I never knew the meaning of fear until one cold, snowless night. A friend of mine, Sarah, and I were up to just the regular no good on a Friday night. It was winter break for both of us and we were both itching for adventure; too bad the adventure we were seeking was a little too much for us to handle. I suggested sneaking into a park, but she declined the offer, because she wanted something a little more intense. We finally settled on going a little ghost hunting; I mean there were about 17 different shows about amateur ghost hunters, so why couldn’t we?

We decided to meet at 11 p.m., at a park nearby both of our houses. She told her mother that she was spending the night at my house and I told my mother that I was spending the night at hers; our plan was flawless. I drove up slowly to the park in my red Mazda, quickly spotting Sarah on the park bench, backpack neatly resting on her legs. I myself had packed the little vehicle tight with ‘ghost hunting’ equipment: flashlights, granola bars, water and blankets. Once we were settled in the car I punched in the address that would take us to the supposedly shut down, haunted road. The car ride was exactly 44 minutes. We were both nervous and let out that mounting fear by telling jokes about the lore that went along with the road. The place we were going was called, Christopher’s Road. It was a small, closed-off road that ran very close along a cliff that overlooked the Mississippi river. Supposedly, there had been several sightings of a man or apparition running out into the road covered in blood, screaming for help which would send cars swerving off the road and into the Mississippi, killing the people in the car. The man that supposedly haunted the road was a suspect in the murder of his own family long ago, but he had died after he ran into the road for help and was hit by a car. Thus the lore was born and sent several visitors to visit the haunted road, so off we went to get in on the thrill.

As we neared the turn for the road I was surprised by the very fancy houses that spread themselves along the road neighboring Christopher’s Road and it gave the area a false sense of safety. I decided this wasn’t that scary, this wasn’t that fearful place I would soon be dreading. The moment my little red car turned onto Christopher’s Road, however, a thick fog enveloped the car; visibility was close to none and that sense of security seemed but a long distant memory. That "sense of security" was replaced quickly by fear and I could see Sarah pushing the lock on her side down, and I quickly locked my door too. The road was a very narrow, old one that seemed to be heading downhill the entire time, twisting to contour to the foggy thicket of woods that made the area seem completely secluded from any type of ‘living’ civilization.

As we slowly drove down the windy road, we hardly noticed my car slowly gaining speed until I was whipping sharp turns and barely making the road’s lines. For a moment we saw Christopher jump in front of our car, Sarah screamed and I slammed the brakes, I blinked and there was no Christopher, but merely a scared deer in the headlights. I sighed in relief, maybe this legend was simply a scary story to strike fear into children. To this day I wish the deer was the only thing that had frightened us that night.

We continued our trek down this hill, more confident than ever now that we had our first run with danger. As we descended, visibility became worse and worse until I could barely make out the road just feet in front of my car.

I almost killed us when I reacted slowly to the road moving. The narrow road veered left immediately, but my car was moving at an alarming pace straight forward and I had to slam on my brakes once again, my car coming to a complete stop only two feet off the road and onto the grass.

I remember Sarah mumbling, “Oh my God… Tara, look!” Her hand was pointing to the front of my car, then she immediately covered her mouth to stifle a sob.

I covered my eyes, but she knew I had seen; my car was just feet away from a cliff, the drop would've landed us straight into the Mississippi. A few unrepeatable words trailed out of my mouth as I sunk back into my seat. I should mention now that I have a complete phobia of large, low visibility of the bottom, bodies of water and I felt that I was staring my fear in its eyes. This is what fear was for me, knowing that I would’ve been responsible for ending the life of not only myself but a very close friend as well. To me, in this moment, fear had taken the form of irresponsibility.

I was so enthralled by this thought I almost didn’t notice the sound of something violently pushing against the back of my car until I heard Sarah scream once again. I fearfully peered through my rear-view mirror, afraid that there was some murderer trying to push us off the cliff, but there was no one there. Just as quickly as this mysterious force was shoving the car over the cliff appeared, it disappeared, my car rocking with the sudden stopping of movement.

“Let’s go,” Sarah demanded, her voice was unsteady and I could see the small formation of tears in her eyes. I didn’t argue. My hands were shaking as I put my car in reverse, backing onto the road, shifting gears, heading up the windy road, hoping that this nightmare would end soon. Minutes passed before I realized I had been holding my breath and when I finally exhaled I had to force a sob back down my throat. I began to wonder aloud just what had been trying to push our car over.

“Sarah, what do you think it-”

“Don’t, Tara, just please don’t,” Sarah quickly interrupted, a visible trail of tears running along her pale cheeks. She was beyond what she could handle so I didn’t speak.

The trek up the hill to civilization was uneventful aside from the eerie graffiti and lack of sound. Sarah and I did not speak the entire way back up the hill, but the only sound that filled the car was Sarah’s crying. I was beyond comforting her and just let her cry, I felt so tired and I just wanted to go home.

We finally sighed in relief after we passed the first house: civilization! I was so happy and I silently promised God that was my first and last ghost hunting trip. It took us 58 minutes to get to the Steak n’ Shake near our houses. I drove slowly, enjoying the fact that we were still alive, but did not notice that we had not passed a single car or lit house on the entire trip back. I had taken the liberty to get us milkshakes, hoping that would cheer the now silent Sarah up. I realize now I have no recollection of ordering the shakes or paying, but I do remember us holding our strawberry milkshakes and heading back to the car in order to go home.

“Tara, did you get something out of the trunk?” Sarah asked as we neared the car.

“No,” I responded, “why…?” I glanced at the trunk of my car.

If I didn’t love milkshakes more than life I probably would've dropped my milkshake on the concrete the moment I saw what she was looking at. There were two wet, muddy handprints clearly printed on the trunk of my otherwise spotless red car as if someone had tried pushing our car. We stood in front of my car, completely baffled, measuring our hands and comparing them to the prints on the car. The handprints were clearly twice the size of both of our hands, they were a man’s set of hands. We never said it out loud, but we both knew what the answer to our riddle was. We both refused to bring to light the fact that we had been apart of some supernatural phenomenon.

I ended up driving Sarah home at 1 a.m. in the morning, still not even noticing the fact that there was no one around. This loneliness that surrounded us did not hit home until I parked my car in my garage and went inside my house. I have two dogs that all bark wildly when anyone enters the house, but this time it was complete silence aside from a distant sound of rushing water. I slowly walked up the stairs to my room and began to feel a sense of coldness; there was no one home.

I decided the best way to ease my growing worries was to paint. I sat down at my little desk and set up my little paint tubes, flipping to a new sheet of paper and decided I would just paint something dumb like a flower. I opened up my blue paint tube, pointed it on my paint palette, surprised that the color that exited the tube was a very watery brown. Upon further investigation I realized that all of my paint was the same mud-like color, growing irritated by this and the growing sound of rushing water.

I gave up on the paint and decided to investigate the sound of rushing water. I pinpointed the sound, which was behind my locked bathroom door. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer, I sighed and was about to turn away, but I felt something cold on my feet. I looked down and saw water was spilling from the cracks of the bathroom door.

“Hello?” I called out again, hoping someone would answer and explain the flooded bathroom, but to my dismay no one answered. I was panicking at this point and reached for the door handle and expected it to be locked, surprised when I discovered it was now unlocked. As I pushed open the door, water spilled out and covered my feet with cold, muddy sensations. I waded my way through the murky, but shallow water until I was standing in front of the tub. I gulped in fear and confusion as I stared down at the overflowing bathtub; the water was too murky to see what was clogging it and for some reason I felt the need to reach for the drain plug and to drain the water. I rolled up my sleeve and reached into the murky water, I felt around for the plug and pulled it, when suddenly something touched me.

A hand shot out of the murky water and grasped wildly for me, I rocked back and landed on my butt as a form ascended from the tub. I was staring at myself. There was an eerily similar version of myself sitting up in the tub and staring at me; I was wearing the same shirt and jeans. I opened my mouth to scream and the form in the tub did the same, water running down the creature’s mouth, reaching for me like a child reaches for its mother. This freaked me out and I stood to run, the creature gripped onto the back of my shirt and yanked me back with an impossible strength. I fell back and the creature wrapped one arm over my shoulder down to my waist, its other arm around my waist and yanked me completely into the tub. I discovered there was no bottom to the tub, but instead we seemed to be sinking further and further into this murky portal.

I was reaching out wildly to set myself free, trying to pry the arms away from my doppelganger so I could try and escape. As I yanked at the arms I realized I wasn't pulling on a pair of arms but instead some type of belt.

A seatbelt.

Memories of going over the cliff in my car with Sarah and hitting my head suddenly rushed to me and I, in a way, woke up underwater, unable to pry my seatbelt off myself. I could barely make out the interior of my car as I felt Sarah, myself and the car sinking further and further into the Mississippi. I was drowning, my biggest fear. As I faded away, my struggles became an acceptance of my dark grave and the muddy waters forced itself into my mouth and settled in my chest… Consciousness began to fade as a fleeting and chilling realization crossed my eyes before I faded; Christopher had me and I could never leave...