Recording 1: September 3rd – 11:38pm – 56 seconds

This feels stupid, but I’m not sure what else to do. I’m driving home from a friend’s cabin in Maryland—left early because my daughter’s sick—and something weird’s going on. I’m on 476, the Blue Route, heading west. There are three cars behind me. Well, one might be a truck. Like a pickup. Regardless, they’ve been there, side by side by side, since the highway expanded to three lanes. That’s when I noticed the third car pull up next to the others, anyway. For all I know, those first two could’ve been following me for a while before that.

They’re driving right next to one another, in perfect alignment, like they’re linked together. And they’re keeping the same distance behind me, have been for a while, regardless of what I do. I speed up, they speed up too. I slow down, they slow down. It’s been like that for about 20 minutes, since Upper Darby. I have another hour and a half until my exit in the Lehigh Valley.

There’s no other traffic. Hasn’t been since I got off 95. I keep hoping to see a cop or something. Get his attention. Hell, I’ll let him pull me over. But there’s nothing. Just me and these three assholes.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just pull off sooner. Find an alternate route. I’m sure as hell not gonna pull over to see if they pass. That’s when they’ll box me in and murder me or something. You know, I wonder if this is like a gang initiation thing. I’ve read about that shit online.

Anyway, I thought I’d make this recording in case something happens to me. Or maybe it’s nothing? I’ve always been an anxious driver. Ever since my Dad got rear-ended driving me to little league. I don’t know. I just know they’re not giving me a good feeling. That’s all.

Recording 2: September 3rd – 11:45pm – 28 seconds

This isn’t right. I’ve been driving maybe ten more minutes and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. Even if I was being paranoid, for my peace of mind I was gonna hop off a different exit, maybe take a detour through Conshohocken, when the two cars sped up to get alongside me. The truck got right on my ass. His lights are blinding in my rearview. I had to turn it away. They’re blocking me from switching lanes. Their windows are tinted and I can’t see who’s behind the wheel. How did they know that I was thinking of taking the exit?

Oh God I hope I see a cop soon.

Recording 3: September 4th – 12:01am – 1 minute, 2 seconds

I tried to outrun them. No dice. Then I thought maybe when the route split and there were tolls something would change, but they just blew right through them with me. It’s since gone back down to two lanes, so the car on my right is riding the rumble strips.

[steady sound of tires bouncing over rumble strips]

There was a cop at the toll. They chased us for a bit. Pulled up alongside the truck. But then slowed down. Backed off. Pulled away. Whatever that cop saw wasn’t something they were willing to get involved with. I guess I’m on my own.

[sniffling]

I don’t think I’m going to get home. Car’s in cruise control. They’re just keeping pace. Haven’t made any moves toward me. Haven’t rear-ended me, or crushed my car between them, or tried to run me off the road or anything. I guess I’ll drive until I run out of gas. Maybe they’ll get bored of me, go find someone else to harass.

I shouldn’t say that.

I shouldn’t wish my situation on someone else.

[deep breath]

But I don’t want to be the unlucky one that doesn’t get to see his wife or kid again. I don’t want to be the one that’s subjected to whatever the fuck this is. I know it’s selfish and wrong, but if I were given a choice I’d switch places with anyone in the world right now.

[six second silence]

I’m gonna try to call for help.

Recording 4: September 4th – 12:05am – 11 seconds

[heavy sobbing]

Nonononono. [unintelligible] My fucking phone won’t connect to anyone. I have five fucking bars and every number I call—even 911—says it can’t connect.

I’m so fucked.

Recording 5: September 4th – 12:43am – 6 seconds

I’m about 15 minutes from my exit. If I can’t get ahead of them to pull off, I think I’m going to stop. Right in the middle of the fucking highway. I don’t care. Let’s see what these fucks want to do.

Recording 6: September 4th – 1:01am – 1 minute, 27 seconds

[ambient noise]

[frustrated screaming]

I couldn’t exit. All I could do was sit and watch as my fucking hope flew right by me. I swerved right into the fucking car next to me. Pushed him onto the rumble strips. Hoping that it would free me up enough to hit my exit or at least hit the fucking barrier. Maybe take them with me.

I thought that maybe if that happened, if I could somehow brace myself to survive that, then I’d be able to run home. Just run. Fuck the car. Fuck everything in it. And especially fuck these assholes.

But it didn’t work. They pushed back. Straightened their car. Sent me back into my lane—boxed in again. I failed.

For a minute I wondered why they were doing this. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Regardless of how this ends, with me safe in bed next to Alyssa or dead on the highway, they don’t matter. What matters is me. How I handle this fucked up situation. My Dad used to tell me that inaction was worse than bad action because at least a bad action, a mistake, was proactive. You were in control of your own fate.

I’ve lost control. I need to get it back. How I might do that is a good god damned question, but something needs to change. If I do nothing, I have the feeling I’ll be stuck on this highway, no one else around but these three vehicles following me, forever. The sun will never rise. I won’t run out of gas. I probably won’t even get hungry or need to take a shit. I’ll just sit here in the driver’s seat, following this road into the ocean or wherever it ends up.

So fuck it. I’m gonna stop. I’m gonna stop the car, get out, and stand in the middle of the interstate. I expect them to stop, too. But if they don’t, then they can hit me. Drag my car along the highway until it breaks apart. I’ve made my peace.

Recording 7: September 4th – 1:24am – 2 hours, 37 minutes, 11 seconds

I’ve stopped. So have they. I’m still boxed in, but now we’re all just sitting in the middle of the highway.

I think I’m about ready to do this. But before I do, I need—well, Alyssa, you’re the love of my life. You’re the best thing to have ever happened to me. I never told you, but before we met I was ready to take a nosedive off a building. You literally saved me without even realizing it. You made me better. Gave me a reason to carry on. You’re still that reason. It’s just that, well, I think to get home to you I need to walk through the fire. See if I can come out unburnt.

But if I don’t, thank you. For saving me. For being you. For giving me Winnie.

Oh my little girl. I couldn’t wait to get home to you this weekend. Your not feeling well was the perfect excuse to come home early. These guys weekends are fun and all, but somehow you’re more fun. Playing restaurant with you. Dancing to your made-up songs. I suspect that you’ll grow up to be a talented musician. I was looking forward to watching that happen.

Regardless of whether or not I make it back to you, please don’t ever change. Stay silly. Stay creative. Stay innocent. If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that I’ll get to die before having to watch the world take its swings at you. In a weird way, I’m grateful for that.

Hopefully someone finds my phone and these recordings. You know this, but it’s important for me to say: I love you both. You’re my girls. My life.

[ambient noise]

[crying]

Alright. Here goes nothing.

[sound of door opening and closing]

[ambient noise]

Hey! Is this what you were waiting for? I’m here! Get out of your fucking cars and come meet me face to face!

[sound of trunk opening]

Maybe you and my tire iron can—

[sound of car doors opening]

Holy shit…

[heavy footsteps on pavement—two sets]

What the fuck are—

[growling]

[screaming]

[sounds of flesh ripping]

[slurping]

[heavy footsteps on concrete—two sets]

[sound of car doors closing]

[passing sound of three vehicles]

[ambient noise]

***

If you’d like to learn more about this story, check out the behind the vignette blog post.