Night of the Mannequin Driver

While hitchhiking one stormy night, David is offered a ride by a couple who look like department store dummies

The year was 1999. I don't remember the month, but it was the beginning of cold, stormy weather. I was living with my parents in Tranquility, California at the time. I was partying with some friends in the town of San Joaquin, which is eight miles away from Tranquility.

We were having a good time, and as the party went past midnight I got into a fight with a guy that was drunk and causing trouble.

I had too much to drink as well, and after they broke us up I decided it was time for me to go home.

I had come to the party with a friend of mine. We came in his car and when I went looking for him, I was told he took off earlier with someone and he didn't tell anyone where he was going or when he was coming back. Well I didn't want to stick around anymore so I started getting ready to walk home using the main highway that connected the two towns. Others tried to persuade me to stay and wait for my friend to return, but in my state, my mind was made up.

I remember it was cold and windy that night, and it wasn't the best decision for me to walk the eight miles home alone. But I figured I would hitchhike and hopefully someone would give me a ride. I just wanted to get home and go to sleep. So I said my goodbyes and started walking.

I was around one third of the way when I realized I made a mistake.

I should have stayed and waited for my lame friend. That's when I saw some headlights coming toward me in the same direction I was walking. I stuck out my thumb and the car drove past me and kept going. Then another car came down the road and did the same thing. It was beginning to get very cold and there were some lightning flashes.

I was getting ready to turn around and go back when I saw another car coming down the road, so I stuck out my thumb and it too drove past me... but as soon as it did the brake lights came on and it pulled over. I started running up to the car, relieved I was finally going to get a ride and get out of the cold.

As I approached the car, the driver's door opened and the driver got out. There was something totally wrong with the way he exited the vehicle. I mean, his body movements were sort of stiff and awkward When I got closer, I started to say something when suddenly a bright lightning bolt flashed across the sky. It lid up everything and I got a good glimpse of the driver.

He looked like one of those mannequins you see in those big department stores! A blank facial expression with a slight smile... and the way it was walking -- man, I became so frightened! Then the passenger door opened and another occupant stepped out in the same awful manner. I could tell by its silhouette against the headlights shinning down the road, that it was a female. Another lightning bolt flashed revealing she too was a dummy!

I think I screamed, then I ran into the cornfield that was next to the road. The corn was almost six feet tall and had recently been irrigated because I was running in mud that was up to my ankles.

I just kept going, not stopping. It was tiring running through that mud and just for a few minutes I did stop to catch my breath. In that moment I could hear somewhere behind me the corn stalks being rustled.

I was beginning to feel lightheaded and dizzy, like I was going to pass out. Then I heard car doors slamming shut and the sound of the car driving away. I didn't go back to the highway -- no way, I was too scared. I kept plodding through the cornfield until I came out the other side. That's when I sort of collapsed. I was shaking all over. I stayed there for at least an hour before I headed back to San Joaquin.

To this day, when I think back, it could have been someone playing a joke, just to scare people. I don't know. They looked real to me, it was like a nightmare!

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