“Nothing,” Dad muttered, as heavy drops began to spatter the windshield. “I just wanted to get back to Syracuse before this storm started. I’m exhausted.”
We were driving home from a Halloween storytelling concert put on by a couple of Dad’s friends. I was thinking about their last story, the tale of “The Phantom Hitchhiker,” when I spotted a woman walking along the road ahead of us.
I felt a shiver, as if the story was coming true. Stop it, Nine, I told myself. You’re being silly. Before I could suggest to Dad that we should offer the woman a ride she turned and ran straight at us, waving her arms wildly. As she got closer I could see that she was screaming. For a terrifying moment, I actually thought she was going to fling herself onto our hood.
“Dad, watch out!” I cried—unnecessarily, since he was already slamming his foot against the brake and wrenching the steering wheel to the right. I caught a terrifying glimpse of the woman’s twisted, screaming face through my window as we shot past, missing her by inches.
We were going way too fast when we hit the side of the road. Next thing I knew we were bouncing down a steep bank and I realized with horror that we were going to roll over.
Everything seemed to slow down as the car went onto its side, then its top. When we stopped, I was hanging upside down in the dark, held in place by my seat belt. The radio had somehow gotten turned on, and a country-and-western song was blaring through the dark, which only added to the weirdness.
“Nine!” cried my father, shouting to be heard above the radio. “Chris! Are you all right?”
“I think so,” muttered Chris. I could tell from the sound of her voice that she was also upside down.
“I’m all right,” I said. “Except for the blood rushing to my head.”
I noticed that my voice was shaking.
“See if you can unhook your seat belts,” said Dad.
I reached down with my hand. The car roof—which was now the floor—was only a couple of inches from my skull. Bracing myself, I fiddled with the seat belt. When I finally opened the buckle I fell to the ceiling, landing on my head.