The telephone rang. I leisurely threw my half-eaten apple towards the trash can by the door and cheered when it hit its target. I picked up the phone and answered the call with the fake-cheerful tone of a manipulative car dealer. “Johnson’s Hauntingly-Scary-Spook-Store, what can I do for you today?”
“Mr. Johnson?” asked a familiar voice on the other end.
“Jack, my boy, is that you? Ha ha! I haven’t heard from you in a while! How’s it goin’?”
Silence answered me. I waited for a few moments and was about to hang to up the phone, assuming that Jack had ended the call, when his suddenly grave voice sounded once more from the speaker.
“Mr. Johnson, sir, it’s your daughter. She, uhm… she – “
“- she what? Tell me, kid, what’s wrong?!” I pressed, at once alarmed. I did not like the tone of his voice.
“There was an accident, sir,” he returned, “Kate, she – We can’t find her anywhere, sir. She’s not in her car, nor anywhere around it. It’s like she vanished into thin air, sir.”
“What happened? An accident, you say?”
“A ghost driver, I think. He got away.”
“Atlanta, sir. Interstate I-285.”
“Atlanta?! But that’s three hours from here!”
“Yes, sir, I know, but we really need –”
He broke off suddenly and I could hear multiple voices shouting in the background.
“Jack? What’s going on?” I called. I heard Jack inhaling sharply and the sound of his feet running over asphalt. There was a horror-filled, gut-wrenching scream – “KATE!” – and then, just like that, the connection broke.
“Jack? Jack! Jack, can you hear me? Jack, what’s wrong, what happ-” I cursed, threw the phone onto its receiver, and grabbed my keys.
I hurried to my car, slammed the door shut and was on the highway in just a few minutes. My heart pounded in my chest, and my mind was racing. What had happened? Was she hurt? Was she… alive?
The drive felt like an eternity. My growing panic became so intense that I could feel my insides going numb. I felt empty, unable to feel any kind of emotion as I stared at the road ahead of me. Were those my white fingers clutching the steering wheel? Was that my pale face staring at me from the reflection in the window? I was a ghost haunting my own body.
From somewhere far away I heard a woman’s voice in the radio, repeating an alert over and over again: “Warning! There is a wrong-way driver on the Interstate 285 to Atlanta. I repeat, Geisterfahrer alert…”
Rage inflamed in my chest. ‘That might just be the same idiot who took my daughter,’ I thought to myself and grabbed the steering wheel even harder. I accelerated the car. The interstate was oddly empty, not one car to be seen. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I had not noticed before. The sun had gone down and in addition to the darkness a heavy mist crept over the street so that I could not see much farther than ten feet in front of my car. A ghostly stillness surrounded me. I felt like I was in one of those spooky movies, where everything went dead silent and the air was buzzing with expecting tension when all the sudden out of nowhere a monster would jump out of the darkness.
I held my breath, a strange feeling spread in my stomach, when suddenly, without warning, the headlights of a car appeared right in front of me in the mist, like the glowing eyes of a beast. I pulled the wheel hard around in the last moment to avoid a collision as the other driver violently honked at me. I was too shocked to return the gesture.
For a moment I was tempted to turn around and chase the wretched ghost driver, for I felt it was my duty to avenge my daughter. But then, as if on an unspoken command, the fog began to retreat, and I was able to see the street more clearly once again. The blood froze in my veins. A second ghost driver was headed directly at me, and behind him another one and another – there were too many to count. I screamed and squeezed my eyes shut. My heartbeat stopped as I heard my scream ebb into the screams of a hundred tires screeching over the road.
I did not open my eyes.