GHOST IN THE CAR

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By Karl R.  De Mesa

My Friend Jack and I both had girlfriends who lived  in the Antipolo area.  This was  in the mid-nineties.  They also lived in the same suburban village to boot.  On Weekends,  we’d  usually go visit them at the same time and,  since we’d  usually finish up late  visiting with our significant others, we’d also go home together.

The ride home to Quezon City was long and  usually safer with a friend. Jack  had a car,  I didn’t  Jack hated  commuting, I hated riding with Jack.  As a typical speed demon with moody demeanor,  he’d commonly gun his car whenever the chance came up,  shout at other motorist who cut him off (whether they  did so intentianally  or not is beside the point to Jack),  and play tricks on poor me who was usually left a  gibbering mess riding  shotgun, what with the dozens of near collisions,  scrapes and pedestrian’s missed by inches. Hated it? Completely terrified  would be  right term. I’d  usually just fasten my seatbelt, tiltmy head on  the seat rest, and conk out on him until we reach QC.

Let Jack  pull all  the insane  stunts he wanted. Plus, I got a free ride home. The ghost in this story was the result of a prank. One of Jack’s favorite jokes  was to drive down the Antipolo road with the headlights off. A dangerous thing,  especially with all the blind curves, but that was Jack for you. I think  he got the idea from the  movie Urban Legend.  We scared quite a few cars when he would  suddenly turn on his  headlights .

If  any of them stopped in anger and seemed like they were going to pursue, no problem:  Jack would  just push his car faster until they got tired  or were left behind.  Jack was  very good at this,  mind you. In time, I stopped being scared of this  stunt and coped with it  by sleeping in Jack’s car.  On the few times that I was  actually awake,  Jack and I saw some weird things.

Shadows seemed  to cross at unusual places where there were no houses, people at  corners seemed to be waiting  for jeepneys or buses but there was nobody there when  you actually pass by. One time, a very big,  black dog without a collar was sitting in the  middle of the road and refused to budge  to the loud horn.

Jack and I were both superstitious so whenever Jack pulled his “no headlights, ma!, stunt, we’d lock our doors, fold the rear-view mirror and the side mirrors. We both believed ghosts could never be see directly, only from the corners of your eyes or on  reflective  surfaces. ”

“Why don’t you just stop with the ‘lights-out’ crap?” I asked Jack.

“Then  how would I stay awake with no kicks?” he retorted. “You’re always  sleeping!”

He had a point, so I just said, “Right.” and closed my eyes.

One time, I woke up and Jack was doing his stunt  once more.  He’d forgotten  to fold the mirrors though.  I pointed this out to him. “Oh yeah. Sorry,” Jack said. “Could  you fold  the mirror on your side?”

I folded  the side mirror on the passenger side. Before I could, I saw a girl  suddenly rise up from the back seat as if she  had just woken up from a nap. She  smiled at me, showing  perfectly even,  perfectly  white keyboard teeth. She  tucked her hair with  both hands behind her ears  then she looked out the window. Her smile was so sweet that I actually smiled back and, as inconspicuously  as I could, whispered to Jack,  “Who’s the  hot chick?” “Huh?” he shrugged. “Chick?”

This was when I turned to the back seat to say hello to her. Only there was no girl. The backseat was empty.  On the rear-view mirror I could still  see her looking out  on the open door window (we usually drove without the air conditioner since the Antipolo heights made it cool enough), one hand on her chin,  the wind buffeting her long,  slightly brownish hair. I poked Jack in the ribs.

“Stop playing  around and fold that mirror! What are you looking at anyway?” he  hissed. He was  already starting to fold  the mirror himself when  he too saw the girl.  We both looked  back.  Nothing in  the back seat. We looked  again at  the rear  view. The girl was  still there but this time the pretty face that seemed right  out of the  magazine cover had blood  running down one side  of her face and a  murderous  expresion that marred her beauty.

Jack and I  both screamed. In  retrospect,  we both  screamed  shrilly.  Jack stopped the car and we both ran as fast as we could out of sight  of the car. “She’s coming out!” Jack yelled and , looking back,  I could see one of the back  doors opening  so I ran faster.  I don’t  think I ever ran faster in my life. Not even when a neighbor’s  bulldog  had gotten free of its leash.  I was worried about rabies, but at least  they had  injection  shots for a bite.

This nameless terror Iwas fleeing from seemed out of reach of both physical and mental medicine.   Jack and  I stopped  at a sari-sari store that seemed like a mile away  but was  probably just several blocks off, it was closed but the lights were on outside. We  colapsed on the wooden benches. We hardly speak a word.

I stared out  at the lights  of the city.  Still in shock. Jack’s face as  was as white  as a sheet. We both were breathing through out months.  After about half an hour later, we were both getting cold. I got up and  muttered “Forget the ghost, let’s go.”  We both walked back to the car. There was a mounting  sense of horror in my gut as we neared Jack’s car. But there was  no girl. Only the back door,  on the passenger side,  remained open.

In all the confusion, it was amazing  how jack and I still had the presence of  mind to shut both our doors.  It was miraculous that the car itself was still there. Then  again,  there were no people or houses in sight. The first thing Jack did when  he got inside was to fold  the rear-view mirror  with his eyes closed, I got in. “She’s  gone,  “he said. “That’s the last time I’ll drive with  no lights.” Jack started the engine.  I shook my head  and pounded the dashboard. “Screw you, I’m taking  the jeep.”

We both did. Jack never took his car up to Antipolo ever again and wecommuted  there whenever  we visited our girls.  On the commute down, I try to avoid  looking in any mirrors.

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