A story that makes you think twice about stopping for the next person with their thumb out
Everyone associates bad weather and darkness with fear and tragedy. Never has anyone feared their life was in danger walking alone on a sunny afternoon. But through the combination of thunder and the howling wind, a chill is sent up even the
bravest spine. Throw in the fact that it's one in the morning on a deserted highway and only a fool would trek the lonely road. But then again, this was no ordinary fool. This man--this beast--for lack of a better word, was unique. For as each of us strive to leave our mark on the world, this creature has devised a way to remain in the hearts and souls of generations to come. In his own demented, twisted way, he will never be
The highway was in total darkness that night. A new moon provided no assistance to nightly travellers along Interstate 95. Most of the highway was illuminated with lights every few hundred metres, but this particular section was barren, stretching at least a mile between lights. And with steady rain, visibility was minimal. It was not a night to have a headlight out.
The hitchhiker out that night wasn't sure if the weather would hinder or assist him; people seem to have pity on others stranded in the rain, while they are dry. It had been an hour before the blue sedan stopped, just after one in the morning . He raced to the passengers' door and got in, unbuttoning his heavy wool overcoat as the car increased speed. The late-November air was unbearably cold that night.
"Thanks for stopping," the traveller opened, wiping beads of rain from his forehead.
A man in his earlier twenties and a college jacket adjusted the volume on the stereo. "No problem. I could use the company."
AC/DC's "Thunder Struck" ended as the driver continued, "So, where ya headed?"
"Southport. And yourself?"
"West Haven." A proud grin streamed across the young man's face; unaware it would be his last. "Going to visit my girlfriend.".
"That's college town right?"
"Yup," he answered. "I go to Fairmont so I try to get down to see her as much as I can."
The driver grabbed a pack of cigarettes off the dash. "You smoke?"
"Only on certain occasions. I carry a pack, but I'm trying to quit." The passenger
watched as he lit, puffed, then laid a cigarette in the butt-filled ashtray under the stereo.
They sat in silence. Rain faded to drizzle as the stranger stared into the darkness, lost in deep thought, his mind focussed but distant. He appeared to be lost in deep thought, processing some major strategy he had to develop to perfection.
The driver noticed and questioned him. "Got a lot on your mind?"
"Not really," he sighed. "Just going over things in my head. You know when things need to be done but you just haven't figured out how yet."
"I know what you mean." He butted his cigarette. "I've been trying to think of a
way to tell Lisa's father we're getting an apartment together, but I can't find the best
way to bring it up."
The stranger extended a scar-riddled hand. "I never caught your name yet."
"Robert," he replied, gripping the hand.
It was a firm handshake lasting about five seconds; three seconds longer than he would have liked. The grip, tighter than usual, felt like the stranger wasn't going to let go until he finally pulled back his hand.
"I'm Simon," the stranger announced.
Robert continued driving in silence. He couldn't shake the eerie feeling he received from the handshake, yet was intrigued by the psychological affect carried with it. Maybe picking up a hitchhiker was a bad idea. His silent thought was quickly interrupted.
"So, do any hunting, Robert?" he asked, adjusting his posture.
Robert gradually turned his head then returned his focus to the road ahead of him. "Ah...yeah. My father and I used to go every year as soon as the season opened.
Never dropped anything big, but some were not-too-shabby." An approaching car lowered its high beams.
"I try to get out every now and then," Simon confessed. "Landed an eight-pointer two weeks back. Nothing special, but a buck is a buck."
"That's for sure," Robert agreed.
"Wish I only had more time to enjoy the hunt. Strategy, commitment, and execution make the game a mental challenge only the strong survive. Gets the adrenalin pumping and gives you a high playing God over his creatures."
"I know what you mean. It's been years since I last got out," the young nicotine addict lit another. "I could really use a day away from school to enjoy the great outdoors. Exams are coming up so a little stress relief would be a big help."
"What are you studying?" Simon asked, curiously.
He quickly turned his head. "Like with the rats running around a maze and stuff."
"Not really. That deals more with theories of learning. I focus on Abnormal Psychology."
Simon's expression was blank.
"It's more along the lines of psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, or multiple personalities. You know, anything that falls outside our aspect of standard behaviour."
"It is," Robert remarked, eagerly. "I hope to become a Criminal Psychologist someday. Sorta like...ah...that one from Silence of the Lambs. What's her name?"
The conversation ended, until minutes later, when Simon continued. "Hey Robert, you mind pulling over for a second. I have to take a leak."
Robert saw a look of unease on Simon's face. He looked at the clock. Lisa wasn't expecting him for another fifteen minutes. A quick stop wouldn't hurt.
Stepping on the brake, he slowly stopped along the shoulder of the road. Even before he could throw the car in park, Simon was dashing into the edge of the tree line.
The forest stretched along the entire length of the highway making perfect cover for Simon's bodily obligation. It was over a minute when Robert heard him yell.
"Hey Robert," he shouted from within sight of the car. He waited for him to get out of the car then continued in a low voice. "There's a buck the size of a small Volkswagen over here."
Robert, a hunter at heart and excited to see the Magnificat beast, raced over to see the spectacle. As he entered the woods, he could see Simon's body hunched over a large brown object. As he approached, the object slowly came into focus through the darkened woods. It wasn't the monster buck Simon claimed to see, but a large tree root protruding from the ground.
"Where's the buck?" Robert looked around for the stag.
"Right here!" Without warning, Simon quickly spun around and lunged forward. Robert stood motionless, unable to react, as a 7-inch steel blade pierced his chest. The cold blade quickly tore through his flesh, slicing vital blood vessels by his heart. A sharp, intense pain coursed through his body; a shriek escaping his mouth. He fell to the ground in agony; leaves accumulating on his blood-soaked sweater as he stumbled along the ground, failing to escape his aggressor.
The attacker hesitated, let his prey stagger a few feet, then snapped his head back, dragging the sharp blade effortlessly across his throat. The body dropped like a deer blasted by a shotgun, while the killer remained emotionless, staring silently down at the carcass as though saying to himself, "nice job."
Wiping the blade across his victim's sweater, he casually strolled to the car.
Getting in, he pulled the car back onto the highway not once glancing in the direction of
the abandoned body. A few miles up the road he turned into a closed campground, removed the keys, wiped the car clean of any prints, then chucked the keys in the woods leaving the car on the side of the dirt road.
It took an hour of walking before he began regretting that he ditched the car. First he caught his second girlfriend this month in bed with another guy and now he's stranded in the middle of nowhere. He could have at least drove a little closer to town. He didn't want the police getting as close as they did last time, but at three in the morning, not many people are out roaming the highway like they were in the park that night.
More than thirty cars had passed when another string of vehicles came speeding around the turn. "One of you guys a better stop!" he shouted, as though one of the drivers would overhear him and pull over. Getting tired and restless he didn't have the patience to wait any longer. One by one the cars passed by him, oblivious to the fact that they may have just saved their life in the process. All but one that is. The last car in the convoy, a brown station wagon, slowed down, changed his mind, then again
changed it coming to a halt a hundred feet ahead of him. Most likely his worst act of judgement ever.
"Finally," he said, as the car reversed toward him.
The passenger door swung open. "Hop in," the driver offered.
"It sure must be lonely on the road at this here time of night."
"You can say that again. I was walking for over an hour before you stopped."
"Well, you know people these days. You don't know which ones are ax-murderers or which ones are priests. For all I know, you could be one of those ax-murderers you hear about in the news." The two men laughed. If only he knew how
right he was.
Maybe the government could pass a law that brands convicted murderers with a 'M' across their forehead like they branded women in the seventeenth century with an ‘A' for committing adultery. Then you would know who to avoid in a deserted alley, or pass by on the side of the highway. Robert would have certainly agreed with that ruling if given a second chance.
"You're not one of those ax-wielding psychos are ya?" He looked his passenger straight in the eye, a stare down resulting, until he snorted aloud in an attempt to keep his laughter in. "Well heck, we ain't had a killer in these here parts for years now." He stopped laughing and he focussed on the road. "At least not one they caught."
The car remained quiet after that little episode, until the driver picked up where
he left off. "Michaels' the name and yours?"
"Robert," the hitchhiker replied. His name changed as often as a dirty diaper.
Seemed he liked to take the name of the latest victim, somewhat as a trophy.
"Well, Robert, where ya off to at this time of night?" He glanced over,
anticipating a response from the younger passenger. Both men appeared to be in their
thirties, but Michael was the elder by five or six years.
"The little ol' town of Southport. And yourself?" He got into the spirit of things
with the southern accent.
"Well golly gee. Paint me green and call me a pickle. That's right where I'm going," he confessed. "Looking into buying a new car. This ones fine and dandy, but winter is coming and heck, I'm looking for something a little smaller that won't blow around the highway as much as this huge boat."
"You should try a Honda. Civic...Accord, whichever model you prefer. They're not too big or too small and they're as reliable as a dump after an ex-lax."
"Sounds like something I'll have to take a looksee into."
The two made the usual small talk along the way. Their surroundings brightened as they passed through West Haven; the town where Lisa paced her kitchen, upset with the real Robert for not showing up, or even calling to let her know why. If she only knew her true love lay waiting on the side of the road for someone to find his lifeless
Simon pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit a match. Michael glanced over, as an unsettling expression formed. Noting this, he continued to light the cigarette anyway.
"Do you mind not smoking in my car?" Michael asked.
"I'm dying for a quick one," he responded, rolling down the window.
Anger grew inside Michael's eyes. "I said don't smoke!"
"Just a sec." He hardly ever smoked, but he made a ritual of lighting up one after he killed someone. Some people go for a walk...he puffs a cancer stick. To each his own.
Most of the smoke found its way out the open window, but the small amount that didn't, annoyed Michael to the fullest. His eyes, highly sensitive to cigarette smoke,began to water as his hands tightened their grip around the steering wheel. It felt as though he had been bombarded with pepper spray, as pain surged through his eyes. He couldn't handle anymore and was about to reach over and rip the cigarette out of Simon's mouth, when he took one last drag and flicked it out the window.
Michael initiated a cold stare that only seemed to rouse the hitchhiker on. "This
guys a real asshole," he thought to himself, gazing out the window.
They both remained silent until five minutes outside West Haven's city limits when Simon asked Michael to pull over for a minute. He skipped the talk about hunting, jumping right to the next phase. He'd find a way to get him out of the car if he had to. If not, he wasn't fussy about messing up this jerk's upholstery.
"What's wrong?" Michael hadn't planned on his passenger asking to stop the
"I gotta take a leak."
He looked at his watch. "I could use a piss break myself. Next stop ain't for ten minutes." He stopped the vehicle between lights. "Don't want anyone driving by to see anything they shouldn't."
Simon laughed, "Yeah, I know what you mean." He took position five feet into the woods; Michael fifteen feet to his left. Both barely visible to each other through the thick brush. Pine trees make good cover for activities that aren't meant to be seen by others.
Simon...Robert...or whatever his real name was, had not planned to kill two people tonight. The last time he killed twice in the same night was three months ago in Vermont. Usually his rage only grew enough to claim the life of one innocent,unsuspecting male--he never killed a female--but seeing that other guy with his woman
tonight, and the added ridicule from Michael only drove him to a place far beyond the reach of human dignity. For human life had no meaning to him. Only his held any importance. And it was his duty to rid the world of immoral men, taking away what was rightfully his.
Simple truth being he was extremely close to his mother. His father abandoned his mother when she was pregnant, and she raised him close to her heart. Until one night she was found dead on the side of the highway; her body dumped there by some drunk that picked her up earlier that night. He raped her, then accidentally killed her in
the struggle. They never found the guy, and to this day her son becomes enraged to the point of murder when someone tries to take away his only feasible association to his loving mother; a girlfriend.
Just as Simon was about to repeat his line about finding a giant buck and continue his
rein of terror, Michael called over to him. "Hey Robert, come quick. There's a dead body over here."
His initial thought was of the body left behind over fifty miles back. He shook his
head at such a thought and raced over to see the body. Branches sweep across his face, the little needles pricked his skin, but didn't slow him down. He made it to the point he heard Michael calling from but no one was there. He looked around for a body but the only thing within a ten-foot radius was live, growing trees. The familiar scent of pine was all he could smell. A dead body would, in time, release a musty odour anyone
But no odour . . . no body . . . and no Michael. His stomach was starting to churn.
"Where's the body?" he asked.
Silence fell over the woods. He turned in a complete circle to see if he could see
Michael. No one. Maybe he went back to the car. He was beginning to freak himself
"Fuck this shit," he said making his way toward the car. Just then he heard footsteps and a nearby tree shudder behind him. He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned around. His once dominating expression was replaced with one of unease. He crept over to the tree, drew his knife and paused. Taking a deep breath, he pushed
some branches aside to the surprise of a rabbit nibbling grass under the tree. The sudden obtrusion prompted the rabbit to leave his late-night snack behind, darting into the thick brush and out of sight.
"Damn rabbit," Simon sighed at what a fool he made of himself. Imagine, a ruthless killer scared of a harmless rabbit. Turning back to the car, he had no time to react to the thin metal wire crossing his throat. He wanted to use his knife, but the immediate shock caused his hand to drop the knife.
"Here's your body!" Michael, who now materialized behind him, pulled him to the
ground to strengthen his grip on the wire. The razor sharp wire sliced readily through Simon's neck, a steady trickle of blood ran from the slit to the collar of his shirt. He struggled in vain to remove the wire, his fingers scratching...picking...clawing at it,
gasping for a single breath of air, but it was hopeless. The wire had already formed a trench protecting it from prying fingers.
His hands stopped fighting with the wire, and with his few remaining seconds alive, when he knew death was inevitable, he said to himself, "I'm coming mother," ashis body went limp and fell against his killer.
Michael felt the sudden weight shift and pushed the body to the side. He stood up and walked away without even the slightest feeling of remorse or guilt in taking the life of this stranger. In fact, it was the twenty-third time he had done so since he originally took the life of Sandy Hollman...Simon's mother, thirteen years ago.
As the location of his latest killing faded out of sight in the rearview mirror, he looked at the road ahead, unaware of the mother/son coincidence involved, and thought to himself, "Who's next?"