Admire and Johannes bounced along the forest road, their tyres crunching leaves and kicking up dust. It was dark in the forest, chilly mist providing the only break from the deepest black.
Admire spoke non-stop to a nodding Johannes. He had learnt to shut up and listen, Admire didn’t give him a chance. As soon as they were through the forest and Admire had relaxed, he would get a word in. Johannes understood that Admire was scared, no – petrified of driving through this stretch home. It was unavoidable as the alternate route took him nearly 30 miles further out of his way. So he pocketed his fear and drove through.
What the men didn’t know was that there was a gas leak, undetectable by the broken gas indicator. Admire knew he had enough gas to get home, but that was before the gas leak stopped him short in the deepest part of the forest.
Mid-sentence Admire was interrupted by a rude jerk which caused Johannes to bang his head on the window.
‘What was that?’ Admire shook his head, eyes wide.
Another jerk later and the engine sputtered and died. Admire paled, pumping the petrol he tried again. Nothing. The men looked at each other in fear as the car ticked and popped then ran silent. The quiet of the forest surrounded the car.
‘Bugger man, didn’t you fill up?’ Admire nodded shocked at the stop. He looked out through the windscreen into his worst nightmare. The forest.
‘Why here?’ Admire asked his voice shaking. ‘Oh man, what do we do? Wait?’
Johannes shook his head ‘it could be ages before someone passes through here and we can walk home before then. Let’s go man!’ Admire looked terrified and sat dead still trying to see into the deep dark.
‘No! Let’s lock ourselves in, we’ll be fine.’ The fine came out shaky and shrill.
‘No way am I sitting here forever. Don’t be a scaredy cat Admire!’ But Admire was, and he didn’t know what was worse, waiting in the car alone or walking through the dank, black forest. Johannes opened the door and got out. Admire was white-knuckling the steering wheel.
‘You coming?’ He shook his head.
‘Bye.’ The mist swallowed up Johannes within 5 feet of the car, silence swirled. The air tasted cold.
‘Wait, wait’ a shrill voice said. ‘I’m coming’ Admire had to force his hands to let go but managed to get out and lock the car. He ran into the mist almost sending Johannes flying, making him shout and stumble.
‘Sorry. I’m sorry’ Admire said, so happy to see him that he almost kissed him. Johannes eyed him suspiciously and they took off. Tree fingers pulled at their hair and clothing scaring them. An owl hooted close by making Admire move closer to Johannes. For once Johannes had the upper hand and was going to take full advantage.
Johannes stopped suddenly ‘What’s that?’
‘What?’ Admire listened, his heart beating in his chest.
Johannes burst out laughing and Admire aimed a fist at him, but he wouldn’t follow through, he didn’t want to be alone in this place. They walked on, their footsteps dampened by the thick mist. Johannes chatted away giving Admire a taste of his own medicine. Admire strained his ears past the talking, listening for anything unusual.
The first time he heard it, he dismissed it as his imagination. The second time he stopped dead.
‘Johannes shut up. What was that?’
‘It’s nothing but your imagination Scaredy Cat’
‘No I heard it before.’
‘Rubbish.’ Johannes started walking again, his mouth moving as fast as his feet.
“What now?’ Johannes whined. ‘Stop imagining things, its driving me cra…’
‘Good evening’ A strange voice said, making both men jump.
‘H…h…hello?’ Johannes said while Admire cowered behind him.
‘Good evening’ the voice said again politely.
‘Who’s there?’ Johannes tried his best to sound brave.
‘I’m Gaylord.’ Both men burst out laughing.
‘Did I say something funny?’ A stout man stepped into view. He was dressed in a smart dark suit, carried a cane and his mustache was licked into perfection.
Admire grabbed Johannes’s arm scaring them both.
‘S…sorry. No you didn’t.’ Johannes said gaining his composure.
‘What are you doing here?’ the stranger asked, ‘do you need help?’
Admire said ‘Yes please we have run out of gas.’ He nattered on about the car, where they left it and what they needed until Johannes interrupted him.
‘Thank you, Sir, but we will be fine. We are walking back home and will come back in the morning.’ The stranger looked from one to the other. ‘I can help you, come with me’ he said gesturing back the way they came.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ Admire asked as Johannes backed away pulling his arm. ‘He can help us.’ Gaylord stepped forward.
‘No, no we’re fine thank you.’ Johannes said. Admire stared at him almost missing the nod Johannes gave towards the strangers’ feet. Admire balked. There were no feet! He was floating on mist or cloud or whatever that was and it scared the hell out of the men.
They both stepped back now moving as fast as they could backwards. Gaylord looked confused then furious.
“Where are you going? I can help you.’ His brows knitted together like mating caterpillars and his pale face seemed to turn transparent, the men turned tail and ran. Johannes was fitter and lighter than Admire and soon gained ground. Admire had a split second to decide.
He didn’t have to outrun the ghost, just Johannes.
‘HEY!’ he shouted and Johannes turned, slowing. Admire jumped, kicking him in the stomach, he went down hard making an “Oomph” sound. Admire jumped over him and kept going, terror making his legs pump and feet fly.
‘Hey bastard!’ Johannes shouted, then went quiet until Admire heard him scream. He ducked behind a fallen tree on the side of the road and tried to slow his breathing. Johannes screamed again. Then heard dragging which slowly got further and further away. He was torn – go after Johannes or go get help, there wasn’t much choice really. He left well aware that he was running through a black hell and made good time getting back home.
Admire raised the alarm and a group of men got together but nothing he said would make them go to the forest at night. At first light they set off, finding the car and re-gassing it.
Admire told them that there was a stranger called “Gaylord” in the forest but the men were skeptical. They searched for hours for poor Johannes but found no trace.
Admire kept his opinion of what happened to basic facts, leaving out the part where he kicked him so that he could get away.
No-one ever heard from Johannes again. Admire now drives the extra distance around the forest, scared that he will meet Gaylord or worse, Johannes.