This story first appeared in the May 2009 issue of the ezine Pens On Fire.

By the time Jason got out of jail, went to his Mom’s house and picked up his stuff, he didn’t get on the road until eight o’clock, much later than he had planned. He should have been out in the morning, damn bureaucratic constipation. He had served his time and now it was on to a new life. Sure, he wasn’t supposed to be driving, but what was a guy to do, he had to get to Buffalo tonight for the interview tomorrow.

His sister Kim arranged for the job interview and implied it was a sure thing. She better be right, he needed to make some money and Lowell was a dead end for him now, no future there at all. He had been through three jobs already, and at thirty-five it was time to settle down. He argued with his mother about taking Pop’s car, but in the end she gave in, as she always did. It was just sitting there, after all, not in use since Pop passed away last year. The fact that his license was still suspended strengthened her resolve, but in the end he wore her down like so many times in the past.

So here he was on the boring Massachusetts Turnpike, in the twilight, headed to his future. It had to be brighter than his past, that’s for sure. The accident killed any hope

he had in Lowell. Jason knew it was just an accident, despite what they said his blood alcohol level was. Those numbers were meaningless to him, they didn’t account for an individual’s capacity to tolerate what he was drinking. He could hold his beer, had done so for years. He was in full control that night, and nobody could tell him any different.

What the hell is that?

Eyes in the rear view mirror. Haunting eyes, staring into his. Goose bumps rose on his arms as he glanced again at the mirror. No, not eyes, but headlights from a car behind his. The lights danced across his mirror swerving from side to side. At first a subtle swerving but then more exaggerated. Far enough behind to not cause any concern, but he increased the cruise control a few notches anyway. Not too fast though, he couldn’t afford to be stopped by a cop, they’d throw the book at him.

As darkness was overcoming the road from the East, Jason thought back to that fateful night. He had been hanging out with some friends, buying each other Rolling Rock’s as they played pool and tore each other down the way guys do. When he left he was tired, but no more so than any of the other hundreds of such party nights he and his friends shared. He certainly felt comfortable driving and did not hesitate to hop in his car for the trip home. A short drive, just a few miles, what is it they say most accidents occur close to home? That was his fate that night and who’s to say who was at fault. He felt in complete control when the next thing he knew headlights were coming at him.

Now again those eyes in the mirror, bigger now, wider, staring at him!

Jason’s hands shook on the wheel as he looked at the road ahead again, trying to regain his composure. When he glanced back at the rear view mirror the eyes were gone, replaced by the swerving headlights of that car behind him. It was closer now, gaining on him. His own eyes must be playing tricks on him, he thought, just headlights. He decided to slow down and let this jerk pass him.

He touched the brakes with his foot deactivating the cruise control and immediately slowing down. He kept an eye on that car behind him, he didn’t trust it, and it looked like it was all over the road. He adjusted his speed to a lower level, and took control of the gas himself, no more cruise control until this guy was by him.

The other car gained rapidly, practically taking up two lanes as it did so. Once hitting the rumble strips off the right hand shoulder, then half in the outside lane. It was all over the place, increasing his discomfort, as it got closer. Finally it settled in the outside lane as it approached to pass, still swerving a bit. Jason kept his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel, foot ready to hit the brakes at any time.

As the car pulled even, Jason glanced at the other driver. What he saw sent a cold chill down his spine and an incongruous burning to his groin. The eyes in the mirror were looking directly at him from the driver’s face. He shook his head and looked again, forcing his gaze away from the eyes boring into his, to look at the whole face. It was her, the face he saw behind the headlights coming at him that night. The mouth was open in a silent scream, just like that night, and scars covered the face, like those that would have formed from the flames that exploded on impact.

Jason’s car swerved involuntarily as he focused his attention straight ahead, struggling to maintain control. When he looked again at the other car, he saw a young man in his twenty’s, smiling at him, then turning to look straight ahead as the kid raised a half full bottle of beer to his lips. The car was almost past Jason’s when it happened. The other man’s eyes widened as he stared straight ahead, and he dropped his beer. Jason checked out what caught that driver’s attention, and there she was, a woman dressed in white standing in the outside lane.

The other driver violently pulled the wheel to the right to avoid hitting the person unbelievably standing in a lane of a super highway. The rear of the other car hit the front of Jason’s as both cars sped to the right, the loud noise from the rumble strips filling the night as the vehicles soared off the highway, each hitting the trees at full force.

The figure on the highway stared at the wreckage, not making a sound. After a few seconds she evaporated into the night.

The End


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