my breathing. Try to tell myself it was just a bunch of owls out there in that bush. It doesn’t help. Something is wrong here. None of this makes a lick of sense. The wreck, coming back again and again to the car, the missing the car… I can’t remember a time in my life I’ve been so frightened. I just want to go home, I want a stiff drink a nice bed and an expensive hooker to tell me everything is fine honey, everything is Okay…
I find that I won’t turn my back to those woods as I make my way around the car. My thought is to lock myself in and wait for daylight. Fuck all this, no more running through the woods, no more trying to kill somebody. I’m just scared, I’m alone, and I want more than anything…human contact.
Then I see it. The note I took from the windshield. It’s there, it’s back. My hand reaches into my pocket, I find the crumpled note, the one I took before I ran like a mad man into the woods like a fucking savage.
Look around, nothing, nobody I can see. Did they write another note while I was gone in the woods?
I take the note, unfold it…
I do a double take. I take the note in my pocket and lay the two side by side. The new one is an exact replica of the one I took… How?
Except, this new one, there’s another line of writing at the bottom, longer, and barely legible as if it was written in a rush or by a shaky hand. It reads:
My name is Steven Brooks, I was in a wreck. I went to find help I don’t know what’s happening, I keep finding my way back here. Someone or something is after me. I tried waiting in the car for help but…something is in the woods, in the dark. I know this is crazy but I don’t think it’s human. Please God, help me. I saw a mailbox down the road. I’m going there for help now. I’m going to leave a trail of post-it notes so I don’t circle back. I have to keep my light on, they get closer when it gets dark.
I drop the note. This time my knees do buckle. I slide down the hood for a moment before I catch myself. What is this? MY NAME is Steven Brooks. How…how are they doing this? Why would someone do this to me? Why would someone fuck with me like this?
I find myself wiping away tears, sniffling. I’m a grown man, reduced to a sniveling baby. I try my phone again, I dial 911 so many times my thumbs begin to ache. I read the note again, reread it.
I notice that all the hand writing is mine, or so close to it I can’t tell the difference. Whoever is toying with me, I think, is a mad genius. Who could pull off something like this? The note mentions a house nearby and a trail of post it notes. And sure enough, when I shine my light down the road, there’s the trail of little yellow squares fading off into the dark.
I wipe my nose and follow it, thinking, if this is a trap I’ll be walking straight into it. But at the very least, maybe I’ll get to smash the bastard a time or two before he kills me. I walk at first, trying to regain composure, but when I hear the giggle from the dark, my walk turns into a run. I fear to even shine my light in the woods, I fear to see whatever is there.
I run for ages, till my side burns and my legs feel like rubber all the while hearing movement in the trees, but this time, it’s everywhere, not just off to my side, but behind me, and on my other side as well. My flashlight stays on the trail of paper before me, and then up ahead I see it… a mailbox on my left.
I force myself to keep running. I slip in the gravel driveway, cut my hand open. The driveway twists and turns into the trees but I follow it like a hound hot on a trail. And finally, finally the woods open up to a clearing, and single story cobblestone house sits before me. I damn near scream with joy. There’s a truck and a van, old models sure, parked up front and thank sweet Jesus there’s a light on in the window.
Thank you God, I say aloud. Thank you, thank you.
I walk past what must be the living room window, and between a slit in the curtains I can see the glare of a TV, some old movie plays, black and white, and then I’m there at the door. I take a deep breath. I’m scared out of my wits, but still, I don’t want to freak these people out any more than I have to.
I exhale. I knock.
I knock again, and there’s no answer.
What the hell?
I glance over, and beside the door, there’s a post it note. I shine my flashlight on it.
I’m not dead, I’m not dead, I’m NOT DEAD!!!
As I read the words a shiver runs up my spine. I look back to the door and notice its ajar now. I hear the TV, some old timey music playing on it, someone crooning like Dean or Sinatra. My hands tighten on the flashlight and the tire tool I carry. I nudge the door open farther, I say:
“Hello? Hello, anyone home? I was in a wreck and I need help!”
I wait for a reply but get none. I start to yell inside the house, I yell for help, please help me, I was in a wreck I was in a wreck what’s wrong with you people!?
A giggle behind me, I spin. The woods are filled, those blinking red eyes, some high up and some closer to the ground, everywhere, everywhere watching me, surrounding me. My light cuts through the trees and I scream, I scream so loud something tears in my throat.
They’re dead, rotting, dead, thin corpses, oh fucking Jesus, there are dead people out there oh fuck me fuck me oh…
I fall back, knock the door wide open, catching just a glimpse of these things stepping out of the wood work. Except they do not step, their legs do not move, rather they hover, feet not moving, they just hover along, feet not touching the ground.
I scramble to my feet, I slam the door shut. I cry out, feeling warmth caress my crotch and leg and I know I’m pissing myself but I don’t care. I lock the door, my lips quivering, my bowels trying to release.
“Please God,” I scream, my voice not much more than a whisper now, hoarse and cracked, “Please help me!”
Then a sound, a sewing machine, comes from somewhere in the house. I stumble towards it, trying not to see the dead pale and eyeless faces that press against the windows. Through the living room and past the TV and into the kitchen I follow that sound. It’s all so very dreamlike, a haze, and there’s this sense of nostalgia, a sense of de ja vu. I remember this place but from where?
The sound comes from a long hallway, a light flickers underneath a door at the end. I stumble towards it, walking past old black and white family photos that have faded to a worn yellow. There’s a smell, something that reminds me of my great grandpa’s house, a smell of cigar smoke and a kerosene heater that wafts on the air.
Under the sound of the sewing machine, I hear a hum, a feminine voice, humming a melody. I stop, about to knock, but the door creaks open on its own. My breath is shallow in my chest, my hairs stand on end.
Compelled, I push the door open, and there across the room from me a frail and balding figure in a nightgown sits at a table, running cloth through a machine. So frail, I realize that the skin is sparse, and it’s more of a skeleton with leathery skin wrapped loosely around it.
The humming stops, and its head turns slightly towards me. Turns just enough for me to see the edge of its sharp cheek bone and jawline. The machine continues on after a slight pause, and I look down, noticing the thin fragile legs that poke from the hem of its night gown. The skin is greyish white and the leg is no thicker than a sapling.
“Are you tired of running,” the thing asks me. It’s voice neither male nor female.
Not knowing if I have the strength to answer, for I find myself trembling, I manage a simple Yes.
“You have so many questions…”
A tear slips down my cheek. I cannot fathom this, surely if it is a dream, it is the most concrete one of my life, though I cannot shake the feeling that this is what it feels like.
“It is no dream,” the thing says to me, and before I can say but I didn’t say anything…It answers, “The dead do not need mouths to speak. Nor do we need eyes to see…”
It turns in the chair…
…I see its face,
and I scream. I scream and I run. I’ll run forever.
I’m not dead. I AM NOT DEAD.
“What gets me,” the county coroner says, as they zip the body up, “is if this guy was out here driving alone…Who the hell left this note?”
“Not a clue,” says a cop, filling out some paper work beside him.
“I mean, this is some creepy shit Tom, did you read it?”
The cop looks over his clip board. Behind them both a couple underlings are loading the body into an ambulance. “Yeah, course I read it.”
“Well it’s simple,” the cop says, “we know the guy died instantly, so there’s no way he wrote that. Some asshole kid stops by, sees the wreck, looks through the guys shit and leaves this fucked up note. We’ll dust it for prints, Rob. We’ll figure it out.”
Rob scratches his head, looks back at the car, and the tree branch that had pierced the windshield like a spear, the same branch that had to be cut away from one Steven Brook’s face.
“Yeah,” Rob says, “maybe you’re right. Did he have any family around here?”
“There’s a Phil Brooks down the road a ways,” the cop replies, “guessing they might be relation. But old Phil died a couple years back.”