Caught in the Headlights :
I was driving home from school for thanksgiving break. It was dark even though it was only 7PM. I always hated when it started to get dark so early. I always felt like I was missing out on the day when it would be dark by the time I got out of class. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one driving home this evening. Apparently a lot of other students also had this idea judging from the traffic on the freeway. Bored with the stopping and going of the gridlock, I decide to hop off the highway and take some country roads past some of the heavier holdups. I turn down a road that looks to be running about parallel to the highway and off I went. It felt nice being able to just drive without worrying about stopping and going and switching lanes. I threw on the cruise control and just rode the gentle hills up and down through the dark farm lands with nothing but the moon, stars, and my headlights lighting my way. But after about twenty minutes, the farm lands turned to forest and I lost the moon and stars. The darkness made me feel uneasy for some reason. I was worried a deer might suddenly jump out of the woods or a turn in the road would go unnoticed until it was too late. I hadn’t passed another car since I turned down this country road, so I figured it would be ok to turn on my brights. With my right hand on my gear shift, I reached with my left hand to flick the switch for the bright lights.
My blood turned to ice.
My stomach dropped to the floor.
My body went numb.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe.
My body was betraying me. I tried to move. I urged myself to move. I pleaded with my body to move, but I just couldn’t. I suddenly had an incredible urge to look into my rearview mirror. I didn’t know what I expected to see, but I just knew I had to look. I used every ounce of strength and will power to force my eyes up to the mirror. Inch by agonizingly slow inch, my eyes slid across the interior of my car until finally my eyes came to the mirror.
In the back seat of my car sat, what appeared to be, a young woman in a dress. My brain was numb. I could not comprehend what was happening. She seemed to radiate some sort of pale grey light, but she wasn’t illuminating her surroundings. Her wavy hair fell past her shoulders and her expressionless face was sprinkled with freckles. He dull eyes stared blankly straight ahead. My mind struggled to make sense of this situation. So many questions whirled in my head that they just became a giant tangled mess. I sat there, brain spinning, until a question just fell out of my mouth.
“Who are you?” I asked in barely a whisper. At the sound of my voice, her eyes crashed into mine. They pierced me. They bore into mine and I could do nothing but stare back.
They were empty.
There was no emotion in her eyes. Nothing at all. I felt as if a part of me was being sucked into the voids that were her soulless eyes and the ice that filled my veins felt as if it had turned into a fine powder. Eternities came and went, or so it felt, before I was able to regain my voice.
“Who..?” I managed to get out before my voice was lost again. Her eyes remained locked with mine and for a moment there was silence.
“Do I frighten you?”
Her mouth barely moved.
Her eyes never did.
I only just heard her. I thought maybe my mind was tricking me. It sounded like her words were being caught by a wind. My brain was still in a tangle and I couldn’t comprehend what she was asking. I wanted to answer. To tell her yes, she was in fact scaring me to death, in hopes that maybe she would stop. But there was a question nagging at the back of my mind that finally made its way through all the clutter.
“Are you a ghost?” I whispered. Her eyes continued to burrow into mine. Digging deeper and deeper into me. My body was going cold, but my mind was beginning to clear.
“Does my presence frighten you?” she asked again. Her eyes never wavering. I met her gaze and answered,
We sat in silence for a moment. My eyes meeting hers and hers piercing mine. The tangle in my brain was beginning to release. My thoughts were becoming more clear.
“I am afraid of you, but your presence does not frighten me,” I whispered. She cocked her head slightly to the side, but continued staring into me. My voice felt stronger now.
“Your presence here is a relief to me, in a way. You have proven to me that there is something after death. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s comforting to know that there is something. Anything…”
She continued staring.
“Is this how you looked when you died?” I asked her.
She nodded. Slowly. Effortlessly. She barely appeared to be moving.
“You were beautiful.”
Her eyes widened ever so slightly. There was a flash of sadness in them before they were consumed again by that vast emptiness. Her eyes met mine and mine, hers. She lifted her arm and pointed a finger straight ahead.
“Watch where you are going.”
At that moment I regained control of body. I looked where she had been pointing and saw a sharp turn in the road and nothing but forest in front of me. I slammed on the breaks and turned the wheel. My back tires fishtailed from side to side as I tried to turn the wheel to compensate. My tires came loose of the pavement and I did a full 360 turn before I came to a screeching stop mere feet away from a tree.
I sat there, white knuckled, clutching the wheel. I was breathing as if I had just run a marathon. I remembered the girl and whipped my head around to look in the back seat, but she was gone. I turned back and slumped into the seat. I must have fallen asleep at the wheel. It was all just a dream. After a few minutes of catching my breath and thanking whoever was looking out for me, I turned on my car and got back onto the road. As I was driving, with my right hand on my gear shift, I reached with my left hand to flick the switch for the bright lights. With a click, the forest was illuminated by my car’s lights. A few hundred feet down the road I saw a yellow road sign that read “Caution: High Accident Area” and I chuckled. That sign would have been useful 5 minutes ago. But as I got closer I realized there was more writing on it. On the bottom part of the sign was something hand-written in red paint.