A short journey into one of the many phenomena that shadow our world, just beyond our reach.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Mike’s grin grew with every passing second.
“Of course not! Why would I? There’s absolutely no proof in what you’re saying.” Sheryl’s grin grew in proportion with his.
“Does there need to be?”
“Absolutely. If I can see it, then I’ll believe it.”
“That’s it.” Mike’s watched her and his smile faded as his eyes moved down to stare at the silver cross hanging on a chain from her neck.
“What about that?”
“You believe in God, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.”
“Ever seen him?”
“Then how do you know he exists?”
“Yes. God is a certainty. Ghost’s aren’t.”
“You know, the Bible says blessed are those who believe, but have not seen.”
“That’s referring to God, not ghosts.”
“I know it is, but my point is that some things are believable even without seeing them.”
“Prove it,” said Sheryl. Mike pulled away from her and slouched against the driver seat, his hands tapping the steering wheel.
“Okay, I will.” His fingers slid around the keys in the ignition and fired up the engine. The pick-up truck pulled out of the driveway and sped off down the street. They drove across town to a part of the city Sheryl hadn’t seen before. The houses were smaller and had bars on the windows. The lawns were filled with colored leaves, discarded by the autumn breeze. The cars were old and rusted over. Sheryl stared out the window then back at Mike, expecting him to speak. He didn’t.
Three side streets later, Mike pulled the truck to a stop and popped the gearshift into park. Sheryl’s eyes wondered up and down the block, watching rundown, boarded-up houses, abandoned years ago until she caught site of the old black-iron gate. There was no name on top, but after looking past it, there was no need for one. Behind the gate sat rows and rows of dilapidated, weathered gravestones, some large and some small. Sheryl looked down at her hands. They were trembling and she folded her arms up against her chest to cover them. Once again, she looked up and down the street. There were no lamps and the houses around them were pitch black. The moon provided the only source of light, casting a pale glow on everything.
“Get out of the truck with me for a moment.” As Mike spoke, he opened his door and looked at her. She shook her head.
“No way! I’m not getting out of the truck in this neighborhood. No thank you!” Mike’s lips curled into a frown.
“Come on. It’ll only take a second. I need to show you something. Trust me.” Sheryl stared at him for a long moment until her legs and arms began to move as she opened her door and stepped out of the truck. She followed Mike around to the back of the truck. Sheryl raised her eyebrows.
“Why in the world do you have baking soda in the bed of your truck?” Mike smiled.
“Just give me a minute.” He scooped his hand into the bag, pulled out a handful of the white powdery material and threw it against the bumper of his truck. After several more handfuls, the truck’s rear bumper was covered with a fine coating of powdered baking soda. Sheryl glanced up and down the street, a shiver running down her spine. Mike closed the bag and tossed it back into the bed of the truck. He turned towards Sheryl, wiping his hands against each other as he spoke. “Okay. Now we’re set. Let’s get back in the truck.”
As Sheryl pulled herself up into the seat, she pulled the door shut behind her and yelped in pain.
“Are you okay?” Mike jerked his head around to look at her. Her jaw clenched, Sheryl took a deep breath. The door behind her had swung back open. Mike saw it and reached over to Sheryl, his hand on her shoulder. “Is your foot okay?” Sheryl flopped herself down on the seat, leaned over, and pulled the door closed again, slamming it shut. She pulled her leg towards her chest and rubbed her throbbing ankle.
“Yes, I’m fine. It just hurts a little.” Mike squeezed her shoulder. After a minute or two, he spoke again.
“Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?” Sheryl put her leg back on the floor and look at Mike. His eyes had small flashes of light, a gleam that made her uncomfortable. Mike started the truck.
“Let’s do it.” He popped the truck into drive and they began to move.
“You’ll see.” Sheryl looked away from Mike’s grinning face and noticed they we’re passing under the gates of the graveyard. She turned to stare at him.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“I don’t like the feeling of this.”
“Trust me. It’ll get worse.”
“Just be patient.”
“That’s reassuring.” Sheryl leaned back against her seat, trying to act cool and casual, knowing she wasn’t fooling Mike or herself. The truck passed row after row of gravestones. Sheryl tried to catch some of the names and dates to no avail. It was too dark and the moonlight was just strong enough to pass through the thickened branches of the overhead trees that had sprung up along each side of the gravel road and among the gravestones. “It’s like an old movie,” Sheryl thought. She half-expected to hear the call of a wolf in the distance or the whisper of the wind against the trees, but there was neither, just unnerving silence.
After driving for a few minutes, Sheryl glanced through the various windows of the cab and couldn’t find the gate from which they’d entered. All she could see was row upon row of gravestones. Goosebumps perked up on her skin. It was at this moment that Mike stopped the truck, shut off the engine, and popped the gearshift into neutral. Sheryl’s head whipped around to face him.
“Are you crazy? What are you doing?
“Not afraid are you?”
“Well, to tell the truth, yes, I’m starting to be!”
“Relax!? Relax?! How can I do that? We’re in the middle of a ghetto graveyard in the middle of the night and you want me to relax?!”
“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
“Well I wish you’d tell me because I have no friggin’ clue!
“Just hold you horses for a moment and be quiet.”
“Hold my hors…”
“Just shut up for minute, okay?” Sheryl cleared her throat and opened her mouth again to speak, but Mike put his index finger over it, silencing her. She settled back into her seat and folded her arms into a perturbed position. Mike turned to stare out the windshield. Everything around them was silent as a tomb. Sheryl’s anger faded and her hands began to tremble again.
Without warning, the truck lurched slightly to one side and began to slowly move down the gravel road on its own. Sheryl whirled around, expecting to see some of Mike’s buddies pushing the truck like staged prank, but there was no one. Moving at a crawl, they passed row after row of gravestones, the gravel road crunching beneath them. Sheryl’s heart began to thump in her chest as she kept looking over her shoulder.
“This isn’t funny!”
“You’re right,” Mike replied. “But it’s kind of cool, don’t you think?”
“Of course not! The game’s over! Tell you buddies back behind the truck to stop jerkin’ us around!”
“Check your side view mirror, Sheryl.” Mike was as nonchalant as Cheryl had ever seen him. Rolling her eyes, she looked into the side view mirror with a clear view of the back of the truck. No one was there. Sheryl’s mouth fell open.
“You see,” said Mike. “There’s no one there, just like I said.” The truck began to slow down and Sheryl noticed they had reached the bottom of a hill. In front of them, the gravel road went uphill again.
“Very funny! You thought you could fool me into thinking there were ghosts by letting the car slide downhill!” She inhaled, trying to muster a laugh, but what came out sounded more like a raspy cough instead. Her head whirled around again as the truck started moving, now taking them uphill. Once again she glanced into the side view mirror then looked out the back window. No one was there. She slipped her hand over Mike’s and squeezed it. Her body huddled up against his.
“I don’t like this. I don’t like it one bit at all!” she hissed.
“Don’t worry” Mike tone was gentle. “It’s almost over.” He pointed his finger and Sheryl noticed they were passing through another black-iron gate. Once they passed under the archaic archway, the truck drifted to a stop. It was a long time before Sheryl would let go of Mike’s hand or even move at all. Finally, Mike spoke. “There’s one more thing I want to show you.”
“What?” Sheryl spoke with a whisper. After some intense coaxing on Mike’s part, the two of them got out of the truck on Mike’s side and made their way around to the truck bed. Mike pointed to the bumper he had coated with baking soda.
“Do you believe me know?” he said. The baking soda was covered with dozens and dozens of faint hand prints as if many people had been pushing against the bumper
For another work by Solman, see Mountain