"Godfuckingdammit," Jason Stiles exclaimed as he slammed his fists on the dashboard. All of the dashboard lights were illuminated, and he had just rolled to a stop on the narrow shoulder of the road on which he had previously been traveling. There had been no warning, his car had been moving down the road a few minutes ago, then just as suddenly, it stopped working. Not a good time or place to break down either. It was a lonely highway going across the Sierras, and it was about 12:30 AM according to Jason's cell phone which also happened to be getting no reception at all out here.
Jason got out of the car and kicked the fender hard enough to dent it. He knew driving to San Jose in his '89 Buick was a mistake, but what was he going to do, miss his aunt's funeral? It wasn't like Jason could buy a NEW car, Jason didn't make new car money. His car was old, but it was well cared for, and he had made this trip a few times before, so there was no reason to suspect it was going to pick precisely this time and place to die. Jason popped open the hood, more out of wishful thinking than anything because he wasn't a car guy, saw no apparent reason his car shouldn't still be zooming down the highway, cursed some more and then leaned against the hood, this unexpected stop gave him a more than a few minutes to stretch his legs anyway. A night like this made him regret giving up drinking.
It was then that he heard a rustling noise. He activated the flashlight app on his phone and scanned it, expecting to see a deer or a squirrel or some other wildlife, Instead, he saw a human form, bounding away. At least he thought he did, it was out of the range of his light almost as soon as he saw it.
"Hello?" he shouted.
No answer. Jason scanned a little more and even took a few steps from the car. But he neither heard nor saw any further sign of the intruder. Content that his tired mind was playing tricks on him, Jason returned to his car. Waiting and hoping that another car would come along soon and that he could flag them down for help.
He waited, keeping an eye on his rearview mirror for a sign of lights, but no car came. Jason began to nod off, his long drive and his current predicament was taking a toll on him. It was nearly 1:00 AM, and he was tired. Sleep came very quickly.
A short while later, Jason woke up. His dashboard clock still worked, and he could see that only 15 minutes had passed. He was aware of a sound, like something scratching against the side of his car. Suddenly there was a BANG BANG BANG as a human form, wearing a hooded sweatshirt stood up next to his vehicle and began beating on the roof. Jason couldn't make out the guys face, it was too dark. But he cringed for a moment and quickly locked the doors. Thank God for power locks. And as soon as he appeared, the man (Jason was sure it was the same man as before) was off again.
Jason wasted no time after his tormentor left, to go to his trunk and grab the closest thing to a weapon that he had on hand, a tire iron. "If that fucker shows up again, " Jason muttered to himself, I'm gonna smack him upside the head." He furtively looked around and swiftly made for the relative safety of the interior of his car.
Back in his car Jason sat and waited. He was keyed up now, sleep would be difficult even if he wanted to do so, which he didn't. He paused and waited and waited. He saw lights ahead, a vehicle was approaching looked like a big truck. It was coming the opposite way, but he'd take it. Even if he could just get a ride to someplace with cell reception and away from whatever whack job was playing games with him. Jason exited his car to try to flag down the oncoming semi.
That, however, is not what happened. The second Jason got out he saw the shape of his tormentor rise from some nearby bushes and throw a rock at him. It hit him squarely, painfully, in the face. Enraged, Jason grabbed the tire iron and charged into the bushes, looking for his foe. By the time the semi got close enough that its high beams illuminated Jasons broken down car, Jason was in the woods beside the road, looking for the asshole junkie/weirdo/crazy person/whatever who was making his miserable day even more miserable. He sprinted down a slope and through the trees. He strained his eyes in the dim moonlight and looked, but his assailant was nowhere to be seen.
"COME ON OUT YOU FUCK!" Jason screamed. But the only reply he got was a slight pick up in the wind, rustling the trees and bushes. Then Jason saw him, standing just at the edge of the range of perception. Jason bounded toward him, and in response, the man in the sweatshirt ran into the trees, his path running parallel to the road. Jason was as close behind him as he could manage.
After what seemed like an eternity of this cat-and-mouse game, but was probably no more than 15 minutes or so, Jason spotted the man running back up the slope toward the road. When Jason got to the top, he placed something, a small roadside shrine. It was no more than a cheap plastic cross planted in the ground, surrounded by some plastic flowers and some shiny tinsel. But it was definitely commemorating someone who had died here. It looked to be old and faded. Then Jason remembered.
A few years before, Jason had been traveling this stretch of highway. He was coming home from Thanksgiving Dinner and frankly shouldn't have been driving. Jason had also gotten into a massive fight with his brother over...he didn't really remember except that it was something stupid, and had a few drinks on the side of the road. He didn't really remember much of the drive, mostly that the next day he noticed a big dent in the fender that wasn't there before. He vaguely remembered hitting an animal, a deer maybe. And it was right through here. It was the one thing that convinced him to go into rehab and quit drinking. He could have killed himself that night. Or...or killed someone else.
No, it couldn't be. That couldn't have been a person. It was a deer. Maybe even a huge dog. But he didn't hit a person. No way. He would have remembered, and he didn't. But therein lay the rub. He didn't remember much of anything about that night. Jason dropped his tire iron and cradled his face in his hands. Then he felt a touch on his shoulder. Jason jumped then turn around to stare into the broken, mangled face of a young man peering from beneath the hood of the sweatshirt. The man began walking across the road. Jason said "Oh My God. I am so sorry. Forgive me" The man only nodded and continued, beckoning Jason to follow.
Jason stepped forward. One step. Two steps. His third step was interrupted when a pickup came barreling around the curve and smashed into him. Tossing his lifeless body a good twenty feet before the truck itself slammed to a halt. Jason Stiles was dead before he even realized what had happened.
The owner of the truck was distraught when the police talked to him. He was going too fast, but he never expected anyone to be out at this time of night. The police never found the second man whom he insisted had been walking with Jason Stiles.