Some things to know about with this chapter. It’s quirky – so it’s not like the rest of the book. It’s mostly dialogue and I can’t really tell you why I decided to write it that way, except that I did.
It’s about halfway through the book and sort of a moment of comic relief in the story.
Hope you enjoy!
“It’s really dark.”
“You have a knack for stating the obvious.” I squinted and my knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel tighter.
“There’s nothing on the radio.” Lynnette played with the search button for the hundredth time.
“I wish there was some wall up on the side of the roads.” I pressed my lips together.
“Why? Animals would just jump over the walls and be trapped in between them and run back and forth on the road until they got hit.”
“Do you want me to drive?” Lynnette switched off the radio and fell back into her seat, defeated.
“No, it’s fine.”
“I promise I won’t hit any animals.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“It was an accident.”
“I know it was.”
“Then why won’t you let me drive?” she pressed.
“I want to drive.”
“You don’t look like you want to drive.” She sighed when I didn’t answer. “It really is dark,” she said again.
“Yeah, it really is. I guess there’s no moon tonight.”
“Maybe it’s cloudy?”
I looked up through the windshield. “I don’t think so.”
“Wasn’t there a moon last night?” she asked.
I tried to think back. “I don’t remember. Probably not.”
She continued looking up at the blackened night sky while I focused on not killing any animals that jumped out in the road.
“I really think there was a moon last night.”
“And it what? Just disappeared tonight?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s weird.”
“I’m sure you’re just remembering wrong.”
“There’s something flying around out there,” she said, her face pressed against the side window.
I glanced up at the night sky again. “Like an owl or something?”
“I don’t know, it was quick. It’s hard to tell.”
“Probably just an owl.”
I tapped my finger on the wheel to a soundless tune.
“There it is again.” Lynnette craned her. “I don’t think it’s an owl.”
“What? A bat?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s probably your mind playing tricks on you.”
She flopped back in her seat again. “I’m bored.”
“I can tell.”
A loud object thumped against the back window. “What the hell?” I glanced in the rearview mirror and Lynnette turned around in her seat.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Was that the bat?” My voice came out sounding higher pitched than usual.
“Just falling out of the sky?”
“I don’t know, maybe it died.”
“And landed on our car while we’re driving down the road at eighty miles an hour?”
“Look out!” Lynnette screamed and when I looked back at the road a woman lay about a hundred yards ahead, directly in the beam of my headlights.
Time didn’t allow me to think. I slammed both feet against the brake pedal and the steering wheel locked. Instead of the pedal going down at once it jittered underfoot. In my peripheral Lynnette place both palms on the dashboard, bracing herself. I cursed under my breath and hoped we stopped in time.
“What the fuck?” Lynnette asked.
I unlocked my door.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Uh, helping the strange woman lying across the middle of the road?” It was an incredulous question.
“What if it’s a trap?”
“Seriously? A woman is lying across the road and almost gets killed by a car and you think it’s a trap?”
“Call the cops.”
“You call the cops. I’m checking on her,” I said, annoyed. She fished for her phone from her purse as I stepped out of the car. I approached the woman and she was lying in the exact same position the entire time. There was no way she was playing a trick on us.
“Hello?” I asked. What else was I supposed to say?
“Is she alive?” Lynnette called out from the car.
I kneeled beside her. Although pale, her skin had color to it, even in the brightness of the headlights. Her chest rose and fell under her dirt-caked tank top.
“She’s alive!” I yelled back.
I could hear Lynnette speaking with the 9-1-1 operator.
“Amanda, where are we?” Lynnette got out of the car and came to a stop on the other side of the strange lady on the ground. She watched her with what seemed like a mix of apprehension and concern.
I looked around. “We passed a town about twenty minutes ago.”
“Uh, we passed a town about twenty minutes ago,” she said into the phone. “What town?” she asked me.
“We’re on Highway Eighteen,” I offered, hoping it would help.
She repeated what I said to the operator. The woman on the ground groaned.
“She’s alive,” Lynnette said.
“I already told you that.”
The woman’s eyes popped open suddenly revealing blood shoot eyes. I fell back on my rear at the startling movement.
“Whoa,” Lynnette said. “That’s creepy.”
“Shh. Uh, lady, can you hear me?”
She groaned again. Was that an answer?
“Yeah, I think she’s gaining consciousness,” Lynnette said into the phone. “I don’t see any,” she added.
I raised my eyebrows at her.
“They want to know if we see her car around.”
Good question. I stood up and walked to the side of my car, looking down the road behind us. I had completely forgotten about the thump on the back window until I saw a red smear down the trunk of my car. I slowly walked completely toward the back around the trunk. The smear went straight down the middle of the trunk and ended just under the back latch. What the hell?
“Uh, Amanda?” Lynnette called out. “Please come back here.”
I walked back toward Lynnette, all the while trying to figure out what the smear could be. Was it a bat like we thought?
“She keeps saying something.”
I looked down at the strange woman who was mumbling while looking straight up at the night sky. Lynnette was right, she was creepy.
Lynnette shook her head. “Caleb, I think.”
“What happened to 9-1-1?” I realized she wasn’t on the phone anymore.
“Oh, I remembered I could just pull the map up on my phone and told her where we were. They’re sending out some units.”
“Huh, didn’t even think of that.”
“Neither did I. The operator did.”
I crossed my arms.
“Hey strange lady, who’s Caleb?”
“That’s not nice,” I said.
“Okay, lady on the road – who’s Caleb?”
She repeated his name again. That wasn’t helpful.
“How long do you think it’ll take for the cops to get here?” I asked, getting anxious.
“Should we just leave?”
“That’s not why I was asking.”
“I know, but I think we should leave. They’ll be here soon, anyway.”
“Someone else will hit her.”
“We’ll move her to the side of the road,” Lynnette said, showing no indication she wanted to move her.
I looked at the lady on the ground.
“I don’t want to touch her either.”
“I didn’t say anything,” I said.
We stood for a moment, watching her. She kept repeating the name Caleb. Maybe it was someone she knew, I wondered.
“Maybe it’s who dumped her here.”
I looked up at Lynnette. “Maybe her car went off the side of the road.”
“And she what? Walked over here and decided to take a nap?”
I put my hands on my hips.
“She got dumped here.”
“You don’t know that.”
“How else did she end up here?”
I looked at the lady and kneeled down again. “Hey, lady. What’s your name?”
“Joy,” she responded, clear as day.
“Her name is Joy?” Lynnette asked. “That doesn’t sound right.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t sound right? How would a name sound?”
“I mean, she’s lying in the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere, where the moon went missing and her name is Joy?”
“The moon didn’t go missing.”
“Then where did it go?”
“It was never there.”
“The moon was never there.”
“You know what I mean.” Lynnette was right, we shouldn’t stay. But we couldn’t leave her either. “I still don’t get why you think her name doesn’t sound right.”
“What’s that?” Lynnette pointed down the road behind me.
I spun around. “What the hell?”
“Are those kids? Walking down the road?”
It was one word, but it was enough to spring us into action. Joy grabbed my ankle when she screamed, “Run!”