Like a lot of other people, I live in more than one world. Most of the time, I live in the same world you do, or one very similar: the tv-news world of the lowest common experience. But sometimes I cross over to the Other Side, where the rules really are different. Oh, it looks pretty much the same, but it really isn’t. Things are changed in small and subtle ways, like the smell of the air, and the colors of light.
This is a story from the other side. Worst of all: it’s true.
One evening around seven, while I still lived in my original tiny apartment in Fort Lauderdale, Sue called. She was a wonderful girl, with the type of personality that gave first rise to the term bubbly. I was surprised to hear from her, as we had not spoken in a while, in the way these things sometimes happen. Her voice was a whisper.
“Can you come get me right now?”
“Sure, what’s up?” I cheerfully countered. I was very glad to hear from her.
“Just come and get me now. I can’t stay on the phone.”
There was a click, then nothing, so I threw some clothes on, and jumped into my Chevy tank. Sue only lived about fifteen or twenty minutes from me in a quiet suburban area near my folks, and it was obvious that I had to hurry.
During the drive there, my mind was racing. My initial elation in getting her call had faded quickly. I had no idea what she needed, or why she was whispering. She lived with her parents, but it was early in the evening, so there would be no need for quiet. I wondered what could be the problem, that she would call me out of the blue after over two months.
As I made the right onto her street, I started to get a creepy feeling, like something was wrong. I saw her walking towards my car, from the bushes at the side of the road. She was saying something, but I had the AC on and couldn’t hear. I rolled down the passenger window to hear her, and she started to shout “Look out!” I turned, and saw a burly man with a baseball bat running toward my side of the car. I sped up slightly, moving toward her.
“Get in the car, damn it!” I leaned over and opened the side door. Sue started screaming.
“Just go! He won’t hurt me, he’s my father! But he’ll kill you!” I tried desperately to get her in the car, but she just told me to go away, and started running back to her house. I was creeping the car forward, trying to convince her to come with me, when I heard the crack of the bat against the back of my car.
I tried one final desperate time to persuade her, but without success. She promised that she would call me in an hour, then bolted for the house. I wheeled the big car around as I heard another thump from the back, and saw the man in my side mirror holding the bat overhead like an executioner’s axe. I maliciously threw the car in reverse and gunned it, just to see him jump, then drove away.
I was a bit shaken by this, and frantic that something would happen to Sue. I was too stupid (and scared, I admit it), to call the police, like I should’ve. I rationalized unreasonably that with the noise and shouting, one of the neighbors would do it. Since I never heard anything in the papers, though, I guess no one did.
On the way home, I felt lightheaded, from the adrenaline, I guess. I pulled in at a Burger King drive-thru to get a soda, but it had changed. The outside window was now on the wrong side of the building, making it necessary to lean over to the passenger side to pay. I thought that I had pulled in wrong, and started to pull around, but the girl at the window laughed and told me that I was okay. She was surprisingly pleasant, so I looked at her name tag to get her name. It read “Sue.”
I paid for my Coke and drove on. It started to rain, a south Florida winter drizzle, and I saw a woman in jeans and a plain white t-shirt at the side of the road hitching. I pulled over to offer her a ride, but she wouldn’t get in.
From there I turned onto State Road 84, heading home. The drizzle had gotten a little stronger, although it still wasn’t too bad. A short way up, the highway passed through a very small patch of woods, near a waterway. The trees weren’t anywhere near the road, but the sudden lack of civilized clutter was always disconcerting. It was even more disconcerting when the car 50 feet in front of me suddenly started swerving all over the road.
Immediately I looked for the source of the problem, probably a raccoon or a stray dog on the road. No, nothing that mundane. The road was swarming with small shiny objects, wave after wave of them from the south. They were land crabs, heading for the canal on the north side, swarming across the rain slick highway.
There was nothing I could do but run over them. The car was filled with the sickening crunch of their shells. A couple even hit my windshield, probably thrown up by the car in front of me. They scrabbled in vain for a foothold, inevitably sliding off the sides.
Less than a minute later I had passed out of the zone, and ten minutes after that I was home. I didn’t look at my car when I got out of it; I was hoping the steadily increasing rain would wash away the evidence of the carnage. However, I did notice a couple of survivors scuttling towards the trash cans as I headed for the door.
The vigil began. I waited by the phone all night for Sue’s call, which never came. I was going out of my mind with indecision. Would I be putting her in danger by calling? Should I just call the police, and wash my hands of the situation? Maybe I should drive by there again, sometime after three in the morning, when he should be asleep. Eventually I conked out, and crossed back over.
Sue called at 8:30 the next morning, while I was showering. After a mumbled apology for not calling when she promised, she told me that everything was okay.
“What do you mean, okay? He was running around with a baseball bat, for God’s sake!”
“It’s okay, really, Kevin. Just relax about it. We had a misunderstanding, that’s all. It might be better if you didn’t call for a while, though. Dad’s pretty pissed off at you.”
I tried to argue with her, but without success. She promised to call me and explain the whole story later, but she never did.
I spoke to her once, a couple of years later. When I brought up the incident, she didn’t even remember it. Then when I asked for her number, she wouldn’t give it to me, and she never called me again.