Directly off the road, in the woods. Rusted, destroyed, colored turquoise, gutted, crashed, and decades old. An Oldsmobile.
If I had any kind of imagination, I would imagine something from a nightmare resides within it. Beyond those thrown wide doors. But, I have no imagination.
Are you really thinking about… ghosts? Myself asks myself.
No! I scold Myself. Don’t be stupid!
What about sleeping tonight? asks Myself. Tonight, when you sleep in the camper? In the eternal dark?
I yell at Myself, deep in my skull. I will sleep! Like a baby on Christmas night!
And the night sure knows how to hold a person, tightly, prods Myself.
And so it shall! inwardly, I holler. At my lingering, fanciful childhood fears. My thoughts must catch their breaths.
Around the mangled car, I wander. Trying to understand it. To think of what happened. Every twig, stick, and branch that snaps beneath my feet echoes among the trees. And makes me jump in my skin. More irrationality from childhood.
There are only so many photographs I can take, and only so many angles of which I can capture the dead car with my video camera.
Interesting, I think. Strange.
Back at my campsite, I raise a small fire. Before the blackness swallows my surroundings. The sun sets, quickly, and here I sit, the flames eating wood and what ever else I choose to throw to them.
All is quiet, but for the fire, wheezing, and coughing, and spitting out ash. All becomes midnight as I lose track of time, rummaging through the cave in my head. All would be dark. If it weren’t for the fire, calling out and reaching up. Orange for a moment. And black after. And after. And after.
Down the flames fall. I let them. No reason to keep them going much longer. I’m too drowsy. The fire burns and talks, softly. No more coughing and spitting. Just embers, seeing through their hyper-orange eyes.
And the blackness draws nearer. The blackness draws. My fears abate as my tiredness grows. Eyelids flicker and close and open and close and open. And open! Because of the sound!
Tires crawl over the unpaved road beyond my campsite.
I jump in my chair, turn to face the noise. Closer and closer, rocks crush against one another under the tires. The car moves slowly. I expect to see headlights, but they never appear. Only the dark, and without moonlight, truly, I see not a thing.
But, I know the car has stopped. It idles in the road. I can almost see its outline.
In my chest, my heart, thumps, thumps – EXPLODES – thumps, thumps – IMPLODES.
How scared you are, Myself laughs.
I stand. One step, then another, then another, as I move toward the humming, lightless car.
My foot reaches the uneven road, and the car moves forward. On it drives, going no faster than five miles per hour. I follow it. Listening to its worn out muffler. Listening for each turn it takes.
I trip over my feet. Over rocks. Over tree roots. I feel my soles on the road. And then, we leave the road. The car drives, crashes through branches, jumps over large bumps on the forest floor. I can barely keep up. I fall onto my arms. My face against the dead leaves and pine needles. The car increases its speed and almost escapes me, until I hear it crash. I assume into the trunk of a tree.
I push myself up, and run in the direction of the hissing, gurgling car. I run right into it. My knee stings. Probably cut myself. I feel around the outside of the car, looking for the driver’s door.
“Hello!” I call out. “Are you okay?”
I find a door handle and yank it. The door flies open. I find myself on the ground, once more.
Again, I ask, “Are you okay?”
I receive no response. Crawl to the car, and touch a seat, stand up. Leaning forward, I feel the steering wheel, the driver’s seat. Nobody in here. Though, the driver’s door is open.
Time to go back, Myself says. Driver’s a ghost.
I think Myself may be right. I laugh out loud, and hate the sound in the stillness. The laughter reverberates, returns to me. If I were a cat, my back would be arched, my teeth bared. I know it’s my own laughter, but still. Scaring myself. What a fool.
Myself repeats itself. Time… Time to go back…
I find that I am wandering the campground, aimlessly. Waiting to spy the embers I left behind. Must be a long time. Because to the east, the sky glows. A deep ocean in the sky. And I can see where I am. I want to run to my campsite. But, I am simply too exhausted. So I walk on.
There are the embers! Those barely alive embers! Those wondrous, magnificent, dying embers!
I tear around them, sprinting for the camper, my bunk. Sleep, glorious, encompassing sleep. On my old pillow, and it’s lights out.
When I wake, I immediately throw on my shoes. I want a few more photographs of the car before I depart for home. I follow the road to where the automobile rests in pieces. Through the woods, I stumble, snapping pictures of the car as I approach. Taking photos of the inside when I reach it. Car still makes me anxious. Just being this close.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating if the car was facing a different direction? Myself smiles. Even if it was moved only slightly. Be interesting. And. Odd all the same.
Of course, I don’t really listen to Myself. I very rarely do.
What was it you thought yesterday? About a nightmare residing inside?
This car hasn’t moved in many decades.
Perhaps, you should seriously consider the thought.