The black swallows the dark ribbon of asphalt as soon as the weak headlamp beams die. The vast desert around is an amorphous silhouette only delineated by the stars stabbing the velvety sky above the mountains obscuring the highway. The drone of the Volkswagen’s engine rings in the interior, the dashboard lights casting eerie pale green on two young faces staring at the passing tumbleweeds and Joshua trees crouching at the gravel shoulder.
There’s no moon to cast silvery illumination on the scene. There are no following cars to light the car’s cracker box interior. Ahead, out of range of the headlights, a semi roars through the night, setting a pace the couple is content to follow.
The cross-country journey from California to Georgia is shortened as much as possible each time they take it. They drive through the night when they can, sleep in a motel only when exhaustion overtakes the determined, stubborn husband, and the wife demands only the finest in roadside amenities for relieving full bladders. The miles pass beneath the car in seeming endless procession, but they are on a limited budget, both for time and money, and sacrifices must be made.
They’re approaching a bastion of civilization, a tiny puddle of lights and humanity in the midst of the ocean of black. An oasis of a sort. It’s visible just before the base of the mountains when the terrain dips and the road angle permits. When it rises again, like a mirage the glittering blue, orange and yellow jewel vanishes without a trace.
She sighs. The long trip can be grating. They bicker sometimes. But now, boredom and monotony have the better of her. She stares at the pane of glass to her right, but sees more of her own reflection than the geography beyond.
The car jolts and shudders, and her husband swears under his breath as the rocking taps her forehead into the window.
She jerks her head forward in time to see the huge trailer ahead of them, marked by a series of amber lights strung across the top edge of its rear and the crimson burn of tail lights, swerve hard left, tipping wildly as if to topple. Smoke of melting rubber launches at the tiny car, blocks their view for an instant as it plumes around the semi, then clears to reveal the truck swinging back to the right, regaining its wheels. The blast of the air horn stabs the night.
“What was that all about?” she asks, rubbing her head.
“I don’t know,” he mutters. “Crazy sonuvabitch musta fallen aslee—”
The VW bounces and rattles, skitters to the side as if driving on loose river rock or crumbling cobblestones. She gasps and slams her hands against the dash and the passenger door, stomping her feet to the floorboard to brace her body in the high-backed vinyl seat. He curses again, fighting the wheel, and risks taking one hand from the wheel to reseat his jarred glasses back to his face, the car sliding left.
The road is a carpet of tiny bumps, teeming and roiling nearly to the dividing double yellow line at the center.
Rats. Millions of rats.
She gives a stark shriek, deadened and hollow in the tiny bubble of the car. On the road, in the lane ahead of them, a figure looms amidst the rodent hoards. The high collar of the black cape on his shoulders rises to the brim of a top hat seated above a gaunt, bony face of ghastly white, the cape’s tail lost in the swarming vermin at his feet. The rats scrabble up his back, arms, legs, and tumble down as he walks along the middle of the road, into oncoming traffic.
She draws breath to scream again, but terror locks the sound in her throat as the car’s tires find purchase on the asphalt again, around the slick, bubbling brew of rats, and begins to go around the ghoul. A lunging step takes him near the center line, and he bends to stare with jaundiced bloodshot eyes into the passenger window, following the car as it passes with his head, bluish eyelids and lips within reaching distance of the glass.
She tries again to scream, but only a sobbing hiss escapes. He accelerates as fast as the tiny motor will permit, and within a few seconds the specter is lost to the blackness behind them. The road crests then slopes down, and ahead they can see the glittering jewel of the tiny town ahead once more, beckoning them to hurry through the miles to its safety … and light.
This is a true story as related to me by my parents, so I’ve posted it here instead of on my fiction blog. Hope you enjoy.
All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.