"I'm exasperated and the rain is plunging hard. The road in front is so foggy I can barely see it. This asphalt goes on forever. My eyelids weigh a ton and my head lowers -- I'm doing the nod. Just me and my little red car out on the road and the time is late -- super fucking late. What a long day.

 

"Snap out of it, Jasper! You're cracking out!"

 

Been driving for about 5 hours and should've stopped at that motel a few miles back, but I figured I'd catch the next one, I guess. Had a long day and I'm so exhausted. Something white off in the visible scope, catches my eye -- a person, a little girl in a white dress with rose ribbons. She's holding a soft amigo, it has a salmon bow, tied around its neck -- it came from her dress. She's quite unruly, black soot or dirt on her face -- the dress is filthy, too.

 

What is she doing out here at this hour of the night by herself? The time is three-fifteen in the morning. My turn signal clicks, and I pull into the lane closest to the side of the road, crawling to a stop. She doesn't pay any attention to me, nor walk up to the car -- she stands there, trance-like.

 

"Do you need help; would you like a run wherever?" No reaction.

 

The little girl was looking at me, but as though she couldn't see me -- like she's looking right through me.

 

"Little girl, can you see me?" I waved my hand at her but still nothing.

 

Should I call someone? I can't leave her out here like this, and I certainly can't lift her up and put her in the car. What should I do? How did it come about for her to be here?

 

"M-M-Morelly." said a quiet, shaking voice.

 

"Morelly?" I said again. She nodded her head yes, lackadaisically. She doesn't blink and locks eye contact with me.

 

"Do you need transportation there, is that where you live?"

 

She walked all zombie-like towards my car. Her frail pale arm reaches for my car door. It almost seems as though a tug on the door would break such a frail-looking limb. She gets inside and leaves the door ajar and doesn't say a word. I reach over her, yanking the door closed. Now, off to Morelly Road.

 

"What's your bear's name?" I asked, trying to make conversation until we arrive, but she doesn't say anything.

 

"What does your house look like, do you know your house number?" Still, no answer.

My car slows down as we draw near to Morelly Road. Maybe she will distinguish her house and tell me. Cruising slowly past each house, I look to her for a reaction of some sort. The dark, tree-covered street has a ghastly vibe to it, I look at her face for any signs, but nothing.

 

All the lights are out in these houses -- well, all except one. In one window, a candle -- the flame flickers as though it were fire fingers, calling us to it. As we approach the cozy-looking, dimly lit dwelling, she slowly lifts her arm and motions to the house.

 

"Is this your house?" I asked her.

 

I stop the car, but before it even entirely stops, she bails, and skips to the front door and knocks. My decision is to stay in the car to watch if anyone comes to the door -- an older woman ever so little cracks the door. When she realizes who it is, she fully opens it, and the little girl jumps in her arms. They clinch and go inside -- the woman might be her grandmother, she's too old to be her mother.

 

Strange, things were so casual? Should I rap on the door and ask the woman why this little girl was out here all alone, this late at night? The little girl knew the woman and the woman knew her. It didn't seem like she was gone at all, strange.

 

Feeling ambivalent, I argue with myself about what to do, my thought is to leave, and so I start to hitch off. That is until I see something pink out of the corner of my eye. I gaze down to realize that her companion with the ribbon around its neck, is still sitting in my passenger seat. Oh, no, she forgot her friend.

 

Slamming on the brakes I put my car in park again and get out, walking to the door -- friend in hand. I tap quietly a few times, it’s quite late, I don't want to disturb her neighbours. Some slipper-shuffling glides forward to the door and the same woman answers it.

 

"Yes, may I help you, sir?" the older-looking woman from earlier asked me.

 

"Sorry to bother you at such a late hour. The little girl who lives here -- the one I just drove home; I saw that you let her in. She was out here by herself, at this hour. Well anywise, she left her toy in my car, so I'm returning it to her -- every little girl covets her stuffies." I say, while handing over the bear with an awkward expression.

 

The woman smiles and surprisingly, she doesn't look angry or confused about why this little girl was out at this hour. Or why I'm at her door this late. Her smile turns to a frown though, and she blankly gazes up at me -- while tears fill up her eyes.

 

"I'm so very sorry for your loss, sir." she apologized.

 

"My loss, what, why are you apologizing?"

"There is no little girl who lives here per se, but one used to a long time ago. Her name was Abigail Adelaide. She and her fortuneless mother were in a terrible, horrific accident a few years back, out on that road. Her mother met the sandman while driving home from her daughter's birthday festivities.

 

It was pouring rain, much like now, and they were both killed. The car disintegrated in the ditch, rolled over a few times and caught fire. The body of Abigail's mother was found inside the car, severely burned. Abigail's body was never recovered because she was so tiny, scanty little thing burned away.

 

Pieces of blush fringe floated in every direction -- from her dress and her fluffy stuffed friend. That cemetery right across the street over there -- it's where her mother is at. She comes out of her grave on nights like this one, she watches over her kin and the tired souls of that path." the older woman paused.

 

"Nowadays, you listen to stories around the campfire, about the little girl who takes home the souls of those who died on that highway. Please sir, do come in -- again, I'm so sorry."

 

I'm speechless and my legs are weak, but somehow, I step inside. The woman presents me with a seat and turns on the radio. Static, but I can make out what is said. She doesn't say another word and points to the transmission playing. My appendages are shaking now, so I sit. The guy on the air is giving the traffic statement from earlier, my heartbeat can be felt in my knees.

 

"This just in, nasty accident on forty-eight early this morning. Happened between three and four, says a bystander. You might want to stay away from that road if you can, try to find another way. Patrol officers and the coroner are on the scene now. One of our reporters drove by the event a few moments ago. She told us, and I quote -- 'I can't see much, the rain is coming down hard. What is visible are the remains of what was a little red car -- and a teddy bear. There are tassels floating in every place -- back to you at the newsroom, Tom.'"