I wasn’t planning on writing today. I was taking it easy on the sofa with a Netflix film on pause, a half-finished pizza and chicken-wing bones on a plate beside me, while surfing the cesspool of social media and bracing for the incoming violent typhoon (another story brewing in my mind); then a scary story started showing itself in my head and I was jolted up from where I was sitting and immediately sat in front of my desk. I’ve known now that when the muse comes beckoning with a story, you drop everything and oblige like the faithful medium that you are supposed to be. Happy Halloween! Oh, and there’s a Blue Moon tonight!
The air conditioner of my car was blowing cold air against my face and I began to feel a bit drowsy. I looked at the glowing digital the clock on my dashboard and it was already half-past two in the morning. I played the music a little louder but still, I yawned so big, I didn’t realize my jaw was capable of opening that wide.
I looked at the rear-view mirror and glanced at the road from where I’ve come. I think about my friend– the last one of the four I’ve driven home tonight– and thought about how she would be snuggly lying on her bed right now.
Lucky bitch, I thought.
Another yawn came and I reminded myself that I just had two bottles of beer and that doesn’t usually affect me. I checked the digital clock again and felt my eyelids getting very heavy.
Finally, the lights turn green and I pressed on the gas. I swiped left on the screen of my car to activate navigation. I needed to find a shorter way out of the highway or else I might fall asleep on the wheel. I also thought about opening my windows to let the outside breeze in so I won’t fall asleep but I can’t do that on the highway. If falling asleep on the wheel won’t kill me, then the smog from all the smoke coming from the massive ten-wheeler trucks and other vehicles will. When you’re on the road, that’s how you tell time: when you’re rolling on the highway with those ten-wheelers instead of the usual sedan and SUVs, you know it’s late.
I found a short cut on my navigation map. It will take me through a series of loops around neighborhoods and after three kilometers of that, I will emerge into a straight utility road that runs parallel to the highway. Then I can exit the utility road after six kilometers by going through a small neighborhood and I’ll be out into the highway again, turn left on the intersection and I’ll be in my neighborhood. Go through three blocks after that and I’ll be parked right on my driveway. Home sweet home in under an hour. God, I love satellite navigation. God, I love my car.
I took a hard left to enter into the neighborhood and proceeded to follow my navigation map. The residential neighborhood was quiet with sleeping houses and lit porches. No one was on the streets except for two teenagers that I saw on the opposite side of the street who are probably on their way home from a late-night party just as I was.
The houses were quaint and now and then I’d see through a window and find the blue glow of a television set in a darkened room. I began rolling down my windows and breathed in the fresh wind of a dark sky that is neither evening nor morning. I laced my way through the neighborhood until I found myself entering the second one.
Here, the houses were more modern and huge and most of the houses sit far back from the road so all you could see were the manicured lawns and gardens where spring never leaves. I turned my music down two levels so as not to make too much noise. I have a feeling that people who lived here loved their privacy and their silence. The road was well lit with light posts scattered modestly along the sidewalk with huge sturdy trees sprouting in front of every house or two.
The brown leaves that fell from the trees crunched underneath my car’s tires on the damp road that was showered by rain not long before. I inched closer to the exit that will lead me to the straight back road and I checked on my car’s screen if I am on the right way.
I sped along and I found myself on a street where the houses and the manicured lawns were suddenly gone and were replaced with stone-cold white walls. The light posts also became few and far in between; casting a small sad circle of amber glow on the dampened, leaf-littered road.
As I inched forward into the street, the night became still and the bush crickets stopped their buzzing; the silence was so dense you could cut through it with a knife. All around me was night time and darkness because the few and far lamp posts couldn’t cut through the darkness of the night.
I reached an intersection with a lonely street sign begging to be repaired that read Margaret Hill. I closed my car windows when I read that sign and checked on the locks even though I was sure that all my car doors were locked. I’ve heard about Margaret Hill; nothing goes around faster than word of mouth. I’ve heard it from my other friends, who also drive, when they’ve downed a few buckets of beer.
There’s something not right about that place, one of my drunk friends said one night and looked at me straight in the eye as if he were sober.
I looked at my car’s screen and I saw that my dot on the map wasn’t moving even though I was speeding forward just to get out of that place. The darkness was too thick that my headlights can only illuminate a few meters in front of me and then it would all be darkness.
The music suddenly stopped and I pressed play on the screen but the screen froze. I cursed under my breath. In order to reset the system I had to restart my car. God, I love my car, I thought sarcastically.
I decided against the idea; I wasn’t going to stop anywhere here. This is not the place for anyone to make a stop. This is one of those places that are just for passing through. Nobody stops their cars here, at least no one in their right minds.
I sped straight across the street just so I could leave this creepy place behind. Then after a kilometer of driving, I was back at that intersection with the broken sign that reads Margaret Hill.
You’ve got to be shitting me, I said out loud to no one as I sat there in my car with my back straight and looking around. I drove straight again and I was driving through the same road that I’ve driven just a while ago.
I thumped my steering wheel and accepted defeat by acknowledging that I was lost.
I need my map back. Well, turning off the car and then starting it again won’t take long, I thought to myself.
I turned off the engine and everything went dark as the lights went with the engine too. Then I pushed it on but the damned thing won’t start; the engine won’t even turn over.
Shit, shit, shit! I cursed and searched for my phone in my bag on the passenger seat. As I was reaching over to the passenger seat, something in the backseat behind me caught my eye. I froze. Suddenly the whole cabin of the car went freezing cold that I can see my breath condense when I exhale. I finally got hold of my phone and saw that it had no signal and the battery was running low.
Meanwhile, I can feel the presence behind me in the backseat begin to grow and grow until I can feel it coldly on the nape of my neck. I forced myself to not look on the rearview mirror because whatever was on the backseat was something I do not want to see, ever.
I can hear it breathing and its breathe was as cold as ice and it was right behind my neck. Then I felt long skinny fingers closing around my neck as she inched closer. My eyes went to the rearview mirror and I saw her eyes looking at me. And I screamed. I didn’t care if I was already a full-grown adult, I screamed like I was screaming for my life.
Then the engine roared to life and the lights went back on and the map was working again. I pressed the pedal to the metal, not caring if I hit some potholes or some humps. I didn’t care. I was crying now. Then at last I found myself on the utility road and it wasn’t as dark as it was back in Margaret Hill.
I calmed down and wiped my tears and snot. I felt relieved that I was out of that place. I looked back on the rearview mirror and I felt a cold shock go through me as she was still there in the backseat smiling at me with her old woman’s face and black eyes.
I’m coming with you, dear, she said and smiled to show me her rotting teeth.