The road crawled lazily across a landscape rich in texture and dominated by hues of burnt yellow and dusty browns. It was easy going, a gentle road over gentle hills. In the distance no more than 20 yards from the edge of the road, something caught my eye.
A tree stood, solitary. It was a gnarled beast, growing out in two directions rather than up. A contradiction to itself, one side was vibrant, a kaleidoscope of Autumn colors; the side closest to the road was dry, dead, the bark peeled away by the relentless wind let bone white wood shine through.
From that bone dry branch hung a body. Its face, swollen with the early stages of decomposition, bulged above the length of rope wound about its neck and flung over the tree branch. The body hung heavily, as swollen rotting bodies are wont to do, but managed to find the desire to swing with a breeze that didn’t touch any of the surrounding vegetation.
I averted my eyes and focused on the road. Knowing better, but always holding onto feint skepticism to counter experience, I glanced back. The tree was empty. Eyes back on the road, my senses immediately began to reach, spread, and crawl across the surrounding area as we rumbled down the road.
There it was.
The confirmation I didn’t quite know I was looking for appeared. A large wooden cross, white paint peeling, stood at the side of the road. There had been an accident; someone had died. Who was unknown yet the spirit of that individual remained. The faded flowers covering the cloth made a mockery of life and only further fueled the loneliness this spirit felt, a loneliness that had long turned into hunger.
The fake flowers couldn’t feed it.
But passing motorists could.
It was easily capable of creating distractions. All it takes is a simple mistake, attention paid the wrong way, and a vehicle could slip, slide, crash.
And the spirit would feed.
Shutting myself down faster than I could even think to do so, I pulled my senses back in and focused on the road. Though staring straight ahead, I was close enough now that my mind’s eye could see the creature clearly, a psychic peripheral vision that has it’s uses. But, to see is to be seen. I kept my eyes forward.
The spirit was barely human and had taken on a shape more reminiscent of a lump of tar imitating a human. Haunted eyes stared at my truck as it lumbered toward us, crossing the other lane and nearing the center line. It’s arms rising, reaching.
My focus did not waver and I held my lane, keeping the 32’ travel trailer I towed neatly between the lines. We sped past, leaving the spirit behind.
I didn’t look back and was thankful the camper blocked the view from my rearview mirror. The children were thankfully oblivious to this encounter. Budding witches that they are, there are some lessons they don’t yet need to know, even if it was Samhain.
The truck rumbled on, tracing its way across the road and further away from things best unseen.
Throwing the Bones