I’d just picked up the mail and was walking back to the house when I heard the yelling. I looked and could see an oversized SUV—that may be redundant—with someone leaning out of one of the passenger side windows yelling. I thought maybe they were picking up someone but then they drove down a few more doors and the same person leaned out the window and yelled again. I couldn’t see who they were or make out what they were saying but they drove past my house and up over the hill, then I heard yelling again. Maybe they were looking for someone they knew but it seems like a weird way to do it.
Since it’s that time of year it reminded me that there’s a handful of horror films about possessed vehicles—only a handful because the idea is just goofy. Stephen King is responsible for two: Christine and Maximum Overdrive, neither of which are frightening. There’s The Car, and I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. I’ve never understood how the idea of a demonically possessed vehicle is supposed to be scary. Once you get inside a building or even behind a solid wall you’re safe. Maybe the force that’s possessed the car can teleport it through solid matter, but if it’s that powerful why does it even need to be attached to the vehicle? And once the vehicle runs out of gas what’s the worst it could do? Play AM radio at you? Blind you with high-beams? Vehicles by themselves just aren’t scary. It’s who, or what, might be behind the wheel that is.
That reminded me of another incident from when I was a Boy Scout. At the time I was a patrol leader and I was walking a group of younger kids back to our campsite from a big gathering. It was always important to me that the new Scouts especially had fun. I’d seen so many drop out, some after just one or two meetings, or after their first camping trip, and I hated to see them go. I also felt more than a little responsible for them. I was, in most cases, three or four years older, but there’s a vast gulf between the years of eleven or twelve and sixteen, and at times I was the closest thing to an adult around. Not that I was always the best role model. Other patrol leaders would say, “Let’s learn how to tie a clove hitch,” but I’d say, “Let’s see who can stuff the most marshmallows in their mouth!” But the important thing was to have fun.
Anyway we were walking between the woods and an old country road when a car, an old, rusted Oldsmobile, drove by. Someone on the passenger side leaned out the window and yelled indistinguishable at us. We all stopped. The car was moving slowly and probably would have kept going if I hadn’t yelled, “Assholes!”
Like I said I wasn’t always the best role model.
The car screeched to a stop. And we all started running straight for the woods. There was a path through the woods but we weren’t close to it yet. We were taking our chances going straight into the trees. I should have stayed back to make sure the younger kids made it safely, since I was responsible for them and the trouble we were now in, but I only remember all of us running together. And a voice behind us: “Yeah, you’d better run!”
The people in the car must have decided we weren’t worth pursuing. When we finally stopped and looked back, the road still visible through the trees, the car was gone. We clambered through the trees to the path and back to our campsite where we sat down around the fire.
I was still pretty rattled, my heart thumping heavily, my lungs burning, but one of the kids just looked over me and grinned.
“That was fun!” he said.