For October and the haunted holiday it brings, I thought it would be fun to tell some creepy tales. Keep coming back for more frights all month long.

Here’s my sixth original story, entitled Detour:

I’ve had a voice in my head for years, not the kind that screams obscenities or whispers to stab my parents, but the kind that says “turn left.”

The voice was exciting at first, the little nudge from the shadows of my mind. Coming to me mostly while driving alone at night, it felt like a positive assertion, probably like the one that guides you in the afterlife. I would turn left down a random street as requested, anxiously waiting further instructions and the voice seemed happy to give them.

Sometimes there were more directions, a whole series of turns, but my steadfast compliance to my private navigator never once yielded reward. There was no pot of gold for my efforts and, if there was a destination, I never reached it. There was no flat tire either I told myself, so I wondered if perhaps the voice wasn’t taking me toward prizes, but steering me from danger. To prove the theory I began doing the opposite of what the voice demanded, right instead of left. I even U-turned once when the voice said “keep going straight,” but there was equal disappointment in the lack of negative outcomes. No meteorites from the sky or rabies infected dogs at the other end of the rainbow either.

With no evident tip of the scales, nothing gained or lost by obeying or disobeying the voice, I just ignored it. When the voice faded completely I really couldn’t say, but it must have been five years since the last nudge, and when the voice awoke from the past and said “turn left” I was scared and excited all over again. Perhaps I missed my old friend, or I was bored, or I needed to believe something out there still knew I existed, so this time I did as ordered, and the voice seemed to be making up for years of shouting on deaf ears.

If I were married, disappearing for two hours after work may cause some concern, but then if I were in a relationship I would likely not have indulged the return of the secret voice. I may not have even heard it. I definitely would not have taken over thirty turns, each road farther from the city, each with fewer cars for company, and each degrading in quality. As the darkness came, my headlights lit pavement, then gravel, then dirt, and finally grassy trails.

Then I reached a split in the road, like a Y shape, my headlights parting the options. I stopped and waited for the voice but it didn’t come. I waited, even listened to the radio for a couple of accordion-fueled Tejano jams, (the only guaranteed music in the middle of nowhere), but no voice came, not even in Spanish. I decided for myself. La izquierda. A minute later, easing through thick grass and winding around rocks, she was there.

At first glance I thought it was an animal, and it would be no shock were I to discover I had driven onto a cow pasture so far from nowhere, but this was a woman. She was tall, with bronze skin and hair so dark that my lights disappeared into it, but her white dress shone back at me like a tapestry of stars. She was beautiful, and all men, even one smart enough to assume this was a ghost or a devil or a hallucination from a brain aneurysm, are stupid for a beautiful woman. Still, I stayed in the car.

We looked at each other through the bug smeared windshield and my car rumbled and waited. It was like a fawn had wandered into the road, and instinctually I cared if the baby was hurt or in need, only this was no fawn, and I was the interloper in a world where I didn’t belong, and this woman’s eyes were not filled with the shock and fear of a deer confronted by a car. Her eyes were more like that of a wolf, the patient stare of a predator. I stayed in the car and then I put it in reverse, only…I couldn’t leave her. The GPS voice was gone, opening the floor to voices of sane rationale and stupid curiosity, and Stupid is a superb debater. I put the car in park and got out.

What I remember about the rest of the night is a blend of images. I remember her arms stretching out to me when I walked to her. I remember our naked bodies against each other and pain and pleasure in equal parts. I remember screaming. The woman’s face is unclear throughout the memories, shrouded by night and her long hair where light died. I don’t recall getting in the car, or even driving home. Other than dirty tires and mileage, I have no proof of my experience. I can’t prove I saw anyone and my attempts to retrace those two hours of turns are fruitless. I don’t know where I was, and the guiding voice went silent again soon after that night.

Years passed and I was driving my wife and daughters to Florida. We were making good time but I wanted to push through the night and save on hotel costs, though I knew we’d just blow that savings on souvenirs and cotton candy. About midnight I pulled over and woke my wife. We swapped seats and after a yawn, stretch, and necessary vehicle adjustments, she started us on the road again.

“You okay?” she asked. “Too much coffee?” She must have noticed I was jittery. I lowered myself into the passenger seat like I was ready to sleep, but I couldn’t close my eyes. I watched the road in the headlights and pretended to yawn.

“I’m fine, dear. Just don’t turn left.”

“Why would I turn left? These are all farm roads. Probably nothing even out there.”

“Yeah, probably.”

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