When I was a little girl and I was having trouble sleeping, my mom and dad would take me out for a drive around our small town. When I say “small,” I mean that it was so insignificant then that not even ubiquitous corporations like McDonalds or Walmart had seen any value in setting up shop there. It took less than 10 minutes to drive from the east side of town where we lived, to the west side where the old Methodist church and the new post office were the last landmarks before the long stretch of empty farmland that lay between us and the next dead end town.
On those drives, we’d always listen to the same radio station. It was a soft rock station that broadcast from the college town about 20 miles north of us. My dad’s old Chevy Impala didn’t have a digital radio, so I didn’t know the exact frequency, just that my parents called it “108”. I was too young then to remember much besides the genre of the music it played. The only song that stuck with me was “The Glory Of Love” by Peter Cetera, because for whatever reason, my little kid brain thought that “Cetera” was a hilarious name.
So we’d head out after dark on the nights when I couldn’t sleep, and usually by the time we got to the Methodist church, I had already passed out. Some nights I’d last longer, though, and still be awake when dad would take a left at the post office, and we’d head to the south side of town. These days, that part of town is developed, with a bunch of identical subdivision houses and even a park. Back then, though, it was barren, with just a few really run down rock homes that looked like they were probably built in the ’40s, and a lone business, a spooky old garage that my dad just called “the transmission shop.”
What really got to me about that part of town, though, was the literal dead end where dad would turn around if I hadn’t gone to sleep yet. It looked like the city had started working on extending the road, but then abandoned the project and left all the heavy machinery behind. There were no street lights there, so the only illumination would come from the Impala’s headlights, and I was always worried that when we would turn around I would catch sight of a person sneaking around between the backhoe and the road grater that were parked there.
On the night I finally did see something, I had actually drifted off early in the drive, coaxed to sleep by 108’s lite rock lullabies. I didn’t stay asleep for long, though. I don’t know if I just happened to wake up, or if dad hit the brakes too hard when he came to a stop, but all of a sudden I was jolted awake. By sheer idiot luck, I didn’t say anything or make a move. The radio was still on, but 108 had been overtaken by a loud, distorted pinging noise, a song still barely audible in the distance. The car was stopped at the dead end with the construction equipment. But my parents were just sitting there, staring straight ahead, not talking or paying any attention to the fact that I was awake.
I was only brave enough to raise up for a second and try to see what mom and dad were looking at. The Impala’s headlights were switched to the high beams, and pointed right at that spot between the backhoe and the road grater, and just as I always feared, there was something there. Whatever it was, it didn’t move. It just stood there, facing the car, just enough in the shadows of those huge machines that I couldn’t make it out beyond recognizing it as basically human shaped. It was holding something, a box maybe, with a single blue light that was pointed toward us. I instantly laid back down in the back seat and closed my eyes as tight as I could. I knew something was wrong, but again either by luck or being paralyzed with fear, I didn’t draw attention to myself. I just lay there, shivering in terror, waiting on dad to take off again and get as far from that dead end as possible.
I have no idea now how long I laid there waiting. All I remember is the overwhelming relief when I finally felt the car begin to move. The most terrifying thing, though, was that neither of my parents seemed to realize that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Eventually 108 crawled back out from under that awful metallic ping, the car took off at a normal speed, and mom and dad resumed their idle chit-chat in the front seat. Neither of them mentioned the terrible thing hiding in the shadows of the machinery.
After that, even on nights when I was having trouble sleeping, I would fake it to make sure I wasn’t taken out for another drive to that dead end. I never addressed what happened with mom or dad. I wasn’t sure if they even knew themselves. If they didn’t, they would never have believed my story. If they did, though, and they never felt like it was something they needed to talk to me about…I don’t know, I’m not sure I would want to know their reasons for that.
A few years later, 108, which by that time I knew as 107.9 FM, changed formats to classic rock. I still can’t stand to tune it in.