Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A Trip Into the Twilight Zone

I'm a driver. I love to hop in the car on a Saturday with my camera and just head out with nothing specific in mind for my destination. Or on my way back from somewhere and I have nothing urgent to be doing, I'll veer off the beaten path and explore a road that I have never been down. I love to roll down the windows, turn on the CD player with a good disc, and just cruise. Sometimes you strike out and other times you find something interesting. But once, I stepped out into the Twilight Zone.

The Leonids were at their peak and I was experimenting with a homemade time release rig that I had put together for my camera since I didn't have the money to spend on a cable release model. So I decided to get up at dark thirty in the morning and head north of town to see what kind of pictures I could capture. At the time I lived in Davenport, which is fairly big city, and I had to travel quite a ways to escape the light pollution. I had gone about fifteen or so miles and was looking for a good lightless spot when a thick fog started rolling in.

I was soon lost in a sea of fog without any idea of where I was. I knew that eventually I would drive out to someplace I could recognize so I wasn't too worried. After about a half hour, the fog was pierced by the glow of a gas station sign and I pulled in to grab a donut and some juice since dawn would be arriving shortly. There were three other vehicles, one at the gas pump, on near the door and one around the side. I parked near the one by the door leaving it some room since the hood was up and I thought somebody might be working on it. As I walked around the car towards the lighted door, I did indeed someone underneath the hood pouring antifreeze into the radiator. His face was lost in shadows underneath the bill of his cap but the head followed me all the way to the door. Chills ran up my spine and I quick stepped it into the warmth and light inside.

Inside as I made my way to the coolers, I noticed a young man and woman both dressed in clothes that looked like they had been wearing for several years. Their hair was a greasy black and hung down to the smalls of their backs. Both has on dirty baseball caps pulled down almost as low on the foreheads as their baggy pants were around their waists. They were walking up and down the aisles but looking at nothing but the floor about ten feet in front of them. I kept an eye on them as I got some orange juice and a couple donuts especially whenever they walked down the aisle I was in and never did they stop and look at something. They just kept on shuffling around aimlessly.

I walked up to the cashier who was the only one not wearing a baseball cap. He had large bags under some very tired looking eyes and when he spoke my total, I could see he was missing quite a few teeth. I was positive that he was one of the two hillbillies right out of the movie Deliverance. I was seriously starting to get creeped out. When I got my change, I started for the door when the cashier started mumbling something and then laughed. I pushed the door open and speed walked to my car while the shadow faced man again watched me the entire time.

I threw my donuts and juice in the passenger seat not caring if they landed frosting side up or down and started the engine. I didn't worry about the seatbelt, I just threw the car in gear and got the hell out of Dodge. As the lights faded in the rearview mirror, I kept checking to see if headlights would leave and start following me but they never did. After a couple minutes I regained my composure enough to put on my seatbelt and salvage the donuts. I stumbled across a highway that I knew about ten minutes later and headed south toward the city and the safety of my apartment.

A couple months later on my way home from a business trip, I cruised out in that area looking for the gas station while it was in broad daylight. I drove all the roads but never could find it though I am certain I was in the right area. I have kept thinking that it was all in my head and that the dark foggy night just amplified my senses to give me that creepy feeling. But deeper in the recesses of my brain, I can't help but wonder if for a moment, I really did take a trip into the Twilight Zone.

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