It was cold and dark and starting to rain, and I was stranded on a remote country road in the middle of nowhere hoping a car would pass my way sometime soon. I had no idea how long I’d have to wait for a ride; it could be minutes, it could be hours, it could conceivably never even happen, and there was absolutely no guarantee the next passing car – or the one after that, or the one after that – would even stop for a hitchhiker, especially a hitchhiker who happened to be a large male hitchhiker. If no one stopped I’d have to follow the road on foot in the cold and the rain all the way to the nearest town, and as that nearest town was over eight miles to the South, I’d be lucky to make it by dawn, given the time had now gone past one.
The rain was steadily turning from a fine drizzle into something approaching more of a downpour, so I took refuge under the nearest verge-side trees and decided to wait for the storm to subside, at least a little, before I planned moving on. Stupidly I wasn’t wearing my waterproofs, as the weatherman had got it wrong, yet again, and I’d ventured out in a heavy lumberjack’s jacket which gave me some protection against the cold but little against the rain.
After a while I heard the sound in the distance of a car travelling in the right direction, so I stepped from the shelter of the trees on to the verge and stuck out my thumb in the traditional manner of hitchhikers everywhere. The car sped merrily by without missing a beat, splashing the bottom of my jeans in the process from a large puddle it had driven through and which I’d irritatingly failed to notice. I leapt quickly back again against the tree, sodden from the knees down and cursing the driver. I was cold and the lower legs of my jeans were drenched, so by now I was thoroughly pissed off, it would be safe to say. My best option, I decided, as I smoked my last cigarette, was to keep on keeping on towards the town, just as soon as the rain lessened at least a bit, and hope I’d be lucky enough to hitch a ride somewhere along the line. After I guess maybe another half hour or so I heard what sounded like a truck rattling up the road, and when it drove round the bend it was clear it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and would have run me over given half a chance. I cursed this driver too as the truck trundled by, forcing me to press my back hard against the tree to stop me being run over, the driver either being oblivious to my wellbeing or not giving a damn about it.
Eventually the rain began to subside, so I decided to continue walking down the road. After, I guess, a mile or so I was beginning to despair of hitching a ride anytime soon, when I suddenly heard the familiar sound of a car engine growing steadily louder from behind me, and a moment later saw its headlights sweeping the road and trees to the front of me.
The car continued for, say, fifty more yards, before coming to a gradual halt with the engine purring steadily. I ran towards the car, fearful that the driver might spot I was a guy, quickly change his mind, then roar off without me, and I opened the passenger door and hopped in.
‘Thanks,’ I muttered, and without a word to me the driver put the car in gear and continued the journey down the road. From the corner of my eye I could see he was possibly as large as I was, somewhere I’d guess in his late thirties or perhaps early forties, and with dark receding hair and a full bushy black beard; not the sort you’d wish to bump into on a dark night on a remote country road.
I offered him a stick of gum, which he declined, again wordlessly, but with the simple shake of his head, preferring instead to concentrate on the road ahead. The man was unsettling silent and didn’t respond to any of my attempts to make idle small talk.
Then after a while, after maybe a couple of miles and when we’d reached in the darkest stretch of the road, he said, flatly, while still concentrating on the road ahead, ‘You’re taking a bit of a chance, for all you know I could be some psychopathic serial killer.’
‘Oh, I’m pretty sure you aren’t,’ I replied, pulling the flick knife from the depths of my jacket pocket before releasing the blade, ‘after all, what are the chances, statistically speaking, of us both being psychopathic serial killers?’