You walk the street, night cold against your skin. The asphalt scratches your feet. You walk down the centre of the road, playing chicken with the cars. So far they’ve all chickened out first.
The last (a Ford? You can’t be sure) swerved violently, missed you. You thought they’d be in the ditch for sure. Somehow the driver held it together, screamed obscenities as they drove away. You didn’t even turn to watch.
Road’s been empty too long. You guess it’s the hour, that and the road. You consider trying the highway. There are always cars on the highway.
But it’s lit. That thing shines bright as day at midnight, gives them too much chance. You’d be visible too long.
You prefer to test reactions, wait ’til their headlamps hit you. That’s why you choose moonless nights.
You hear a distant roar, tyre noise on asphalt. Your noise. You look up, trying to see. Ahead small beams break the hillside’s darkness. He’s coming towards you. You know it’s a he. It’s always a he.
The lights grow larger, brighter. Not long.
The car turns, his route taking another road. You feel frustration. You curse aloud, fists clench.
You calm your breathing. You must practice patience, wait.
Minutes pass slowly. You slowly walk ever forward, ignoring the cold and scratching underfoot. They’re inconsequential. You’re here for something far more.
A dog barks. Wind rustles through trees, making a whistling sound.
You don’t hear voices in the wind. You know some people think you do. But they’re wrong, you don’t. You’re no kook. There’s no invisible demon on your shoulder telling you what to do, no mystical hotline from God playing in your head.
You reach the intersection. This is where you missed your last chance. You glance down the road to the right as if hoping could bring him back. It doesn’t. Maybe you’ll have a chance with him one night.
You continue past. You are safe now, no turning in five miles. If you see them, they’ll reach you.
The wildlife noise surprises you. You’ve never been out of the city at night. Not outside a vehicle anyhow. So much noise. You always thought the country would be quiet.
Insects, birds and god only knows what. Every creature seems to be screaming. It’s new to you. You hate it.
Hopefully you won’t have to hear it for long.
A new light. You’re not sure though. It doesn’t seem to be moving. You pause, trying to identify its source.
Disappointment rises. No car, it’s a porch light. Somebody putting the trash out or maybe grabbing a smoke away from criticising tongues. There are things a man should be allowed to do; you silently support the guy, hoping he is smoking.
You resume your slow march, keeping focus on the light whilst it remains. Darkness returns. Above your head the Milky Way, your home galaxy, clearly visible. One of your teachers tried to generate enthusiasm in you years back.
He failed. You didn’t get it then. You still don’t. Why should millions of stars out there matter? What good are they to you? You have purpose.
A light interrupts your reverie. This sucker’s definitely moving. Your hopes aren’t getting raised this time by some hen-pecked old fart getting the night’s last nicotine fix.
Getting closer, you feel your heart rate rise. You don’t want anticipation to spoil it though. You slow your breathing, keep your steady pace.
It’s closing. From the sound you guess it’s a compact. It’s got to be a kid. Only kids and housewives drive those things and no housewife’s going to be out at this hour. You’ll find out soon enough.
The timings going to be perfect. It should reach you just as it passes the brow of the hill. Good, gives him less time to avoid you that way. It’s about time.
Headlamps vanish as the road dips, although the glow is still visible, almost a pale halo around the rocky mound ahead.
The car reappears. You stop walking and smile. Hands remain by your side, no last minute gestures. You look straight ahead.
You hear tyres squeal. The car starts to shudder. Kid’s seen you late. He’s got good reactions though to have tried.
He’s lost control. The car skids towards you.
At the last moment he gains traction, his path changes, missing you and heading for the telegraph pole.
He strikes it, not full on, just a glance. His car keeps skidding.
Front tyres leave the asphalt. One catches a rock or something roadside. The car flips. Lands on its roof. You watch it rock. The engine revs briefly, cuts out.
Its horn doesn’t sound. No lights flash. It doesn’t explode. It’s not a movie. This is in life front of you. You stare at it briefly, then walk over.
The driver seems unconscious. You think he is breathing though. He’s hanging upside down from his seatbelt. You crouch to look closer.
The car didn’t have an airbag. His face paid the price. There’s blood dripping from the remains of his nose. His jaw looks broken.
His breathing rattles and grows weaker. You guess he’s broken ribs. He’ll die if not helped soon. Not your concern.
You look across him. He had a passenger. You can tell it was female only from the dress. Her seatbelt wasn’t fastened. Bare legs from thigh down and torn flowery fabric are all that are visible. She took a flyer through the windscreen. You move round to see if she’s still alive.
Her parents would be glad to know it was quick. She was thrown through the glass before the car flipped. The impact near broke her in two, snapping her spine straight back. The car landing on top completed the job.
Her torso ripped open in the crash, intestines still spill onto the ground.
It’s killed another movie myth. Guts don’t steam. You find it interesting. Briefly.
You walk back to the road, resuming your slow march.
© I.E. Lester
I.E. Lester is a lifelong sf/horror fan. Addicted to things supernatural since a school trip to a haunted Jacobean Mansion; with sf since an Asimov cover caught a nine-year-old eye during a washed-out family holiday.
When not reading he enjoys cricket or rugby, and wandering France’s or Italy’s medieval streets.
If you enjoyed this story, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross or another charity to help fund the relief efforts in Japan.