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Have you ever been driving out late one night? Out somewhere where there aren’t that many cars on the road, maybe the countryside or out on the back roads somewhere? I used to love doing that, it was always so peaceful. I lived out in a rural area when I was younger and I would always leave my girlfriend’s house at midnight. On some of those nights when I would drive home the roads would seem to play tricks. I was kind of used to it. When you’re out on those roads in the woods at night, it’s easy for your eyes to see things that aren’t really there. I can’t tell you how many times the rays of moonlight and headlight beams reflected off the smooth asphalt to look like a person dressed in white standing in the road. The signs on those roads were also sometimes placed at odd angles, like they were put there just to spook you when you came around a corner. It didn’t take long for me to become accustomed to that after I learned to drive. Since I lived in an area with many roads going through dense forest and open fields, I learned to quickly make sense of any figures or shadows in the night.
However, I did have my fair share of scares that I could never really attribute to the roads playing tricks, or even my drowsiness after midnight. I remember one night I was driving back to drop off my girlfriend after a night of shopping with her. It was raining heavily, and visibility was low. It was unnerving enough driving those roads at night during the best of times, as they were winding and rough, with hills and curves that left you unable to see what might be waiting around the next bend. It was over the crest of one of those hills that it happened. My girlfriend was completely absorbed in her phone, and I was kind of entranced myself. I had the radio playing pretty loud. It made driving much more entertaining for me, but it also put me into a bit of a zoned out state. I was only focused on the road, and the music.
I was shocked out of my music induced trance when I topped a hill to reveal a figure wreathed in black by the side of the road. He seemed so close to my car, like he could reach out and pull me off the asphalt. I got a look at the face of this figure to reveal an almost white visage, marred by black eyes. His gaze seemed to somehow lock with mine as I tried to make sense of the image before me.
“What the hell!” leapt from my mouth almost instinctively as I realized what I had seen. We were extremely close to the next road to turn down on the way to her house, which was more of just a slight left than a turn. We were close enough that I began to slide across the other lane of the road and urged the car harder than usual to the left to account for my speed. I never let off the car’s accelerator until it hit me that the road I was about to hit was completely dirt, which had begun to turn to a slippery mud as the rain mixed with the road. I pressed the brake just enough so that my speed didn’t send me off the road. I had never before hit that road so fast and still haven’t again to this day. It was about this time, which was probably only a second later that my girlfriend started to react to everything.
“What’s wrong?! What are you doing? Are you ok?!” she exclaimed as she threw her phone in her lap.
“You didn’t see that!?” I said. My voice was shaky, and tinged with fear.
My girlfriend was still confused from my startled attitude. “What? What did you see?”
“There was a man in all black on the side of the road, just walking down it. Or standing by it! Or something!” I was having trouble getting my voice to lower in volume.
“Are you sure. It’s raining really hard, no one should be out right now?” she asked. It was a valid question given the heavy rain and the late hour.
“I know pretty well when I see something that looks like the grim freaking reaper on the side of the road!” I know, sarcasm wasn’t necessary, but really, I wasn’t crazy, I think. Her face started to turn to irritation at my response, but her countenance softened as she got a good look at my unsettled expression. “I’ve told you before that there’s some weird people that live out here. God only knows what they were doing out there.”
It was maybe a minute later when we pulled into her driveway. I was still on edge and vigilant, in case the man decided to follow my car down the dirt road to her house. Given my speed and the cover from sight that the thick woods and trees gave us it was unlikely he was even able to see us get near the driveway, much less see us turn onto it, but that wasn’t enough to calm me after the scare he provided. I got her inside and we sat for a few minutes until midnight struck. By then I was calm again, but my girlfriend did watch me all the way to my car, just in case.
That wasn’t the last time I saw the man, I even saw him in the daylight once. I was later able to prove to my girlfriend that I wasn’t crazy when we received news that the man was apprehended by police for trafficking drugs on foot down that county road. I guess things could have always been worse, he didn’t ever decide to follow me as he walked down that old road. At least, I think he never did.
Still, that wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Though I never stopped going down that county road at night. Maybe it was love, or just a stupid curiosity for the unknown and unnatural that kept me driving after my next encounter.
I should add that it wasn’t a long drive between my house and my girlfriend’s house at that time. It was only about ten minutes, even less if I sped, which I did often given the rarity of police in the area.
One of those midnights I was leaving her house for the evening when things got a little out of my control. It started out as normal, except for some feeling I couldn’t shake as I got in my car. I was definitely tired, that much was certain, but I’ve been tired for one reason or another many of the times I left there. I got in the car and let my phone connect through Bluetooth. I was always careful to put the car in drive before I started messing around with my phone, I was a bit paranoid, and taking the car out of park locked all the doors automatically. I let that all happen and then I looked for what music to play. I opened my playlist and just picked something. I’m partial to the hard rock and metal end of the musical spectrum, so having something dark and occasionally foreboding come out of my speakers wouldn’t have bothered me at all on any other night. Tonight was different though, I just couldn’t tell why. It was as if there was a charge within the night—some electric feeling had my hair standing on end. I tried to tell myself that the feeling was brought on by the drastic drop in temperature that seemed to have occurred as I passed my time with her. This was probably partially correct, but this alone wasn’t enough for me to completely relax. Instead of the quiet serenity gained from seeing the moonlight shine on the pond outside in the field near her house, the water shimmered oddly, creating twisting faces and eyes in my mind. It was all a bit unnerving. It broke that calm that I had been accustomed to when leaving from there.
I continued down the driveway onto the dirt road, music blaring, reflecting the scream down in my soul for comfort. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong around me. It was when I turned onto the paved county road that things began to get worse. First was the trees. As I’ve said, this was a fairly wooded area, and tonight the wind and the moon came together to bring me visions of figures in the trees, hollow eyes staring into the driver’s seat of my car. This was a mere ten seconds down the road, and already the night began its march on my sanity.
The curves of the road were my next adversary. With the somewhat quickened pace I took by default, there were some curves that reduced the ability to get a good hard look at what was around the next bend, and tonight was no different. As I came to the first of these sharp cuts through the woods, I could have sworn I saw a man in the trees above me, hanging by his hands, feet dangling below him. I didn’t slow down to get a better look though, as that was the last thing I was going to do. I shook it off in the moments following my rounding of the curve.
You’re just sleepy, and you’re being paranoid, there’s nothing there. But what if there is? If I passed a man in the trees then there’s still nothing to worry about because he’s not going to have any idea how to follow me.
My self-reassurance didn’t last very long. The next event occurred around the very next turn, though this time it was on the side of the road. As I continued, the road straightened out for a few seconds, revealing another figure on the edge of the tree line. The man in black was there again, making his nightly rounds trafficking whatever drug he had with him. The black overcoat that he always wore seemed to twist around him in a strange way. It was as if the black around him was more of a shadow, bending around him as he moved. Compared to the last few times I had seen him, he seemed to be moving in a very mechanical way; it was as if he had forgotten how to walk. This left him in a creeping shuffle down the overgrown roadside. Despite all of this, his presence was slightly calming. It’s hard to fully explain, but given how shaken I was already the man seemed to add some humanity to the inhuman environment I was trapped on. It was like knowing that the road you’re traveling on is safe enough for another human.
My calm was shattered when he turned to face me. What turned to look at me could not have been human, there was no way. His eyes were an abysmal black, while the rest of his face was a ghastly white. His face contorted in a maddening smile, piercing the thin veil that was left of my constitution. His clothes curled around him like smoke as his glare followed me while I passed him. His eyes followed me in the rear view mirror all the way down the straight into the next curve. His smile is still burned into my memory. His face was too twisted to be human.
I wanted to speed up even more, but I was already going so fast if I sped up anymore I risked losing control around one of the turns.
I tried to calm myself down again by bringing thoughts of home and safety to the forefront of my mind. I tried to keep my focus on anything else but the events going on around me. My radio was still playing, and I tried to keep my mind on the music. I sang the words to the song playing in a feeble attempt to distract myself.
“Hold my breath as I wish for death. / Oh, please God wake me.” Metallica, how fitting. I actually laughed a bit as I finished singing the line.
The wind started to pick up as I continued down the road toward my home. Leaves off of the innumerable trees swirled and danced in front of me. It was in that moment that the air around me ran cold. I had the air conditioning turned to heat since it was winter, but all the sudden that didn’t matter anymore. I shivered as my skin began to chill in the unnatural cold.
Not a moment later, my sight was drawn towards the side of the road again. I tried not to look; I knew what was coming. I knew not to look, but the reflection off of the white face in my headlights was too bright to ignore. He was there again. Even through my shivering and shaking in cold and fear, I could feel the paralyzing grip of terror in my chest. I blew by him, watching him disappear from view in my mirrors. As quickly as he left my sight he reappeared, his gaze and maddening grin still following me. He was holding out a pale and sickly hand into the night, reaching for any life his hands could grasp. Every time he would fade from view he would emerge again at every turn; his eyes never blinked, and his sickening grin never changed.
I saw him fade one more time I exited the woods and saw the dim lights of a church appear. There was a four-way stop right at the church, and as I pulled up to the stop sign my pulse began to slow. It was only a little farther until I was home. The part of my trip after the four-way stop should have been easier; it was better lit, and the forest thinned into more houses and some fields. My spirits were lifted as I calmly accelerated away from the four way stop and past the church and its graveyard. I gazed at the three crosses in the empty lot of the churchyard as I passed by.
Dim, electric lights were unable to prevent what happened next. The road continued after the church in a long straight path between fields of lifeless peach trees. On one side of the road a few small houses sat, some with porch lights illuminating their front stoops. I knew my road well; it felt like home in itself to be driving along it. It was as I passed by the tiny local fire station that my home was invaded.
The air chilled again, making my skin crawl with fear and cold. I started to speed up, I was getting home as fast as I could go without crashing into something. My radio began to act up now, songs were being skipped and paused without warning. Songs would start in the middle and play in reverse. I felt as if my entire world had collapsed. My car was like a barrier to the madness occurring around me and the walls were breached.
It was soon that my radio was playing sounds that were not on my phone. Sounds of screaming and wailing that could only be attributed to the dead. I prayed to God that I would make it home safely, that through whatever means necessary I would survive with my body and mind intact. My radio responded.
The voice came across my ears. It spoke in a sickly low tone. It sounded like a whisper of wind was breathing voices through my car speakers. It wailed against the speakers as I sped along the road home, crying in voices ethereal and ancient. The man appeared one more time in front of me, this time in the center of the road. He was still reaching his hand out toward me, his face still locked in its grimace.
I didn’t even slow down. I ran through him as fast I could, I felt a slight resistance as the car made impact, despite his seemingly incorporeal nature. The radio returned to normal, the air began to warm up again. I had won. Home was only a moment away. I looked in my rear view mirror. The eyes were still there. I looked back towards the road as I passed the second and final church before I got home. I looked in the mirror again.
There he was.
This demonic man sat in the rear passenger seat. His face never changed. His murderous grin etched in stone across the glowing white visage.
The air froze and the speakers blasted static. He began to move, slowly. I was going up the last hill before my driveway as I saw his hand start to move in my direction. I slammed the brake and swerved onto my gravel drive. His hand was still moving. My car slid into its place near my home and I pulled the keys from the ignition. I heard the sounds die as I slammed the door behind me. As I ran away I slipped a glance towards the back seat of the car. It was empty. I ran up the stairs to the front door. As I fumbled the keys in my shaking hands, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. He was standing at the base of the stairs, unmoving. I unlocked my door and threw myself into the house, locking the door behind me. I stared out the window to see if there was even a trace of the figure left, but there was none.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Afraid that if I turned my head away from my door for even a moment he would appear again.
Nothing came to me that night, and I eventually calmed down enough to drive at night again. The next time I drove home from my girlfriend’s house the woods were deathly quiet. Nothing of that magnitude ever happened again.
But, on certain nights, when the night is charged with energy and a cold wind blows through the dark, my eyes will glance into my rear view mirror. In my mirror will sit a pair of cold black eyes, shimmering in the dark. He will come again. I know one day I’ll be at its mercy. I’ve never again been truly at peace on an empty road at night.
Written by Victoryoverself