I don’t like to drive alone at night. There’s something about being in a car alone, with nothing but darkness all around that gives me a sense of uneasiness. I get the same uneasiness when I switch off the light on my landing at night and then have to walk the few paces to my bedroom. I’m always convinced that I can sense someone behind me; that I will, at any second, feel a disembodied hand on my shoulder, or turn to see a face looming impossibly out at me from the gloom. Only when I have reached the sanctuary of my room and flicked on the small table lamp, do I feel safe. It’s OK by me if you laugh. I laugh at it too sometimes, chalking it up to either an overactive imagination or the fact that I read too many horror stories.
Still, in spite of the fact that I don’t like driving at night, it’s one of the things that, on occasion, I find myself having to do.
One such occasion was just before Christmas, 1991. It was a little before midnight and I was driving home from a friend’s party. The road was completely empty and the only sounds were the dulcet tones of Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night filtering out from the radio, and the rhythmic, hollow drone of the tyres on the road. Once or twice I glanced up into the rear view mirror. There was nothing behind me, save for the disappearing expanse of tarmac and darkness.
I should probably state at this point that in spite of the fact that I was travelling back from a Christmas party, I had not been drinking. A recent throat infection, followed by a course of strong antibiotics, had seen to that. I mention it purely to reinforce in your minds the fact that I was stone cold sober, and that what happened next could not have been the product of an alcohol-addled imagination.
About five miles or so from home, the road begins to wend and weave its way through a densely forested area known as Mantus Woods. Naturally, here at night there is no light whatsoever. Even on a clear night with a full moon, the woodland canopy is so dense that barely a trace of moonlight penetrates through. With the car headlights illuminating the road ahead, I turned up the volume on the radio just as Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) filtered through the airwaves. Now apologies to fans of hers, but I absolutely loathe that song with a passion (nothing to do with good ole Nancy, but rather the memory of where I was when I first heard it) and so I turned the dial on the radio to find another station. Strangely, I couldn’t get one. No matter the frequency I chose, all I could hear was static. Must be because of the coverage of trees I thought to myself.
Rounding a bend in the road, suddenly, there was a loud thud! and the car jumped and skidded a little. Not badly, but enough to make my heart feel like it was going to pound right out of my chest, and for my hands to tremble on the wheel.
“What the hell was that?” I said out loud and to myself.
Thinking that I must surely have hit something – some poor deer or another animal of some kind – I looked up into the rear view mirror.
I could see nothing. And by nothing, I mean, nothing. Not even the road. There was nothing behind me except an all-pervading blackness. The sooner I was out of these woods, the better, for I was beginning to get more than a little creeped out.
Attempting to soothe my jangled nerves, I once again reached for the radio dial. Surely I must be able to get a station by now. Just as I looked to see which frequency I was on, a car overtook me. By the wide corridor of light that stretched out in front of it, I could tell that it had its headlights on high beam. Not only that, but the interior light was on too, and the driver was fumbling around, trying to hold a map on the steering wheel.
What on earth is going on? Not ten seconds ago, that car was not there. Of that I am as certain as I am of the fact that I am sitting here, writing this tale, so that all may know of it. It was not there when I heard the thud. Nor was it there when I looked in the mirror to see what I thought I may have hit. How the hell can a car appear out of nowhere?
The car stayed ahead of me until the road exited Mantus Woods and we came to a crossroads. Here it turned left, taking the road that leads into town. Hardly a ghost car then. Still puzzled, and, I don’t mind admitting, a little shaken up by the night’s events, I headed straight on and made it home without further incident. I parked my car in my garage, headed to my front door and then up to bed. I’m sure you will understand when I tell you that that night, I slept with the landing light on.
The next morning I headed down to get some things from my car. As I opened the garage door, I was immediately struck by what I saw. On both the left and right hand sides of the car at the rear were three short scratches that tapered off into three, quite deep, indents. The marks were curious – not only because I know for a fact that they were not there when I got into my car to go home after the party – but also because of how they looked. They did not look like the kind of marks which come from normal bumps and scrapes. In fact, they didn’t look like anything I had ever seen before. Then, the more I looked, the more I came to a terrifying conclusion. These weren’t just scratches. They were claw marks!
Just like pressing rewind on a movie, my mind began scrolling back through the previous night’s events. The static on the radio. The thud. The blackness behind me. The car appearing seemingly from nowhere. And then…there it was. The awful, sickening, horrifying realisation of what had happened.
I had rounded the bend first and so was oblivious to the fact that another car had pulled onto the the straight stretch road where I had just been. The car had then been behind me from the moment I heard the thud. So why hadn’t I seen it? Because something – something that could interfere with my radio signal, was as wide as my car and as black as the night – had been clinging to the back of my car, blocking the window. When I had looked up through the rear view mirror, what I thought was the darkness was actually….
…..I don’t know. I couldn’t be sure.
All I could be sure of was that I had inadvertently brought it home with me.