When Shades spotted another look-alike hitchhiker standing in front of the entrance to an exclusive lakefront community, he knew old Nimrod would be reciting his Rational Explanations like a bible-thumper quoting long-memorized scripture. Had to admit he wasn’t too far from it himself.
Just what he had been hoping not to see. He was now about ten minutes away from Lakeside, and his mind started asking questions it had previously kept to itself. Starting with: Is there going to be one waiting for me when I get there?
“…And how the hell is that guy getting so far ahead of me in the first place?” he demanded. There were no other vehicles on the road tonight, so he could see no way for him to be hitching rides. “If he’s so damn fast, why’s he hitchhiking in the first place?…”
Who is he anyway? Shades wondered. Are there more than one of him? Is he trying to harm me? Warn me of something?…
The thought also crossed his mind that maybe the guy just needed a lift.
Your tactics are more likely to get you run over than picked up… Shades tried to think of answers, but found that the more he thought, the less he liked what he was coming up with. It all made him think of weird tales and creepy old movies he had seen, but shed little light on his present situation. He was missing a few key pieces to this puzzle, and without them, he could make no sense of it.
In the midst of his whirling thoughts, an ominous idea popped up. If there was more than one hitchhiker, or if the same one was somehow continually passing him, this would probably be happening all along Highway 93. Shades just couldn’t shake the disturbing notion they were all laying in wait just for him.
He veered off onto the next side road he came upon, down in one of the more secluded places near the road, deciding that if he got off the highway he might lose them altogether.
And if those guys are trying to warn me about something, he reasoned, then I’d be out of harm’s way. Same if they were trying to ambush me… Then a less encouraging thought: But what if the goal of these appearances is just to get me off the highway? Not that there’s anyone on it anyway…
If that was the case, then he would be playing right into their hands.
It was starting to drive him buggy, trying to watch the roadside and keep his eyes on the road at the same time. As a general rule most of the houses in this area were either right out in plain sight, or concealed behind a wall of trees. There were occasional clumps of mailboxes and clusters of signposts marked with various street names and addresses.
The only clue as to who lived down here, between towns.
In the pause between songs on his tape, he heard a voice shout, “Hey! Dude! Wait!”
Another hitchhiker sprang into the middle of the road, leaping out from behind one of those signposts.
Shades just barely swerved around his mysterious assailant, almost losing control on the muddy dirt road before regaining his balance.
“Holy shit!” That was way too close. As far as he was concerned, that last encounter just confirmed the hitchhikers as enemies. They were everywhere, and everyone else seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. “This is too much…”
Shades took the first exit he could find, pulling back up onto the highway.
In spite of his helmet, and the sweat now trickling down his neck, he still felt his hair trying to stand on end. He was no longer certain there was anyone or anything in Lakeside that could help him. I’d rather be fighting Carlos than this. Even with the improved martial arts skills, at least he was a known quantity. At least against his old rival, he had some inkling of what he was dealing with.
Now that he was back on the highway, he put the pedal to the metal, going as fast as he dared on this snaking mountain road, in the wet, slippery weather. And trying his damnedest not to think about all the gruesome accidents 93 had set the stage for over the years.