Summary: There are places you don't drive after dark.
Author's Notes: A writerverse entry for the prompt, "This is your fault."
There are places around here you don't drive after dark. If you've got no choice, then the next-best thing is to remember exactly where you shouldn't stop.
Black Oak Road is one of the oldest of those places. It's twisty and full of dark shadows, but it isn't the terrain that makes it dangerous.
People disappear along Black Oak Road.
Oh, it's possible they've just run away, and their friends and families are embarrassed about it. But the missing people never come back, not even after decades. They might leave cars along that road, or something as small as a handkerchief. Sometimes, there are traces of blood. But the people themselves are never seen again.
Nancy and I both know better, and yet we find ourselves here one Saturday night in November. Nancy suddenly remembered that she'd promised to check on a sick friend two towns over, and was already past eight o'clock. We drove off, taking the shortest possible route over to her friend's house. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here on a bet.
I can't remember the last time I saw Black Oak Road at night. I can hardly make out the edges in some spots—the fields and bushes are blacker than molasses in a barrel. Every so often, the moon casts its muted light onto a clearing, making the grass turn bluish-silver and the rocks and boulders glow with an eerie white light. But as we round the corner of a hill, the gloom is broken by a set of headlights angling off toward the sky. I slow down to get a better sense of what we're seeing, though I know where we are. Greenridge Road ends right here, almost at the base of one of the oldest trees around.
"Did someone have an accident?" Nancy whispers.
"Looks like," I agree.
Nancy peers anxiously out the window, probably trying to make out anything between the darkness and the glare. "We should stop and help," she says.
I feel a jolt of adrenaline surge up behind my heart. "You know we can't," I say. "Not here."
"But someone could be in trouble!"
I look at her. "If they're here, it's too late for them anyway."
Nancy opens the door. "I'm not going to just sit here while somebody in that car dies from a heart attack or bleeds to death." She gets out and starts walking toward the tree.
"Nancy!" I say. God damnit, has she lost her mind? I pull the car off onto the shoulder and get out. "Nancy, come back!"
I can hear her calling out, "Hello, is anybody there? Are you hurt?" I stumble after her, tripping as I cross the ditch. When I look up again, she's gone.
I move faster, searching the shadows up ahead as I go. I can barely separate out the patterns of tree trunk and bushes and car, and I still don’t see Nancy or anyone else. As I approach the car, I find myself slowing down. "Nancy?" I whisper, "Are you all right?"
There is nothing but silence.
I circle the car carefully. Why did Nancy have to drag us into this? On any other road, at any other time, I'd do the Good Samaritan thing too. But along this godforsaken road, the choices will always be different. I honestly thought she knew that.
"Nancy!" I hiss. There's no sign of her, and I can't see anyone inside the car. Where on earth is the driver?
I suddenly notice how quiet it is— no birds, no mosquitoes, not even a single cricket—and my skin prickles under my shirt. I creep around to the far side of the car as silently as I can, stopping as a strange odor confronts me. It's faint at first, then stronger, and I struggle to identify it, until I realize what it is.
It smells like mold and dirt.
Oh God, Nancy! I round the car and come to a sudden halt. Someone is there.
"Have you—" I begin, and then I get a good look at what's really there in front of me.
It is wearing a white dress, and its shape and long black hair say it might once have been a woman. Its face breaks into a fang-spiked grin and it lunges toward me.
"Nooo!" I yell.
The smell of rot fills my nose as the thing takes hold of me, and I try to fight it off but it is stronger—so much stronger and more capable than me. There is a flash of light, and the car disappears.
Then the two of us are left in darkness as I feel myself being slowly dragged underground…
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