“Is that someone walking?”
“Who’d be walking out here? It must be a deer.”
But as their car got closer to the figure on the side of the road, it became impossible to deny that the figure was human. A woman wearing a white dress, dark hair falling down her back.
“Why would someone be all the way out here?” Kyle asked, leaning forward over the steering wheel to get a better look. They were in the southern wilds of Illinois, nothing but crops on either side of the road and at least another thirty miles until the edge of suburbia took them. It was a dark night, no moon, and they hadn’t seen her until the high beams caught her. Dillon rubbed his hands together nervously. If she was going to walk on the road at night she should have a flashlight, or a reflective vest.
“Maybe there’s a farm behind the corn somewhere?” Dillon asked. “Hey, wait, wait…why are you slowing down?”
“We should check on her, right?” It wasn’t really a question. “She’s out here all alone.”
“Which is why you need to step on the freaking gas pedal. Do you not watch horror movies?”
Kyle didn’t look at Dillon but made a face anyway. “Horror movies aren’t real, idiot.”
“You’re the idiot.”
“You can’t really be afraid of her. She looks tiny!”
“Don’t stop, Kyle.”
But it was too late. They had reached her, and Kyle was slowing the car to a stop next to her. The woman hadn’t once acknowledged them, hadn’t turned around to see who was coming, hadn’t even stopped walking. Now, as Kyle pulled in and pushed the button on his side of the door to roll the window down (because no way Dillon was doing that), she at least stopped walking. But still, she stared straight ahead, her dark hair blocking her face.
Dillon didn’t like any bit of this. This close Dillon could see how pale she was, like all the blood had left her. Her dark hair looked mussed and dirty. He was, like, 86% sure he could see a twig in there. Worse, he could now see that the white dress wasn’t just a dress, it was a nightgown. Also dirty. And she was barefoot.
“Hi there, miss? Are you okay? Do you need a ride?”
Dillon thought he was going to have a stroke. Kyle was leaning over the center console, his view should have been the same as Dillon’s, he should have seen all the details Dillon was seeing, and he was still talking to this woman like she wasn’t very obviously some kind of fucked up? Dillon’s heart was racing and his skin had become clammy and he wanted to tell Kyle to just shut up and put the car in drive but he found his tongue had been glued to the roof of his mouth.
The woman was turning around. Dillon was going to scream. She wasn’t going to have a face, he just knew she would turn around and a skull would be showing through rotted meat, the plate where the forehead should have been dented in, and if Dillon saw all that he was going to scream.
The woman’s face was normal. Still pale. Otherwise intact. Her eyes were heavily lidded and her mouth showed no emotion. But she looked normal.
But Dillon had been so sure.
“I need to get to Chicago.”
To Dillon, the voice had seemed to come from everywhere except her mouth. Every nerve ending in his body was telling him that something was broken and he needed to get away from the broken thing. A signal not reaching Kyle, as he heard Kyle scoff like this was a normal situation.
“Chicago’s still a hundred miles off, miss. We’re not going that far. But we can get you to civilization, at least. Somewhere with a phone. Come on, hop in.”
The woman didn’t do anything so fast, but she did slowly turn and get in the back of the car. Had the door opened and closed? Dillon couldn’t be so sure. Kyle smiled at her through the rearview mirror and started off again.
“I’m Kyle. This is Dillon. What’s your name?”
“Misty,” she said. To Dillon, it sounded like gravel. Kyle only nodded.
“Misty, that’s nice. What’s waiting for you in Chicago?”
She didn’t answer at first, only stared. There was a smell now, Dillon was sure of it. The pressure was rising in him, and he couldn’t take any of this anymore. He spun around in his seat, facing her directly.
“Okay, this is going to drive me crazy. You’re dead, right?”
“Dillon, what the fuck?”
“Shut up, Kyle,” Dillon pointed a finger at him, then turned back to the woman. “You’re dead.”
Misty only stared at him coolly. But Dillon could sense surprise on her, somehow.
“Yeah, you’re dead.”
“Stop it,” Kyle said, hitting him. “You sound like you’re threatening her. Misty, I’m so sorry, I don’t know-”
“She’s dead, Kyle! I can’t believe you don’t see it! The dirt in her hair! Her bare feet! I saw your skull bashed in!”
Kyle was saying something, calling him ridiculous or crazy, but Dillon wasn’t hearing it. He was looking at the woman, still with that cool face. Now a single tear rolled down her cheek though. And Dillon realized something.
“You didn’t just fall and hit your head, did you? You were murdered. Jesus, you were murdered. Someone took you out here. I bet they never found your body. Lady, that sucks.”
“I need to get to Chicago,” she said again.
“I’m sorry my friend is going crazy,” Kyle said.
“But do you?” Dillon asked. “I mean, do you need to get to Chicago? You must want to tell someone something, right? Look, I’ve heard this story before. We all have. Woman in white on the side of the road, asks for a lift, wants to go home. But by the time the driver gets there the woman has disappeared. I bet you’ve done this a lot, right? Do you ever make it to Chicago? Or do you just, like, reset?”
Misty shifted in the back seat but said nothing. At least Kyle wasn’t looking at him like he was crazy anymore. The car was now going down the little road at about seven miles an hour as Kyle’s eyes darted between the rearview mirror and Dillon.
“Misty?” Kyle asked. “Tell this guy he’s crazy.”
“I don’t think she can. I don’t know what the rules for ghosts are, but it doesn’t seem like she can say or do much.”
“She’s not a ghost,” Kyle said half-heartedly.
“Get over it, Kyle. Oh, I know! If you can’t get to Chicago, maybe we can get a message to someone there. What’s your name? Like, your full name, don’t just say ‘Misty’ again.”
For the first time her face changed, a simple furrowed brow. She was thinking. Trying to remember.
“Misty Kowalski,” she said, spitting out the words like she had to pull them from somewhere.
“Oh, good,” Kyle said at the same time Dillon said, “Oh, fuck.”
“What? At least she didn’t say ‘Smith’ or something.”
“It’s Chicago, Kyle. Do you know how many Kowalskis are in Chicago? Okay, you’ve got to give us something else. An address. A name. Something. And we’ll find them, and tell them what happened. But you’ve got to give us something else, Misty.”
She looked like she was about to cry, now, but Dillon could tell she was trying. He could also sense the edge coming for them fast. Misty had just seconds left. He could see the dent in the forehead again. The blood. Now, though, he wasn’t scared.
And she was gone.
“What the hell was that?” Kyle asked.
Dillon sat straight in the car and fixed his clothes and seat belt. “It was a ghost, Kyle, Jesus, try to keep up. Now, we have to figure out how to tell the Kowalskis at Krakow Deli their daughter was murdered without them thinking we fucking did it.”