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The Man In The Hat

June 5, 2011

I’ve known my close-friend “Bill” for a little more than a decade now. I met his brother “Steve” a few years after meeting Bill.

Bill went to school at Virginia Tech. I used to go down there every Halloween while he was there. It was always a grand time and Blacksburg used to be a great little college town. That’s not to say that it isn’t still, but I haven’t been down there in a long time. One year, for Halloween, we went to an Aggie party. There was a surprisingly decent Tool cover band, a giant bonfire, and plenty of alcohol and women. But I digress.

The party begins to break up early in the morning. Bill was a friend of the guy hosting so after the band had packed up and almost everybody had left we all huddled around the remains of the bonfire. . .well, at this point it was less a bonfire and more a typical campfire. There were five or six of us. Myself, Bill, Steve, Hillary, Dave (host), and Stephanie. We were having a good time, finishing up the booze and talking.

It got to be late(r), and around 430 in the morning Bill looks over at Steve and asks if he has to be at work soon. “Nope.” Steve replies. “I took a hiatus.”

“Oh. I understand.” Bill replies. An awkward silence passes through like a quiet, chilly breeze. “Hey, Steve. Do you think you could tell everybody else about what happened?” All eyes turned to Steve. Despite the warm, reddish glow of the fire we could all see Steve’s face turn white.

“No. No I don’t think so.” Steve said. His voice quavered a bit. “C’mon man. It’ll be good to talk about it.” His brother egged on. “Plus, it’s a good night for a spooky story.” At the mention of a good nail-biter the rest of us immediately began to jibe Steve. Finally, after a minute or two he conceded. This is his tale, in his own words.

“I work at a factory on the other side of the mountain. I live on this side. The factory is pretty much the only thing that is on the other side of the mountain. In order to get to work every morning, I have to take a road that goes up one side of the mountain and down the next. I typically leave at 430 in the morning in order to get there by 5. There is one intersection on this road. The road cuts through a small town and there is one light at this intersection.

I wake up late one day. It was about 450. I jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and get into my truck. I tear ass up the mountain. The sun isn’t up yet. You know, the time of year and all, the sun isn’t up until later. I get to the little town at the top of the mountain and the light at the intersection is red. There are two buildings at the intersection. As I’m sitting at it, to the right, is a general store. Diagonal from where I am is the post office. This is the only road that cuts through the top of the mountain. There is one light aside from the traffic light and it’s on the side of the store. Out of the corner of my eye I notice something just out of the reach of the light and mostly hidden in shadows. I turn to look and I see a man leaning against the store. He was wearing a wide-brimmed hat. I don’t remember what else he was dressed in but the minute I lay my eyes on him he pushes away from the wall and begins walking over toward my car.

I turn back to the light and realize that it’s taking a bit too long to turn to green. I turn back to look at the store and the man is standing next to the passenger side of my truck. He keeps his head down somewhat. I don’t remember much of what he looked like – just the hat. He raps on the window, and I oblige by unrolling it just enough so that the air creeps in.

“Excuse me, sir.” He says. His voice was flat, calm and somehow sweet. “I could really use a lift to the other side of the mountain.”

I thought about it for a second before realizing that I was already late for work and just a little creeped out. “No, I’m terribly sorry but I’m late for work at the plant and really just need to get there are soon as possible.”

The man grew a little terse. “I really need to get off this mountain. I really need a ride. Do you think you could let me in to your car?”

“I’m sorry – no. I’m already running late as it is.” I looked away, toward the traffic light – still red. I didn’t have time to see his fingers creep into the open window but I heard him pull on the window. Rather, I heard the window groan a bit and he started yelling.

“LET ME IN. LET ME IN TO YOUR CAR!”

He kept pulling on the window so hard that I thought he was going to break it. I didn’t care if the light was red – I floored it. I blew through the intersection and, in the rear view mirror could see the man, standing in the middle of the road, fade into the distance. And I swear that I heard him shout, ‘don’t you know who I am’.

I’m tearing down the mountain. I’m panting. I’m really freaked out. After I get a few miles away the road gets really windy – lots of curves and turns. I realize that I’m just going way too fast and I’m entirely too freaked out to keep driving like this. So when I get to the next straight bit of road I slow down and come to a stop off to the side of the road. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and open them again. I turn to look out the window.

And the man was standing right next to my side of the car.

I blacked out.

The next thing I remember was waking up in my car, in the parking lot of the factory. I was curled up in a ball beneath the steering wheel. The pedals were jabbing me in my back. The driver-side window had been unrolled just a bit. Enough to get your fingers into.”

All of us were as quiet as corpses. Steve shuddered beneath the weight of his own tale. His face was still white despite the fire. None of us talked about it for the rest of the night. None of us slept either, at least, not until the sun came up and we were cozy in our own beds.

For years now, Steve hasn’t had a problem reciting the story. He doesn’t work at the factory anymore – he’s a sous chef on the West Coast. He still turns a little white when reciting the story. Recently though, upon learning that his wife was pregnant, he has stopped telling the story. Not sure why but he must think it’s important for some reason.

– Posted by jonuggs; Nosleep

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