As I pulled onto the shoulder of the road, I thought to myself, “This is the second time this month I’ve had a flat.” It was annoying to say the least.
Turning on the safety hazard lights because I wanted to be a law-abiding citizen, even though, no one in the surrounding 20 miles would see them. I had taken a “short cut” to save myself time getting home, only to pay for it with a flat tire. Frustration was beginning to ruin the evening. At least I would get some quite time to myself out here.
I set the parking brake and started getting the jack and various other tools required from the storage compartments. Running through the mental checklist of how to change the tire, I started loosening the lug nuts. When I put my knee down to the ground to help stabilize myself, I realized the ground was saturated with moisture. Maybe it will be firm enough to raise the car. I placed the jack into position and began lifting the car. After maximizing the suspension, the weight of the car began pushing the jack into the ground with each inch I tried to gain. I let out a sigh and looked around for something more stable to serve as my base.
The daylight had left me hours ago, and my only companion was my flashlight. I looked up and down the road and noticed ahead of me was a concrete water pass to allow flood waters to vacate safely under the road. I decided that would be what I needed to raise the car. Resetting the lug nuts and lowering the car, I tossed the tools into the floorboard of the passenger side and gently drove forward.
As my luck would have it, the rain began to fall again. For the last three days, it had been raining and I suppose a little more wouldn’t hurt. Once again everything was reset to get the spare tire on and just as I was loosening the lug nuts, it began to sleet. It was already getting cold and now I would have to endure the piercing pain of sleet. Grumbling, I hunched my shoulders and set to work.
After grunting and groaning to get the flat tire removed, I stood to catch my breath and noticed a weight on my leg. Mud. Thick, nasty, and gooey. I needed a shower anyway. Luckily the sleet only lasted a few minutes, but the rain continued to try to remove the mud from my pants. It was a nice thought. A rustle in the ditch behind me brought me out of my daydream. Spinning on my heel, my flashlight flew into search mode. Nothing puts panic into a person’s heart like a noise in the dark of night.
Nothing could be seen. On alert but not paranoid, I swept the ditch in both directions to set my mind at ease. Satisfied with my results I set about my task at hand.
Not one to care much about tidiness while tired, everything went into the trunk as a pile. My girlfriend accuses me of piling things because I’m lazy. I argue the point that everything needed for a particular task in that pile. She dismisses me with a sigh each and every time. The thought of being with her tomorrow brought a smile to my mouth. Nothing was more enjoyable than hearing her voice.
Shutting the trunk and letting out a shout of victory, I danced my way along the driver side of the car happy to be on my way home. Opening the door, I heard a loud commotion in woods beside me. Curiosity was always a weakness of mine. I was already late getting home so a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. Leaving the door open and walking to the side of the road with my flashlight companion illuminating the night, I searched for the cause. Again, nothing.
Dismissing the events of the evening, I dragged myself back to the car and fired up the engine. This car was not my favorite one to drive. Among its many quirks to contend with was a squelching fan belt. Giving the motor a couple quick revs to set the belt, a hand reached around and covered my mouth. Cold metal pressed against my throat and fear paralyzed my thoughts.
“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” His voice was hoarse and gravelly from exertion. He was clearly running from someone and I was now involved. “You don’t understand, they made me do it!” He was crying because although I couldn’t see him, I could hear it in his voice.
How had things come to this? I had a future with my job and girlfriend. I had things I wanted to live for and odds were that I wouldn’t live to see tomorrow.
“Drive.” came the voice. I hesitated a split second and he raised his fist holding the metal object and slammed it to my chest yelling, “DRIVE!”
I was at the mercy of a madman.
I did as he said. He was a desperate lunatic and clearly disturbed beyond anything I had ever heard of. I drove in a haphazard style, taking random turns that took me out of the county. I cursed myself for having a full tank of gas. I drove through the night listening to the man mumbling things to himself. He was determined to get away from his pursuant.
Dawn came into view chasing away the horrors of the night. As brightly as the sunlight was, it could not deter the metal pressed against my throat. He had started to relax a few times during the night only to press the object back to my throat even harder.
“Stop the car.” How I had longed to hear those words in the long dark hours of the night. “Get out.”
Calming my mind, I moved slowly. My life’s preservation would depend on this moment.
As he climbed out my car, I was shocked at his appearance. Completely covered in mud and animist in nature. He swiftly came to face me and held up the metal for me to see. It was a long bolt that had be sharpened to an edge. Resourceful and fiercely determined, he gave me a final warning. “I didn’t do it. They made me do it. I never wanted to harm anyone, but they made me do it.” He was someone that had been changed. I could tell by the depth of his eyes that he was not the same person he once was.
“I believe you.” It was the truth and it was the only thing I dared to say.
“Forget you ever saw me or they’ll make a monster of you too.”
He removed the bolt and started to turn, “If they come looking for you, run.” And with that, he was out of my life forever.