Frank lit a cigarette, reaching over to crank down the passenger seat window. The night air swept into the car, plastering tufts of hair to his forehead and ruffling a stack of napkins tucked into the center console. Sebastian drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, white bleeding into the skin around his knuckles.
“Roll the window up, Frank,” he muttered. The blond blew a cloud of smoke out the window and grinned.
“What’s the matter, Bas? Scared the wind’ll mess up your perfect hair?" Leaning over, he swiped a hand through the driver’s curls. Sebastian swatted at the intruding fingers, gnawing at the inside of his cheek to stop the smile pulling at his lips.
“Just roll the window up. I don’t like this area.”
“Bas...we’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s literally nothing on this road until we hit the intersection. Is the boogeyman going to jump out of the bushes or something?” Sebastian frowned, sinking back into his seat and glaring at the road. Frank laughed and dropped his cigarette in the ashtray, careful not to spill anything on the leather seats. Rolling the glass down all the way, he hoisted himself onto the window sill.
“Frank,” Sebastian hissed. “What the hell are you doing?” Frank tilted his head back, letting the wind burn blurs of color into his eyes as his fingers scrambled for purchase on the car roof.
“I AIN’T SCARED OF NO GHOSTS!” he screeched. Sebastian reached for his friend, making the car swerve.
“Stop it, Frank,” he yelled, the laugh at the back of his throat making his voice waver.
“COME ON OUT, SPOOKS! LET’S SEE IF WE CAN FINALLY GET SEBASTIAN TO BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT!” Both boys dissolved into laughter, the wind whipping Frank’s hysterics back into the tree branches.
“Frank, wh-” Sebastian halted mid-insult, battered sneaker slamming against the brake, so hard Frank nearly fell out of the car. At the last second, he hooked his boot under the glove compartment, arms pinwheeling for balance.
“Jesus, Bas are you trying to kill me?” he grumbled. Fingers splayed against his spine and face twisted into a grimace, Frank slid back into the car.
“Roll your window up.”
“Are you blind? Roll your damn window up.” Frank squinted at the road, blinking rapidly at the white splotch a few hundred yards away.
“Bas, I ain’t got my contacts in and I think you just rattled something loose in my head, so you’re going to have to elaborate.”
“There’s some lady in a white dress. We're leaving, Frank.”
“Don’t be a jerk.”
“This is the beginning of every horror movie. I’m not stopping.”
“Do you actually think those are real?”
“Then go a little further, so she can talk to us. There’s two of us and one of her; she might need help.” Sebastian huffed, sinking back in his seat to barely toe the gas pedal.
"I'm not getting out of this car, Frank." The other boy rolled his eyes and shoved the door open with a wince once they rolled to a stop.
"Hey! Are you good?" The girl's head snapped up, and Frank got his first good look at her through the blaze of the car's high beams. She was skin and bones wrapped in a white sundress, fingers tugging anxiously at a tangle of dirty blonde hair. Frank leaned against the front bumper and rapped his knuckles on the hood; the head lights dimmed a bit. "Do you need help or something?" The girl shifted lightly on the balls of her feet, taking a few steps onto the asphalt.
"I..." she trailed off for a few seconds, blank doe eyes darting between Frank and Sebastian's huddled form behind the windshield. "I need to go home."
"Why are you out here, kid?" The girl tugged harder at a curl, one hand reaching up to wipe away tears Frank couldn't see in through the shadows.
"I...I just want to go home...please. I don't want to be here," she squeaked, voice wavering. Frank sighed, swallowed back any of Sebastian's contagious nerves, and worked his face into its usual winning smile.
"Okay. Let me ask my buddy if we've got room for one more." Frank pushed off the bumper and strolled forward, sticking out a hand. "I'm Frank. How about you?" She hesitated, tentatively shaking his hand with pale, dirty fingers.
"Anna," she murmured. Frank willed away the goose flesh crawling up his arm, struggling not to wince at the clumps of mud now smeared across his palm.
"Alright, Anna. I'll be back in a second." Frank spun on his heel, pushing every scrap of willpower into not wiping his hand off on his jeans for the sake of being polite. Sebastian rolled the window down as Frank approached, keeping one hand locked around the steering wheel.
"Think we can give her a ride?" Frank drawled.
"What? Are you nuts?" "Chill out. She looks younger than both of us and freaked out. I don't think she's 'all there' in the head either."
"...Where does she want to go?"
"She says she wants to go home."
"How far away does she live?"
"I'm not sure. If anything, we'll take a left at the intersection and drop her off at the police station. If she doesn't live to far, we'll just drop her off at her place and go home."
"You don't think this is weird?"
"I didn't say that. This is weird, but how would you like it if I dumped you on the side of the road and left?" Sebastian didn't respond at first, picking at a fingernail.
"Fine," he muttered. "But hurry up. I still don't like this." Frank grinned, rocking back on his heels.
"Thanks, buddy." He paused, flinging open the back door with a dramatic flourish. "Good news, kid! We've got room for you." Frank froze, the cheerful tone turning sour in his mouth.
"She's gone..." Frank trailed off, scanning the treeline for any sign of a white sundress. "Did you see her walk away?"
"No!" Sebastian's head whipped from side to side, fingers scrambling to roll the window back up. "Get in the car, Frank!"
"People don't just disappear, Bas."
"Yeah, well, maybe she wasn't-what is on your hand?" It took Frank a moment to look down at his hand, still caught up in the shadows of the branches that seemed to be reaching for him. He glanced down.
"WHAT THE-" Frank sputtered, a flurry of curses flying off his tongue. Long gone were the clumps of half-dried mud caught between his fingers, replaced by a thick coating of blood. Crimson trails ran down his wrist in thick lines that stained his jacket sleeve and painted his nails a dark, almost black, scarlet. He scrambled back around the hood as if he could get away from the stuff soaking his hand, panic reducing Sebastian's questions to high pitched ringing in his ears. Frank barely registered stumbling back into the passenger seat or shouting at Sebastian to "just drive, damn it!" Several miles or so passed in a blur of night air, blood soaked napkins, and terrified silence that stretched between the boys like putty. Finally, the hunter green Chevy crawled to a jerking halt at the intersection. Sebastian let out a shuddering breath, eyeing his roommate's colorless features and the handful of ruined napkins clutched in his fist.
"Frank...I'm going to go out on a limb and say you didn't cut yourself back there..."
"Nope," Frank croaked. "Bas, I swear to god...it was mud. I'm telling you, she had mud on her hand..."
"You want to hear my plan?"
"Not if it involves going back there."
"Hell no, Frank. I say we go home, you disinfect your hand, and we just agree this was an exhaustion-induced hallucination." Frank twisted in his seat, glaring at the younger boy as he shoved the napkins back into the center console.
"Just drive." Sebastian paused, waiting for the usual wisecrack. When it didn't come, he nudged the car back into gear and pulled into the sharp right turn. A wobbling smile pulled at his lips as he turned the radio on.
"You better not make fun of my superstition again, Frank," he muttered. The other boy snorted, shakily reaching over to crack the window again and run a hand through his hair.
"Shut up, Bas."