The cold night air bit into her cheeks as she helplessly stood next to her car. She had taken an unfamiliar exit as smoke was billowing from under the hood.
She swore under her breath for taking a chance driving with the “check engine” light on for weeks now. With the recent move to her new job out of state, her priority had been to finish unpacking and to get settled in.
Her frustration grew as she looked down at the cell phone she neglected to charge before she left work. Almost in tears, she kicked her tire before she started walking.
She looked around the desolate road where she could see dark menacing trees and her breath outlined in the coldness.
As she walked she came upon a lonely street light with moths dancing carefree under it oblivious to her plight.
Aside from the crunching of gravel under her shoes, the silence was deafening. She felt tiny eyes peering at her from the deep forest next to the road and for the first time, she felt a gut wrenching fear.
Hopefully, she would come upon a gas station or store where she could call for help.
As she walked along in the darkness, she heard a car motor behind in the distance. Within minutes a car pulled up beside her.
“Hey there… is that your car back there? Do you need a ride?” He asked her through the passenger’s side window that was down.
With a mixture of relief and uncertainty, she looked into the car at the young man behind the wheel who was clean shaven and wore glasses. There was nothing distinctive about him – just a regular guy.
Before responding, she noticed empty pop cans and used kleenex amongst clothing items in the back seat of the man’s car. There was a plastic bobble head lady on his dashboard that was finishing her hula dance as he came to a stop.
Noticing her hesitation, the man tried to reassure her by saying he could take her to the gas station a mile or so down the road.
She weighed her options. Should she keep walking in the night, go back to her car and wait for daylight, or trust the young man offering help? He seemed like a nice guy but she was often warned by her parents not to trust strangers.
In a split second, she went against her primal instinct and got into his car.
As they drove he made casual conversation but her mind was more on who to call once they reached the gas station. She looked up at the full moon and then noticed an uncomfortable silence.
She turned to look at the man. He was staring at her intensely, barely looking at the dark road in front of them. She quickly turned away to avoid his eyes as he drove by the dark gas station which was closed.
The hair on the back of her neck stood up as she heard the “click” of the car doors locking.
The quiet darkness was disturbed by birds fleeing out of moonlit trees as a scream penetrated into the night.