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The Stranger in the Road
I'm on that road of pure release, the therapy treatment of simply silence. It's the world your mind can open when you're but alone in that car, speeding slightly to anywhere better than what rots behind me. A break, a long reviving break is what I needed most on that Saturday. I'm a fine student at my college, and I love my family more than anything. One student alone can only take so many 500 page essays each class. This long dark country highway was all I needed, no one, no cars in sight.
My family, as I love them much, it is in their own nature to push their daughter some. However, being compared to my cousin constantly is... Annoying. I was born an only child, some advantages, some disadvantages. And for this weekend, I'm going to forget all about that, and be myself, taking a holiday, a vacation.
I looked at the time, 12:00 at night. No one's even awake to notice that I'm gone with my yellow Jeep Wrangler. I smiled, imagining my return on Sunday night, everyone flocking about, questioning my leave. What was I to do exactly? I was to find my dream house. Not to buy, but to just remember where it is. I closed my eyes briefly to picture it and stepped down on the pedal a bit harder. My dream house is what I wanted most after I graduate. A Tudor house, gosh I loved them, shrouded by surrounding trees, especially weeping willows. A jug handle driveway, and a balcony overlooking a wonderful pond and hammock that would be calling my name slightly "Isabella, Isabella..."
But it wasn't the pond calling me, it was my mind calling me back to reality. Calling me back in time for my headlights to shine on a figure of a man just standing there in the middle of the road. I was approaching full speed. My eyes widened and I gasped and I slammed down on the breaks from pure impulse. My head flew forward, as I expected the worst pain from a collision with the windshield. But it didn't come as my seat belt locked and stopped me in time. My shoulder screamed with agony, but I rubbed it, finding no breaks or dislocations. I was thankful my head was alright. I groaned and looked up to see if the figure was fine.
It was a young man, just about my age too, a few inches from my front bumper. His back was turned, facing away from me. He didn't look like he had been walking, but just standing there for a long time. He turned around slowly. He wore a black business suit with a red tie, and carried a briefcase. His skin was pale like death (and I thought I was pale...), his eyes were of deep black, as well as his hair, all black. A Gothic business man, strange. His lips were crooked in a way, but when he looked into my eyes, straight into them, he smiled coldly, but warmly I guess to describe it as that.
He approached my car's rolled down passenger window and spoke. "May you be ever so kind as to give me a lift? My tow is a bit late, you know." He sighed.
I was getting a bad, bad feeling about this guy. "Sorry, my mom said to never give rides to strangers." Pathetic excuse, but solid enough.
"You're old enough to make decisions for yourself, and besides," he set his hand down on the absent window space, "I insist you do."
Creeper, "Sorry," I simply said and took off. He stepped to the side of the road. It was then I noticed there was no car around to be towed. I sped only a bit, eyes ahead. I kept going for a few minutes when I passed the same character. Illusions, I'm tired. Then I saw the same fence post along the road, I recognized it from before. Then I passed that guy again. He watched me drive by for a few more times. It was the same dang scenery, I wasn't going anywhere! Puzzled, I saw him in the distance, in the same spot on the side of the road. I slowed down.
Without any words, he saw the opportunity to get in, which he took. "Thank you." He said and smiled. I pulled away. Soon, I was on the same track again, but going somewhere. It was a moment of silence before I piped up.
"What's the game here? What are you playing at?" I asked him.
"Game? Surely, I am playing no game." His face turned to a teasingly serious face. Liar.
"You weren't waiting for a tow. How did you get twenty miles in the middle of nowhere?"
"You could say I walked, just for you, you know." He replied, expecting a response. "You can drop me off at the next town. And no to your question, running won't get you anywhere." I swallowed, I was thinking that...
"What's your name?" I asked nervously.
"I can get you that dream house, you know, with that pond and trees and Tudor house. It would all be how you want it and more." He looked at me smiling. I could think of one response.
"So you're a magical real estate agent, huh? You flagged me for that?" I smiled trying desperately to convince myself everything was alright, but it was all wrong. He laughed.
"Ha! You could say that, and you could also say that I make dreams come true."
"Like Walt Disney. What's your name?"
"I'm serious, Miss Isabella." I looked at him to match his dead cold stare.
"Me too, now what's your name?" He sighed and fiddled with his briefcase. "If you don't tell me your name, I'm going to make one for you."
"How about Mr. Grades?"
"That's my last na-"
"I know." He replied, smiling and putting his hand on mine on the steering wheel, and my brain clicked. I skidded to a stop.
"What's in the suitcase?" I asked, my voice trembling a bit obviously.
"A few documents, and a pen, nothing of threat." He replied calmly. My eyes were on the road still.
"I know who you are."
"Bravo, then surely you know what comes next?" He fingered his briefcase again. "No need to stop, town's just straight ahead."
"Then you can walk there. OUT. NOW." It was a pointless effort. He gave no motion of moving until we were in town. I pulled on into town, but something was wrong, this was my hometown, but I did not turn around on the highway... This man was genuine, if he was a man. I was not leading him to my house. Then, my car suddenly took a mind of its own and repelled my hands from the wheel, it drove itself to my house's driveway and stopped and shut off the engine. He flipped the latch on his briefcase up and down repetitively.
The car locked itself. I tried to start the car, but the battery was dead. An icy chill shrouded the air. "You... Let me out. Now."
"You finally learn my name and you won't use it. Oh well. I can't wait to meet your family." He flipped open the case at last, revealing only a quill pen, a bottle of red ink, and a few documents. He took one out.
"I'm not signing anything."
"Oh, but the deal's already here, I give you a house, full education, college degrees, successful job, and a large sum of money, with hardly any work, you know."
"And you get?" I asked, dare not looking at him, just ahead at my garage door. I knew the answer.
"I get you. Entirely you, your soul and all. And a few favors from you, that isn't much to ask. I like you, you know. Don't you like me?" I gave no response. He frowned, "You know there's no way out."
"No." I said, "None of that is worth it." He laid out the paper on the case, set the pen in my hand, and the bottle of ink beside the paper and waited.
"Every one of these documents are made for one specific person. And there's only one of each. They're unique like you. Consider yourself lucky, my dear Isabella." No response from me. He sighed again. "You know, that head of yours when you stopped really fast, hit that window a bit hard. You should really hurry up and get to a doctor before that concussion gets bad..." I never hit that windshield, my seat belt stopped me. But a throbbing pain, came to my forehead, and warm red blood rolled down my nose, there must be a cut. I looked up at the window, where the glass suddenly cracked into a single spot in front of me. Not good. I sat back in my seat, concentrating on the pain. He leaned over to put a handkerchief on my head. He gently placed the quill in my hand. And came close to my ear.
"Sign the paper." He said.
"Only one like it, yeah?" I said.
"Desire is my best friend, that's what made me write it, for you." I sat up and smiled at him, which took him rather by surprise.
I took my question as a yes, picked, put the pen in the ink jar, and tipped it quickly sending the ink spread over the fine print. It melted the calligraphy letters that I dared not to read. It stained the paper through, and it stained the line where I was to sign. I saw his eyes glint a sign of rage, but somehow he controlled himself. I heard the doors unlock, and he laughed dryly. He took the paper, which seemed to disintegrate in his hand, because the next moment it was gone, poof.
"Well played Miss Isabella. You're a toughie indeed. Is been an interesting night." He opened the door, took my hand and kissed it. He smiled at me. "We will meet again. Until then, good luck with your house and dreams." And he walked off, and disappeared.
The next morning, I found myself in bed. Never would I tell this story to anyone, for the plain reason of fear; fear for my family. I saw to a doctor, who claimed my "concussion" was a mere scratch. She told me what a concussion felt like and what one was. I had a concussion last night, I know that. To my parents, I never even told them I left the house. I got a bit creative and left a big tree branch on the windshield of my Jeep, for the cracks. I got right to finishing my essays that night, for I couldn't sleep. Never before had I been this interested in finishing a project on the troposphere. I also went to church, a place I haven't been to since my Sunday school days...
Weeks later, I completed my first year of college. I could have sworn I saw him smiling in the crowd of students going home on holiday, holding my gaze for a bit. But I didn't let him. I left to home in my yellow Jeep Wrangler not alone, but in a boat load of traffic and a few friends.