By Claire Davon
The old lady was back.
Yesterday I had blown through the red light—at the spot in Beverly Hills where the lanes narrow down from two to one—and cut her off, almost clipping her car to get back onto the street. Hey, it was dog-eat-dog out there.
Besides, I had somewhere to be: it was just home for a brew, but it was a place. Fuck the old bitch, anyway. I could see her face in the rearview mirror. Anger rose, unbidden in me, and I slowed down, tapping my brakes. She looked at me, her expression frozen, and the corners of her mouth pulled down so it looked like an upside-down U. She didn’t blink. I flipped her off—her face didn’t change. I waved out the window—she didn’t waver. Then I got mad and mouthed obscenities to her, but her countenance didn’t shift no matter how wildly I gestured. I zoomed ahead in my Camaro and she followed at a slower pace in the canyon, never altering her look. In the stop-and-go line, she kept coming up behind me. Her expressionless face began to unnerve me, and my hands shook.
I diverged away from the single lane of traffic at Ventura Blvd and made a fast turn through a yellow light without signaling, relying on oncoming traffic to stop her from following me. To my relief, she stopped. The last thing I saw was her set face, staring at the other cars.
The next day, there she was behind me. I decided we had to be on the same work schedule, trying to ignore the hammer beat of my heart when I saw that little white car. It was she who should be frightened; she was the old biddy and I was a healthy man in my prime. I wouldn’t have admitted this to anyone, but her spooky face unnerved me and it was my pulse that was racing. She showed no expression.
Once again, we snaked up the canyon, and once again her eyes never wavered from mine. There was no way on the single lane road to get around them. I had to tough it out. I wanted to holler at the cars in front of me, but that pale, unmoving face stopped me from doing anything but driving, my fingers tapping on the wheel the only giveaway to my distress.
I blazed through a red light at Mulholland and lost her at the sharp turn. I accelerated away, glad that my car was as fast as it was through the winding street. Her pathetic, little Jap car could never keep up. The last I saw of her was her sour face in the mirror. It had to be a trick of the light, but her eyes appeared to meet mine, all the while never blinking.
I thought I saw her the next day, but she was several car lengths behind, and it could have been a mistake. I’d left work a half hour later than I normally did to the surprise of my boss, who declared he’d never seen me stay a minute longer than I had to. Damn right. They didn’t pay me overtime.
I didn’t see her yesterday. I had been spooked for nothing.
Today there she was again, although I hadn’t seen her pull in behind me. She had to work around there. I hadn’t seen her nondescript white car when I’d flashed past the light and into the line of cars going up the canyon. She had the same set, stone face as the last time I saw her. I met her hard, obsidian eyes that never shifted from mine. I wanted to flip her off again, but her look made my hand still before I completed the gesture.
I was not going to let some haggard old bag spook me. Bitch doubtless couldn’t pass a driving test anyway, that was why she was staring. Fucking old bitch. Who the hell did she think she was? I thought about slamming on my brakes and letting her smack into me. That would show her. She probably didn’t have insurance. Then again, neither did I.
She continued to follow me, her car behind me no matter what turn I made. For a brief, wild moment, I wanted to go to the police instead of home but dismissed the idea. She was just an old lady. She must live around me, even though I’d never seen her. Then again, who noticed old bats, anyway?
I lost her when we got onto Burbank Blvd and breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a couple of twists and turns to home. I couldn’t get there fast enough. Beer waited in the fridge. For good measure, I swerved in and out of the parking lane to get more lengths ahead of her.
I turned into my property and cut the engine. Suddenly, she was there on my street, as if she had been with me all along. She parked across the driveway, blocking my car. I sat there, staring out the window. As I watched, she turned her head and with that same expressionless face stared at me. It flickered and changed, blinking like a strobe light into a hideous visage, full of bone and crawling things. It was a skull, but no skull I’d ever seen. I couldn’t get my limbs to obey my brain. It was as if I was frozen.
The last thing I saw was her downturned face large in my side mirror. It shifted from flesh to bone and back again. I screamed, although I doubted anyone could hear.
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.