The Hitch Hiker
by: Dennis R. Humphreys
Marty and Celeste Swanson left their home in Maryland early that day on their way to visit relatives in Owensboro, Kentucky. It was a long drive about, seventeen hours but they liked to get an early start and drive through. They could recuperate once they got there. Still leaving at three in the morning, they knew they wouldn't get there until about eight o'clock that night.
Once outside of the D.C. area they began travelling through more picture perfect surroundings...rolling hills of bright green grass and many small towns. They packed sandwiches so they wouldn't have to stop. Celeste would pull food and other nibbles from the cooler in the back seat and hand them to Marty as he drove. A couple of quick pit stops along the way is all they needed to make, at a couple of rest stops along the way.
Marty had taken the week off his work as an environmental engineer and Celeste was between jobs having decided to give notice, her time ending with their departure. She wouldn't worry about searching for something new until they got back. Marty had twelve years in with his company at forty six while Celeste had been working as a nurse since college with for twenty one years. She was ready for something different and part time. She could afford to do it with the money they put away and their investments.
Traffic was sparse until later in the day by around nine o'clock. People headed to work were already there and those headed out for an early weekend were hitting the road. In the back of his head, Marty wondered if he remembered to turn off the coffee maker when they left. He was obsessive about certain things and he always questioned his ability to remember to do that.
“I'll call mother and have her go over to check,” Celeste assured him. It wasn't the first time she did this. Every time she did, he had turned the pot off, but you couldn't be too careful and her husband wouldn't rest until he knew the thing was off.
“I know mother...we ought to just plan on you going over there to see as soon as we leave just to make sure. Alright...thank you,” Celeste told her and hung up.
Travelling through Ohio, clouds began to form on the horizon. It looked like rain. Marty hated driving in rain. It scared him and he always imagined the worst. After another two hours an occasional raindrop hit the windshield and after a half hour more it began pouring in torrents but subsided after twenty minutes. However, it was now one of those steady, soaking rains that farmers and gardeners loved. Marty cursed as large freight trucks zoomed by ten miles over the speed limit and sent water cascading over the car. The first second or two was the worst as the windshield wipers lagged clearing the volume of water that hit the windshield. For that second or two it was impossible to see the road.
“Damn trucks, why are they going this fast in these conditions. They're going to cause an accident!” he'd exclaim as he touched the brakes.
“You can hardly see out of these windows!” Celeste complained. “Pull into the slow lane and slow it down more. We can't afford to have and accident.”
The weather suddenly cleared so Marty again picked up speed but soon he could see in the distance, what appeared to be a line of rain and dark clouds again.
“Look like we have more bad weather coming,” Marty observed.
“Stay in the slow lane. We don't need to rush in this stuff,” his wife warned so he did.
Soon the rain was coming down heavy again and it looked like most of the cars began to slow down. It was getting hard to keep the windows inside the car clear even with the fan blowing full speed they got fogged. Celeste spent time wiping the windows with a rag she had, trying to keep them clear for her husband who was getting nervous. He didn't like driving in this and especially for as long as they had.
Water was running off the road in torrents. It couldn't drain quickly enough.
Again a large truck tore by blinding Marty to the road with all the water it engulfed the car with and Marty let out a string of curses that would make a sailor blush.
“Honey is that a person up ahead walking along the shoulder of the road?” Celeste asked as there appeared to be someone in a hoody walking hunched over in the downpour.
“Sure is. Got caught in the rain,” Marty told her the obvious.
“Poor dear. Honey stop and pick them up,” Celeste told her husband.
Marty didn't like picking up strangers along the road, hitch hikers and the like. It was chancy this day and age but he felt sorry for whoever it was out on this lonely stretch of road in the open at the mercy of the weather so he pulled over onto the shoulder and beeped his horn. The individual turned around and looked, than ran back to their car. Celeste opened the back door and the person got in. It was only then they could see it was a young man around twenty three or so when he pulled his hoody down.
“Thanks...I really appreciate this. Not too many people would stop along this road for a stranger,” the young man told them.
“We couldn't let you walk along here in this rain. You're soaking wet and you're hard to see. Someone could hit you,” Celeste told him.
“Where are you headed?” Marty asked as he pulled back into the slow lane and stepped on the gas. He was afraid, going too slow someone might rear end him.
“Up the road about thirty more miles. There's a small town there I'm headed to,” the man told them.
“”I'm Marty, by the way and that's my wife Celeste,” he told the hitch hiker.
“I'm Nabriel,” the young man announced, nodding his head.
“Nabriel...that's an unusual name,” Celeste commented.,
“My parents were unusual people,” Nabriel responded. “They were kind of like old hippies.”
“Well Nabriel, if you're hungry there's plenty to eat in that cooler next to you. Look inside and see if anything suits you,” Celeste told him.
“Oh, no thanks. I'm not hungry,” said the passenger.
“Do you travel much the way you're doing?” Celeste asked.
“I travel a lot but not by hitching,” Nabriel informed her. “It's kind of my job.”
“What line of work are you in?” Marty asked looking at their passenger in the rearview mirror.
“Sort of a travel consultant,” the man responded.
“”Oh, like with a travel agency? Marty's wife asked.
“Yes, that's right,” he answered her.
“Then you do travel quite a bit. What brought you out here on the highway in this rain?” Marty asked noticing the rain was stopping and there was a clear spot in the sky
“Actually, I'm between jobs right now, I'll be getting another up the way.” he told them. “Doing the same thing.”
“At least it's clearing. I won't make you get out now that it stopped raining. We'll take you as far as we can go,” Marty told him laughing.
“I really appreciate your kindness. In this world and the next that goes along way,” he told the couple.
“I swear we came by here a little while ago in the rain but that couldn't be. We haven't turned off anywhere and got turned around,” Marty mentioned.
They drove for awhile and the clouds cleared and the sun was shining brightly when Celeste spotted an accident up the way.
“We should stop. No one else has. Someone might be injured, Celeste said worriedly. “We can call 911,” Celeste suggested.
Marty pulled off the road onto the shoulder right behind the car. It looked like something large had hit it.
“Damn...it looks just like our car,” Marty said turning off the engine.
The couple and their passenger got out and walked to the other car. Looking in, Marty was shocked. He was looking at himself. Celeste was equally in shock when she saw the woman in the passenger seat. She looked like her.
“What the hell,” Marty said in disbelief and saw the same cooler in the back.
In disbelief to find two people looking like them in a the same car, he walked to the back and gazed at the license plate...a Maryland plate CX1909,,,the same as theirs!
It was then Nabriel intervened and spoke.
“You had an accident here, earlier before you picked me up in the rain after that truck passed you. I'm sorry. Let me reintroduce myself. I am Nabriel, the collector of souls.