It began just like any other typical day.
I got up in the morning, and went to the bathroom to get ready for work, like a normal day. After showering and shaving, I made my way back to my bedroom, where my wife still lay in our bed. As I covered the distance from the bathroom to the closet, my wife stirred.
"Is it that time already?" she asked, with a slight tone of dismay.
"Yes it is honey. I wish I could stay longer, but I can't afford to miss another day of work." I replied. I should have already been fired, according to the rules at my workplace, but my boss had been a close family friend, and after pulling some strings, he saved my job.
"I know Cory, I know," she said, then continued to roll over onto her stomach and fall back into her blissful slumber.
I walked out to my car, turned the key, and backed out of my driveway as "Don't Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult started to play on the radio. It takes about 45 minutes to get to my workplace from my house. As I turned onto the highway, I began to get this feeling of...uneasiness. That's the only way I can describe it. Immediately after I felt this uneasiness, the radio changed to a breaking story.
"There has been a horrific accident on Highway 32, mile-marker 15. A semi-truck lost control and skidded sideways, before flipping over and finally crashing into three other vehicles. There was only one casualty, however officials are unable to determine the identity of the deceased due to the condition of the body."
At first I thought nothing of it. Then I realized that I had to travel by that area, as mile-marker 15 was on my way to work.
"Shit." I said,"I'm going to be late for work after all."
After about 5 more minutes of traveling down Highway 32, I began to see the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances. I started to slow down, and noticed the flagman directing people to a single lane. As I merged with the other people going to work their unfulfilling jobs, I looked out of my passenger side window, trying to catch a glimpse of the crash site.
That was a mistake. What I saw is something that I will never forget. There, lying on the stretcher, was the corpse of the sole victim of the crash. A paramedic was covering the body with a large, white canvas. The face of the victim seemed to have been torn off, and what was left had been charred a deep black by the flames of the crash. As the paramedic covered the head of the body, I thought I imagined the head staring through my window, directly at my eyes. I now realize that I hadn't imagined it. That completely black, empty face had indeed looked at me, and I wish it hadn't.
I finally arrived at my workplace, and received the usual "if you're late one more time, your job is going to someone who actually wants it" speech, and continued to go to my own private cubicle. The rest of my day at work seemed normal, except I couldn't shake the feeling that I had experienced when I saw the crash victim earlier this morning. That sullen black face...
At five o'clock, I gathered up my jacket and made my way to the parking lot. I opened my car door, got in, and started up the vehicle. The first thing I noticed was that the radio was just static. No matter what station I changed it to, there was just empty static. I then turned off the radio, not putting much thought towards the static. I reached up to the rear view mirror to adjust it, and screamed. Sitting in my back seat was the crash victim. The soulless, charred black face was accompanied by empty, sunken holes where eyes one were, and a misshapen, jagged mouth. It seemed to be grinning at me. I closed my eyes, not able to look at that horrifying face anymore. After what seemed like half an hour, I opened my eyes, only to find that the victim had disappeared.
I rushed home, and ran into the house. My wife had just finished making supper, but I was anything but hungry. My mind kept going back to that face. The wrinkled, flaky skin, the bottomless pits where their eyes used to be, and that lipless, jagged mouth; it seemed like something straight from a horror movie. I didn't dare tell my wife; she would only be afraid, or she would ridicule me and say that I shouldn't worry, it would all be okay, I was just imagining things. I hoped I was. That THING was just...surreal. I knew I had to be making this stuff up. Like what kind of person dies from a terrible car accident and then ends up sitting in the back of a telecommunications worker's car, right? Yeah, that's it, it's definitely just my imagination screwing with me. All I needed was a good night's rest, and all of this would be in the past.
I got up from the dining room table. "I'm going to go ahead and get ready for bed. I've had a long day at work." I said, and then proceeded to wish my wife and daughter goodnight. I headed towards the staircase, and went up into my bedroom. There I undressed, went into the adjacent bathroom to brush my teeth, and crawled into bed to try and catch some shut-eye.
None came. I just lied there, staring at the ceiling. That face just wouldn't leave my mind. Those eyes...that jagged grin...
My wife eventually came into the room after tucking our daughter in her bed. I didn't notice her at first; I was too caught up in reliving the moment when I first saw that face. That stupid, mangled, burned face, and that unsettling, almost taunting grin. I guess I was pale or looked sickly, because my wife was shaking me and asking me if I was okay.
"Yeah I'm fine," I said," just a stressful day at work, it's fine." She looked at my face, examining me to see if I really meant what I said. I grew annoyed by this, and turned onto my side, my facial features safe away from her gaze. Then I shut my eyes, finally entering the sleep that I had so long waited for.
I was in my car, driving down Highway 32 again. There was no radio, just the sound of the tires of my car rolling over the smooth pavement. I came up to those same lights I had encountered earlier on my way to work. There was the same flagman, and I once again looked out of my passenger side window. However, instead of just one stretcher, there were three, each with a person's body lying on them. Two of the bodies were obviously adults, and the third was much smaller. I studied the third body, for something just seemed curious about it. I realized I had seen that person before. I had seen them right before I went to bed. The body on the stretcher belonged to my beloved daughter Jessica. My mind raced as I quickly played Connect-the-Dots and realized that the other bodies had to be my wife and I. I came to a complete stop, as the car in front of me had done the same. I looked once again at the three stretchers, and what I saw was absolutely terrifying. The crash victim was standing above my family's bodies, looking at me with those blank, sullen eyes, once again grinning that misshapen grin. It then pointed at each of my family member's bodies, and then at me, as if trying to convey some horrific message of what was to come in the future.
I jumped awake, and sat up on the edge of the bed. My wife was still asleep, and I didn't think I should wake her, I was still trying to process what I had just experienced. I got up and went to the bathroom that was connected to the bedroom. I turned on the faucet, let the sink fill up partially with warm water, turned the faucet off, and splashed some water on my face, trying to calm myself down.
After doing so I looked up at my reflection in the mirror, and was frightened by what I saw. My face was almost an exact replica of the crash victim's, the empty eye sockets and torn flesh, everything. I was too terrified to scream. That face just stared back at me, grinning that stupid grin...my grin.
I ran back into our bedroom, to wake up my wife. I reached down, grabbed her shoulder, and rolled her over onto her back. I let out a blood-curdling scream. My wife's face was the exact same as the victim;. Every little detail was the same, those eyes, the wrinkles, that grin. I reeled back, and immediately ran to Jessica's room. I burst through the door, waking her up, and turned on the light to her room.
"Daddy what's wrong?" she asked, her tiny, innocent head tilted to side like a puppy looking up at something it didn't quite comprehend. I looked at her, and saw that she was the same as us. Burned face, flesh torn asunder, those two empty abysses, and that grin. That grin. I lost it. I fell to my knees, bawling. Why? what had I done to deserve any of this?? I then walked over to Jessica, sat next to her on her bed and started to hold her head against my chest, still crying over her terrible fate. Why did this have to happen to her? She was just a child...
After hold my dear Jessica for what seemed like an eternity, I looked up into her room. The lights had gone dark, and maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed colder in the room. I felt like we were being watched, as if something was just waiting for the perfect moment. I looked all around us, only t see nothing out of the ordinary. I looked back down at Jessica, and noticed that her face was fixated on the far corner of the room.
I followed her gaze and at first I saw nothing, just a corner hidden in shadows. Then I saw something move. I looked closer, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was hiding from us. Suddenly, the crash victim walked out of the shadows, still grinning. It advanced toward me, but I was too terrified to move. Jessica was gone, just vanished from my grasp. The victim leaned down in front of my face, and its smile widened.
All I remember after that is blackness. Pure black, no matter how far I walk. I hear a faint whisper all around me, followed by the occasional child-like laughter. Out of the corner of my eye, I still see that face, my face, my wife's face, Jessica's face. Always looking at me. Always grinning.