Hitching a Ride
By Jonathan Wood
Brad liked the country roads. The backwater B roads, the ones you could barely see on maps that snaked in between the main highways like wiggly worms and didn’t really take you anywhere. In fact, they took you to nowhere. Nowhere except shit-splat little towns with a few cafes, a gas station and if you were lucky a cheap motel with lumpy beds and poor air-con.
The rain had started early in the evening and was now almost torrential, so Brad turned up the wipers of his utility truck to full, watching them fight a losing battle against the onslaught of rain beating heavily against the windscreen. The wrath of Mother Nature after the humidity of a close and sticky 35c for most of the day.
Brad could barely see thirty metres ahead of the dark deserted road that twisted in and out of the mountain, the truck’s headlights only showing rods of water, illuminated briefly until they disappeared into the darkness and the vague blur of the white line markings on the road. He cursed, knowing if the storm got worse, he would have to stop. Try take shelter somewhere, perhaps find a motel to sleep until the worst was over. Fat chance of finding a motel out here.
The figure appeared out of the shadows, and even at under 30mph, Brad had to swerve to miss it, the dark petite looking silhouette of someone on the roadside, holding out a slim arm with a thumb attached to it’s end. Cursing, Brad corrected the truck and came to a stop just ahead. For a moment the shadow just stood there in the rain behind him, staring at the truck. Brad waved the figure forward and after a moment, it walked slowly towards the truck.
As the figure approached, Brad could see it was a girl, completely soaked through and wearing only a summer dress that was so saturated, it clung to her body like clingfilm. Brad reached across and opened the passenger door, and the girl jumped in without hesitation. Her long brown hair was stuck to her head like glue.
“Jeez” exclaimed Brad, “raining like hell out there, eh?” He reached over to the back seat of the truck and took hold of a blanket, handing it to the girl who took it without a word. Brad noticed she was pretty, maybe early 20‘s, petite and slim. She began to towel herself lightly with the blanket and through her saturated dress stuck to her body, Brad could see her breasts plain as day. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Strangely, she wasn’t shivering. Given how little clothing she wore and how soaked she was, Brad figured she’d be freezing cold.
He started up the truck again and joined the road again slowly in the relentless rain, fighting to see through the sheeting water hitting the windscreen.
“So, what’s your story? What you doing way out here on the roadside?” He asked. This was always his break the ice opener for the various hitchers he had picked up on his travels over the years.
The girl finished drying herself on the blanket and towelled her hair a little on it. She stared back at Brad, like she was considering her reply before offering it. Brad noticed her eyes seemed glazed, and now he could see her better in the dim light of the truck, she seemed to have bad skin. He guessed the small lines and imperfections on her face looked like acne scars.
“My car got a flat” she said. “thought I was going to be stuck out here all night. Luckily you came along”. Brad noticed the strange, almost robotic tone in her voice. It didn’t fit her appearance or frame. Not at all.
“Oh” said Brad. “I didn’t see your car there on the roadside back there. If you want, we can go back and I can see about changing that tyre for you? I have tools in the back”
“There’s no air in the spare tyre either” she replied, curtly.
“Can you just drop me off at the next town?” she asked, “whatever it’s called”. I can find a motel there for the night and get my car picked up tomorrow”
Brad knew this area. The next town was Crickside, about twenty kilometres up ahead. But it had no motel.
“Sure. I can get you there” He said.
“Thank you” she replied.
Brad watched the girl sneakily from the corner of his eye for the next few moments as they drove in silence, only the rain hitting the windshield offering any sound. He watched her like he watched the others. The other helpless girls he’d hoovered up on various backwater b roads all over the country. Strays befallen to bad luck, car trouble and whatever other chain of events had led them to being on a dark deserted road in the middle of nowhere until a white truck showed up to offer them salvation. A white truck with a predator driving it.
This girl was perfect prey. Small, defenseless and no match for Brad’s size. He’d overpower her in thirty seconds. In a moment, he’d pull out the switchblade he had hidden down by his seat. Then she’d freeze in terror, and beg. Like the others did. Then she’d be still and let him do what he wanted. She wouldn’t resist. Like the others.
The truck rounded a tight bend and opened out onto a straight section. Brad knew this area. He knew it well. There would be nobody out here. Nobody to see. He slowed the truck to a stop and pulled onto the shoulder of the road, into the darkness. Where he liked to be.
The girl looked up immediately, her face concerned.
“Why are we stopping?” she asked, flatly
In a move he’d mastered over the years, Brad quickly grabbed the switchblade, flicking it open mid-air and held it towards her throat. He waited for the reaction. The terror. The submission. She stared at the knife.
“Ok, honey” He said. “You’re gonna take off that dress now. And you’re gonna make me happy. You understand?”
But she did not react like she should. Like all the others did. She was still. Calm, even. Her chest and breathing unmoved. It was all wrong. She looked straight into Brad’s eyes, her glazed expression creepy and sinister. Brad suddenly wondered if she was strung out on some drug or something.
“Please don’t do this” she said quietly. “Please don’t..”.
That was more like it. The rush of power returning back to him. Soon she’d start begging. And he liked it when they begged. He smirked back at the girl.
“Oh honey, you should have listened to your Mamma all those years ago. Didn’t she tell you not to get into cars with strangers?”
Brad reached forward to grab at her and with insane speed and strength, the girl snatched his arm holding the knife, twisting it at the wrist until Brad heard a grinding sound and white hot pain shot up into his forearm and shoulder. Then came a sickening crunch and he screamed, the knife falling away as the girl kept twisting. Finally, after what seemed like forever to Brad, she finally let go and he held up his own mangled hand in front of his disbelieving eyes, his fingers and knuckles bent and twisted, pointing in ways they shouldn’t go. Two splinters of bone jutted up through the wrist part of his arm, his flesh like a fishes mouth on either side of the protruded skin. The white hot pain sensation was now becoming red.
The girl began quivering by him as Brad let out blood curdling screams, both in pain and terror. He saw her face moving, the skin throbbing outwards from some kind of pressure underneath. Then he heard hissing and popping sounds, like pressure valves being released. And a strange, musty, salty smell.
The girls face began to open. The lines and imperfections on her skin were not acne scars. They were folds. Folds that covered and hid something.. else. Something underneath.
The girl’s face began to detract, the outer skin just pushing outwards, eyes, nose and mouth just separating to the sound of splitting. It was attached to something. Some kind of muscle tissue, ligament that could somehow stretch and bend. Brad screamed again in horror at what lay underneath, the hidden grotesquery now on full show in the dim light of the truck.
The face of a lizard. Giant, cruel and inhuman eyes, yellow and narrow, that glowed inside the shiny green skin hiding under the premise of a young girl. The mouth moved and Brad saw rows of teeth. They looked like they were smiling.
“And didn’t your Mamma tell you not to pick up hitchhikers?” hissed the Lizard across at him, it’s breath rancid in his face.
Screaming and the pain in his destroyed arm now close to making him pass out, Brad tried desperately to make a final move for his door, but the Lizard was too fast and a scaly hand grabbed him by the throat and began to lift and twist roughly to another grinding and splitting sound.
The last thing Brad saw before his vision faded to black was a shape. A familiar shape. It wore familiar clothes. It wore his clothes. And it sat in his seat.
But it had no head.