It was a cold and dreary night.
The road was slick from the rain and mud, character of a late winter.
I remember there were many people caught up in a line of traffic behind an accident. Their wipers going, blinkers flashing, trying to squeeze in where there was no room. There was the occasional driver that rode the shoulder to try to cheat their way up the line…but we were hip to that trick and blocked them! Then, there are those people who just get downright pissed off over the whole hassle of having to wait, and hit the gas as hard as they can once they are past the traffic jam.
Which brings me to my storyline…there was this one really special Dumb Ass that did just that; only in doing so…he managed to slip out of control at 80mph and slam into my vehicle. There were temporary feelings of pain, fear…then euphoria, as all I remember from that point was careening off of a raven. It felt like I was falling into heaven, only heaven plucked me out of the car just in time, and now I am on heavens payroll.
My assignment…? A traffic Reaper!
It would be my duty to serve and protect the living, on life’s busy roads and highways.
There is more than just myself on freeway patrol. Entire networks of reapers are out there with me every day. Our abilities to change little occurrences to assist and avoid traffic fatalities can be quite entertaining. Yes, we are visible to the living eye; and we are also able to identify each other by the bright yellow aura that float and surround ourselves and our vehicles. We give one another that wave of acknowledgement, like you see bus drivers give as they pass on their routes.
One Monday evening, out on I-5 as I was nearing the end of my patrol, I glanced over and spotted a black Cadillac. It was darting in and out of traffic at speeds unimaginable. Obviously this person was in a hurry to get somewhere, not likely to be somewhere important from my experience thus far. It wasn’t the alarming speed that caught my attention, so much as the strange red glow surrounding the car…and the driver. I did a double take, and sped up to get a glance at the driver. As I neared the side of the car, there seemed to be a very strong force pushing my car sideways…right into the other lanes! I switched lanes, carefully of course, and pulled up to the idiot. I did not recognize this guy at all…he was not part of my crew.
When he realized I was trying to keep up with him, he slowed a bit and looked over at me. My stomach dropped as horror rushed through my body. My face got really hot, and it took all I had just to breathe. Was I really seeing this? I looked away quickly, just in time to avoid hitting an eighty year old, changing lanes with the opposite side, blinker on of course. I sped up again to get another look. Do I dare? I have to…!
As I got closer, the driver slowed down once again, and moved to the lane next to mine. It seemed this time, he was trying to get another look at me! I slowly looked over, his red glow got so bright it almost blinded me. Through the glow, I could see his face…it was like that of a madman possessed from evil deep within him. It resembled the face of a demon, only the face was sort of shape shifting, and the extreme green eyes seemed to be piercing a hole right through me. It was that of the driver who crashed me into the afterlife…it was him. The Dumb Ass!
Suddenly I heard echoes of laughter that rang through my head, like an old Vincent Price movie. It was entrancing, and seemed to go on for an eternity…then it stopped very abruptly and I came out of the trance and found myself 10 miles outside of my beat, the RedMan in the Cadillac was gone.
I turned around at the next exit and headed home. I would be checking in with my superiors about this RedMan. It had to be a day dream or something. Would I embarrass myself if I started to babble on about this so called sighting? Would my peers understand, or would they just give me that look my mother used to give me when I told wild stories about how I had to climb atop the roof because the “Big Bugs” were gonna get me…?
Anyway, I decided to sleep on this one before I took on the task of making myself appear to look very stupid and a little crazy at that. I got home, listened for messages as I do every night, knowing there won’t be any…I mean, after all, I’m dead right? For a while after I passed on, I was getting the occasional call from collections agencies that didn’t have a clue, friends who didn’t call me enough to even know I was gone…and of course, the nice people at Time/Life Magazine wanting to know if I would like to renew my subscription. Why do that, when I have the luxury of making myself disappear at random…and now I just resort to picking up a copy from that nice little newspaper stand on the corner…and the guy who runs it thinks he is going crazy, as every couple weeks he sees a copy of Time/Life magazine go wandering down the street all by itself…it’s a real scream! Sometimes I think we were given these luxuries of disappearing, just to play with the minds of the living.
When I awoke the next morning, the first thing I thought of was the RedMan. He was in my dream…speeding down the highway, side-swiping everything he passed as I tried desperately to catch up with him…then suddenly he was heading in my direction with that grin on his face, and the echoes of laughter once again ringing through the air, getting louder and louder…until I woke up to a blood curdling scream…that turned out to be mine…as I shot out of bed drenched in sweat. I attempted to shake it off, walked into the bathroom and grabbed the first available towel from the floor. I was not exactly Hazel, if you know what I mean.
Dousing my face with cold water, I watched myself in the mirror…and noticed the look of content completely drained from my face. Then, the phone rang, something told me to go ahead and pick it up, even though no one on the other end is supposed to be able to hear me. I picked it up and listened for a second…
“Good morning…” the voice said, “Did you sleep well…?” it said, with a definite tone of sarcasm.
My heart began to pound uncontrollably as I realized the man on the other end was awaiting my response.
“Good morning…” I responded, feeling kind of stupid.
“Are you ready for today’s assignment…? I promise it will be a day you will not soon forget…” he said.
“Who the hell is this…? Who the hell are you…?” I demanded.
Then, all I heard was a dial tone. This isn’t happening to me. It has to be a side effect of the afterlife, my superiors left out of the matriculation manual! Well, this is it…I have had it! I just have to risk it now…I am paying a visit to the Main Station right now! This so called peaceful job just got really weird, and I do not wish to have any part of it…ok, like I have a choice, but still…it is time I found out what is really happening before it gets totally out of hand.
I had a little time on the way to the station for a couple of “side jobs”. Nothing too heavy, just your typical cell phone yuppie, eating a bagel and ignoring the traffic up ahead that had already come to a complete halt in a construction zone…a simple wave of my finger to make an abrupt disconnection of his call, and viola’…his attention was caught just in time for him to make an embarrassingly screeching halt inches before the line of vehicles. Easy stuff for me…not so easy on the driver’s brakes!
I then happened upon a rock and rollin’ teenager in a Trans-Am, very concerned about just how far that lit cigarette he dropped rolled under the seat, and at the same time, changing music in the CD player. With all that going on, how was he supposed to notice he had entered a school, where children crossing up ahead? Thinking quickly, I spotted a corner house with a very thick wall of hedges which someone put a lot of time into caring for and trimming up, oh so nicely. Perfect, I thought…a big grin rolled across my face as I waved my hand and pointed to his rear tire…causing a blow out, then I just sort of veered him right into those lovely hedges, before he knew what hit him. Excellent, this was enough to ease my tension just a bit, and draw an honest chuckle from my throat.
So, one last turn and I arrived into the parking lot of the Main Station. Stepping out of the car, I gave my nod of recognition to all those who glowed like me…relieved there were no stranger in Red wandering around the parking lot. Up the stairs I went…there were two huge golden doors that loomed at me from the top. I was still nervous, I noticed as I reached the top of the stairs…it all seemed to dissipate…strange, I thought.
A slight wind began to blow…almost in circles just before I pushed the doors open. I stepped in, and as the doors closed behind me…the entire building went pitch black. The sounds of the giant doors closing was still echoing in my ears…such a hollow sound…a sound that began to blend into a rhythmic beeping noise. Sounded like…a heart monitor…yes, that was it, it sounded like a goddamned heart monitor machine! It got louder and louder…enhancing the pitch black darkness I now stood in suspended animation upon. The beeping was now blending in with voices…and a commotion that seemed to bring the energy up to a feeling of death defying urgency! The voices got louder, and I could begin to make out what they are saying…with the beeping now fading to the background, I heard someone say
“Doctor…we got him back! We got him…hurry…”
I began to feel pain everywhere in my body, it seemed I hadn’t felt pain in so long, but now it was all I could feel! All in an instant, I was now being blinded by an extreme light, with yellow hues…it surrounded me, and I felt as though it was setting me down upon a table…yes! That is exactly what it was doing…! I thought my eyes were already open, but I realized then, they were not, because through the light, I began to open my eyes. I saw many people over me, some living, some not…but I saw them. A Doctor leaned over me and spoke to me…he asked if I remembered what happened…I just blinked at him a couple times, tears now rolling down the side of my face. Yes, I did remember…some Dumb Ass knocked my car off of a cliff in traffic…
Apparently, that Dumb Ass never made it back to life, but I did.
It was a few months before I could return to work, but when I did…I never appreciated being a Highway Patrolman more than I do now. Once in a while, I see a black Cadillac…and imagine I can see the RedMan driving…but truthfully, I have yet to pull up alongside of one since that night…the night I came back, and He did not.