poet. writer. imposter.
Unexpected prose alert!
My friend Mark had just bought a car and we would go for night drives, hunting for UFOs or headless horsemen or any other Fortean madness that might populate the Lincolnshire Wolds.
In their expected – but disappointing – absence, we would share whale tumour stories and lurid urban legends. Cackling at the mists, as they rose and the headlights bludgeoned them to the roadside. Nothing says ‘spooky story’ quite like a rising mist.
The dipped lamps picked out the outline of a hitch-hiker. Unexpected in such a remote spot and even more surprising on a night as cold and damp as it was. Taunting myth, we decided to pick the hitcher up.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Louth,” he said.
We weren’t going anywhere in particular so it seemed like as good a destination as anywhere. We opened the door and let him in.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Nowhere, just driving about,” said Mark with studied soughing.
The passenger, hidden in the shadow, sounded nervous as if he had spotted a cryptic meaning to our response. We felt his unease and thought we would put on some music to calm his worry, forgetting that the music we liked was unlikely to get the alpha waves flowing.
After joining in on three screeching choruses* of Danny and the Dressmakers “Don’t Make Another Bass Guitar, Mr Rickenbacker,” a band who were joyfully aware that a) they couldn’t play their instruments, and b) had no intention of learning, a thin voice called from the back seat.
“Can you let me out at the next junction?”
“Louth is still eight miles away,” said Mark.
“It’s okay, I just need to get out,” a faint panic glazing his words.
“Okay,” said Mark, puzzled.
We slowed and let him out, watching him fade and blur into the chilled miasma – and in the opposite direction to Louth.
“I guess he doesn’t like the Dressmakers,” said Mark with a shrug.
“I guess not,” I said, confused at this brief and dreamlike encounter.
I wondered whether the hiker was a phantom and we had unknowingly witnessed our own urban legend, somehow disrupting the established order of events with a sonic banishing.
Perhaps he thought we were the phantoms, playing hellish music to unsuspecting victims.
Either way, we all had a story to tell.
*Verse and choruses were perhaps too formal a concept for The Dressmakers, but you take the point.