The Man in the Road :
I sat quietly, sipping my glass of wine and wishing desperately that the evening would come to an end. Two of my friends, Brad and Laurie, had been invited to a get together with another friend of ours. He lived across the river in St. Louis and we hardly got to see him, so when he invited us to a wine tasting he was hosting we jumped at the chance, Brad being kind enough to give us a lift. The guests were mostly old friends of the host and as such shared many of his old war stories; stories of his drunken youth filled with all manner of crazy stunts and funny events. I was sitting apart from the crowd because I had very little to offer in the conversation; my childhood, by contrast, was very tame and I always felt a little embarrassed trying to compete.
Something about these kind gatherings always made me very self-conscious, but I was here to visit a friend so I put on a brave face and tried to mingle with little success. Every conversation I tried to take part in was alien to me, tours of duty in the military or one night stands and drunken revelry. I mostly just stood amongst the group and listened, occasionally trying to add to the merriment but only proving, if only in my own mind, how very much I didn’t belong. I eventually ended up sitting by the glass sliding doors that led to the back porch, all around me people where laughing and talking about old times and good friends now far away, and even though I longed to be a part of it I couldn’t work up the nerve. I sat quietly sipping my wine and waiting for the others to decide to go when the lights suddenly flickered and went out. A few people cursed at the sudden darkness while our host fumbled for a flashlight, As I stood up to help him my gaze turned to the sliding door and to a dark figure just outside the fence. I lingered for a moment just staring at him; he was standing just out of the light of the street lamps, which were flickering themselves. I couldn’t make him out in the darkness but I could tell that he was very tall and he was facing the house. The figure stood perfectly still as I watched him and even though I knew I was just as hidden in the dark as he was, I felt like he was watching me. This entire event only lasted a few breaths and as I turned to help find some form of light the power kicked back on; I turned to look back toward the tall figure but he was gone.
Eventually the party wound down and the guests began to leave; Brad, Laurie and I lingered a little and thanked our friend for a lovely evening before departing, I never did mention the strange figure to anyone that night, in hindsight I wish desperately that I had. I sat in the back and talked to my friends as we started through the thick woods that lead us to the highway. The road that passed through these woods had no street lights and the road itself was very narrow, it was a wonder there weren’t more accidents on it. I was sitting in the back talking to Brad, who was driving, and Laure in the passenger seat when Brad suddenly yelled. The car swerved sharply as Brad tried to avoid the tall man that had appeared from nothing in the road and as we screeched past him he was illuminated for a brief moment. All I could make out as the car sped past was that he was tall and wore a black suite but could make out no further details as the car started to roll.
I can’t recall how many times we rolled, I had slammed my head hard against the roof after our first roll and things became very fuzzy after that; I do remember wishing I had buckled my seat belt and the sudden landing. The car made a sickening sound as it hit, the screaming sound of metal on pavement and a thud as one the occupants landed outside, thrown out during our violent accident. Sight returned to me slowly and I found I was half out the window of the overturned car, but I could hear a quite sobbing somewhere in the dark. I looked around and saw the car, mostly whole but many chunks had been torn free almost like it had been gnawed by some terrible creature. I saw Brad lying on his back toward the front, his head was bleeding heavily and his right arm was bent in an impossible angle, I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. The dark woods hid everything beyond the wreck in an inky sheet of night, it may as well been the void of space outside the dimming glow of the headlights. I tried to pull myself up to check on my friends but the moment I tried to move I saw pain, not felt it mind you, saw it flash before my eyes in a spectrum of pale colors as I tried to move; even the thought of movement hurt.
I lay in the road by the car for who knows how long, I was still half in the window trying to muster the strength to crawl out when I saw Brad move. At first I was relived, he had to still be alive if he was moving, but the way he moved wasn’t right. He moved in short jerks, his body slowly turning until his feet where out of the beam of the headlights and pointing at the inky dark beyond. I lifted myself up as best I could to try and make sense of what was happening; Brad’s limp form jerk once, then twice, and then like a bullet rocketed off into the darkness. The movement was so sudden I questioned if I had seen it at all. I tried to move again but was rewarded with those flashes of pain; I only managed to get out of the window and into the street, that’s when I heard the crying grow louder and more urgent. At first the crying was a tired kind of sob not the balling of a child, like a person who had been through too much suffering in too short a time, now it sounded frantic and panicked. I heard a brief scuffling out of sight on the other side of the car then a silence. I held my breath waiting for what I don’t know and after a few short seconds that stretched forever, the night air was pierced by a shrill cry.
To call the stillness that followed silence would not have done it justice, this silence had weight to it and I felt it on my chest as I looked around me and saw the light of the headlights growing dimmer. I noticed then that there was no sound at all, not even the sound of insects or the nocturnal animals of the woods, something was near the wreck, hiding just out of the shrinking circle of light, some unnatural thing that even the beasts of these dark woods feared.
Forgetting my pain I started dragging my body closer to the front of the car, I had the insane notion I would be safe if I stayed in the light. Just as I reached the front of the car a sudden and sharp pain shot through my head, it was so abrupt and intense that my vision blurred into one solid color. My vision cleared quickly but the intense pain remained, as I looked around me I noticed the headlights had dimmed even more in the short time, they were slowly going out, the dark void of the woods slowly moving in on me. It was then that I noticed a faint figure in the dim light, It was just enough in the shadows that I couldn’t see it clearly but it had the shape of a tall man; he stood perfectly still just staring at me. At first I had hoped he was there to help, some kind passerby that saw the wreck, but the longer I looked at him the more wrong he seemed. I could tell he was tall, unnaturally tall in fact and his limbs seemed stretched and oddly proportioned for any normal man. I tried to call out for help, to him or anyone who may hear me I can’t remember, but the only sound that I could manage was a raspy croak; in response to which he only tilted his head to one side. As soon as he tilted his head, the vision blurring pain returned, now more intense than before. My vision didn’t clear completely this time, but still I noticed the man had gotten closer only I couldn’t recall him moving at all, he just seemed to appear closer to me in the brief moment I lost my sight. As he stood in the ever failing light of the car I could see him clearly now, he was clad in a dark suite with a white shirt and red tie, which seemed even more surreal with his inhuman proportions, but as I was soon to learn these where his tamest features. My gaze slowly rose to his face and at first I couldn’t take it all in, my mind reeled at the sight of its face, or lack thereof. Where a face should be was a blank mass of flesh in the vague shape of a human head which was tilted slightly to one side almost quizzically as he looked down on me.
Having seen the whole of him I tried to scream but couldn’t even muster the croak, just then the pain grew even more intense and once again my vision blurred. As before, the tall man appeared closer to me but never moved, he was right over me at this point; my vision stayed fuzzy around the edges clearing at random now. As he stood over me he began to twitch slightly, his faceless gaze never leaving me as the headlights flickered; wispy dark shapes began to form around him and I thought vaguely of smoke as the shapes turned into writhing tendrils. The tall man quickly moved toward me and the tendrils reached out as the head lights finally flickered out; as the inky black enveloped me another sharp cry filled the dark woods, I finally found my voice to scream.