Eschatological Group

Eschatological Group

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Fateful Drive

Written By:
AJ Manetta

Along a stretch of the highway that few traveled, a lone set of headlights pierced the darkness. The driver, a girl who appeared to be in her late teens, drove calmly across the quiet and dark stretch of road. Every so often, she’d check her rearview and vanity mirrors to see if anyone was coming up behind her. Behind her head of shoulder-length, golden amber hair was only darkness. She was a cautious type, always checking for something amiss in almost everything she did. Considering this, it was only natural for her to check for anyone else on the road.

‘Just another quiet drive home from school,’ she thought. At least, that was until he appeared. Along the stretch of the road that was just coming into view, she could see a young man, possibly in his late teens, standing on the gravel with his arm out and right thumb erect. It didn’t take much thought for her to realize that the boy was a hitchhiker.

Normally, she wouldn’t have stopped for the boy, being the cautious type she was. However, there was something off about the boy that made her humane side plead with her to stop. That something was the small fact that the boy was clearly not dressed to be in this type of weather! This cold December night had temperatures of about 10 degrees and the boy was wearing only a pair of jeans and a sweater. No winter coat, no scarf, no gloves nor any other extra garment of clothing could be seen on him. He didn’t even have any bags with him. With her humanity winning out over caution, she slowed upon her approach and stopped directly next to the boy. Without the boy moving yet, she lowered her window.

“Hi!” The boy greeted her in a happy tone. From what the girl could see, his fiery red hair had frosted over some. There were little strands of frost lining his hair. He had obviously been standing there for quite some time.

“What in the world are you doing?” She asked him.

“Hitchhiking,” the boy simply replied as he looked into her bright green eyes. “Just trying to get home, really. I miss my friends and family.” She gazed into his chocolate brown eyes, trying desperately to find any hint of malicious intent. She found none.

“Get in, I’ll give you a lift,” she said after a quick sigh. The boy, to her amazement, hesitated, giving the front and back doors a glance.

“Do you want me to get in back?” He innocently asked. “I know some people get nervous if they have someone sitting next to them.” Now it was the girl’s turn to hesitate. Did he seriously just ask her where she’d prefer he sat? He did, didn’t he?

“You can sit up front,” she said, completely blindsided by the innocent question. With a friendly smile that threatened to split his face in two, the boy entered the car and sat in the front seat.

“I’m Martin, by the way,” Martin said. “Martin Sulli.” He extended his hand in a friendly gesture.

“I’m Emily, Emily Watson,” she replied. She shook his hand to complete the friendly greeting. She recoiled slightly when she discovered his touch to be as cold as ice.

“Sorry about that,” Martin apologized. “With the weather and all I guess my hands must be pretty cold.

“It’s fine,” Emily waved off his apology. “I should’ve expected as much.” After a small smile shared between the two, Emily drove off, back onto the long stretch of road.

“So what brings you all the way out here?” Martin asked. “Not many people take this road after all.”

“You first,” Emily hesitantly replied. She gazed over to Martin, expecting him to be frowning or look annoyed at her reluctance to divulge information. Instead, she found him still smiling, as if her hesitation didn’t bother him in the slightest.

“Well, I told you I wanted to see my friends and family. I’m on my way back from the city, actually.”

“What were you doing there?” She questioned. She quickly averted her eyes to watch the road completely. In truth, she became worried that he may become suspicious or something of that nature toward her because of her questions.

“I went there for a job,” he responded without missing a beat. “I want to be a reporter when I get out of school and I figured that an internship for a big newspaper company reporter would be a pretty good place to start.” Emily was surprised. He was very forthcoming with his information and he didn’t mind sharing it in the slightest. She began to feel a little bad that he’s sharing all of this with her and she shared nothing in return. At no point did she ever consider what he was telling her was a lie. She couldn’t. For whatever reason, Emily knew what Martin was telling her was the truth.

“That’s a good career to choose,” Emily said. “But I hope you’ll be reporting the truth.”

“Nothing but,” Martin commented. After a short silence Emily found the courage, or maybe it was courtesy, to talk to Martin about herself.

“I’m going home from school, actually.” Martin looked to her, a soft smile still present on his face. “It’s winter break and I want to get home to see my family. I decided to take this road since I figured it would be a peaceful drive.”

“Sorry about that,” Martin apologized.

“Sorry for what?” Emily questioned.

“I ruined your peaceful drive,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied. Emily gave him a small smile. “If anything, you’re making this drive more pleasant. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.” Martin blinked as a small amount of blush formed on his cheeks. He chuckled sheepishly.

“What do you want to do when you get out of school?” Martin asked.

“I’m taking classes to be a novelist. So I guess we have the same major.”

“That’s a good choice too. Better than mine,” he laughed. Emily giggled as well. The two continued to talk for some time, sharing dreams and the like, if only to pass the time until either Emily reached the end of her path or Martin asked her to stop. Emily glanced up at her vanity mirror and gasped. Behind her car was a police cruiser, and its lights were flashing. Emily pulled over, turned on her interior lights and buried her head into the steering wheel.

“I am in so much trouble,” Emily groaned.

“Why?” Martin queried.

“I just got my license. I’m not legally able to drive with a non-family passenger.” Martin looked into the vanity mirror in time to see the officer leave the car. He smiled.

“Don’t worry about it,” Martin said. “I’ll handle this.” Emily looked to Martin in disbelief only to see the broad smile on his face. She nodded, and awaited the inevitable. The officer approached and tapped on her window. When Emily lowered her window, she saw the shocked expression on the officer’s face. Strangely, she even saw disbelief in his brown eyes.

“Hey, Pete!” Martin greeted happily. Emily looked between the two, noting the pleasantly shocked expression on Pete’s face growing. Pete took a few breaths and replied.

“Martin... It’s been a while. How’ve you been?”

“Pretty good. Emily here is giving me a ride home. She’s being a good person, so if you have to give her a ticket or whatever, give it to me instead. I am the one imposing on her after all.” Pete shook his head.

“T-That won’t be necessary. If she’s being a good person, I can’t really punish her for that, can I?” Emily couldn’t be sure, but something about this situation seemed very odd. The officer would stutter or hesitate slightly between certain words, yet something told her this wasn’t normal behavior for him. Her passenger and the officer were talking to each other as if they’d known each other for years. Not only that, but by the law, Pete should have given her a ticket regardless.

“Oh,” Martin jumped. “Congratulations, by the way!”

“For what?” Pete asked. Emily glanced to Martin in confusion, wondering what he knew that the officer didn’t.

“Well, your son got the lead role in the school play, didn’t he?” Pete nodded. “Congratulations for that! And I heard you got that promotion you’ve been gunning for, so congratulations again! There’s also a third thing I want to congratulate you for, but you have to go home first before you can understand why.” Emily was now concerned. Martin clearly knew something the officer didn’t and that worried her. To her surprise, Pete wasn’t concerned in the slightest. He just smiled and, in the light the car was giving off, it looked like he was crying. There were several tears in Pete’s eyes that threatened to spill out, making his eyes shine in the small amount of light.

“Well then,” Pete began, “you two have a nice night and be careful.” Pete nodded to Emily and looked back at Martin. “I’ll see you around, buddy.”

“See you around, pal,” Martin said with a small wave. Pete left the car, went back into his vehicle and drove off ahead of them. Emily looked to Martin.

“What was that about?” She asked.

“Pete’s a good friend I’ve known since I was in diapers. We always looked out for each other.” That statement made little sense to Emily. Martin didn’t look any older than she did and Pete appeared to be in his late twenties. How was a kid supposed to watch out for an older person, beyond the obvious checking on him every so often. It was clear Pete could do more for Martin than Martin for Pete.

“Thank you, though,” Emily said as she drove off.


“For taking the blame if I was going to be in trouble,” Emily lowly stated. Martin’s smile grew.

“I didn’t take the blame from you,” he said. “I am the one imposing on you, after all.” The two drove in silence for a time, simply enjoying the other’s company. After a while, Martin tapped on the door. “This is my stop.” Emily pulled the car to a stop. “Thank you so much for the lift, Emily.” Martin was about to open the door but found himself stopped by Emily.

“Wait a minute,” she said. Martin nodded and she rummaged through the back seat until she found a long scarf. “Take this. At least it’s something to help keep you warm.” Martin eyed the scarf and looked back up to Emily.

“Are you sure?” He asked. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Emily said as she smiled at him.

“Thanks,” Martin thanked her. He wrapped the scarf snugly around his neck. As he opened the door, he turned back to her. “You know, you should drop by sometime to visit. I wouldn’t mind.”

“I’ll do that for sure,” Emily cheerfully said. She never expected to make a friend this far out. She pushed a few buttons on her car’s GPS and marked the spot. For some reason, the GPS didn’t give a name to the area she was in, not that she let it bother her. How far away could he be?

“I’ll see you around,” Martin called as he jumped out of the car and walked off into the night, his new scarf blowing slightly in the wind. Emily smiled.

“I’ll see you around,” Emily repeated softly into the darkness. With a smile on her face and a new warmth in her body, Emily drove off again, enjoying a peaceful drive home.

After the winter break had ended, Emily found herself driving up the same road she took down in the middle of the day. She promised she’d see her friend again and darn it she was going to.

“You have arrived,” the GPS announced. Emily was confused. There were no houses anywhere near the spot she’d marked. Even stranger, the place she stopped was a snow covered cemetery.

‘This couldn’t be where Martin lives, could it?’ Emily thought. She left her car and looked around, finally spotting someone standing atop a hill in the cemetery. The figure appeared to be looking at her and, upon closer inspection, a scarf remained snugly wrapped around his neck. Emily couldn’t be sure, but she could almost make out a soft smile on his features. Emily immediately recognized the scarf as the one she’d given Martin just last month. ‘Martin?’ She wondered.

She began to run up the hill, if only to confirm for herself if it was true. She’d gotten close enough to completely identify the figure, which was, in fact, Martin, before he turned and walked deeper into the cemetery. As she reached the top of the hill, Martin had vanished entirely. She now found herself staring out at a near endless sea of tombstones and mausoleums. Near one of the tombs a good distance away, she saw Martin looking at her again. How had he moved that quickly? He turned again and walked behind a nearby mausoleum, prompting Emily to chase after him again. Passing behind the tomb, she stopped dead in her tracks at the grave in front of her. It was a small tombstone with some writing on it.

Here lies Martin Sulli.
May you find your peace and complete your dreams in Heaven’s arms.

What shocked Emily more was the presence of a familiar object tied around the tombstone lovingly, gently blowing in the soft January breeze. Her scarf. Emily’s hands rose to her mouth. This couldn’t be possible!

‘M-Martin?’ Emily thought as she dropped to her knees in the snow, her eyes unable to find the strength to look away from the grave. ‘B-but I just saw him last month... He couldn’t have really been gone for almost ten years!’ Emily could almost feel the tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

“So, you came to see him too, huh?” A familiar voice asked. Emily quickly rose to her feet, wiped her eyes and turned around to see Pete approaching her with some flowers in this hands.

“See him?” She replied with a question.

“Martin. You came to see him, right?” Emily nodded. “I’m sure he appreciates it.”

“B-But... How is this possible?” She asked.

“You mean how Martin shared that nice car ride with you almost a month ago when he’s been buried here for almost a decade?” Emily could only nod her head. She didn’t trust her voice right now. “I’ve been on this patrol for almost a decade. And, every time I pull over someone for picking up a hitchhiker, I see him sitting in the passenger seat.”

“Wh-?” Emily couldn’t form a complete thought.

“Maybe I should start at the beginning?” Emily nodded. “Martin and I grew up together. We were best friends. He had one quirk that used to make us all laugh. No matter how cold it’d get, he’d never wear a winter coat. He used to complain that they were uncomfortable so he’d never wear them. Once we made it into college, he went off to the city to try and find an internship.”

“He wanted to be a reporter,” Emily said.

“That’s right, he did. He was gone for a while but, when he came back, he came back really sick. Eventually, the sickness beat him and he passed away in his sleep. I remember what he told me on his deathbed. He said, ‘Pete, when your dream comes true I want you to tell me about it. I want you to tell me all the good things that happen to you and I’ll congratulate you. Don’t think this means I’m going anywhere, I’ll always be around. One way or another, I’ll be around.’ After that, he fell asleep and passed away.”

Emily looked to Pete, only to see a few tears falling freely from his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she said. Sadly, that was all she could think of to say. What were you supposed to say to something like that anyway?

“Don’t be. I kept my promise to him... and he’s kept his. He’s always been around, one way or another.” Pete pulled a flower from his bunch and handed it to Emily. “Here, put this on his grave. I’m sure he’d like it.” Emily did just that. She leaned down and placed the flower on the grave just underneath the scarf.

“He said there was a third thing he wanted to congratulate you for,” Emily remembered. “What was it?” Pete looked to her and smiled.

“My wife is going to have another baby. She went to the doctor and found out and it’s going to be another boy.”

“Congratulations,” Emily said with glee.

“Thank you,” Pete responded. “I’m going to name him Martin, after my best friend. He’s always been around, now his spirit will live on through my son. I can only hope my son becomes as good a man as Martin was.” A gentle breeze kicked up, blowing the scarf again. In a way, that was Martin saying thank you. For a while, the two just stood there, talking to their friend in the January breeze.


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