Originally published at Coffee House Writers
Read other stories dealing with Goodeville, Illinois: Short Story: The Woman In Black | Short Story: “Good Morning, Zombies.” | Short Story: River Stone Love | Short Story: First Day of School| Short Story: Henry Blaise Meets the Babysitter
I never believed in ghosts. I always thought they were a figment of a crazy person’s imagination. That all changed a few years back. Here I was, minding my own business. Traveling down scenic Route 48 from Chicago to Goodeville, Illinois. The trees were blooming in shades of orange, brown, and yellow. Ah November, the month where it’s smoldering hot one day and icy roads the next. Well, on this day, I mean night; it was different.
I was driving my 1000 horsepower Peterbilt rig named Big Red. Let’s say I was hauling, ‘flammable liquids,’ to a ‘secret’ destination in Goodeville. On the radio, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary hit the first chorus when the song turned to static. The lights on my semi flickered, and the truck came to a dead stop. On top of that, Donder and Bliksem were racing each other high in the night sky, signaling the clouds to gather to bring on a freezing rain storm.
I tried the ignition, nothing. I turned in my seat and saw my bright orange raincoat on the bed. I snatched it up, along with the matching knee-high galoshes that were lying next to it. I turned back and reached for my flashlight from the dash. I opened the door and climbed down. Ice forming under my feet, caused me to slip. I almost went under Big Red; then she showed up.
An icy hand grabbed my wrist and pulled me up. I turn to say thank you, but, what can I say, it stunned me. She was a beautiful goddess, her long red hair weighing heavy on her head from the rain. Her white nightgown soaked clean through, outlining her full perky bosom. It took a minute or two before I came back to my senses. I ripped my raincoat off and placed it over her. The poor young woman lost herself in the bright plastic; you could fit two or three of her in it.
Listen, I don’t pick up hitchhikers. For one thing, it’s illegal. For another, I could lose my job. But how could I resist a woman in need? For God’s sakes, this is someone’s daughter. So, I held the door open, and she floated up to the cap. I climbed up and saw she was already on the passage side, peaking at me from under the hood of the raincoat. Those eyes, one can get lost in a green pasture full of dandelions.
I shut the driver side door and crawled to my sleeping compartment. I opened my suitcase and shifted through the clothes until I found a towel and a thermal shirt. I handed them to her and motioned for her to come on back. Of course, I went back to the driver’s seat. After all, I am a gentleman.
After a few minutes went by, I turned around to ask her name. There, I saw her in my bed, sound asleep. I reached into my jeans pocket and slid out my cell phone. To my surprise, it too, like the truck, was not working.
Upset, I took one last look at my unexpected companion. Her eyes flicker open, her pale lips smiled revealing the pearly white of her teeth, and then she was asleep once more. With that, the truck’s electronics started up, and my phone beeped on. The engine started right up. The radio popped on, starting where it left off. I didn’t question any of it; I wanted to take her to a safe place.
I was a mile or so from turning on to South Cherokee Street, when I a loud voice from behind me said, “NO!”
I pumped the brakes and pulled to the side of the road and stopped. I flipped on my hazard lights and turned to her and asked, “What’s wrong?” I notice her smile turned into a frown, hiding the sparkles from her teeth. The green pasture in her eyes turned into death and decay.
“Please,” she said. “Let’s stay the night, here.”
“Why? We’re so close to town. Why stop now?”
Her body trembled, and I knew, in my heart, it was not from the cold. She was scared, but I did not know from what. So, I agreed with her and her smile, and the green pastures returned. She fell back asleep in my bed as I fell asleep in my seat.
The heat of the sun caused the temperature to rise in my rig, waking me from my dreamless sleep. For a minute, I thought everything from the night before was a dream. I turn my seat to view my sleeping quarters, and there she was sitting up in bed — her waving red hair, green eyes, and smile. She climbed out of bed and slipped into the passenger seat. I offered a drink of water, but she refused. All she said was, “We can go now.”
I started the truck, and off we went. It was a few minutes when we arrived at a turn on South Cherokee Street. Turning onto the road, I noticed police officers and a cleanup crew. A semi was towing away another semi. I had to stop until I could go. I turned to the young woman and said, “Stay here.” She nodded at me.
When I climbed down from the cab and walked to an officer, I asked him, “What happened here?”
“A semi full of gas for the local gas stations slipped on the ice during the storm. The driver crashed into a car, and his rig flipped. He lived, the container of gas wasn’t damaged. But a young woman died. Her car blew up.”
I thanked the officer and went back to my rig. The young lady still there. Fifteen minutes later the officer let me through the crash site. After I passed it, I turned to the woman sitting beside me, but she vanished. I slammed on my breaks and looked around my cab; she was nowhere. I looked in my review mirror, and there she stood, on the spot where the car blew up.
If she did not stop me that night, the wreck could’ve been worse. I was in my own world and would’ve run right into the tanker, blowing everyone in the surrounding area up.
They buried her in the graveyard near the accident site. Every time I go through Goodeville, or close to it, I visit her grave and leave a handful of dandelions. Before I get back into my truck, I look back, and I swear I see her standing there, holding the flowers and smiling. Her name was Brianna.