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Fiction Suspense

I’m thinking about ending it all when the truck pulls up next to me.   I haven’t done anything new in years, and life - or whatever you want to call my existence - is simply getting boring.

It’s an old model, something that’s normally not road-worthy, but this truck is pristine.  The driver probably takes great care of it.  Maybe it’s his first truck, or maybe it’s a passion project.  He leans over to open the door for me, and I appreciate that.

Chivalry may not be dead, but I am.

I hop into the passenger seat with a practiced grateful smile.  This poor fool has no idea what he’s in for.  I’m pleased to see that he’s older, maybe in his 60s.  I bet myself I can have him screaming in terror in fewer than five miles.  The older the person, the easier they are to scare.  That’s my experience, anyway.  

But I have to admit that hitchhiking and terrifying my would-be rescuer is losing the entertainment value it’s held for so many years.  Maybe I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what’s scary anymore.

I hear all the time about millennials killing different industries like paper napkins and diamond jewelry or whatever.  Well, they’re killing the haunting industry, too.  Seems like everyone under the age of 40 these days is so world-weary that coming face to face with a bona fide ghost isn’t enough to make them flinch.

After all, what’s scarier than a crumbling economy and a dying planet?  Not me, apparently.

So I figure I’ll go all out one last time before I finally go into the light.  I’ve managed to ignore its appeal for, oh, probably 50 years at this point.

It’s not like I haven’t been tempted by the light; of course I have.  It’s beautiful!  But when you have a past like mine, well... you don’t really know what’s waiting for you on the other side.  I’ve not felt bold enough to find out before.  Honestly, I’m not feeling bold even now, exactly, but I am feeling bored enough to try.  It doesn’t really matter how I’m feeling, though.  The end result will be the same.

But at least it will be something different.

In the beginning, I didn’t need to try very hard to spook people who would stop to give me a ride.  I could just sit in silence and then disappear at an opportune moment, usually right after the driver asked where I’d come from.  Then I’d watch from the side of the road as the driver swerved in terror.  Absolutely hilarious.

Mostly, I’d get picked up by kindly gentlemen who just wanted to assist a young woman in distress.  Sometimes, I’d get a creep.  You might be surprised how many of those creeps were actually women.  Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be.  Evil takes all forms and doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who it infects.

As the years went on, though, people got harder and harder to scare.  I blame horror movies for being so over-the-top gruesome.  Watch enough of that nightmare fuel, and the real deal is much less likely to affect you.

Okay, sure, I could be super gross if I wanted to, but I absolutely don’t.  I prefer vintage scare tactics.  One of the coolest things about being dead is that you can pretty much manifest the way you want.  I like the whole “white dress, dark hair” look.  It’s classic.

“Where ya headed?” he asks.  His voice is a deep, Southern drawl that sounds like it was ripped straight from a cheesy Hollywood western, but I suppose the stereotype has to come from somewhere.

“Somewhere with a beach view,” I respond.  We’re in the middle of triple landlocked Nebraska, so I think this is the pinnacle of humor, but the driver doesn’t seem like he really cares what my answer is.

Instead, he looks me up and down slowly and winks  while he shifts his truck into Drive.  “Now what’s a pretty young lady like you doin’ out here, dressed like that, all on your lonesome?”

Great.  A creeper.  I consider amping up the horror for this guy in hopes of causing a fiery crash and possibly a gruesome death, but if this is really going to be my last haunting, I don’t want to add any marks against me before stepping into the light.  I’ll play it safe.

“Just had a bad night, that’s all.”

He pulls back onto the road, and I’m impressed at how smooth the truck rides.  I don’t even get jostled when we go from the rough gravel shoulder to the even asphalt of the highway.  “I could make your night a whole lot better, sugar.”

Ew.  Maybe it’s time to give Mr. Creepy a dose of his own medicine.  I let my teeth elongate slightly, just enough to be unsettling, and I flash him a wide smile.  “Maybe you can.  I’ve been awfully hungry.”

I see his eyes widen as he takes notice of my teeth, and a little thrill shoots up my spine.  Sometimes I forget how much fun being sinister can be.

“Oh, uh,” he stammers, “I can think of something for you to eat.”

The Southern drawl is gone, and I can hear the nerves crackle in his voice.  I guess being creepy isn’t as much fun when it’s thrown back at you.

I stretch my grin to an unnatural width.  “Is it...” I lick my lips.  “Is it flesssssssh?”

The driver begins to scream, and the truck around us vanishes.  I am standing in the middle of the road, and he’s standing next to me choking back his screams which sound like they come from a much younger man.

I stare at him.  “What the absolute f-”

He stops screaming.  “Why would you say something so gross?” he demands.

“Wait, what?”

“So, like, you’re a ghost, too, right?  The teeth thing was horrible, by the way.”  He shudders.

Oh.  Oh my god.  I just tried to haunt another ghost.  Laughter bubbles up, and I can’t stop it from spilling out of my mouth.

The driver, who has been slowly shifting into a younger man, looks startled.  “This isn’t funny!  You ruined a perfectly good haunting.”

“Look,” I say with an air of motherly admonishment, “if you’re going to pick up hitchhikers, maybe don’t act like a huge creeper.”

“I was trying to be scary.”  He crinkles up his nose and pouts.  Now he looks barely older than sixteen.

“There’s a fine line between scary and creepy, you know.  Haunting should be about a nice, clean scare.  We aren’t trying to traumatize people with threats of assault.”

“Well, excuuuuuse me,” he says, crossing his arms defensively.  “I haven’t been doing this very long.”

Now I feel a little bad.  It took me a while to learn the ins and outs of haunting, after all.  I should really try not to be so judgmental, but that has been a habit of mine for a very long time.

The light blooms behind me, and I turn to face it.  I told myself one more haunting, but, I mean, just look at this guy.  He clearly needs some mentoring to live his best unlife.

“Listen, friend,” I say as I turn my back to the light decisively.  “Maybe we should team up for a bit.  I can show you the ropes, teach you all my tricks.”

He looks at me with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.  “Think of how terrified people would get with two ghosts!”

“Definitely.  And you can help me learn how to scare people closer to your age.”

He smirks.  “We’re not scared of anything.”

“Riiiight.  Why don’t you summon up that truck again, and we’ll see where the road takes us?”

This time, he conjures a cherry red convertible muscle car.  “Let’s go in style.”

The light beckons to me in the rearview mirror when I climb in the passenger seat.  But I’m not thinking about ending things anymore, and I bet I can wait a few more years before finding out where it leads.

September 10, 2021 21:18

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6 comments

Dave Quinn
15:08 Sep 16, 2021

I didn't see the truck and all being an extension of the guy.Nice twist.

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Amanda Fox
15:36 Sep 16, 2021

Thank you! I had a lot of fun with it =]

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21:45 Sep 12, 2021

I enjoyed this a lot! Really interesting take on the prompt. I'm afraid I'm one of those people hardened by horror movie gore, but I think I'd still poo my pants if a real ghost got in a car with me! Fun read. Thank you!

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Amanda Fox
00:24 Sep 13, 2021

Thank you for your comments! I'm a huge baby when it comes to horror movies =]

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Cathryn V
03:10 Sep 11, 2021

Hi Fawn! What a twist--This is a truly entertaining story. I enjoyed every minute of this ride. Thank you for this.

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Amanda Fox
21:33 Sep 11, 2021

Yay! Thank you so much - it made me laugh to think of them trying to scare each other.

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