Lights in the Dark
This stretch of road would never be busy enough for the county to install street lights. The only thin light came through the fogged up plastic of her headlights. Jeannie couldn’t see far in front of her, but it was like the beam of a lighthouse in the night.
She had the windows down. She liked to feel the air play across her palm and blow her hair around. The night was warm and soft. It felt like she was petting a rabbit as she weaved her hand through the wind currents.
The radio had lost it’s signal almost half an hour ago. She kept it on, hearing patterns in the static. Every once in a while a voice would puncture through, almost as if in answer to the thoughts in her head. Or so she liked to think.
She was lost in her thoughts. The white noise of the wind and static putting her into an almost trance-like state. When she suddenly became urgently aware that she had to pee. Bad.
There was nothing around for miles in either direction. She wasn’t going to make it to a gas station. She slowed and then pulled off onto the shoulder.
It was a deserted road. Even more so at this time of night. Nobody would drive by for hours.
This trip had become so familiar to her that she always carried a roll of toilet paper. She had a system for peeing on the side of the road. She walked around the car to the passenger side. She opened the front and back doors and made a kind of cubicle for herself between the opened doors.
Now only someone coming from the darkness of the woods would be able to see her. She unbuttoned her shorts and slid them down. She sat on the outer ledge of the car and urinated.
Not for the first time she thought about Freud’s claim that women had penis envy. These were the only times in her life that she ever wished she had one. A woman peeing in the wilderness was always prone and undignified. Unlike a man that could just stand and go with relative ease.
Then two things happened at once that startled her. She saw a white light in the woods, like a lantern. And the radio static suddenly cleared for a few seconds. She heard a man’s voice shouting angrily “and the hand of the Lord was upon him there!”
She jumped up and peed on herself. “Shit!” She reached in and snapped off the radio static.
Then she peered out into the woods. She had seen a light. Someone was out there. She finished going to the bathroom and cleaned herself up. The light was gone.
She took the keys out of her ignition and shut the doors. It took her eyes a few moments to adjust. The night was velvety blue black. “This is stupid.” She said out loud to herself.
And yet. She wanted to see it again. To know it was only a light from a camper. Or a hunter. Or maybe a poacher looking for alligators or bears.
The light flashed again. This time she happened to be looking directly where it appeared. The light was more pale blue than white and closer. Much closer. She felt a chill come over her body, even in the warmth of the night.
She backed away from the edge of the woods. She hadn’t even realized how close she had gotten to it. She backed around her car and got in. She hardly took her eyes off the woods, or the light.
With one last glance, she put her key in the ignition and turned it. But the engine only made a clicking noise and didn’t catch.
She sighed. Her phone was on the passenger seat next to her. But she knew there would be no bars. There never was out here.
She checked it and saw that she was right. And she was stuck. She got out and lifted the hood. She was sure she only needed a jump. But it could take hours for someone to come.
She wondered again at the light. Maybe it was campers. And they would have a car. She had the jumper cables.
The light had gone again. It was utterly quiet in the woods. Bizarrely quiet. Where were the frogs and bugs and general noises of nature in the night? It was usually deafening out here.
She strained to see the light, but there was nothing. Still, she remembered the direction the light was, and it had seemed very close. She began walking towards the woods.
But something stopped her.
No, she decided. She would wait it out in the car. Her hood was up. It would be morning in a few hours. Someone would stop in the daylight and give her a jump.
She turned with a last glance over her shoulder. The light!
She didn’t hesitate this time. She just turned round again and marched into the woods. The light was so close.
She tried to hurry towards it, but there was a lot of bramble and brush in the way. By the time she reached where she had seen the light, it was gone. At least, she thought this was where the light had been.
She looked around her. She was alone in the dark woods. She wasn’t afraid of the woods, normally. But something was wrong here. There was no sound of campers, no smell of fire, no trails, nothing.
She was utterly alone. In the deep quiet of the darkness. It was unsettling.
She had been careful to keep the road behind her, so that she could find her way back. She turned and began picking her way back to the road and the safety of her car. She was hurrying now, the underbrush scratching at her bare legs.
She felt an overwhelming sense of dread. The woods behind her were ominous. She felt like something was behind her. Hunting her down. Gaining on her.
She picked up the pace. Her flip flops squelched in a muddy puddle. And then she saw the light, this time to her left.
She hesitated and then turned. The road was on her right now. As long as she remembered where the road was, she could find her way back. She headed towards the light.
She was getting so close. And then, there were two lights!
She paused. She didn’t know what to do now. Go back to the car? Follow the lights? Get lost forever in these dark creepy woods?
The lights were intriguing, though. What were they? Were they campers fucking with her? Poachers?
She was already out here. She could go back to her car and sit and wait and come away from this with a boring story about some mystery lights. Or, she could go out there and investigate. She could find out what was happening and have a really interesting story.
She turned back into the woods and followed the light into the darkness.
The next day a traveler passed her abandoned car. The police were called out to investigate. There were no signs of a struggle. Her purse and cell were on the passenger seat. A few days later, they began searching the woods. She was never found.