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Better Than Nightmares-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Page One Four One-Fiction by A. F. Knott
The Devil You Know-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Cabin Fever-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ramona's House-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Visitation-Fiction by Henry Simpson
The Night Driver and the Injured Man-Fiction by Roy Dorman
They Both had Guns-Fiction by Jeremiah Minihan
The Earl of Redcrest-Fiction by Ashley Bailey
Black Cat-Fiction by Stephen Tillman
A Place for Grandpa-Fiction by Paul Smith
Away from Home-Fiction by Bruce Costello
Dolls-Fiction by R. Peralaz
Bright Eyes-Flash Fiction by Jon Park
Heart Attack-Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
A Turn for the Worse-Flash Fiction by Maria Espinosa
Rain-Flash Fiction by J. Brooke
Specter-Poem by Chad Haskins
Blue Ghost-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Unfathomable Rhapsody of Psychosis-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Late, Late-Poem by J. L. Hoy
One for the Road, I Guess-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
Edge of Nowhere-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Summit-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Three Tenses-Poem by Meg Baird
Caution-Poem by Meg Baird
Honeysuckle Breeze-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Old Crow and I-Peom by ayaz daryl nielsen
Moments-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Developing Land-Poem by Alan Catlin
Sideshow Freaks-Poem by Alan Catlin
Insomnia-Poem by Alan Catlin
Without-Poem by John Grey
Graveyard Stroll-Poem by John Grey
The Two of Us-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

nightdriverlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2018

THE NIGHT DRIVER AND THE INJURED MAN

 

Roy Dorman

                                                                                                         

 

“Looks like I’m doing that damn driving thing again tonight,” sighed Robert Benson.

He glanced at the digital clock on the dash and saw it was 12:05 AM; the same time it always was when he first checked it while on “the drive.”

As usual, there was a little fog, but visibility was good.  Robert saw the figure lurch from the ditch onto the road and start stumbling down the white center line toward him.

He put on his brights and slowed to about 15 m.p.h.  Carefully, he veered over to straddle the left shoulder and started the practiced maneuver around the man who was now frantically waving his hands over his head.

“I suppose it could be me,” Robert said. “It’s hard to tell for sure.”

He could see the man had cut himself on the forehead and his face was covered in blood.  Robert thought he probably had been in a fight or more likely a car accident.

“Stop!  Please stop!” the injured man yelled as Robert slowly crept past him.  He lunged at the car and left a bloody handprint on the driver’s side window.

When he was sure he was past him, Robert hit the accelerator and took off toward home.

In the morning after breakfast, he went out to the garage to check the car.  As always, the handprint was gone.

***

Other than those five minutes on the foggy road that occurred once or twice a month, Robert’s life was pretty normal.  He had a good job, nice house, and a new car.  But he had no one to share this odd experience with.  Even if he had, who would believe it?

The first time it had happened, as the driver finding himself in his car instead of in his bed, he had been too befuddled to consider stopping.  That following morning, he had felt guilty about not helping the injured man but hadn’t really been sure it had actually happened.

So much was puzzling.  When he was the driver, he never knew where he was coming from or going to.  At 12:05 AM he was just “there.”  The last thing he remembered before that was getting into bed for the night.

When he was the one walking on the road, if he indeed was also the injured man on the road, he didn’t remember the incident that had put him in the ditch.  Each time, he started by struggling to get out of the ditch and then walking down the middle of the road trying to flag someone down.

He was disoriented from the accident and the cut on his forehead had bled into his eyes.  This, coupled with the bright lights in the otherwise dark surroundings, made the whole situation surreal.

***

And so, another night, later in the same month, he found himself as the injured man in the ditch.

“Oh, damn, that hurts,” he said as he crawled through the weeds and made for the road.  He could see a car approaching and started waving his arms to get them to stop,

The car did slow down as it always did, but rather than stop, it again started to inch its way around him.

“That could be me in there,” said the injured man, trying to look into the car.  The bright lights made it so he could only make out a vague shape behind the wheel.

“Stop!  Please stop!”  he screamed, but the car kept moving until it was safely past and then it sped away.

The injured man staggered a few more steps and then fell face first onto the road.

***

Robert awoke in his car as he always did when he might have been the man on the road.  Fortunately, he always shut off the engine.  As he had done before, he had somehow driven home, made it into the garage, and had fallen asleep.

He checked the rearview mirror and saw no cut on his forehead or blood on his face.  Was he the injured man or wasn’t he?

“I better get ready for work,” he sighed.

***

A month later at 12:05 AM,  Robert was driving again and wondered if he changed things a little maybe he could make this whole business go away. 

What if he just stopped now and made a U-turn in the road?  Or what if he sped up right now instead of slowing down and made it past the spot where the stumbling man came out of the ditch?

A third option was too scary to consider — what if he stopped the car, got out, and offered to help the injured man?  Would his mind be able to handle it if the injured man got into the car — and turned out to be himself?  He was already half convinced he was somehow both the driver and the injured man.  He didn’t like what that might do to his mental health.

But now he saw it was too late.  Up ahead he saw the injured man was somehow already on the road and finding his way to the center line.  Robert put on his brights but didn’t slow down.  Another option had occurred to him — he could run the injured man down and kill him.

***

The man carrying a gas can walking on the side of the road toward town waved to the oncoming driver, but then stopped when saw the car was heading right at him.

He took three quick steps from the center and dove into the ditch.

Robert continued accelerating and followed him.  His car abruptly stopped when it crashed head-on into a twenty-foot burr oak tree.  Before the airbag could deploy, Robert’s head had smashed into the steering wheel.

***

“There’s no sign of any skid marks,” said State Trooper Lester Biggs, the first officer on the scene.  “Looks like he left the road and didn’t try to stop at all; it was the tree that stopped him.”

“Well, the EMTs will be here in a few minutes,” said Trooper Janice Wilson, a seasoned veteran who had arrived just minutes after Biggs.  “I told ‘em we had an injured man.  Seems like he’s breathing normally; I think you’re right that we shouldn’t move him.”

“I wonder what he was doing out here,” said Biggs.  “I mean he’s barefoot and in his pajamas.  And there’s no smell of alcohol.  I ran his plates through the DMV.  The driver, the injured man, might be a Robert Benson.” 

“Who’s that guy sitting over there?” said Wilson.  “Was he a passenger?”

“Nah,” said Biggs.  “That’s the guy who first called it in.  He ran out of gas a ways back and was walking on this side of the road.  He stepped out to flag this guy down and the guy veered from his lane and tried to run him over.  That’s his bloody handprint on the driver side window.  He cut his hand on some broken glass when he dove into the ditch and left the handprint when he checked on the driver.”

“Probably a broken bottle,” said Wilson.  “When we were kids we’d get somebody old enough to buy beer to get us a six-pack.  Then we’d head out into the country, drink our beer while we drove along with the radio blaring, and throw the empty bottles out the windows into the ditch.”

“I wouldn’t share that little piece of your glorious youth with the captain, Janice,” said Biggs.  “You are a police officer, ya know.”

 “I was just thinking,” said Wilson. “Maybe the detectives should see if there’s a personal connection between the driver and the guy who ran out of gas.” 

“Could be.  This shift sure does get the occasional odd one, don’t it?”  said Biggs.”

“Yup,” said Wilson. “Ya just can’t make this shit up.”

 

THE END





Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines.



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018