A man driving home, as he normally does, experiences a few odd events confusing him during what he thought would be a normal night, ending terrifyingly.




Sam Mitchell (United States)

The young man took a quick glance at the glowing dashboard clock, the lone light in his rattling truck. 11:46 PM.
He was the sole traveller on the backcountry road that he chose to drive on while going home from his late-night job. The weeping willows crying from the ditches on either side of the narrow dirt lane relaxed him far more than the asphalt and other drivers on the highway did. The strumming of steel guitars and old country singers emanated from the radio that he was constantly listening to. Tapping on the steering wheel, the commuter was confused when he noticed that the road that he was so used to was now a little bit darker than he remembered. His eyes gazed up at the full moon, and then wandered down to the hood of his truck. Only one of his headlights was shining down onto the dirt. Pulling over, the man sighed, silently admitting that it is about time he bought a new vehicle. Stepping out into the humid South Carolina night, he heard the far off chirping of cicadas. As he walked to the front of his truck, he noticed something odd. Both headlights were as bright as usual. Shaking his head, he got back into the cab. Not the weirdest thing that’s happened to me, he thought. Looking out the window, he was comforted, but puzzled, by the beams coming from either side of his truck. As he pulled out from the shallow channel that he stopped in, he took another look at the clock.
12:38 PM.
Swerving in his stupor, the man tried to get a hold of his thoughts. While unorganized with possessions, he was nothing if not a creature of habit. Every night he knew he was home by at least midnight. Dazed, he looked at his surroundings. Nothing he noticed was out of the ordinary. Trees, shrubs, fields, all there, he knew, still worried about the sudden passing of time. Suddenly, he heard ringing in his ears. There was no music playing from his radio.
“Shit,” he said out loud. His eyes went down to the dial that he was trying to readjust, missing the Southern entertainers who kept him company during his drives. As soon as he looked away from the road there was an enormous ‘thud’ and the bouncing of his truck after he drove over the obstacle he collided with. The work boot he had on depressed the brake pedal all the way to the floor, throwing him forward with inertia. Taking a deep breath, he opened his door to assess the damage. Frolicking deer always complemented his drive home.
After a glance to make sure there were no oncoming cars, the man stepped in front of his beloved truck for the second time that night. Again, bewildered, he saw not even the smallest dent on his grille. This surprise made him ecstatic as he for sure thought there would be significant damage to what he referred to as his “baby”. He walked to the rear tire on the driver’s side, looking for the deer he ran into. His eyes widened as he looked all around his truck for anything he could have hit. Nothing. After half a minute, he gave up searching and went back to his door, stunned from not finding anything. As he put his hand on the door handle, he stopped. Lying barely a yard ahead of his front left fender was his stereo, wires hanging out of its rear ports. His mouth hung open.
“Hey!” he shouted into the darkness surrounding him, “Who’s there?!” He immediately knew that whoever took his stereo out must have somehow gotten into the cab of his truck while he was trying to find the object he hit. Turning full circle, he scanned the nearby trees for the perpetrator. With no criminal in sight, he picked up the stereo. The wires were all ragged and there were fingernail marks in the plastic, and he stood there wondering how he did not hear the crime happen. There was no hope in putting it back in. Furious, he kicked the device into a patch of foliage barely shrouded by the blackness of night. Nearly pulling the latch off his door, he prepared to finish his drive home. As soon as he put his foot on the step to get into the cab, he noticed something out of place. The cicadas had stopped their screeching.
From the distant trees he heard his favorite song being played. The man turned his head towards the noise, audibly gulping. He had to strain his eyes to see the shadow haunting the stand of willows where he kicked his stereo.
“Hey!” he screamed again, “Get over here!” He put his foot back down onto the firm soil and straightened his well-worn cap. “Get over here,” he announced again, but this time his voice cracked on the word ‘here’.
The shadow became slightly bigger, blocking out more of the willow’s tears. The once courageous man backed up into his open door. Scrambling, he climbed into the driver’s seat and slammed the door, fueled by adrenaline and fear. His mirrors only magnified the possible threat that he saw slowly coming towards him. Accelerating away from the phantom, he took out his cell phone to check the time.
12:09 PM.
His breathing quickened as he tried to make any sense of the night he had been experiencing. The only sounds he heard were his engine and the drumming of his nervous fingers on the steering wheel. He took off the hat he had been sweating in and threw it in the back seat, then combing his fingers through his long hair. His sense of unease began to quell as he noticed environmental features that signaled he was getting close to his home. There was no one following him in his mirrors, which calmed him even more.
He felt a cold breeze run down the right side of his neck, making him squirm in his seat. Then there was a windy voice scratching in his ear.
“What time is it?”

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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