She had been a beauty in her youth, pale, blond and delicate, a camellia freshly bloomed. She seemed so otherworldly as she floated down corridors at school. Outside the sun would find her and illuminate golden wisps of hair, turn her translucent skin aglow and warm her cheeks with the faintest blush. Her voice, when she spoke, was musical, her words the lyrics to a song. Parents, teachers, classmates, all adored her, except one.
It started with just a little thing, something most would shrug off and say they had made too much about a minor irritation. But he was deeply disturbed by her, by her presence and beauty uncommon, and soon this mere annoyance turned into his great obsession. The sudden sight of her became a cancer to his soul, and as the years passed, unchecked, this malignancy grew, it intruded on his thoughts, emotions, rationality; ultimately targeting and consuming his humanity. Overwhelmingly unaware of his preoccupation, she, in fact, didn't even know his name; but, he knew hers.
They lived in the same small town, just a few long blocks from each other, attended identical schools, and yet had never spoken. He kept her under surveillance as if he were a spy; watching her and studying her, observing every move, and yet she was not cognizant of what he did or thought. There was no acknowledgment of this undue attention; she was oblivious to a fault. Once at the movies, she came and sat with friends. Unobserved, he positioned himself just three rows away. His eyes were like lasers aimed at the back of her head, he didn't see the movie that day; transfixed, he only saw his rage.
In high school he played pranks on her, furtive, humiliating and nasty; discarded folded notes left to be discovered, telling of things she did, but, in reality, had never done, then taunting phone calls at all hours of the night. She became withdrawn and nervous, her paleness now a symbol of vulnerability, rather than of beauty. She was anxious, and her voice no longer lilting, because she was afraid, her speech was stutter spattered. One day she didn't go to school, nor was she at home. It seemed no one knew wherever she had gone. Parents, teachers, classmates, all were worried, except one.
On a road trip in Canada we dipped down into Caribou, Maine, for dinner and were returning to Grand Falls, New Brunswick, when we missed a turnoff. We ended up driving down a long, unlit, dirt road, certain it would lead us to the highway. Mile after mile we drove. It was the beginning of September, the day had been warm but now ground fog was forming in the cool night air. Occasionally, our headlights revealed old, weather-bleached houses. Barking dogs, interrupted by the unfamiliar sound of our engine, broke the silence of the evening. No one was on the road; it was absolutely dark and deserted. No denying it, we were lost, but surely this road would lead us somewhere.
Suddenly we saw pinpoints of light behind us; it must be a pick-up truck, the kind with the extra headlights on the roof. Not a police car, just extra lights, and extra bright. He was catching up quickly, in fact, too quickly for the condition of this road.
In just a few moments he was right behind us, and he sat there on our tail for what seemed like miles. His headlights lit up the inside of our car, the rear view mirror was useless, we knew he was there, we could see nothing else but his blinding light.
“This is like something out of a Stephen King novel. Maybe this part of the country is the source of his horror, because I’m really, really scared.”
There was silence for a moment and from the backseat we heard a little voice say, “Me too.”
The road took a sudden curve, there up ahead was someone’s property; a utility light illuminated the driveway and front of the house. There was a chain link fence next to the building; three barking shepherds threw themselves against the dog pen as the cars approached.
“Should we pull in here and see if someone can tell us how to get to the highway?”
“Uh, ––––––– I don’t think so.”
As we passed the old farmhouse, I got a glimpse of a dilapidated barn and a one-story wooden shake house. It was an old, dusty structure with features as weathered as an old cowboy’s face; shingles missing, paint peeling, the railing to the porch gaping where posts once stood. There was a patched blue tarp spanning the ridge of the roof; weighted down with cinder blocks, the tarp looked like it had gone through a few hard winters. The only light was the yellow glare of the utility lamp hung from a hook on a bent telephone pole. The truck turned into the rutted dirt drive, dust spewed up behind the red brake lights. Two men jumped out of the cab.
We kept moving.
“Are you sure we didn’t miss another turn?”
“At this point I’m not sure of anything.”
A few minutes passed, and then another mile or two, just the dirt road, no more homesteads. Even with the windows up we could still hear crickets chirping and frogs croaking, it seemed we were getting further and further from civilization.
Up ahead it looked like the road came to an end – or was that an intersection?
“Wait, is that a sign?”
“Yes! Three kilometers to Trans Canadian Highway 2, turn here.”
When we finally got to the road leading to our cabin, we saw all the other unit lights were dark. We got out of the car, door key in hand and ran to the front door. We said very little that night, went quickly to bed pulling the comforters up over our heads.
I joined Writers Bloc, a group of writers from Monmouth County, NJ, whose styles are as diverse as their backgrounds and interests. Here are some of my writings from our meetings.