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Thompson Pass

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"For many of us death is only temporary. We simply pass away and whether you believe in an afterlife, or believe that you rot in the ground, it will happen. It can happen in your sleep, getting the mail, or in a hospital. However, in some situations there may be an exception to death. A place where you are neither dead nor alive, a place where you cannot go to sleep forever or even rest in peace, but in the place where you died repeating the same fate over and over again until the end of existence."

—My grandfather

Bike-corralhollowsteep

The start of the "racetrack."

This was an actual event which happened to me while I was a teenager. Even though a lot of time has passed, I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. Believe me or not, I believe that there is an afterlife, however, it might not be the peaceful utopia many believe with pearly gates and heavenly clouds, but an afterlife of pain and suffering. Just like what my grandfather told me well into his old age. One that continues suffering and death over, and over, and over again until the end of existence where you are committing the same recreation of death for all eternity, agony and suffering so great the flaming pits of hell look like a break from it. But that, is only the beginning.

To begin, like other kids I was kind of an adventurous kind of idiot who enjoyed getting out of the house. My buddies, Jim, Jackson and I believed in a good adventure whether it was going to the lake or going to the abandoned house down the street to see if it was haunted. That was what we were into, you know, paranormal activity kind of stuff. We knew it was a bunch of made up stories that's why we went there though. The three of us would grab a six pack of sodas, some trail mix, and go around the house trying to find whatever was in there, every time being unsuccessful in doing it.

We knew it was an absolute joke, we just liked seeing if there was actually anything in the house. Plus, it gave us an excuse to get out of the house, but we would tell our parents that we were going down to the lake, which, was a blatant lie and proceed traveling wherever the road called us.

So, one day me and my buddies heard of a paranormal spot known as “Thompson Pass” which was in the back roads of the Altamont. You know, those roads which were backroads in between the Central Valley and Bay Area, it was one of those roads which was often secluded from the main roads. The story goes, that back in the 1960’s and 70’s when there was the local punk kids who would take their cars and go racing. The only reason they went up on this road was because it was a very desolate road, which almost no one lived on and was perfect for racing. The road was a vast landscape, three miles of turns and gyrations which littered the road up and down the Altamont. The most interesting part of the road was at the climax of the road was a sharp turn which you had to make an intense right. If you didn't, you fell into a large valley between two hills then it was smooth sailing from there. It was said that over three kids lost their lives to that turn. However, the police often didn't do anything and just brushed it off as some idiot kids driving.

So the legend goes like this:

Two guys that went to the local high school were friends turned rivals after the fight with a local girl. The only way of course to settle this dispute was to race on the pass. Thomas “steel skull” Hernandez was the first of the kids. With his powerful and huge Chevrolet Impala he was able to run kids off of the road and win the race with brute force. While James O’Hara was more of a conservative driver often the speedy of the two, with his more modern Dart he was able to cut turns at a faster rate while capitalizing on mistakes of his rivals.

Finally after much trash talk and intimidation, later the two met up at the beginning of the pass where the two pulled out. Thomas with his 1968 Chevrolet Impala and James with his 1970 Dodge Dart. The two stared at each other for some time, and James gave a handshake being a good sport while watching his car closely to his side. This gave Thomas no chance to mess with the car which meant he had make his move during the race.

Then in the blink of an eye, the two peeled out with the smell of burnt tire rubber and coolant. The two had barely enough room, and still began racing. Thomas was not the best on turns since his Impala was such a huge car, giving the smaller and more modern dart an opening of daylight, so James had the advantage. That was when the first turn came around, barely dodging the first turn, the two began racing up the huge hill towards the zenith: Thompson Pass. The two kids began racing as fast as the cars could push it. Then came the final road sign before the fatal turn, signaling the vast danger of the valley below. Thomas, out of desperation, began ramming James’s car trying to knock him off into the depths below. However, right as he hit the top of the turn, James slammed on the brakes, leaving leverage to the punishing Thomas. Unfortunately, for Thomas he turned right into the pitiful valley crashing too his doom.

James, not seeing what happened, pulled the winning Dart to the side to see the carnage, only to see a furious, engulfing flame of gas and oil destroy his enemies car. Watching as the car was going up in flames, a few of the other kids began racing to see if by any possible way Thomas was still alive. Then the police and fire department arrived, cleaning up the carnage the two kids left. James was only dealt a slap on the wrist. Thomas Hernandez on the other hand was killed in the blaze and was buried the next week, which was whatever was left of him.

Thompson Pass and the leading road was then closed off to through traffic for the next thirty years, from 1974 to 2005, until increased traffic on the local freeway and the growing of the valley mandated that it was opened up again for relief of traffic. It is said that to this day, if you go on a Friday sometime in the summer and flash your headlights, Thomas will chase you down trying to win the race and try to kill you into the very pit that he was thrown into.

My friends and I thought that this story was complete bullshit, so to prove this wrong we went down the pass which was just recently opened, taking our friend Jim’s 1999 Dodge Stratus. As we approached the beginning of the pass, it just looked like an ominous pathway through a small hill. I had always wondered why many people were so afraid of this seemingly peaceful scenery.

We waited until sundown to get the full feel of the landscape. Knowing there was no streetlights on this street, we decided to turn on the lights. Approaching the first turn, Jim began to flash the headlights to see if anything would happen. Nothing. We then began flashing over and over again and Jim parked. Jackson, in the front seat, began turning on the radio getting a faint signal of the classic rock station. We sat there flashing the headlights over and over again, getting nothing at all just the sound of the engine revving. Then for some unknown reason, the radio cut to static and was not playing anything. Jackson, being annoyed just sitting there for fifteen minutes, began to complain that the trail mix was getting low. We decided to call it a night and say that this was just a legend and it was fake.

That was when Jim yelled out the window, “Thomas ain’t got nothing on me, he couldn't race on a kiddy racetrack!!”

We just looked at him and began driving over the looming hill. It was a peaceful ride filled with the small scent of mountain air. Relaxing in the front seat and looking at his rearview mirror, Jim looked at what seemed to be approaching headlights. The car seemed to be going at fast speeds, but on this road people often took chances and would go fast as a joyride.

I began to feel this uneasy feeling, contemplating if this was real or not. I then told Jim that this guy was approaching us real fast. That was when it hit us. The huge car began crashing into the bumper of his car. Jim, out of hesitation, slammed his foot on the brakes and began screaming profanities at the driver, saying he was a dumbass for crashing into us. Then it came again, what seemed like a crash was over and over again until the headlights of the car began to flash as if signaling the driver wanted to race. Jim just looked out the window and began looking into the old car. The car looked like it had been in a huge disaster, but it was still running like a charm.

Then it hit Jim as he saw something that we didn't, and he slammed on the gas. With tires screeching and the smell of oil on the air, Jim started gunning it. We didn't know it at the time, but the car behind us was right on our tail.

We approached the first turn and Jim began to cut it as fast as he could, accidentally skimming the wall of the hill. The mysterious driver then was pulling to our side, and to our amazement, was driving what we were hoping it wasn't. On the side of the car was the steel logo “Impala” in all cursive letters on the side of the car. As we looked in the car, it was what looked like a kid around our age just staring at the upper half of the road. Fuzzy dice in the window with what seemed to be a hula girl on the dash. Rotten carpet and destroyed seats were all in the car, looking like they were in some sort of catastrophe with the faint scent of burning fuel and tires. But that was just the beginning, the crazy driver then looked at Jackson eye to eye, this was when it began to get ugly. The kid turned his face to reveal a charred skeleton, or what was left of him on the other side of his face, connected to whatever was left of his skin. The car he was driving was no beauty either, it was covered in what seemed to be grass and dirt with rust stains all over the body of the car.

Impala

Not exactly the car we saw, but close to it.

At that point, we screamed as we made a left turn going up the hill for what seemed like forever, the car swerving up the desolate road. Jim began turning desperately, as the vintage Impala began crashing into his small car, the car turning into a shriveled piece of trash, crashing into the “No passing” sign up the road. The only source of light being from the two cars and the reflectors on the side of the road. Then he pushed the throttle up trying to steer the car into a better position, driving the car in front of the ghostly motor.

He then began cutting close off of the side of the road, spitting gravel all over the fender of the car. Jim then got back on the side of the road, trying to get what little traction he could with his screeching tires, the car's suspension barely staying on what was left of the desolate road. That was when the car began swerving left and right, trying to get a better position ahead of Jim. Jim, avoiding a bump in the road, flew into the guardrail barely enough to just lose his bumper and a hubcap. Then came the worst part of the road: the snake turn.

Driving left, turning right, then another left, turning what seemed to be in a vast array of circles and sharp turns, it was as if he was driving on the back of a snake. The creeping moonlight opening a gap showing the offset white lines of the old road. Then came a sign signaling the zenith of the hill which many failed to pass before. It suddenly dawned on Jim, that we must do what old James did in the legend. Then the beat up specter car came up on the right, beginning its ghostly move Hernandez was known for doing forty years ago. Eye to eye, Jim and the specter looked at each other for a good ten seconds. Seeing the end was near was a sign, suggesting a sharp right turn which Jim was preparing for. The ghost car then began for the swift kill, but before he could run us into the murky depths below, Jim slammed his foot on the brakes, and the ghostly car fell off into the distance. Just like the story, the car just fell off of the road into the incoming valley below.

Jim, out of pure adrenaline simply kept driving as fast as he could, until he reached the end of the road which was another half mile down. We began to see the wind farms and turbines that litter the area. Then he decided to stop by the power station and catch his breath, for what he had done those two mile was pure speed and adrenaline.

The next day we decided to go back up to the point, of course, we went in the middle of the day, with nothing to spook us that bad. Jim’s car was gonna need a ton of body work, so he stayed back home for the day with his mom nagging at him for the damages. We came to the point where Jim had lost a hubcap and bumper which were still at the site of the crash. Jackson was joking around the bend when they found something in the distance. At first, all we found were fresh tire marks and other trash lost from our vehicle. Calling it a day, we decided to head back, however while on the way back we saw something flashing in the distance. It wasn't ominous, it just kinda stuck out there. When we examined it closer, we were taken back in shock, it was a pair of red fuzzy dice just like the ones from the Impala. We then heard screeching and began to run as the smell of burnt rubber and oil came upon us once again.

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