I'm tired. It's raining. Hard. The road ahead is so foggy I can barely see it. It feels like I've been on highway 48, forever. My eyelids feel like they weigh a ton. I feel my head start to fall. It's just me and my little red car, out on the road tonight. It's late. Extremely late. What a long day.
"Wake up, Jasper! You're falling asleep!" I say aloud to myself.
I've been driving for about 4 hours. I should've stopped at that motel, a few miles back. I'll catch the next one, I guess. It's been a long day. I'm so exhausted. I look up and see something white, off in the distance. It's a person. A little girl. In a white dress with pink ribbons. She's holding a teddy bear. The teddy bear has a pink ribbon tied around its neck. It looks like it came from her dress. She's quite dishevelled. There appears to be black soot or dirt on her face. The dress is dirty, too.
What is she doing out here in the middle of the night, alone? It's 3:15 am. I put my turn signal on. I pull into the lane closest to the side of the road. I start to slow down. She doesn't wave or walk closer. She just stands there.
"Hello? Do you need help? Would you like a ride anywhere?" I ask.
No response. She's looking at me but it's like she can't see me. Or more so, it's like she's looking right through me.
"Hello? Little girl? Can you hear me?" I wave my hand at her, but still nothing.
Should I call someone? I can't just leave her out here like this, alone. I surely can't just pick her up and put her in the car, either. What should I do? How did she get out here?
"M-M-Morely." says a quiet, shaking voice.
"Morely?" I repeat.
She nods her head yes, slowly. Not blinking. She keeps eye contact with me.
"As in Morely Road? Do you need a ride there? Is that where you live?"
She walks all zombie-like, towards my car. Her tiny, pale white arm reaches for my car door handle. It almost looks as though a pull on the door would snap such a frail-looking limb. She opens the door and gets inside without shutting it. Without saying a word. I reach over her and pull the door closed.
I start the drive to Morely Road.
"What's your teddy bear's name?" I ask. Trying to make conversation until we get there.
She doesn't answer.
"What does your house look like? Do you know your house number?"
Still no answer.
I start to slow my car down as we approach Morely Road. Maybe she will see her house and let me know. I drive slowly past each house. The dark, tree-covered street has an eerie feel to it. I look at her face for any sort of reaction. Nothing. All of the lights are out in all of these houses; well all, except one. One has a candle in the window. The flame flickers as though it were fire fingers, calling us to it. As we approach the cozy-looking, dimly lit dwelling, she raises her arm slowly and points to the house.
"Is this your house?" I ask.
I stop the car. Before it's even fully stopped, she opens the car door and runs to the front door of the house. She knocks. I stay in the car to see if anyone answers. An older-looking woman opens the door. The little girl jumps in her arms and they hug and quickly go inside. The woman looks like she could be the grandmother of the little girl. She definitely looked too old to be her mother.
So odd. Should I go knock 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 the little girl, obviously. It's not even like she was missing at all. Strange.
I fight with myself about what to do. I choose to leave. I begin to drive off. I notice something pink out of the corner of my eye. I look down. In my passenger seat is her teddy bear with the pink ribbon around its neck. Oh no! She forgot her teddy bear!
I immediately press the brakes and put my car in park. I get out and walk up to the door, teddy in hand. I knock quietly, a few times. It's late and I don't want to disturb her neighbours. I hear some shuffling coming towards the door. It opens.
"Yes? May I help you, sir?" says the older-looking woman from earlier.
"There's a little girl who lives here. I just drove her home. I saw you open the door and let her in. She was out here in the middle of the highway, all alone, at this hour. She left her teddy bear in my car. I'm just bringing it back. Every little girl needs her teddy." I say. Handing over the teddy bear with an awkward smile.
The woman smiles. She doesn't even look angry or confused as to why this little girl was out at this hour or why I'm at her door at such a time. Her smile turns to a frown. She looks up at me as though she has just lost her best friend. Tears fill up her eyes.
"I'm so very sorry for your loss, sir." she apologizes.
"My loss? What loss? Why are you sorry?" I ask.
"There is no little girl who lives here, however, one use to. Her name was Abigail Adelaide. She and her poor mother were in a terrible, horrific, accident a few years back, out on that highway you just came from. Her mother fell asleep while driving home from Abigail's birthday party. It was pouring rain, much like it is tonight, actually. They were both killed. The car was found burned in the ditch. It rolled over a few times. Caught fire. The body of Abigail's mother was found inside the car, severely burned. Abigail's body never was found. She was so tiny, poor little thing probably just burned away. There were just pieces of pink ribbon floating everywhere. And her teddy bear. That cemetery right across the street over there? It's where her mother is buried. Some say she comes out of her grave, on nights like this one, and watches over Abigail and the sleepy souls of the highway."
The old woman pauses.
"Nowadays, you just hear stories of little Abigail, bringing home the souls of others. Others who were also killed on that highway, by falling asleep at the wheel. Please, sir. Do come in. Again. I'm so extremely sorry for your loss."
I don't know what to say. My legs feel weak. I step inside. She shows me a seat and turns on the radio. It's full of static but I can hear what's being said. She doesn't say another word and points to the radio. I sit. My legs are shaking badly now. The guy on the radio is giving the traffic report from tonight.
"This just in. Horrible, horrible accident on highway 48, just north of Shady Acres, early this morning. It happened between three and four, says a witness. You might want to stay away from that road if you can. Try and find another route. Police and ambulance are on the scene now. One of our reporters drove by the scene, a few moments ago. She told us, and I quote -- I can't see much. It's pouring. All I can see are the remains of what looks like a little red car. And a teddy bear. There are also ribbons. Pink ribbons. Floating everywhere. Back to you at the station, Tom."
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