MidReal Story

Secrets of the Midnight Highway

Scenario: A person sitting in the car, motionless, seemed to have just hit something
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A person sitting in the car, motionless, seemed to have just hit something
“Emily, watch the road.” Alex’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts.
I glance over at him from behind the wheel and roll my eyes.
“I’m watching the road, thank you very much.” I drum my fingers on the steering wheel.
He gives me a pointed look before turning back to his phone, so I take my eyes off him and put them back on the road.
The engine hums softly as it eats up the miles of freeway in front of us, and I let the gentle sound sink into my bones.
Alex hums along to his music, and it adds an extra layer of serenity to this late-night drive.
I’m so lost in the moment that I barely notice the miles disappearing behind me.
It’s only when I try to recall what we passed that I realize how deep in thought I am.
I glance at Alex again.
His eyes are shut, and he’s humming along with his music, but he doesn’t look like he’s ready to fall asleep.
He’s just relaxing, letting all the stress of home melt away in the calming atmosphere I’ve created for us.
I’m not nearly as good as he is at reading people, but I know my brother better than anyone else on this planet.
And I know that this road trip is just what we needed.
We were going to go out for a couple hours, drive around, grab some dinner, and then come home.
Just enough time away from Dad so that we could get over our latest fight, but not so long that we’d make him worry about where we were.
But it’s been two hours since we left town, and neither of us has said a word about going back yet.
The only sound in the car has been the engine and Alex’s music.
And that’s perfectly fine with me.
In fact, it’s better than fine.
It’s amazing.
It would be perfect if it weren’t for the fact that I can still hear my dad screaming at us like he did when we left home.
But that’s not a sound that will ever leave me, not entirely.
It’ll fade with time, and the further away I am from him, the less I’ll hear it.
But I don’t have to worry about it tonight.
Not in this car, with Alex humming along to his music and the road stretching out endlessly in front of me.
I let myself relax into the moment and enjoy it while I can, until a loud thud shakes me out of my stupor, making my heart stop and my blood run cold.
Something slams into the car so hard that I feel it all the way up through my seat, and then my body lurches forward, pulled by my seat belt at an angle that makes my shoulder scream in agony.
My phone slides off of its perch on the dashboard and lands in my lap, and I can hear Alex’s phone hitting something in the backseat before he lets out a startled yelp and grabs for it.
My hands are shaking too hard for me to hold onto the steering wheel, so I grab onto it tighter, my knuckles going white as I try to keep control of the car.
My heart is pounding so hard that I’m not sure how I can even hear the pounding on the window.
My whole body is shaking, and I’m soaked with a cold sweat even though the air-conditioning is on full blast.
Every part of me is screaming, deep down inside, that I need to run.
My first instinct is to put the car in drive, gun the engine, and get out of here as fast as I can.
But I don’t want to hurt anyone else.
So I do the only thing I can think of—I press my foot down harder on the brake.
The car skids to a stop, throwing me against the seat belt with enough force that I feel something pull in my shoulder, but I don’t care.
I grab the steering wheel like a lifeline, waiting for whatever happens next.
The car is silent for a long moment, the only sound coming from my own ragged breathing.
And then Alex’s voice fills the car, muffled by his headphones.
“Emily?” He sounds calm.
“Is something wrong?”
I swallow thickly, trying to find my voice.
“No,” I manage finally.
I don’t know what to do.
But maybe if I just sit here and wait, it’ll be fine.
Maybe I didn’t hit anything after all.
Maybe it was just a pothole or a rock or something.
Because it’s not like there are people walking around on the freeway in the middle of the night.
Especially not in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve never seen anyone out here before.
So it must have been something else.
It had to have been something else.
And now we can just keep going.
The thud echoes through the car again, making me jump and grabbing a scream from my throat.
It takes me a long moment to realize that it’s the sound of something hitting the back bumper of the car again and again, and that it’s growing softer and softer with each impact as whatever’s hitting us moves away.
I sit there, frozen in place for a long moment, until Alex finally speaks up again.
“Did something happen?”
I’m still shaking as I take a deep breath and look out the front windshield.
It’s hard to see much of anything in the dark, but the headlights are still on.
And they’re shining directly on the road in front of us.
It looks like the road is empty.
Aside from the skid marks leading up to the car, there isn’t any indication that we hit anything at all.
I let out a long shuddering breath, the tension leaving me all at once.
Alex turns around in his seat, looking out the back window and frowning.
“I don’t see anything,” he says.
“Did you run over a bump or something?”
I’m not sure how to answer that question, so I don’t bother trying.
Instead, I put the car into park and open the driver’s side door.
The air outside is hot and thick, a drastic contrast to the icy air in the car, but it fills me with relief anyway.
I take a deep breath of it, trying to calm myself down, and then look down at the road.
It takes me a moment to see what Alex was talking about, but when I look closely, I realize that there’s a trail of debris leading up to our car.
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And it’s not just debris.
There are footprints in it too, clear as day.
“What is it?”
Alex asks, coming up behind me.
“Can you see something?”
“I don’t know,” I say, still staring at the footprints in shock.
I look back at Alex, my heart pounding even faster now, and his eyes narrow suspiciously.
“What’s going on?”
he demands, his voice low and tight with fear.
“Emily, did you hit something?”
The panic is back, worse than before, and it’s all that I can do to keep from screaming as I take a step forward, trying to block his view of the debris on the road.
“What do you mean, did I hit something?”
I demand, trying to sound indignant and failing miserably.
“What would make you say that?”
He stares at me for a long moment, his eyes hard as he searches my face for answers that I don’t have, and then his gaze drops to my feet.
“What are you doing with the gas pedal?”
he asks, his voice soft and dangerous now.
I look down and freeze.
My foot is pressed against the gas pedal so hard that it’s almost touching the floor, even though we’re on an uphill slope of the road and the car should be moving forward all on its own.
My hands are still clenched around the wheel so tightly that my knuckles are white, and my heart is pounding so fast that everything feels like it’s moving in slow motion.
The world seems to shrink down until all that’s left is me, Alex, and the car on this long empty road.
And then suddenly everything snaps back into place with dizzying speed, and all I know is that we need to get out of here right now.
“The car has an automatic transmission!”
I say, trying to sound indignant even though my voice comes out thin and high-pitched instead.
“If you’re not pressing on the brake, it moves forward!”
I take my foot off the gas pedal and press down on the brake instead, stopping the car’s slow crawl forward just as we reach the top of the hill.
I’m shaking all over now, from my head to my toes.
My whole body feels like it’s buzzing with nervous energy.
I take a deep breath and try to calm myself down as Alex climbs back into the front seat and closes his door.
“Don’t do that again,” he says.
I nod dumbly and put the car into drive.
It takes me a long moment to remember how to move my foot from one pedal to another and then press down on it without lifting my foot back up again.
I can still feel my heart pounding as I pull back onto the road and continue on our journey.
I try to focus on driving and push everything else out of my mind.
It’s easy at first.
When we were driving away from whatever it was that we hit or didn’t hit.
But after a few minutes of driving in silence, it becomes harder to ignore what just happened.
It’s like a dam has broken inside me, and all of my thoughts are rushing through me at once.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
I can’t stop worrying that someone’s going to find out.
That someone’s going to come after us.
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