Plastic Wraith

Photo by Joe Woods on Unsplash

The swirl of black plastic sheeting whirling a few yards from my windshield jerks me away from my ruminations. It really does look like a ghost.

Halloween Wraiths are an irresponsible underground fad that has plagued north Dallas since October 1st.

Irresponsible, reckless, and a damn dangerous thing to do. The idea that anyone with any common sense could stand on an overpass and throw several yards of black plastic sheeting into a stream of evening commuters is stupid.

Some enterprising jerk (who called himself Satan’s Fool) had overnight created a mini-cottage industry that promised to end on Halloween 2029, just thirteen days from today.

I’d heard several stories about them. So far-knock on wood-I’ve not heard of anyone injured by this foolish stunt.

I guess it’s my turn today.

The gust from the evening cars animates the dancing sheet, endowing it with a kinetic, frenetic, swirling energy. Honestly, if I weren’t driving, I’d be captivated by the utter beauty of the spectacle.

According to his website, Fool paints a phosphorescent grin on each one.

But that can’t be right.

The face before me, even in these darkening skies, doesn’t look painted; It looks real; it appears to be laughing.

Oh fuck, it’s headed right toward me!

I jerk my head left and right, but I’m boxed in by cars on either side. There’s no avoiding it.

It slaps my windshield with more force and more sound than I would’ve expected from a few yards of painted plastic.

My windshield, which cracked a few years ago, instantly develops several more cracks and creaks ominously. I’m about to have a lap full of glass. I’ll be lucky if that’s all I suffer tonight.

I can’t see anything. The wraith covers my entire windshield. While I had expected it to blow away, it appears that’s not going to happen. The wraith blocks all light and hugs the front third of my little car.

I check the rear-view mirror and gently press the brakes.

That’s weird.

There are no cars behind me, not a single one. Something else has changed, but my attention is pulled forward, hoping the wraith will blow away from my car and out of my life so I can get home, take a hot shower, have a beer, and fall into bed.

I can see to my right as the plastic only covers about half of the passenger side window. Using it and the rear-view mirror, I quickly pull over to the shoulder.

Surely it will blow away now. But there is no wind.

This night gets weirder and weirder.

No cars pass me.

What else has changed?

Then I see it. There are no lights anywhere. The streetlights are out. None of the stores on either side of Central have their lights on.

What the hell?

There’s plenty of light from the full moon. It’s a glorious, beautiful, buttery light that ordinarily I would adore, but tonight it leaves me anxious and filled with dread.

I’m scared to push open my door. The plastic totally covers the windshield.

What if it’s not plastic, buddy boy?

It’s plastic, I tell my inner coward.

Yeah? Then why did it slap your windshield so hard? Look at those new cracks, man.

When fear escalates, panic usually sets in. Things rarely turn out well after that.

I shut my eyes, inhale hard, yank the handle hard, and shove the door open. I expect some pushback or resistance from the flimsy prop, but there is none. The door swings to the end of its arc, rebounds, and crashes into my knee.

Fuck!

I blink, and the plastic is gone. The wind must be back, but I don’t sense any through the partially open door.

I step out, rub my knee, glance around for the prop, but It’s nowhere to be seen.

I’ve officially entered the Twilight Zone.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

As far as I can tell, I’m still on Central Expressway, but everything is different. There are no cars, none besides my blue Matrix. There are no lights anywhere. The only thing that remains the same is the golden yellow moon. I look at it and start shivering.

I glance around again for the plastic but don’t see it.

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

My shivering doubles and I wonder if I’m losing my mind; this isn’t natural. None of this is.

I reach in and pull the keys from the ignition. I decide to explore this new terrain I find myself.

The moonlight on the street looks like snow. I step forward and realize that it isn’t snow but several inches of white dust. I kneel and sweep my hand through the fine smooth powder.

I’m convinced that despite the familiar landscape, I’m far from home.

And my separation isn’t one of space-it’s time. It’s no longer 2029 here. I have no idea what the year is, but It’s not what it was.

My phone!

It will save me. It will give me some sense of connection to the world I knew three minutes ago. I will check Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, my email, text messages, anything that will ground me to reality. Why has it taken me so long to reach for it? If nothing else, it will assure me it is still 2029.

I unlock my phone.

NO SIGNAL.

Great.

“Damn it.”

With little hope for good news or bad, I launch the calendar app. I try to keep my emotions in check.

October 13-the app tells me the date. That’s a relief.

But what year is it? You can’t honestly believe you’re still in 2029, can you?

It’s a valid point.

I navigate the app to show me the months, then pull back to years.

2053.

Well, damn.

I pull my keys from my pocket. My apartment key is still there. I doubt it still works. Hell, the place probably burned down years ago. But I must get away from this moonlight.

I’m dreaming. I’ll wake in a few hours and laugh about all this tomorrow.

Sure. That’s what’s happening.

I repeat it over and over again. But I don’t believe it. This is my reality now.

If my key doesn’t work, if the apartments are still there, I’ll break into the place that was mine twenty-four years ago. I’m too tired. I need to sleep. This is just a dream, I tell myself again, not believing a word of it.

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