by: Sheralyn Pratt
Once upon this one time, I was walking my dog at night. We were going along our usual path at about our usual time. The world around us was fast asleep; the houses were dark and you could hear a pin drop in the street.
Everything was quite usual this night, except maybe just one thing: I’d felt the urge to walk our usual path in reverse, so we were taking our route in the opposite direction.
We’d just taken the first of two turns that would point us back home when, out of nowhere, a voice said, “It should occur to you to be concerned right now,” and it took a moment to realize the voice was just in my head.
But I answered it anyway, saying, “Oh? Why is that?”
“Because of the man in the van.”
“The man in the van?” I asked, eyes searching around. Yet I was passing between a home and a wall of high bushes, so all I could see were a tunnel of leaves and the side of a house.
“Yes,” the voice replied. “There is a man in the van on the other side of this bush. And it should occur to you to be concerned.”
And, so it was that I became concerned and, as I stepped beyond the bush I glanced back.
Sure enough, there was a white van parked in perfect alignment with the tunnel-sized bush in a way that seemed quite intentional, but not red-flag suspicious.
It was quite dark and the nearest street light did little to illuminate the inside of the vehicle. But, when I looked at the outline of the two front seats, all I saw were the outline of the two front seats.
“It’s just a van,” I told myself. “No man.” And the moment I thought these words, I heard the metal-on-metal rat-ta-ta-tat of a car seat reclining – loud as a drum in the still of night.
With the noise, the outline of the driver’s side seat disappeared and the distant street light shone through the back window and into my view.
There was definitely someone in the van. And they had definitely noticed me glancing back for a peek and tried to hide while making the absolute loudest of creaks.
There was really no way to ignore the sound, but I made a go of it anyway.
I kept walking, making it about 30 more feet before I heard the car seat return to its upright position just before the engine started – followed by headlights on full-bright, making it useless to look for the person inside.
I kept walking as this white van from the 20th century – maybe a Dodge Caravan – raced me to the corner. The air felt charged as the man rubbernecked as he passed, then sped down the street with a single tail light doing nothing to illuminate a darkened license plate.
When he reached the end of the street, did a full-stop at the stop sign, belatedly signaled, turned right, and was gone.
As I replayed everything in my mind to make a best guess if all threat was past, the voice added, “Sometimes, it’s good to come at things from an opposite view.”
Then it disappeared as quickly as the van and I was left with my thoughts as I walked my dog home – rarely to walk the same path again.