I’ve had the terrible displeasure of staying in Mansfield, Ohio once in my life and driving through it three times. The time I stayed there was interesting to say the least. The town is split into two distinct sections — the dead city and the living city. The dead city is where the people who worked in factories lived. It’s all boarded up now — like a city preparing for a hurricane.
The living section is mostly driven by service industries — restaurants and gas stations. The latter is why I stopped. I filled my car at a small station, the kind that doesn’t have an inside but is instead built like a toll booth. The road out was a split highway forcing me to turn the wrong direction to pull a U-turn later. I saw a chance to drive along the interstate for awhile and took it.
I should mention that it was dark by now as I had driven the daylight hours away. The road twisted away from the interstate, down a little hill, into a small area of overgrown bushes. Maybe I should have turned around, but my phone assured me that this road would eventually meet the interstate, and I wasn’t about to backtrack during a 10 hour drive.
I drove slow as the brush got thicker and the road got thinner. I hadn’t seen another car since the gas station and was a bit unnerved by sudden emptiness. The road was lined with trees now, and I cursed myself for not cleaning off my headlights at the gas station. The single faint line of light did little to chase the shadows from the road.
I came around a bend going a bit quicker than I intended and caught a figure in my peripheral vision. It would have been a large man, tall and lanky, if it had been a man, but it was impossible to tell in the darkness. Someone walking home perhaps? No matter. I turned around another bend and saw another figure — no, it was the same figure, tall and lanky — standing on the edge of the road with a long fingered hands extended and long, slender thumb raised.
I’ve picked up hitchhikers before, but this dark figure wasn’t going to get me to stop. I sped up.
I came around the next bend and accidentally lost traction. I fought the car but ended up driving (briefly) in the grass. Pulling onto the road I heard a loud smack and felt my car pass over a large bump.
I stomped on the brake and got out of the car. I looked back at the road and grass, but I couldn’t see anything. No dead animals. No bodies. Nothing like that. The frontend of my car was undamaged. No dents, no fur, and certainly no blood. Perhaps I should have checked out the tracks I left off of the road, but I was unwilling to step even a few feet from my car. I stepped back inside as a cold breeze picked up.
I gunned my engine out of there. I have to admit a deep sense of uneasiness. I refused to glance into the rearview mirror. I knew what I’d see — a dark figure with thin and lanky limbs — riding along with me. I ignored the feeling and continued down the road, onto the highway, and back home.
The rest of the drive was uneventful, but I did notice something odd when I stepped out of my car behind my apartment. It took me several hours to clear blood splatter from the windshield and bumper. I swear that wasn’t there as I drove back…