The Hitchhiker

  FR, EO
 4 min. to read
 805 words
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He flicked the lever on the right side of the wheel and the wipers stopped. At last! At last he was leaving the rain behind and could see clearly in front of his vehicle. Driving at night wasn’t his greatest joy. Driving through a forest forced him to watch for animals that might rush onto the road. And driving alone was a bore. Adding the rain to the mix really made it a chore.

The miles went by, so did the trees. Everything was desperately monotonous. Suddenly, he saw a pale shape in the distance and lifted his foot. As his truck approached, he recognized it was a woman, dressed in white, holding her arms against the cool night air.

Hearing his engine, or maybe seeing his headlight, she turned and held out her arm, making the universal sign for hitchhiking. He slowed down and stopped at her level, and leaned to open the passenger door. Looking at her, he noticed her outfit was closer to a nightie than to a dress.

“You must be cold!” he said. “And I should warn you, the rain is coming. Can I maybe get you somewhere?”

“Yes, please! I’m going to the next village.”

“Alright, hop in!”

She climbed in, shivering, and he saw she was barefoot. As he started up again, he tried to strike up a conversation, only to happy to have someone to talk to.

“How does a pretty girl like yourself end up almost naked in the woods in the middle of the night?”

“I’ve been played a dirty trick, I’d rather not talk about it if you don’t mind.”

“Come on, it can’t be that bad! I’ve had my share of jokes or stupid bets, ya know. There’s also been the drunk mistakes you discover in the morning when you’re hungover. I’ll tell you one of mine and you’ll tell me yours, OK?”

“No, really, I don’t wish to discuss it.”

Her tone had changed. She’d been pleasant until now, but now she was visibly brazen and he chose not to insist. After a few minutes of this, the silence had become heavier than the loneliness. He wasn’t used to have company, though, and found no other way to turn on the radio to break the silence.

“…time to talk about urban legends. Tonight, you’re in for a classic. Actually, you probably know it already: the vanishing hitchhiker. In the most common version of the story, a motorist gives a lift to a woman, who asked him to take her home. Then comes the twist: at the very moment they get to the address, she disappears. The man looks inside the house and finds a picture of the hitchhiker. An old picture, and investigating a bit, he discovers she has died many years ago.

“As all contemporary legends, this one has many variants. In some regions, the woman vanishes when approaching a dangerous passage. In France, in Calvados, the gendarmes are used to two recurrent reports. The first is a female hitchhiker who panicks and screams when approaching a bend. She’s said to be the ghost of a young woman who accidentally died in that turn in the 1970s. The seconde one is about another hitchhiker who supposedly died in the 1960s in an accident on a notoriously dangerous intersection.

“Now, you know what comes next: the differences are interesting, the similarities even more so. In the vast majority of cases, the hitchhiker is a woman, dressed in white, thus joining the wide category of white ladies. There’s not many examples of these accounts where the ghost is malevolent…”

He had lost the thread. He couldn’t help but notice his passenger perfectly matched the description from the talk show. He tried to focus on the road but kept giving sidelong glances to observe her. After a few minutes, she turned her head towards him, a wide smile on her lips.

“What? You think I’m a white lady, is that it?”

“N… No, no at all,” he said, stuttering.

She burst into a warm laughter, and he didn’t know if he should worry or be reassured, until she calmed down.

“Gee, thanks! I needed a good laugh after this night. Okay, I’ll tell you the story, but keep it to yourself. I am… a night shift woman, if you catch my drift. My last customer wanted to get away from the village so that his girlfriend couldn’t possibly catch him, so we went into the forest. Things went awry after he paid me. He must have been satisfied, or at least he was distracted: he got in the car and drove away, just forgetting that I depended on him to get back too. All my clothes and stuff are in the back of his truck. It’s gonna be fun when his girlfriend finds those!”

This story was written as a challenge.

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Theme: Urban legends.