Every time I work the closing shift I swear I’ll quit the next time I have to stay late. I hate driving alone at night, but driving home this late scares the crap out of me! As I crossed the nearly empty parking lot to get to my car I silently cursed our tiny country home out on the bayou. Why does my family have to live out in the boonies? I hate that house anyway! Why can’t we move into town?!?
Just as I’m pulling out of the lot my car does the jerky thing – that ‘maybe I’ll run, maybe I won’t’ type of jerkiness. “Crap! Exactly what I need … tops off my night!” Pumping the gas like a crazed person, the car finally lurches forward and the sputtering settles into its usual grumbling noise.
Even in town the streets were bare at 2:30 a.m. Except for the occasional straggling bar-hopper you’re lucky to pass anyone. Everyone says how nice silence and stillness can be, but I don’t like it. Total silence, total stillness, and total darkness, save the weak beam projecting from my headlights. You have to be careful on country roads, there are a lot of little furry critters ready to play chicken with you … rabbits, possum, raccoons, armadillos…okay, armadillos aren’t furry, but they get in the road. Occasionally you’ll see a bobcat or coyote, but usually you just hear them. Personally, I’d rather play my stereo and sing at the top of my lungs on the ride home. Screw the stillness and scary coyote howls… I’m having a concert in my car…I slipped the CD in and cranked it up.
Nearing the last turn before the long road to our house, I launched into the intro of track 3. “The love of my life is a …What the hell???” Just as I was about to cross the railroad tracks something shiny, metallic, glinted in my headlights. I swerved to the right – hard. Pop! Pfssssssss… “Damn! The tire!” It was hard to control but I got the car to the side of the road. I didn’t have to get out to know the front driver’s side tire was flat…the car was sitting at that skewed angle. Opening the glove box I felt for a flashlight, fumbled around some; my hopes were crushed when a full search of the car produced no flashlight at all. The walk home would be about three miles down dark country roads…and without a flashlight. Suddenly I wondered what had been on the tracks. I’d only seen it for a second – not even long enough to focus on it. It was shiny, like metal, but it was something skinny, sticking straight up from the tracks. It was standing up tall enough to catch the headlights. I looked over at my cell phone lying on the seat. As usual, I had no signal at all out here in no-man’s-land. I turned the key on to check the clock – 2:55 A.M. The green glow from the radio was the only light in sight. I had no choice but to drive on. I knew the rim would be trashed, but what else could I do? Walk home with no flashlight? As if on cue, a coyote far off barked out its familiar series of yips and yells, ending with an eerie howl. I started the car, but as soon as I began to drive, a horrible, metal-on-metal gnarling sound came from the engine. It sounded like something caught from under the car and I felt a jolt to the floorboard. The speedometer needle dropped to zero and bounced. I was hitting the brakes as the car sputtered, chugged, lurched forward a little and then died…right in the middle of the road.
As I stepped out of the car I began to pray. Please let me get home safely. Please, oh God, please let someone come driving by…a county cop…someone…I’m begging Lord! I walked down the center of the road. The moonlight was so dim I could see less than two inches past the road’s edge. But I knew things were there, I could hear the stirring of dry grass and weeds, the scurrying of animals unaccustomed to human visitors in the middle of the night. I realized I was breathing kind of heavy; the stirring weeds had unconsciously quickened my pace a bit. I hadn’t been walking long when I heard it. It sounded like my car door being slammed! I spun around to look, but the emergency flashers were barely visible so far back. My heart felt like it was pounding right out of my chest! I quickly started off toward home again, nearly jogging now. I was straining to listen for anything weird, but I couldn’t hear anything over the thud of my sneakers and near panting breaths. Just when I glanced back over my shoulder I saw it – a faint glow, like a flashlight that suddenly went out. It looked like it was much closer than the car though…which is impossible since I just walked past there and I would have seen a car’s lights if one had come…then I heard a sound…it was feet – running!
I broke into a sprint but I could hear the footsteps getting closer. I could hear the ragged breathing of my pursuer. “Noooo!” My cry was abruptly cut off as the air was knocked out of me when I crashed to the ground. I could feel the stinging on my hands and legs like they were on fire. My spine felt a searing stab of pain as my attacker hit me again with whatever had been used to knock me down. There was no defending myself. He was on his hands and knees, kneeling over me with what I think was a tire iron. I struggled to see his face through the stringy hair plastered across his sweat drenched face. I saw the weapon coming toward me just before the flash…and everything went dark…forever.