We both saw him.
It was a dark night in Chester, NH, no moon. We drove along a windy, hilly road flanked tightly on both sides by tall trees. We saw no other headlights – just ours, as we rounded bend after bend, climbed and descended hill after hill -driving together in Sue’s parents car to a party in a small town in southern New Hampshire. Dressed in mini skirts, makeup on, we were looking forward to a fun evening with our friends.
There weren’t street lights on the road we were traveling and the darkness was intense, it seemed to swallow the light our headlights cast, close in on the car. We drove, chatting to fend off the big darkness. The hills and bends in the road seemed to go on and on.
We weren’t far from our destination when we rounded a bend that dipped and curved to the right. Just at the bottom of the hill and on the right shoulder of the road stood a man and his dog. He stood, unmoving, staring into our headlights. His dog, too, stood stock still staring straight toward us; neither flinched as our car bore down toward them. The man was mesmerizing: his features were gaunt, the outline of his tired looking overalls and henley shirt beneath them, his short hair, all made his rural character obvious. He appeared to be a farmer, accompanied by a shepherd dog of some stature and with standard markings, sitting on his right. The stark, sharp lines of his face, his intense, glaring eyes, were clear- and all – the man and his dog – were a luminous, monochrome grey.
We veered to their left, missing them narrowly.
I knew in that instant that we were on his land.
“Did you see that?” I gasped, as Sue veered to miss him. I wanted her to acknowledge what we’d seen – and how strange it was.
“Weird,” was her reply. “Spooky.”
“I’ll say,” was all I could manage.
I began to shiver. We drove on, both shaken. A chill set in the car. “Who do you think that was?” she asked. “His clothes were antique-looking. I know a lot of people in Chester and I have never seen him.” She added.
I wouldn’t know, I did not know Chester. Her question gave me the idea, though, that the seeming spooky man might have been an ordinary citizen caught unawares in our headlights.
We hadn’t driven far, perhaps a half a mile or less, when the man appeared again – this time on the left side of the road. Not ordinary! Zooming along a little over the speed limit, we were afforded a good look at him again because he stood stock still, glaring into our headlights as if daring us to hit him. The moment hung in the air, dragging out, as Sue swerved again to miss him. The man’s dog appeared as it had the first time – on his left this time, though. The man’s face was angry and forbidding, his overall countenance menacing.
As we cleared the apparition I thought to check the rear-view mirror. There was nothing that I could see.
“Holy crap!” Sue shrieked.
“Not possible,” I started, “for him to have got ahead of us on foot …”
“Freaky,” she said. “did you see?” she stammered, “I could have hit him. Or it. Oh, my god!” she looked at me. “What do you think that was?” she concluded.
“I don’t know,” I said. “A ghost? all gray…. did you see the color?”
“Yes. transparent, and gray. I’m scared. I don’t want to get out of the car, now.”
“Me, either,” I agreed.
Okay, that’s it, then.” she said. “I’m going home. I know another road we can take out of here.”
Which we did, recounting the sight of the man and his dog, and sitting in stunned silence, in intervals. No party for us that night.
The grey man has remained a fixture in my memory ever since. Few days pass that I don’t remember him, at least momentarily.
My life rounded a corner that day because I understood how imminent a ghost can be. How real they are. It isn’t a thing I can ever un-know, now.