Short story I wrote roughly based on a writing prompt I found a few weeks ago. Enjoy, or not.
The man slammed his car door shut and took a deep breath. He turned around to make sure the other driver didn’t have any other trouble with his tire. The driver gave him a thumbs-up and eased his way back onto the highway, honking to show his thanks. The man nodded once, even though the driver couldn’t see him, and then slowly got back onto the dark and nearly deserted highway.
The man wasn’t sure why he’d stopped to help him, why he went out of his way to assist those in need. He did not abhor human contact; no, he merely was a lonely soul floating through life as though he were a ghost. He was but an ordinary person—he lived in a middle-sized town and worked at a bank, offering brief nods and perfunctory smiles, but nothing more. The man was the quintessential John Smith, and he was comfortable that way.
Then what possessed him to go out of his comfort zone and choose to interact with the others—to help those who needed it? He did not know what urged him to, but when he saw the man standing next to his car, trying to work with his tire at 3 a.m., something in him said to stop and help him. And he did.
Sighing, the man reached over for his iPod, which was connected to his car speakers, and put it on shuffle. The song that started playing was one that he had never heard before, the vocalist singing, “Ah, look at all the lonely people.” Though the man had over a thousand songs on his playlist, he prided himself on being able to identify any song he had in under twenty seconds. But he did not know which song this was. He listened to the story the song told, captivated.
“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream, waits at the window, wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for? All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
He frowned as he listened. A moment ago he could have sworn that he’d never heard the song in his life, but now the man felt as though he had. Or had he? Was he merely confusing the song with another similar song he had heard? Or had he really heard this at some point? He is driving on a highway that is similar to this one: long, flat, banal. He is eating a sandwich and humming along to the song playing.
The man blinked. What had happened? A strong feeling of déjà vu had come over him, as though he had been doing almost the same thing at another point—but he could not remember. “This is insane,” he said out loud, trying to assure himself that nothing was wrong. Though he did not take his eyes off the road, he continued to listen to the song.
“Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near. Looking at him, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there. What does he care? All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
He let out another sigh, realizing that he could commiserate with Father McKenzie. He was all alone in the vast universe, without a friend in the world. But whose fault was it? Was it not his own unwillingness to participate in any social activity that made him a recluse? As the man cracked his neck, he was once again hit with that same feeling of déjà vu. He is reaching for his iPod, looking for another song. He makes sure that he still pays attention to the road. It is rather late, and he hasn’t passed another car for nearly ten minutes.
The man shivered. What was going on? Why did he feel as though something like this had happened before? And why did he feel a strange feeling of dread that slowly was growing? He felt it in his bones, and his heart began to pound faster. Something terrible was going to happen, and he didn’t know what. Paranoia swept over the man, and he clutched the steering wheel tighter.
He could now hardly hear the music over the fast beating of his heart. The man could hear the blood pounding in his ears, going lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. In fact, it seemed to be getting louder. He was about to pull over when he was once again struck with the overwhelming sense of déjà vu. He is still trying to find the song that he wants. He is distracted, not paying much attention to the road. But then something makes him look up. And then he sees it.
It was as though he were glued to his seat, unable to move at all. Terror had overtaken the man, and there was nothing he could do. He saw the headlights in the distance, rapidly coming closer. Now he remembered it all. He knew how it was going to end. This wasn’t supposed to happen. How was it happening? What crazy person would be driving in the opposite direction on a one-way highway?
In the background, the music kept playing as it reached the final verse to the haunting song. “Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came. Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved. All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
In the split second before the crash, he suddenly realized that if he died now, nobody would care. Nobody would remember him. His life would have meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. But there was no time to think. The headlights filled his peripheral vision, and there was nothing the man could do but cover his face and scream.
Less than three,
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2