US 219 crosses US 50 right before you hit the West Virginia border. During college, I drove that road several times a year traveling between DC and little Elkins, WV. At night, the crossing can be spooky. A gas station, forever abandoned, is the only nearby building, and a lonely stop sign on 219 has you slowing down for the first time after half an hour of mountain driving.
I wrote One Night in 1995 while pulled over on the apron of that abandoned gas station. The ending is, I think, unfinished. Or internalized rambling. Or just crap. I think I was angling towards it all being some sort of dream. But I don’t know anymore because I haven’t looked at this in a decade. Anyway, it sucks. But part of the Sunday Archives project is to throw everything out. What the fuck, right? You can see how my writing has changed (or not) over the years.
* * *
A red light, out here in the middle of nowhere. A long wait, too. Monty glanced down US 50. No headlights, no sign of anything. An overwhelming sense of solitude, a wall of darkness pressed against the lights of this small intersection. This was absurd.
“Just run it.” He hissed to himself, the voice of an internal argument.
He glanced at the rearview mirror – a rectangle of night framed by the red glow of the traffic light. Not much farther, then he could get rid of it. Do what he had to do; it was as simple as that. Pick up a bag and get rid of it. That’s all this was. It didn’t matter what was in the bag.
Ignorance is bliss. Right? Be extra careful. Remember that old logging road? Good, go on up to the old camp, take her down into Miller’s Hole, drop her in the lake. Buried underground. Underwater. Our secret place. Where we grew up. Our place.
“What have you done?” Monty asked the mirror, the night, the car. He’d been asking that question for the last 200 miles. What have you done? What am I doing?
The light changed. Out here, in the cool spring night, he could hear the relays click. The sound brought him back to attention. There, illuminated in his headlights, stood a girl. Slim, blonde, pale. Shadowed eyes in a sad, pasty face. He jumped. He knew the face.
She walked up to the passenger window while Monty sat frozen, staring forward, mouth slightly open. “Hello, Monty.” She leaned into the car. “Am I in the trunk?”
He turned towards her, unable to speak.
“Driving too long?” she asked. “Tired? Guilt-ridden, perhaps? A delusion. Imagination.” She opened the door and climbed in. Pulling the seatbelt across her body, she turned and smiled. “Light’s green.”
“I’m just doing it… I just…”
“I know,” she put a cold hand on his, “Light’s green, Monty. Please.”
She pointed forward with a long finger and Monty eased his foot onto the accelerator. The car drifted through the intersection, then he pulled over onto the grassy shoulder. “Should I go to the police? Is that why you’re here?”
She was staring straight ahead; perhaps watching the headlights battle the night. “I’m a figment. You’re in charge. Whatever you gotta do you gotta do, yes?”
He swallowed and nodded. “Yes.”
He pulled back onto the road and headed into the night. Always alone. No headlights in the distance, only the occasional dot of a farmhouse on the horizon. The woman rode in silence, sometimes looking at Monty and sometimes watching the night. After half an hour she craned her neck and looked up through the windshield. “No stars.”
“Cloudy, I guess.”
Monty didn’t look up. “You have to leave. How do I make you leave?”
She turned slowly, her wide mouth breaking into another smile. “Monty, I told you, I’m not here. Maybe you need a nap?”
“I have to keep moving.”
“Ah, yes. You’re dropping me in an underground lake. That’s an exotic resting place.”
“We used to hang out there. It’s an old mining town. The railroad dried up in the 70’s and everybody left. Can’t hardly get there now, except an old logging road. Crazy to drive up there. Crazy…” Monty was muttering, rocking back and forth slightly. He stopped when her hand touched his shoulder, his breath catching in his throat.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He put a hand to his eyes, trying to stop from crying. Instead, everything broke with one sob. Tears streaked down his cheeks.
“Dear, dear, Monty.” She whispered. “You’re overtired. Pull over.”
It took him several moments to regain enough composure to pull the car off the road. He shut off the engine and the lights and the world plummeted into darkness.
“The night always seemed safe to me,” her shadow said, moving against the night sky outside her window. “Some people are afraid, but I love it. Well, I used to love it.”
Monty was holding her hand. He let go and stared at her shadow, his eyes slowly adjusting to the night. He could see her face now, her eyes, her pale skin glowing softly in the diffused rays of a hidden moon. A gentle rain began to fall, the sound bringing some sense of reality back to his mind. The real world was still out there, beyond this car.
“How well did you know me?” she asked.
“You knew me.”
“I looked in the bag,” he whispered.
“Am I still beautiful?”
She smiled sadly. “Thank you, Monty.”
He leaned forward, tilted her face towards his, and kissed her. She kissed back, cool lips to his and cold fingers on the back of his neck. His lips trailed across her face. She whispered his name, then lifted herself over the emergency brake and straddled him. She hit the horn when she shifted and burst into embarrassed giggles, then she leaned forward and kissed him again. He pulled her close, ripping the back of her blouse out of her jeans and trying to lift it over her head.The white blouse slipped off, her arms in the air, her small breasts in his face. He moved his mouth to a nipple, feeling it harden beneath his tongue, and then he closed his eyes.
A flash of white.
Pulling her clothes away. Never again, never again. Blue fabric ripping, blind red rage. Pale face screaming, black pants pulling down. Gripping, hands under elastic, fighting nails and tearing panties.He opened his eyes as she placed a fingertip in his mouth, against his tongue, then brought it to her own mouth. Her hand began to unbutton his shirt, move down his chest, work at his belt. Her mouth closed on his again.
Screaming. Stop it! Stop it!
“Stop it,” She whispered in his ear.
His eyes opened again and he jerked back. She had something – she…
A knife. It looked so strange, rising over him, glinting in the night, its long blade driving into his chest. She leaned forward and kissed him again as he felt blood rise into his throat and pass into her mouth. The kiss finished, her lips coated in his blood, she leaned back against the steering wheel, pulled the knife out and, calmly, drove it slowly into him a second time.
* * *
Amy jerked awake to the sounds of the highway. Blood on her hands. The steady breathing of the interstate outside, the trucker traffic roaring at 5am. The motel room was full of smoke. Jack had been up all night.
“Where you there?” He asked.
She sat up, rubbing her eyes. Jack was sitting in a chair by the open window, smoking and watching the highway. The sounds of a family drifted up from the parking lot.
“Yes.” She replied, her voice shaky.
“Don’t worry. You did what you had to do.”
She got out of bed and walked over to the hazy mirror above the cracked sink. The face that stared back was tired, sunken, thin. “Was I beautiful?” she asked herself. Then she washed her hands until her skin began to burn and the muscles in her arms ached. Jack finally stopped her, crossing the room silently and pulling her away from the sink. She stared at the water until he shut it off, then she stared at her hands.
“It’s the last one,” he said, his mouth close to her ear. “You were clumsy.”
“It was too much…” She looked again in the mirror. “Too much like me.”
Jack backed away, disappearing in shadow and dream, when someone hammered on the door. A man’s voice announced that he was a State Trooper. She smiled. She’d driven Monty’s car two days west, but there was no running from what she was, and what was in the trunk. And if it got really bad, she could just fade away like Jack. Then start all over again.