By Ronald Cypress
It was a strange thing, Lily realized, to have absolute certainty that your life was about to end. The knowledge had hit her as soon as the hitchhiker sat down in her passenger seat. It had been raining earlier that day. The roads were still wet. The hitchhiker, dressed in what appeared to be an endless layer of rotten clothing, was completely dry. Lily knew her death was near. It was so clear to her the instant the hitchhiker’s butt touched the seat and they closed the door.
There was no explanation for why Lily had actually pulled over and stopped to let the person into her car. At first sight, she thought that the heavy built person sticking their thumb out was a man. Lily didn’t realize she was wrong until the person was in the car and spoke to her.
“Thanks for stopping,” the hitchhiker said. “Shit being stuck out in the rain.”
It was a woman. Her face nearly too big to be real. Dirty face too. Her eyes were bright. Every part of her that Lily could see was completely dry. Lily knew that she was going to die that night.
“Not that many cars coming through, you know.” The hitchhiker made a grunting sound along with several other odd noises. “Ones that did pass, shit, they just passed right by. Think some of them even sped up.”
Lily realized how slow she had been going since picking up the hitchhiker. She was going nearly twenty miles below the assigned speed limited. She put more pressure on the gas pedal. Death was so near. Lily realized it would come whenever the woman sitting next to her was ready to deliver.
“Where you headed anyway?” the hitchhiker asked. “Looks like you’re heading my way so far. Shit, I don’t have a particular destination. Just getting away, you know?”
Lily mentioned the name of her hometown, but she wasn’t headed there. At that moment she couldn’t remember where she had been going before picking up her demise. It wasn’t important to her anymore. Lily knew that she was never going to get there.
“I’m just trying to get away from someone,” the hitchhiker said. “Shit, trying to get far away. A rough life back there. You know?”
Lily felt the anger and then reflected on it. There were so many things she wanted to go say to her parents. There were also a few people that she wanted to go tell off. But they were all far away, and she would never get to them. She considered the situation. She looked at her life. It wasn’t flashing before her like she had been told it would. Perhaps that only happened when death came more swiftly.
“You see this bruise right here,” the hitchhiker asked. “Last bruise I’m going to have for a while. Shit. I’m telling you. Things are going to be different.”
Lily didn’t comprehend anything the other woman was saying. The fear was too strong. She had already made up her mind about what the hitchhiker intended to do to her. Lily was certain that the woman could spin numerous tales of grief and suffering, means to loosen up her prey.
“You know, you’re a real pretty girl. You married?”
Lily shook her head and grasped the staring wheeling tighter. She realized that her speed had once again fallen below what she was supposed to be doing.
“Shit. You ever been married? How old are you?”
Lily just shook her head.
“That’s for the best, you know? Don’t you worry about marriage and all the shit that comes with that type of stuff. You look like a smart girl. You in school?
She forced herself to exhale and loosen her grip on the staring wheel.
The anger she had felt had dissolved. She wanted to be with her parents. She wanted to hug them.
“Marriage cost me a lot things. Cost me these.”
Lily didn’t look at her, but she knew that the woman was showing her where teeth were missing from her mouth.
“Those I don’t mind as much as I do some other things. Know how they went missing?”
“Someone hit you,” Lily said.
The hitchhikers yell caused Lily to jump. The car swerved a bit, but she quickly regained control.
“Shit. Sir hit me right in the mouth because I asked him to take me to my sister’s. Said I was talking back. Shit.”
Lily realized how dark everything was at that moment. There was no one else around. There were exits to go to and try to escape, but Lily realized that it was pointless. Death. It was strange how she had never felt so certain about something in her life. Lily’s body began to relax.
“Sir thinks he can just hit people whenever they don’t do want he wants. Well, shit, he hits weaker people. He never did that shit when my brother was around. Hell no. Sir would have gotten the shit beat right out of him.”
Lily could hear the emotion building up in the hitchhiker’s voice. She wanted to calm her down.
Lily had started to ask the woman for her name, but everything made sense to her before the questioned got any further. She didn’t need a name. There was only one thing she needed to know. And she was certain of that thing.
“I think one of these days I’m going to go back and give that man a good beating myself. Get myself stronger. Go back there, you know? Beat the shit right out of him. Just pow pow. You know?”
The hitchhiker started to punch at the air.
“Get him real good. Shit. Teach him something all right. Wouldn’t put his hands on me again.”
The hitchhiker took a few more lite swipes at the air. Then she became quiet. Lily realized the radio had been turned off. She couldn’t remember when it had happened. All was quiet. It was almost as if sound had ceased to exist. Had the time come?
“Hey!” the hitchhiker called out suddenly. Without warning she put her hand on Lily’s shoulder. “Hey!”
The touch made her jump, much more than she had before. The car swerved, and there was no way to recover. The fall off the side of the road wasn’t deep, but the car flipped a few times and before it came to rest everything would be settled. One would walk away and one wouldn’t. That was the way it would be.
It was a strange thing.