Barry was listening to talk radio; some incessant rant about the end of the world, aliens and/or big foot sightings… hard to say, he was barely listening. It was the only thing on this early/this late on the lonely two-lane stretch of farm road; MO-23. The babble of the radio was only noise, so the poor clarity did not interfere with the irony of peace it brought him. Mile 13 was just ahead. Barry was doing his best not to let the anger boil him into action; a fight he waged nearly every night.
There is a swift curve at mile 13 that has the driving aroma of a sweet country cruise in the daylight, but at night it transforms into dead man’s curve, taking life and happiness from unsuspecting souls. Barry hasn’t seen the blissful daylight of this road in a long, long time. Every trip home, however, is a nightmare he cannot seem to avoid.
Barry is not a pessimist; not an angry man, but the sight of MO-23’s mile 13 makes him nearly scream. It’s the lingering death, the darkness that won’t leave him alone. “Why do idiots dress up this depressing site with flowers and memorial signs to the lost? Don’t they realize it’s worship to the tragedy? Greed from the grave? Can’t they see they’re inviting a deeply demented pool of bad karma?” Barry’s face begins to sweat with heat from his anger. The discomfort of his angst is about to take over; mile 19.
Barry Whitehead is a night watchman at Amtrak freight warehouses, Kansas City, Missouri. Having made this trip over the course of the last several years, he lost track after 20, Barry enjoys the peace of the ride up to this point. He wishes somehow the local authorities would see the danger of the road and take action to eliminate it. The stories of lost lives are extensive enough to warrant action, but due to inadequate funding or just lack of interest in the rural community the county has never even sought to bring change. MO-23 mile 13 induces the best campfire stories in the not too distant Ozark Mountain/Lake reserves. Stories of the horrible accidents and the ghosts that inhabit/haunt the nearby properties are abundant from the school age children to the adults. It’s a sick source of entertainment as far as Barry’s concerned. He has a mind to stop and have words with those that hold vigils along the roadside.
He’s not a violent man, but he swears he could just grab them by the neck and shake them ‘til they drop. “Don’t you know there’s no such thing as ghosts?” he wants to confront their superstitions. “You’re just making it worse! Reminding those, like me, who have to travel this route night after night after night with no escape from the torment!”
“There are no ghosts; there are no lost spirits or other worldly unrest,” Barry thinks inside his anger. Punching at the steering wheel he looks into his rearview mirror to see dim headlights slowly gaining on him from behind and is reminded of the local lore of a ghost that wanders, that drives this way in some sort of haunting mission. Legend says he died here, but rides in some oddly transfixed remorse. Barry is a firm non-believer, but whenever he is inside mile 20 and a car approaches him from behind, he cannot help but gasp a little inside his deepest fear. Tho’ reported by many, even in the local newspaper, he has never witnessed anything other than what appeared to be only another lonely motorist in a desolate place. Nothing even remotely suspicious or enchanting ever seems to develop.
Barry swerves into the fortunate, vacant oncoming lane to avoid a collision with the approaching vehicle. “Damn!” he shouts as the half-asleep driver cruises past him without even as much as a drift into reality. Barry is always on the alert for idiots… too many out these days. He’s praying this fool won’t become a mile 13 casualty right before his eyes tonight. Every time Barry gets a close call like this he promises openly and wholeheartedly that when he gets home he will write to his county/state representatives about this danger. Put currency on the issue and rid him of guilt he has at moments like this. If this driver ends up another casualty; if Barry has to endure another solemn roadside family vigil that already seem to fill his nights, he’ll simply go nuts.
Mile 13; on the approach… a family of mourners is staked out on the discordant property once again. The inattentive driver negotiates the curve with only a slight drift onto the daring slight shoulder. Still, Barry cannot take the behavior of mindless roadside watch and stops to let them know, once and for all. Recklessly pulling off the road, Barry jumps out in a swift anger.
“I cannot bear this any longer!” his shouting seems to have their immediate attention by the faces and eyes before him although nobody speaks. “I pass by here night after night and I cannot stand the darkness you bring to an otherwise uneventful ride home! I am angry! Angry that you are raising concerns for the dead in a manner that places you in danger of becoming yet another casualty and fireside story. If a car should careen your way on this already known trouble spot, what would you do? Do you have no sense? Do you?!” Barry looks into the blank, frightened stares of his audience.
Shaking his head in disbelief, he walks away from the small crowd. “You are adding to the tragedy of an already horrible situation. Please let me go; let me live in peace,” Barry said faintly, his voice distant; out of juice from his storm front entrance, waning in its ineffectiveness. “Please? I just wanna go home… I just wanna go home.”
Barry drove off towards home in complete silence, doubtful that he got through to them. Sure that his anger would return this dreadful feeling over and over again. Angry about it still; angry forever.
The morning paper printed “Ghost of Barry Whitehead Reported on MO-23; Mile 13, Again”.
Copyright: © 2009 Drake
Drake~ comes from the dark blood countryside of Carolina, the Southland. He grew up trying to love, but hate turned him bloody. It wasn't until December 2009 that he decided to sling his blood on you. He only writes to remind you that your fears are true and your horror is real. He has no other life.