A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—
providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Conrad Szymaniak

I'm writing this to warn you.

Lonely Driver

It was early morning. The sun wasn’t shining because it was still cloudy. Or maybe the sun was still rising just behind the horizon. I was with my friend driving back to Philadelphia. He was driving his dad’s old Audi A4, black on the outside and black leather interior. Black on black. We were driving back from a crazy night of partying. I’d been drinking Old Crow heavily all night, Whiskey and coke. We’d smoked plenty of weed and cigarettes. We had also taken synthetic mescaline, and were coming down ever so slowly. Earlier I had asked my friend if he was all right to drive. “Hell no, I keep seeing shit on the sides of the road. Like figures in the dark.”

That was all right with me. So he drove.

It was still early, people were jus waking up to go to work. The roads were relatively quiet. Only a few early risers were driving with us. The old Audi had no aux jack for iPods, so we had been listening to the same couple of CDs all night. I was weary, the pull of sleep was wearing me down. I was happy that I didn’t have to drive. But there was a buzz in my brain that kept me up.

Anyway we were heading to Philadelphia and it was still dark turning light. We sat silently exhausted from the day’s adventures. Then my friend spoke, “Did you see that car on the side of the road?” I had not, I’d been busy, lost in thought.

“Man that was fucking weird.” My friend did not normally curse and I heard something that sounded like worry in his voice.

“What was weird?” I asked.

“I swear there was a dude inside that car covered in blood.”

“That’s crazy.” He must still be tripping pretty hard I thought. He had taken a double dosage of the mescaline. The whole night had been weird. We had walked through the woods, where new snow had fallen. We were with other friends trying to get to a party. We’d thought it was better not to drive in case we got smashed. The snow was up to our shins, our shoes soaking wet, we walked through the woods in the growing dusk. It had been further then I thought. But it was nice to get some outside exercise.

We drove on in silence. My thoughts wrapped around the night. I had seen old friends from high school. It was nice to act like a kid again, and nice that even though we were older and had changed, we were still able to come together. I was also worried: I’d a hard time paying attention to everything that had happened but I got the feeling that we’d been kicked out. I wondered if everything had turned out ok.

The road was still dark and there were few cars. Lots of space. I heard my friend mutter something.

“Did you say something?” I asked, half wondering if I had hallucinated it.

“This asshole is on my tail. Like he doesn’t have enough space.”

I turned around and there were two headlights. “What a dick.”

I felt the engine hum. My friend was pushing the car faster, and the car purred back. We drove on for a few minutes. I was going back to my thoughts, when “Dude that asshole is following us.”

I turned around and sure enough the headlights were still behind us. “Slow down” I said. He did. He dropped down. I glanced at the speedometer and saw we were well beneath speed limit. I looked back. The headlights were still there. “What an asshole” I said. “Maybe it’s the cops?” But I looked at the roof for an outline of cop lights and saw none. We drove on. My thoughts now about the car behind us. I felt like all my intention was glued to it.

“I’m going to pull off at the next area.” We drove on. I kept looking back, It was still too dark, and the headlights blinded me from seeing what kind of car it was or who was driving. We pulled off at the area and the car drove by. We stopped at the parking lot. “That was fucking crazy,” said my friend. I agreed. I felt the air in the car lighten up. We drove back to the highway, and got on. It was getting lighter outside. My thoughts turned back to the party. I really did hope it went ok. I had a great time, and was hoping to go back sometime. We drove in silence. The car played the same songs. My friend occasionally skipping one for no reason. I saw we were coming closer to Philly.

“Dude, What the fuck!”

I looked over at my friend. He was glancing at his rearview mirror. I turned around, and there were the headlights. Following. Always at a steady distance.

“Dude, just forget about that asshole. We’re almost at Philly. Let’s just get to your house. I’m exhausted.”

We drove on in silence. I tried to ignore this creeping feeling I had. I tried to think of the party, of pleasant thoughts, but my mind was dragged back to the following car. Who the hell was this asshole?

We drove on and it got lighter. More cars appeared on the road.

“Dude, do not look back.”

“What why?” I was startled by the seriousness of my friends’ voice. He was always chuckling. I had never seen him serious. Much less this frightened.

“Dude promise me not to look back.”

I looked at my friends face. He was pale, and I could see the fear in his eyes.

I agreed. “But why dude?” There was an edge in my voice. I felt frightened but I didn’t know. That’s when we joined up to another highway. There was vastly more cars. All of them rushing for Philadelphia. My friend started speeding, guiding us around other cars. He crossed 3 lanes just to take an exit. When he found a parking spot he stopped. We sat in the car listening to Slow Nerve Action, by the Flaming Lips.

Finally, he spoke. “Dude, I saw who was in the car.”

I looked at him. He was still shaking and his voice was filled fear. I waited for him to continue.

“Dude It was that fucker that I saw on the side of the road. It was the bleeding man. He was fucking bleeding, and I saw his eyes, man. He was just fucking looking at me. Like he knew I was looking at him. I don’t even know how he was driving. He was just staring at me.”

I looked at him slightly confused. “So who the fuck was it?”

“I don’t know man.”

We sat for a while just listening. I looked at my friend. “You want to call the cops or something?”

“Nah man. Let’s go I just need some sleep.” He pulled out. We got to his house and slept without incidence. The next day I took the train back to NY.

This happened about a month ago. I had almost forgotten about it till now. I hadn’t talked to my friend in a while. I was busy with my life in NY. I had been looking for work, trying my hardest not to get kicked out of my apartment. Earlier this morning I had gotten a call. It was from my friend’s dad. My friend was missing. In the last month he had been eating less and had become less and less social. The only thing he would do was take his dad’s car out. He never said where he was going. They had found his car in Jersey on the side of the highway, just outside Philly. His father asked me if I knew what had happened. I told him I didn’t know. He asked that if I heard anything to please call him right away. I agreed.

Immediately I called my friend’s phone, but it was off. Later that day I checked my email, and found a message from him. It said that he had been driving at night on the highways. That every time he got on the same car would follow him. He said he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t stop thinking of the bloody face and eyes staring at him. That he had begun to see them everywhere, not just on the highway. He would look at people and there were the eyes. So he would go drive on the highway hoping that the person would get tired and leave him alone. He said that he was going to go talk to him. That today he was going to finally see what he wanted.

I’m writing this to warn you. I can’t tell this to the police, much less his dad. They wouldn’t believe. You probably don’t believe it. I know, but this is a warning. I don’t how it works, or what the hell actually happened to my friend. I don’t know if it can happen again, but please remember next time you are driving on the highway at night. I don’t think it can be any night, I think there has to be that weirdness in the air. That sense that not everything is right. When you feel it, please do not look at the car parked on the side of the road. Do not look for the car on the side. My friend saved me from his fate. I feel now that I must now warn you. Please do not look.


Conrad Szymaniak is a writer living in New York.


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page.