Turning a certain age seems to bother some people more than others. 30 is one of those ages. For some, 30 marks a time in their life where they believe they should have accomplished certain things. When life hasn’t turned out exactly how it had been planned, turning 30 could drive you insane.
This is Michelle’s story.
Maybe it was time for a change. One last glance just in case she had missed anything, Michelle shut off the lights then closed the door behind her. Leaving the city far behind, Michelle headed out into the open desert. Destination unknown.
Driving alone through the open desert was the best way Michelle knew how to clear her mind when it became too full. Today was her 30th birthday. No party, no gifts, just another busy day for her few friends. Oh sure, one or two might actually notice the date on their computers later or even tomorrow, then send out a belated text or an email. But there was no one special in her life who was going to make a big deal out of today.
Never ending days at work had blurred into months of take-out dinners alone on the couch staring at the T.V. This was not the life she was supposed to be living at 30.
Today the thought of actually being 30 with no real future was almost more than she could take. Where was the doting husband? The kids or even a family pet? If this was what turning 30 was going to be like, Michelle thought, then maybe she would just rather not.
With the gas tank just about on empty it was time to stop and grab a drink or maybe a snack. Michelle pulled up to the pump and parked. Her eyes watered and squinted as she stepped into the bright convenience store and headed to the candy isle.
Wiping her eyes to clear her vision, Michelle scanned the rows of tempting, sugary snacks. Suddenly she felt a presence as if there was someone standing very close behind her. The hairs on her neck stood up and chills ran down her spine. First a breath, then a whisper. “…Michelle…”
Michelle spun around. There was no one there.
Michelle looked up and down the candy isle. Nothing. She looked over to the counter. The clerk glared back. Now feeling extremely self-conscious, Michelle headed straight to the back of the store to the restroom trying her best not to run.
Quickly locking the door behind her, Michelle stood at the sink washing her hands then splashing cold water on her face. Obviously, Michelle thought, she had driven too much and was a little tired. She was starting to see things. Starting to get jumpy. Better turn this fruitless road trip around and head back home.
As Michelle wiped the water from her face she caught a glimpse of something behind her. In the mirror she could see a girl standing behind her. Instantly she recognized this girl. The hair, the clothes, the face. It was Michelle, just younger, staring back at her with a look of complete disgust.
Michelle spun around to face this girl but no one was there. The room was far too small for someone to have walked in without being noticed. Michelle turned back to the mirror. The image was gone. The only face looking back was a very tired one, not the angry, younger face of a former self.
“Yep,” Michelle said to herself in the mirror “you need to go home and go to bed. Happy 30th birthday.”
As Michelle headed to the front of the store to leave, the store clerk yelled to her “Lady you need to pay for all your stuff before you go!”
What was he talking about? She hadn’t even picked anything up. She hadn’t had the chance. Confused, Michelle stopped and answered “But I don’t have anything.” The clerk, bored with the conversation already, replied “You have been in here for over an hour. You need to pay for everything you ate and drank or I’m going to call the cops.” Stunned. An hour? Michelle’s heart raced. “I think you have me confused with someone else, that other girl I just saw…” Michelle trailed off as the clerk leaned over the counter at her and growled into her face “I have you on camera. There is no other girl. It’s just been me and you in here.” Michelle slowly pulled out her credit card and watched in complete shock as the clerk rang up item after item after item.
Michelle ran to her car. She couldn’t get away from the convenience store fast enough. Her tires kicking up rocks and dust as she sped out onto the road.
Trembling as tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew she had only been inside the store for only a few minutes but the clerk’s words repeated over and over in her mind. “you have been in here for over an hour…”
Her thoughts coming now in halting sentences.
Roll down the windows.
Get fresh air.
Stop and find a hotel for the night.
The next town is an hour away.
Stop and find a hotel for the night.
“you have been in here for over an hour…”
Turn on some music.
The warm night air felt good blowing through the car. The crazy store and clerk now barely seen in the rearview mirror. Michelle took a deep breath of fresh air as she reached to turn on the radio. Music will help keep her company.
Coming directly from behind the driver’s seat Michelle heard a voice say “turn the music off”
It was her voice. Not the voice inside her own head. No this voice came from behind her. In the car with her. Michelle slammed on the brakes skidding off the highway into the desert. With the car’s engine still running Michelle leaped out immediately spinning around to see who was in the back seat.
There was no one.
Michelle stood staring at her car in disbelief. She had heard a voice as clear as day tell her to “turn the music off.” But there was no one there. She was alone. Hesitantly Michelle climbed back into the car. She didn’t feel alone any more.
Just up ahead a small motel appeared as if out of nowhere. Relieved, Michelle pulled in and headed to the office to check in. As she approached the motel clerk he greeted her with an angry and puzzled look on his face. “Ma’am is there something wrong with your room again?”
Michelle’s head started to spin. “…uh?” was all she could get her mouth to reply.
“I already told ya it was the last room I have.” The extremely round and sweaty clerk came from around the counter. “Let me walk you back and check on everything one more time.”
In a daze Michelle followed the large man back outside and down the row of dark and quiet rooms all the way to the end. Using his own key, the clerk opened the door to the small room. The light was on. The bed was made. Everything appeared to be in order. The grumpy, sweating man turned to Michelle and said “looks fine to me.” And lumbered his way back towards the office grumbling about her being crazy.
Michelle’s brain was spinning. She stepped into the room and shut the door slowly behind her. In the closet her clothes were already hanging. In the drawers, her clothes were neatly folded. She was already here.
Michelle sat on the side of the bed, too tired, too confused. Sleep. She just needed to sleep. Michelle reached over and turned out the light. Her eyes closed, her head sank deep into the pillow. The air conditioner only able to blow a tiny breeze. Slowly the air grew heavy and thick. She could feel someone climb into bed next to her. Terrified, Michelle fell out of bed and ran screaming for her car.
The tires peeled out as she swerved to miss an oncoming truck honking at her reckless driving. Michelle floored the gas sending the car skidding sideways down the desert highway. Hyperventilating, she frantically reached for her phone only to realize she had ran out of the room with nothing. No purse, no wallet, no phone, no shoes. She was barely dressed.
Michelle floored the gas almost praying a police officer would pull her over. She just wanted this horrible birthday to end. She just needed to get back to her home, to get back to where everything made sense.
Bright lights quickly filled her rearview. From out of nowhere a car was on her bumper. Already driving way over the 75 mile an hour speed limit, speeding up was not an option.
The blinding lights from behind highlighted the horror on the road up ahead. In a blink of an eye Michelle could see a person standing in the middle of the highway. It was the girl. The girl who looked just like Michelle. With split seconds to make a decision, Michelle yanked the wheel in an attempt to avoid hitting her. The car flipped into the air crashing down into an embankment.
A full week later when Michelle hadn’t show back up for work so Police were called to check on her. Just inside the door of her apartment sat two travel bags packed and ready to go. They found Michelle’s body laying fully clothed alone in bed. In her right hand she tightly held her set of car keys. She had died from a massive cardiac arrest.
Months later Michelle’s car was found far out into the desert and down an embankment. The police ruled it as stolen.