Wednesday, March 5, 2014

From Whom Are You Hiding? (A Short, Short Story)

(As many of my standard readers know, I use this blog to bring humor and reality to the masses 99% of the time.  However, there are times that a story creeps out of me that I share here.  These are generally stories of fiction, mystery and fantasy.  I publish them if for no other reason than to allow me the pleasure of expressing myself in a different manner.  This is one of those stories.  I hope you'll enjoy it!)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Driving in the rain is seldom fun.  Slick roads, vision impaired by streaky wiper blades, and the glare of oncoming headlights reflecting on a wet windshield lessen the odds of reaching one's destination safely.  Still, there is a peace that hides in the madness of the journey.  

My urges had been sated for a while.  The bastards that had killed my daughter were long gone.  I'd seen to that.  But, I'd found many more just as evil that needed removal.  If I could remove the pain of a parent seeing their child wasted away by those that supplied perverted kiddie porn pleasures then I had to continue.  I couldn't rest until they were all dead.

One was in the trunk awaiting disposal.

As I rounded a bend, I barely saw her walking in the darkness.  Her blue jean jacket and pants, darkened by the rain that drenched them, did nothing to enhance her visibility.  Only her blond hair, soaked as it was, provided a hint that the figure along the roadside was human.  

Normally, I wouldn't stop for hitchhikers.  Years ago, during my teenage years, I'd stopped for a fellow hippie.  After taking him as far as I was going, he'd refused to get out of my car, insisting that I take him further.  His eyes, the yellowed whites mixed with brown lines, accented his heroin addiction.  Although young and naive, I still felt myself to be in possible danger.  After it was over, I have never been afraid since.  It is a story I will tell another time.  I use it only as a reference to my common behavior and dread of hitchhikers.

Pulling my car over to the side of the road, I awaited her to open the door.  The seconds felt like minutes felt like hours.  I turned to see her standing outside her door, awaiting on me to open it for her.  "Weird chick" I thought as I reached for the handle to let her in.  

She entered with the elegance of Grace Kelly, gently sitting down on the seat without the car so much as moving under her weight.  Closing the door, she turned, looked me in the eyes, and whispered, "Thank you.  I'd about given up on anyone having any mercy on me."

"No problem" I responded.  "How far you going?"

"As far away as I can get" she mumbled.  "As far away as I can get."

I shifted the car into gear and headed back on the road.  After a mile or two, I decided to try to make small talk as the silence between us was deafening.

"Have a bad night?"

"I've had a bad life."

"Are you running away from someone?"

"Are you?"

"Are you in trouble with the law?"

"Are you?"

"Look, we've only got a few miles before I get home.  Is there somewhere I can take you?"

"Do you live alone?"


"Do you want some company?"

I hesitated before responding.  She was indeed a looker.  Her hair, though somewhat stringy and still damp, glistened in the darkness.  In the instrument lights on the dash I couldn't tell what color her eyes were, but they were so big and seemed to beg for attention.  I'll stop there in my describing of her, but only because I consider myself a gentleman.  I will add, just for your imagination, that she had everything a hetero man could desire, and plenty of it.

Still, I'd heard tales of hitchhikers like her.  They preyed upon the goodwill of the innocent as a hawk would a field mouse.  They ended up becoming victims that were found dead the next morning by neighbors, shaking their heads, wondering how such a dreadful thing could happen to such a "nice" man, and gossiped about for months.

That wasn't a goal of mine to end up that way!

"How about let's go and get something to eat?  I'm kind of hungry and haven't been shopping for food in ages.  There's a truck stop just up the road a bit.  You can dry out there, get your stomach full, and maybe find a ride to get you to where you want to go.  Sound good?"

"So, you're telling me that you don't want me?"

Nothing like a direct question to unsettle the nerves.  If I told her I wanted her, I'd look like a dirty old man.  If I told her I didn't want her, she'd feel rejection and who knows how she would react.  Hell, she might even go spaz on me and start screaming rape or something to get some attention.  With the body in the trunk, that was the last thing I needed.  Damn, why did I ever pick her up?  I had to careful how I handled this now.

"It's not that I want you or don't want you.  It's about my stomach wanting food and not having any at my place.  I just thought that you might be a little hungry, too.  Plus, you've got to be cold in those wet clothes.  We'll eat, dry out, and then decide on the next move.  Fair enough?"

She simply nodded her head up and down in forced agreement.  

Silence filled the car until we finally arrived at Big Fred's Truck Stop.  Since the interstate had been built a few years ago, Fred's didn't have the huge business it once enjoyed.  Only an occasional trucker, traveler, or the Friday night teenager crowd stopped in to fill up on greasy hamburgers and coffee so strong it would eat a hole in your intestines.  Still, it was better than nothing.

The pouring rain was no more than a light drizzle as we quickly trotted up to the door and entered.  We had our choice of seating as there were only two middle aged male patrons sitting at the counter flirting with the all night waitress as she popped her chewing gum and giggled shamelessly.  We sat down and (after a quick glance at the menu) I gave the waitress our order.  

Only then did I really see her in the light for the first time.  I'm guessing she was in her early 20's, which made her at least thirty years younger than myself.  Her eyes, which I could see were blue in color, darted back and forth from me to the door and back over and over, as if she was expecting someone to come charging in and grab her.  

My mind darted back to the trunk of the car and the body it held.  Yeah, there were similarities.  But the bitch in my trunk was older and strung out on crack.  This girl was so much younger and beautiful.

"Who are you afraid of?"

"No one ... now."

"So, are you gonna tell me your story?"

"Look, let's just say that sometimes we do things that we know are wrong, but we get caught up in the mess and can't get out of it.  I'm not saying that I'm innocent.  No, not by a long shot am I innocent.  But, what I guess I'm saying is that sometimes we really don't see the wrongs until we step away and get a better look.  So, enough of that.  I'd prefer if we just dropped it now.  I don't feel much like talkin' anyway."

She shifted her attention away from me and to the door next to the OPEN sign that glowed a bright red.  Red like the blood that tried to escape the plastic drop sheet I'd wrapped the body in my trunk.  I returned my gaze back to her face.  It was hard to get over the fact that she seemed so familiar.  

"If you're not afraid of anyone and not running away, then why are you watching the door so intently?"

"Just making sure my exit isn't blocked if I need to leave quickly."

With that, I shut up for a while.  Why would she need to leave quickly?  Of what was she afraid?  This young girl, so beautiful but so mysterious ... what could she have done or been through that would make her so nervous sitting in an old truck stop with a harmless old man?  Well, harmless as far as she knew.

When the waitress returned, she only brought my food.  This made no sense.  I would've happily waited until my rider's order was ready.  How rude!

"What about my friend's order?"  I asked.

"What friend?"

"What do you mean what friend?  Hers of course!"

As I turned my head to the hitchhiker, I found there was no one there.  There was no glass of water, no place setting, and no person.  I felt my mouth drop open as I turned back to the waitress only to find her looking strangely at me.  

"Sir, you came in alone.  Have you been drinking?"

I stood up, put a ten dollar bill on the table, and walked out.  The rain was pouring down again, even harder than it had been earlier when I had picked her up.  Entering the car, I reached over to the passenger seat to find it completely dry.  Even the rubber floor mat on that side was dry.  There was absolutely no trace of anyone having been there at all.

Driving home, I kept my eyes open, hoping to see her walking along the road.  I drove slowly so as not to miss her dark, wet clothes in the faint light of the moon mostly hidden by thunder clouds overhead.  Two or three times I drove the twenty mile stretch, back and forth between the town and the truck stop.  Not once did I see her again.

I'm even older now than I was years ago when that night took place.  On rainy nights, you'll find me driving that lonely stretch of road for hours.  

I'm no longer carrying bodies in the trunk.  Maybe I misjudged those I felt were guilty and punished them my way.  If so, I'll pay for it one day.  Instead, I've become obsessed with solving the mystery of the blond hitchhiker.  

How could she be so real, yet, have disappeared so instantly?  
From what was she running?  

From whom was she hiding?

Could it have been me?

Or, perhaps, herself?


  1. This is like an excerpt of a RL Stein book from when I was a kid! Great quick read! :)

    1. Kate - So good of you to stop in. The R.L. Stine "Goosebumps" books were always something I wanted to get into, but never did. My girls were scared of their own shadows when it came to monsters and such, so I held off buying them. It's nice to know you feel this is a similar read. Many Thanks!

  2. Oooo - good & creepy. I liked how it's open to different interpretations. I dunno if I'd be driving that road still. Though I suppose he just can't help himself....

    1. Lisa - Tried to comment on your "Lent list" post but kept getting kicked out. Glad you enjoyed this one. I wanted to leave options to consider in different avenues so the reader would think about it a while. Don't know that I'd be driving it either ... but then, who knows? lol Many Thanks!

  3. Love a quick eerie read! Outside of havve a really nice writing style....I knew that fromyour other blog but this is not what I expected as I only know your satire....really engaging style.

    1. Zoe - Thank you for giving this one a chance! I used to write a lot of these when I was on I still feel the need to do so every now and then, but have to stay away from them at times to maintain my "satirical / sarcastic" image I've developed. I've always tried to write somewhat simplistically, as I'm not worried about impressing others with my vocabulary. I'm more concerned about trying to get a person to feel as though they're actually there, watching the action take place, as an included observer. Glad you liked this one. Many Thanks!

  4. Very atmospheric, Rich :) I like the ambiguity at the end.

    1. Sis - Thanks for giving this one a shot! As you can see from my comment to Zoe above, I'm not worried about trying to impress as much as I'm concerned about a person enjoying the story. I really want the reader to feel as though they're present, instead of just a watcher from beyond. The ending was meant to be ... well, however one wanted to take it. I led one path's direction for a while, and then presented other options. By leaving a person thinking about it, I hope to present something more than just a story. I'm hoping to provide food for thought at a later time. Hopefully, the story's life is extended beyond the first reading. Many Thanks!

  5. Well, this was unexpected! I love the eerie 'Twilight Zone' feel here. Great story, Rich!

    1. Sandy - Really glad to see you at this one! Yeah, I do more than just comedy at times. As movie directors will tell you, a comedian tends to understand what draws people in, and really, with their timing, can be great dramatic actors. I don't know if I could live up to those statements, but versatility is a necessity for me. Every now and then, I've got to break out of the comedic mold and do a little something different. As with you, it tends to surprise people at times. lol Really happy you liked this. Many Thanks!