Shadows on the Road
A Prose Poem

Deliriously driving dangerous, dark, deserted roads, late at night. Eyelids drooping, dipping, lashes lowering. STOP. Shouldn't sleep. Must maintain mindfulness. Trees traipse by in tangled, twisted, trajectories, telling tales of trauma. Beneath them white crosses, cocked crooked, caressing ravished roadsides. Misplaced memories given material. Forgotten flowers festooning them.

Suddenly swerve! See? A stealthy shadow slipping silently past. Someone? Or something more sinister? A spirit? A soul? Or nothing? Perhaps a prank played by weary, watering eyes. Real or not, one must wonder what wretched whispers wraiths of the wrecked whine to weary wanderers, late at night.

Shake such sentiments from the mind, sip slowly cooling coffee. It was nothing. Needless night terrors taunting tired travelers trying to reach home. Focus on fractured asphalt, flickering, faded lines flitting past. Stay awake. Aware. Home hides hence, just over the next hillock.

Tirelessly as one tries, the mind tends to trail off, trickling through thoughts like liquid loose in fingers. Wanders back to crooked crosses, those thoughts. Thinking of those that saw silent shadows shift and swerved too swiftly. Becoming buried beneath cursed crucifixes and joining the jaunting dead. Or maybe not. Maybe as darkness deepens the dead do not dance. Some say a shadow is simply a shadow, and the dead lie still.

Pause. Picked from peripheral, past a part in trees, is a poised person, partially obscured. Quickly correct gaze, but ghost is gone like a gust in a gale. Simply a shadow, nothing more. Straighten in seat and slap self awake. Must stop drifting. Wouldn't want to join whispering, waltzing wraiths, late at night.

Yawn, yearning for blissful bed. Not far now. So close to comfort. Carefully correct crimson car as it careens along craggy cliffs. Too close for comfort. Across the road a stuttering shadow saunters. Startled, slam on screeching breaks. Heart hammering hard in chest. Scrub at stupefied eyes. See no shadow. Thankful no other drivers drive dangerous, deserted roads, late at night.

Tired eyes tripping, seeing shadows where no shadow strides. Slowly start to drive again. Gay and giddy with relief and adrenaline. Silly suspicions, spirits, souls, and shadows. Should know better. The dead do not dance. Laugh loud and long, an emotional explosion. Wipe sticky sweat from skin. So close to home. So close to safety. So close to sleep. Speed slightly. Stupid.

Clouds clear and the moon moves, mirroring a man moaning in the middle of the road. SHIT. Slam on screeching breaks too slowly. SHIT. Spin steering wheel, swerve swiftly and careen through corroded guard rail. Soar silently into surreal, starry night. Time ticks, stutters, stops. Shadows, spirits, souls flash fast past falling crimson car. Wraiths whispering wordless wisdom. Shouldn't have swerved. Should have stayed still.

Should never have driven dangerous, dark, deserted roads, late at night.

Participant of The Review Game's Writing Challenge Contest; April