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Two Hitchhikers on a Stormy Night

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Hank knew better than to stop and pick up a hitchhiker, but she was a tiny slip of a girl and it was raining. She didn't even have a jacket. He couldn't, in good conscience, leave her there.

So he pulled to the side of the road and stopped, pressing the button to release the locks so that she could let herself in.

She crawled into the backseat, which surprised him a little, but maybe she wanted space from him. No one had ever described Hank as small, unless they were being ironic.

"Where are you going?" Hank asked, trying extra hard to sound friendly. He wanted to make her comfortable, but he was just trying too hard. His voice came out all loud and fake, making him wince internally even though the girl didn't flinch.

She rattled off an address, one he didn't know, but apparently it was off of Jones Road, and he knew well enough how to get there.

"I'm Hank," he introduced himself.

"Amberley," she said.

"How'd you end up in this mess?" Hank asked, genuinely curious. "Why not get an Uber?"

She gave him a queer look. As far as he could tell from the slice of her face he could see in the rearview mirror, anyway.

"My boyfriend," she said. "He was drinking again. He wanted to take me home."

"Smart, not to get in the car," he said. "You want me to try to look for him, get him off the road?"

"No," she said. "I just want to go home."

They rode in silence for a bit, until Hank swerved sharply and she let out a shocked yell.

"Sorry," he said. He peered out the passenger-side window, frowning. The rain was really coming down. "I thought I saw someone."

Lightning cracked, and suddenly he could see an old woman on the other side of the window, looking in at them.

Hank screamed and just about crawled backwards out of the car. To his relief, Amberley had screamed too and seemed too busy staring at the old woman to have noticed him scuttling.

He rolled down the window. "Hello, ma'am. You need a ride?"

She smiled at him, revealing a smile in desperate need of a dentist. "Why, yes. Thank you, son," she said.

She too, got into the back, forcing Amberley to crawl over and sit behind him.

She gave Amberley a bit of a look. Before Hank could ask her anything, she said, "In my day, white men didn't drive colored girls around. Only one kind of colored girl would get in a car with a white man."

Both Hank and Amberley sat in stunned silence.

"Did you just call me a slut?" she asked.

The old woman sniffed.

Hank twisted round to look at her, sticking his face between the headrest and the door. She looked—well, appropriately pissed.

"Sorry," he whispered. "I can't leave an old lady out in this deluge, even a racist one."

She sneered at him, which kind of hurt, then sighed. "I getcha," she said.

"Where to?" he asked.

The old lady gave him an address, but he wasn't sure she had the right one.

"That must be right near the old cemetery," he said. He couldn't remember any houses 'round there.

The old woman nodded. Since he was looking at her in that little mirror, he failed to notice the way Amberley looked at her.

He pulled back into the road. This time, there was no conversation at all. The old lady had killed it.

Until she tried to revive it, that is.

"This war," she said. Intoned, really, if Hank were the sort to say such a thing. "This war is going to come for you. It's—."

"Neither of us want your thoughts on the draft," Amberley said.

"The draft?" The old woman shook her head, and then continued. "Weapons no man has ever beheld before—."

"We don't want your thoughts on biological warfare, either."

Hank thought Amberley was being a bit rude, but he also thought the old lady was kind of freaky.  He didn't exactly mind her interrupting the weird rants.

He'd never make it as a cab driver. Or an Uber driver. Good thing he wasn't in that business.

"Turn left here," Amberely said, startling him. He'd managed to zone out, which was a bad idea in this weather.

He shook his head briskly, taking the dark curve Amberely had indicated. They could really use a streetlight there. He reached down and then took a sip from his coffee cup, long since gone cold. It was bitter and nasty, but still caffeine.

"Right," she said.

He followed her continued directions, never noticing that periodically she reached over to pinch the old woman.

"Alright," she said. "We're here."

He coasted to a stop in front of a house with a "For Sale" sign stuck in the yard.

"You're moving?" he asked.

Amberely shrugged.

"C'mon," she said, looking at the old lady.

"Huh?" Hank asked.

"You're tired," Amberely said. "I can take her home."

He supposed Amberely must have her own car. It did look like there were a couple parked  in the driveway. Neither really looked like a teenager's car, but he supposed her family could be fairly well off. Her party dress did look nice, although he didn't know enough about fashion to have any other opinion on it.

He turned to look at the old lady, but she didn't say anything, so he supposed the new arrangement was alright with her, despite the sour look on her face. He worried more about Amberely, spending more time in the lady's poisonous company.

"I'll be all right," she said, as if she could hear his thoughts. "I'm home now."

She shooed the old woman out of the car, then scooted along the seats to follow her out on the same side.

It was odd, but his seats didn't look wet at all. Both of them had to have been dripping.

"Thanks for the ride," she said.

After she slammed the door shut, he put the car in gear. But he heard a tap, so he lowered the window.

"Go straight home, yeah? You're a nice guy," she said. "Don't pick up any more hitchhikers."

Hank obeyed, not even bothering to roll his window up, despite the rain blowing in the open window.

It had been Amberley's voice. But the girl he'd seen when he rolled the window down had no face. She was a skeleton, wearing nothing but the faded scraps of a pretty dress.

(Amberely hadn't refused her boyfriend's ride. She'd never refused a ride from anyone.)