It was 1995, I had just graduated High School, an old friend who I haven’t talked to in 7 years now and I were hanging out and I said, “Let’s go to New Orleans.” And we did. We had $140 between us and back then that was more than enough. We made it New Orleans, almost died from culture shock, and turned around and headed to Magnolia, MS to get some sleep. We stayed at Magnolia Inn, it was a shit hole, but it was nice and cool. It was May or June, in south MS; cool was the only adjective that mattered. We stayed up that night playing poker, drinking Gordon’s vodka, and talking about who knows what. Probably girls, college, and college girls. At some point I said, “Ever been to Texas?” “Nope.” “Pack your bag and let’s roll.” We had a road atlas; Marshall, TX was right across the border from Shreveport.
We arrived in Shreveport, made a phone call to another friend, who we were actually supposed to be staying with. Both of our mothers had called looking for us. The only person that knew where we were was the buddy on the phone. It was no big deal; we would be home in a day or two.
Before we left that rest area in Shreveport where we made the call, we saw an armadillo. Let me tell you something about armadillos, those bastards will hiss, jump, and turn into Tasmanian Devils if you corner them. They also carry leprosy. We were 18; we chased that armadillo around for an hour. Now let me tell you about Shreveport. I don’t know how it is now but, in the summer of 1995, it looked and smelled like a place where oil and metal went to die. It was dirty. It was a shit hole. We crossed a bridge and saw people fishing 100 yards from where a drainage pipe from a factory was spewing forth waste upriver from the fisherman. The locals reminded me of the locals in Adamsville, bald headed women and cross-eyed men. A lot of bald-headed, cross-eyed kids. I’m sorry but it was a Rob Zombie movie come to life. The best part of Shreveport was an armadillo that might possibly have leprosy. Marshall, TX was 40 miles away. We rolled on.
Marshall was a decent little town. Home of the Fire Ant Festival. We stopped at a little bar-b-q joint and had a coke, a smile, and some pulled pork. It was getting late, and the sun was setting, we looked at the map and decided to back track a bit and head up rural route 43, through Karnack, and past Caddo Lake. We would eventually run into Hwy 59, head to Texarkana and then head back home. When we left the bar-b-q joint and headed towards 43 it was dusk. Hwy 43 wasn’t well lit. My friend was driving, and we were doing about 45 mph, any faster would have been reckless even for a couple 18-year-old dumbasses.
This road was dark, winding, full of hills that ended in curves; there were beady and glowing eyes on both sides of the road. You could hear the crickets and the bullfrogs over the sound of the wind rushing by that old Sentra. It was peaceful and creepy at the same time. The humidity was a real thing, tangible. The air was thick. It smelled like pastures, hay, and swamp. We drove for what seemed like hours, it was after midnight, and I saw a sign that informed me that Bivins was the next town of any size. I was hypnotized by the yellow lines on the road; we hadn’t seen another car in at least an hour, sleepy. I rolled the window down and lit a cigarette. There was music coming from the radio, the tape player, it was either Tupac or Bob Seger. I smoked my cigarette, absent mindedly flicking ashes out of the window. I took one last puff and flicked the still burning Camel Short off into the woods. Then I saw it.
I never looked to my right; I didn’t even peek to the right. Maybe I did a little when I flicked the cigarette away. I don’t know. What I do know is that in my periphery there was something running alongside the car. It was just behind my window, behind where the edge of the door ends and before where the back window begins. I looked over at the speedometer, 40 mph. I looked at my friend, he was looking straight ahead, I looked straight ahead. I could still see it. I could see one huge arm, matted hair, reddish brown, sticky looking, and primal. I eased my right hand over and rolled up my window. My friend was still looking straight ahead, his jaw was clenched, and he put both hands on the wheel, he sped up.
No words were said. I looked straight ahead and still out of my periphery I could see that arm moving, muscles and tendons visibly rippling beneath that matted hair. As the car gained a little speed the thing running alongside us lost pace, slightly, I then saw the hand on the end of that nightmarish arm.
The hand was clenched into fist the size of a cantaloupe, a big cantaloupe. It was covered in the same hair but slightly darker around the fingers, like it was stained with something. Suddenly the hand unclenched and then I saw the claws, black as this damned after midnight Texas night. Those claws were at least two inches long, sharp, like an animal. This wasn’t a hand so much as it was the killing paw and claws of some beast whose only purpose was to kill and eat.
I looked back at my friend; I looked at the speedometer, 50 mph. I looked straight ahead; it was still there. I lit another cigarette, didn’t roll the window down, and simply said, “Shit.” The music had stopped. I finally broke the silence and said, “Hey, do you…” and before I could finish my buddy said, “I see it, I’ve been seeing it. I can’t even see you, but I can see whatever the hell that shit is.” “How much do you see?” “More than I want to.” “Speed up, John, just speed up. It can’t keep up forever.” I looked over, 55 mph, whatever was chasing us, silently, was starting to lag behind. I finally looked to my right, just a bit, imagine the scary part of the movie where you put your hands in front of your face but still peek through. In 37 years, I have two regrets, one is picking up that first cigarette and the other is me looking to my right that night. This beast was huge, its chest was above the top of the car, and all I could see was that matted reddish brown hair. Then it bent forward as it ran, I saw the face of this thing, all reality stopped. We were no longer driving down some country road in Texas. We were now trying to escape from the depths of a monster inhabited hell.
This thing’s face is beyond my powers to describe. It was evil. The eyes were black, and the pupils were red. It flashed its teeth at me in a snarl, yellow and huge. Saliva dripped from its mouth. It opened its eyes wide, and it looked hungry and pissed off. Then it opened its mouth, the skin pulled back until all you could see were black gums and yellow teeth. Immediately I could feel the car accelerate. “Fucking hell, John, just go!” I prayed. I cussed. I lit a cigarette. Then like sunshine breaking through the clouds the road straightened out. “Don’t you slow down.”
We drove through Bivins, and we drove to Texarkana. Then we drove home. We never said a word. It was years later, 11 to be exact, before we ever even talked about it again and we didn’t talk about it much. He said he’d never told anyone, and I hadn’t either. Call it what you will, call it bullshit if you want, but look me in the eyes and let me tell you this story and you’ll know. Never doubt that there are things in this world that defy explanation and logic. The boogeyman is real.
Update: The old Toys R Us is now a Floor & Decor