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The Man in Black

Jake was spending summer vacation with his parents at a beach. He got bored of watching the topless girls sunbathe so he decided to take a walk along the beach shore. He passed a young couple making love in the crashing waves. Finally, he found an isolated spot and sat down to read his bug files book by David Jacobs. Jake eventually grew sleepy and fell asleep. In his dream Jake looked down the road and was startled to see a lone, black car driving toward him. As it came closer, he realized with a shudder that it was a hearse. Jake stood up. His eyes riveted on the road. The hearse left the road and drove toward him as though he were its destination. It seemed to know that he would be there, waiting for it. The hearse stopped only feet from where he stood. Jake stared into its darkly tinted windows. Faces veiled with grief and fear stared back at him. Jake wondered if what he was seeing was an hallucination. Then the driver’s door snapped open. A tall, pale man dressed all in black stepped out onto the sand. He turned his gaunt face up to look at Jake. His eyes were black and bottomless. They focused steadily on Jake’s terrified face. “It’s your turn,” the driver said in a hollow voice. He gestured to Jake with the long, bony fingers of one hand. Panic swept over Jake. He looked into the hearse again. A young boy, near his own age, sat by the window. He motioned for Jake to run away. Jake turned from the driver and tried to run. Slowly his mind swam back to consciousness. Bits of nightmares surfaced and then submerged again. Jake woke up dazedly and scrambled to his feet. He ran back to his parents. He whispered silently to himself that the memory was from a nightmare. But the hearse driver’s eyes still haunted him. Finally Jake reached his parents but decided not to tell them about his nightmare. When they noticed that Jake was worried about something, his parents decided to take him to a nearby amusement park. Jake stared at the high, wooden framework of the old roller coaster. The first sounds he heard were the screams of the riders as the coaster shot down its steepest drop. “Those old rides should be torn down,” his mother remarked as they parked the car. The coaster rattled across its tracks high over their heads as they entered the amusement park. First they played the pitch the ball and win a prize game. Then they bought and shared some cotton candy together. The three then walked up to the ticket stand and bought their tickets for the roller coaster. Then they joined a line of eager thrill seekers nervously laughing as they watched the coaster shoot up and down its curves above them. “Think we’ll get on this time?” Jake asked his parents as the line dwindled in front of them. The coaster screeched to a stop at the loading platform. The people in the front of the line lunged forward to take the seats that were emptied by the breathless, dazed passengers from the last ride. Jake watched as his parents climbed in and the seats quickly filled up. They seemed to be all taken… but, no, one was left. A tall, pale man dressed all in black stepped in front of Jake. He was in charge of running the coaster. He looked at the seats. Then he turned his black, bottomless eyes on Jake. “It’s your turn,” the man said in a hollow voice. With the bony fingers of one hand he gestured to Jake to get in the empty seat. Jake shrank back. He stared at the people’s faces in the coaster. A boy’s familiar face stared back at him. The man in black reached out his hand to grab for Jake’s arm. Jake backed away. Jake tried to persuade his parents to get out of the coaster cart. But it was already too late. The coaster had already started. Seeing his parents for the last time as they smiled and waved back to him, Jake ran away from the coaster. With tears bleeding from his eyes to steal away his grief and sadness. He didn’t look back to see it take off up its treacherous first curve. He didn’t look back when he heard the horrible splintering of wood and the wretched screams of the riders and of his parents. He didn’t look back when the crowd began to shout that the old coaster had crashed to the ground. He ran on and on, trying to escape the man in black… who was the driver of the hearse.

(Sent in by Jason Ryan Qualls)

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