Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Hitchhiker

So this is something I started writing today, after my daughter and I gave a woman a lift... I know, dangerous, but she was crying and cold... and nothing bad happened. But there's always the question... what if. So since I have a zombie story coming out next month... this seems fitting.

The Hitchhiker
George Hodan

It was raining outside and Janine was trying to focus on the road and not on her daughter, who was currently trying to break her heart by telling her how she wanted to go visit her father this summer.

“Why do you hate daddy so much anyway?” she asked.

“I don’t hate your dad, I just don’t think an extended visit this summer is a good idea. He works a lot of hours and you’d be alone most days.”

“Melanie will be there.”

“That’s the other thing, I don’t know Melanie. I’m not sure I trust her to watch over you.”

“Daddy’s marrying her and she has kids…”

“Really? At her age? Isn’t she just a kid herself?”

“Mom… that’s really snarky.”

‘I know, I’m sorry.” Janine pressed a hand to the side of her head. She could feel the headache coming on. “Look, can we finish this conversation later?”  Maybe after I’ve had something to drink, she thought.

“Mom…” Carrie pointed ahead of their car where a woman was standing in the middle of the road with her arm raised.

“Yeah, I see her,” Janine said. She slowed the car down and attempted to steer around the woman that was standing in the street, but there was something in the woman’s eyes that made her pause. She looked scared. Her hesitation was all the woman needed. She stepped towards the car, her hand still raised and it was either hit her, or stop. Janine chose to stop, even though she could hear her ex-husband’s voice in her head berating her for not running the woman over and asking questions later. Janine rolled down the window. “Can I help you?”

“Could you give me a ride...”

“I’m really not…” Janine tried to say, but the woman kept talking, ignoring her discomfort.

“My car broke down a few miles back… I was leaving my boyfriend...he hit me.”

The woman pointed to her eye and Janine observed the darkening bruise around her eye. She clucked her tongue sympathetically. The woman started crying then.

“I’ve been walking for hours and I’m cold. I’m not feeling too good.”

She really didn’t look too well, but… It was getting late. She looked around, there was no one else around that could help. Janine looked at Carrie. She didn’t know the woman. Could she trust the stranger around her daughter? Her ex’s voice echoed again, “Ignore the bitch and keep moving.” That was enough to make up her mind. She’d once been in the woman’s place. Scared, alone… only she’d had a baby with her when she’d left and if it hadn’t been for the kindness of strangers, she might have turned around and gone back.

“How far?”

The woman’s face lit up. “I’m going to my sister’s. She lives on State Street.”

“That’s on the other side of town. Get in, you'll be walking another couple of hours otherwise.”

“Thank you.” The woman opened the back door and got in. Janine pulled ahead and then turned left, wondering if she’d made a mistake. She studied the woman in the rearview mirror. Next to her, Carrie clenched her hands. She’d always told her daughter to cautious around strangers and now she had invited one into the car. She also was beginning to look a little green, like she might be getting sick. 

“What’s your name?” Janine asked.


“Well Donna, you aren’t looking well. Maybe we should take a detour to the hospital.”

“My sister is a doctor though. She’ll take care of me.”

“Okay… if you’re sure.”

Janine reached for the radio and turned up the volume. Big mistake. It was a country song about a girl leaving home and breaking her mother’s heart. Only in this case her daughter wasn’t talking about running off with a boy, something Janine thought she could handle, after all, boys could be disappeared, but fathers, that was a different story. 

It’s not like she’d ever forbid Carrie to see her father. He’d never shown interest before. But now he was dating this girl… she was barely older than Carrie, and she seemed to think he should show an interest in his daughter. It’s not like she hadn’t been telling him that for years. He’d been a complete shit while they’d been married, a horrible husband, a liar and a cheat… and that one time he’d hit her… 

And now, after all these years.

“I’ve been getting counselling,” he said when he called.

I never should have told Carrie.  She was fine without him.

“Mom… is she okay?”

Janine glanced in the rear view mirror again. The woman’s face appeared chalky and her lips were turning blue. She was coughing into a handkerchief and it looked like there was blood on the fabric.
“Donna, the hospital is closer, I’m taking you there.”

“No. I need to get to my sister’s If I go to the hospital… they’ll ask questions. I don’t want Greg to get in trouble.”

“You’re coughing up blood. Greg? That’s your boyfriend? He must have done more than punch you.”

“I think he was on drugs.” Donna closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “He was crazed. When I came home… Oh God, there was blood all over the place. Greg was, he was naked and… and…”
She fell silent. Her breath was coming in short gasps and there was a wheezing sound coming from inside her throat. 

Janine turned off Jameson onto High Street. The hospital was just ahead. While the streets on the way there had been relatively clear, the road leading to the medical center was filled with cars. There seemed to be a traffic jam.

“Mom, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know. It looks like everyone is trying to get to the hospital. How's Donna?”

“I don’t think she’s breathing anymore.”

Janine pulled up behind a blue Dodge and put the car into park. Turning around she reached out and shook the woman. “Donna. Hey, wake up.”

Donna’s head lolled to the side, lifeless.

“Mom….” Carrie’s voice sounded strangled. “Mom, look…”

Janine turned and stared at the scene unfolding out her front window. A woman was breaking out the back window of her car, trying to get out. Inside the car, blood could be seen, splattered against the window. A little past the vehicle, a young boy was kneeling on the ground. He was holding a puppy in his arms and tearing into it with his teeth.

“Mom…. Mom, we’ve got to get out of here.”

“Okay. Just calm down.” Janine put the car in reverse and started to back up. She heard a crunch and felt the thud as her tires ran something over. She stopped the car. “What did I hit?”

“Don’t stop,” Carrie yelled. “Keep going.”

Concerned, Janine tried to see what it was she’d hit. She opened her door to look and saw a girl about Carrie’s age under the rear tire.

“Oh my God… no.”

The girl snarled at Janine and began to pull herself towards the open door. The tire was on her back, but the teenager continued to pull herself forward, despite the sound of bones breaking. 


Janine shut the door and put the car into gear again, backing the car over the girl again and then turning so she was heading away from the hospital.

“What the hell is going on?” Carrie cried.

“I don’t know.” Janine fumbled in her purse, looking for her phone. In the backseat she heard a moan. She looked into the rearview mirror. Donna was sitting up and staring back at her. Her eyes were glazed over and the death rattle was gone. The woman opened her mouth and howled, before lunging forward and gripping both sides of Janine’s head. 

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