We'd left before supper so the light would be with us, but somehow we'd ended up getting lost. After finally figuring out where we were, we'd gotten onto Highway 47. From here it was straight driving to Jake's brother's house down in South Dakota. It was dark, but I always felt safe with Jake.
The radio's blaring out some indie-rock song that I hate but Jake loves. The windows are down and the cool night air rushes through my hair as we zoom along the road. Jake taps a beat on the dashboard as he drives and I find myself smiling at him.
He leans over and kisses me, but I bat him away, "Watch the road, Jake."
As if I've jinxed it, the car jolts and a load thud sounds as we hit something.
"Shit." Jake mutters, cutting the engine. He look at me, "You okay?"
I nod, "Did we...did we hit someone?"
"Susie, we're in the middle of nowhere." He said, "There's not going to be someone wondering the road at this time of night! It was probably a deer or something."
"That's so sad." I say softly, "Do you think it's dead?"
"Do you want me to go look?" Jake asked. I nodded and he sighed, "Fine. Stay in the car."
He gets out and walks out of sight, behind the car. He's gone for at least a minute before he returns to the car.
"Did we kill it?" I asked.
"I...can't see anything." He said.
"You need a flashlight?" I asked, misunderstanding. He shakes his head.
"There's nothing there." He says.
"So what'd we hit?" I asked, frowning.
"I don't know." He said, "Maybe...it must have not been hurt and run away."
I look doubtful. We'd been going pretty fast when we hit it. How could it not have been hurt? I'm about to say this to Jake when he speaks again, "Let's just forget it. It's late and I want to get to Peter's before it's dark."
He turns the key. The engine sputters and dies. He tries again. Same result. He swears loudly and bangs the dashboard, "Piece of crap..."
Trying one more time, he gives up. "You got any signal, Susie?"
"No." I said.
"Me either." He said with a groan. The cold is beginning to seep into the car, but the window's won't close unless the engine's on. "Okay, there'll be a payphone somewhere down the road. I'll go ring a taxi, you stay here."
He opens the door put I grab his arm, "Don't leave me here Jake!"
He laughs, "Don't tell me you're afraid of the dark, Susie Jackson!"
"Jake!" I hiss, glancing out the window into the empty blackness.
"We can't stay here all night, Susie, we'll freeze." He said, "I'll only be gone ten minutes, twenty tops. Just keep the doors locked, you'll be fine."
He gets out of the car and shuts the door. I push down the locks.
Time moves ridiculously slowly. He's been gone three minutes. Seven minutes. Fifteen minutes. Twenty.
I tap the console nervously. It's so quiet without the radio. All I can here is the wind ripping through the trees, bare as it's December, and a gentle thud. Thud thud thud. What is that?
I shake my head. Don't overthink things, Susie. Of course you're going to think it's something creepy. It's late, it's dark, and you're alone on an abandoned highway. What ISN'T creepy? I feel like a little kid staring into the pitch black of their bedroom late at night, imagining things hiding in the shadows.
I check the time on my phone. Jake's been gone twenty five minutes. He said twenty tops.
Thud thud thud.
Hurry up Jake, please.
Another ten minutes pass. I squint out into the darkness. What if he tripped and is lying in a ditch or something? It's dark and still a little icy from the bad weather last week.
I feel useless just waiting here, getting colder and more freaked out by the second. I should go find him.
I unclick the locks and open the door, stepping out of the car. I turn my phone onto flashlight and begin walking the same direction Jake went.
Thud thud thud.
That noise again. Coming from behind me, back by the car.
He's hanging from a tree above the car, blood streaming down his pale skin, his limp, lifeless body thudding against the roof of the car as it swings in the wind.
I scream and scream again, stumbing backwards.
My back hits a tree and I stop, the scream catching in my throat.
What I thought was a tree is now moving.
Silver glints at the edge of my vision and then-