Is the boogieman really something of the imagination? Just ask the hitchhiker...
|It had seemed forever ago since he had reached this town, and the hitchhiker still hadn’t found another ride. He’d walked and stood and held out his thumb until his forearm ached with fatigue. The cars kept passing by, leaving him to smell exhaust and burning oil. His head ached, his throat was sore with thirst, and he was ready to give up for the night. With a glance at his watch, he became even more ready as the time read 1:03 am. Suddenly he felt his eyelids become weighed down with the need for sleep. Now just outside of town, he had walked about 10 miles that day. Hitchhiking was slow work in this area; nobody seemed willing to give a ride.
With a sigh, the hitchhiker walked toward the wooded area past the edge of the road. Mumbling to himself about the unfriendly drivers he managed to lift his thumb to, he gathered leaves, twigs, and branches, anything that looked to make a good fire. Evenings were starting to get colder; his matches were disappearing one by one. Hopefully, he would find someone tomorrow who would take him as far as he needed to go – or at least halfway there.
Setting up the fire was no problem; he had become good at this practice over the past few nights. It took two matches to get it going tonight, the wind was a bit steadier than it had been over the past week. One less night I can spend in the elements, he thought to himself, I’ve definitely got to get there soon. Firelight began to dance across the trees, creating shadows much like those seen in horror movies. These types of shadows caused minds to play tricks on themselves, which in turn caused most minds to panic, and then to make mistakes.
Shaking his head to clear it, he laid down to rest it on his backpack. A yawn and a stretch of his body caused him to drift into a comfortable sleep.
The dreams that will come to a person while the subconscious takes over the sleeping mind can host a variety of subjects. Sometimes they can speak many truths about personal hopes, goals, and fears. This night, the hitchhiker’s were of truths he already knew – reminders meant to ensure the truths remained in his memory forever.
A blood red sky hung over his head on the day that he left. Too many things had gone bad for him to stay any longer, whether they had been caused by him or by someone else was of no matter or consequence to him; he just wanted out. The woman that he loved had lost her life on account of him as far as he was concerned. A curse was haunting him, he was almost sure of it. No matter how many times he’d started fresh, it always ended the same. He would leave.
This time was different; the gore he witnessed was more than any sane man could bear. It had come to the point where he was now questioning his state of mind. His beloved’s limbs were spread across the ground and he turned and walked away – no grief, no anger, no guilt, no pain. The only feeling he had was fear. Fear that whatever it is that was destroying his ability to make a life and stay in one spot would find him next. It was great enough for him to pack what few possessions he had into his bag and leave.
This same nightmare had caused him to wake up in a cold sweat – tonight was no exception.
Frightened, the hitchhiker sat up, listening quietly to his surroundings. Surely he had been followed to continue to have this dream. Something told him he wasn’t being paranoid this time. Dread crept down his spine as he looked at his watch – it was only 2:15 am. There were still at least five hours to go before daylight and possibly six before traffic picked up again.
Sweat crept past his eyelids as he lay back down. ‘I have to get more sleep; I have to stop being so damned childish. This is pure silliness – acting so afraid of a boogieman that exists only in my mind.’ Scolding himself, he calmed a little more, laughing aloud to old images in his head that frightened him as a child; a man with scraggly teeth, bad breath, torn clothes, who snorted more than spoke, growled bitterly when the light threatened to shine on him, and smelled of corpses rotting in open sunlight. For some reason, this brought more comfort to him now than it did back then and he was able to drift off once more.
Morning light danced through leaves a few hours later, shining down on the hitchhiker’s face with a bright call to awaken. Squinting, he checked his watch: 9:28 am. He began the scurrying and gathering of all his goods, exclaiming “Holy shit!” and other such impure language. Running towards the road, he haphazardly held his belongings, making sure his thumb was up enough to be seen.
Several cars passed by in the following minutes; he was sure it was going to be a repeat of yesterday. The sun neared its peak and heat rose up his neck. He knew he was badly in need of a shower. It had been nearly three days since his last and he hadn’t taken much of a break from sweating in that time.
After what seemed like hours of walking, he stopped and put down his bag. A look at his watch told him that it was only 10:57. His stomach was rumbling with the emptiness of hunger, and he had nothing left to eat. Sitting on his pack, he propped his chin in his hands awaiting the next car. He didn’t have to wait too long to see one in the distance coming toward him.
The hitchhiker’s heart pounded as he stood and waited for the vehicle to near, holding out his thumb as high and noticeably as he could. As the car approached, he could see an older woman at the driver’s helm and a dog as her navigator. She saw him as she neared, and slowed to a stop on the road beside him. “Where’re you heading?” she called through the open passenger’s window.
“About 30 miles north of here,” he pointed in the direction she was traveling. He might continue his journey afterwards, but for now he was content with that destination.
“Well, I’m heading that way, so I suppose you’re…” her words faded with the widening of her eyes. She seemed to be looking at the hitchhiker for a moment, but turned her attention to her accelerator and sped back onto the road, almost ripping off his hand that clutched the door handle.
“Hey!” he called after her, “I thought you were giving me a ride!” Kicking the gravel under toe, a few choice curse words shot past his lips. Scratching the back of his neck, he turned to pick up his pack.
A man stood about three foot behind with his back to him, and as he met his direction, the man gave a glance with a grunt. “Now you get away from my bag,” the hitchhiker shouted, “that’s mine, you understand?”
The man merely smiled in answer, showing gnarly brown teeth that looked about ready to fall out of his mouth. He reached for the hitchhiker with dirty, boney fingers, that same grin plastered across his face. Drool dripped at each corner of his mouth, landing slimily on a tattered shirt that had seen better days. The hitchhiker took a step back to avoid the man’s touch. The more he moved back, the faster and closer the man came to him. He could smell the man; he reeked of urine and staunch underarms. There were bugs in the man’s hair, too, beetles and fleas and probably lice, but the hitchhiker was too appalled to look any closer.
“Hey,” he was almost gagging, “not so close…” Another step back put the hitchhiker on the road. He looked either way to see if any cars were coming, and there were none. The man pushed forward, causing the hitchhiker to step back into the middle of the road. “Get away from me!” he was almost panicked. What did this disgusting excuse of a human want from him?
Another few steps back and the hitchhiker was in the middle of the far lane. He looked to the left and suddenly he saw a semi truck barreling toward him. The man lunged forward and tackled the hitchhiker to the ground, pinning him. He cackled evilly as the semi let out a long warning with its horn. It was too late for the truck to stop, and it drove right over the two on the road.
The truck came to a stop about fifty feet past where the driver actually wished it had, and he climbed out and ran back to the point of impact. All that was left was a man in a leather jacket whose head was crushed. A bag lay on top of him, and it looked almost as if the man were fighting it. Hands were under the pack, palm side up, elbows crooked but not exactly pushing it away. Limbs still twitched sporadically, unable to succumb to death. The pavement was soaked in red, pink, and other meaty colors – apparently what brain was left of this man.
Unable to take the site, smells, and flies that were already culminating to lay their eggs in their prize, the truck driver turned and heaved, delivering the contents of his lunch to the pavement at his feet. He didn’t know why the man was lying in the center of the lane, or why he didn’t see him soon enough to stop. His mind reeled with all of the questions, accusations, and hassles that would occur if he bothered to report it. Deciding the lesser of two evils was to pretend it had never happened, he went back to his semi and left the body for the crows.
As he climbed back into his truck, the driver could hear a wicked laugh in the back of his head. Pictures of the boogieman flashed behind his eyes. Chuckling slightly, he scolded himself inwardly, ‘you see one bad thing, and suddenly you’re waiting for the boogieman at every corner…’