This happened almost 40 years ago when I was a young man in San Francisco, looking for work and having no luck. That is, until I met a guy at a pub who told me that he would pay me $200 and gas money if I drove a car to Seattle. At first I was concerned that it might’ve been a shady deal and wondered if there were drugs in the car.
He assured me that the buyer was a miser who didn’t want to pay the money for things like shipping the car.
Never one to be afraid of ghost stories, I had no idea that the trip would lead me headlong into my very own.
Even back then, the car was a classic, being a sky blue, 1955 Chevy Bel Air in mint condition – so I had to be careful.
I set off the next day, feeling like my luck had changed and wondering if I could get a job in Seattle when I got there.
I hadn’t even left the state when I saw a hitchhiker on a long road half a mile ahead of me, carrying a gas can.
Although I’d been taught never to pick up hitchhikers, I myself had been one and as I approached him, I felt obliged.
I pulled up and watched him in the rear view mirror, noticing that he looked like he’d been through Hell and back.
He ran up to the passenger door and leaned in the window, with a friendly smile and a sunny disposition.
There was something strange about the way he smelled
I noticed an odd odor of something like gasoline and BBQ, which sounds odd itself, but he was such a nice guy.
He was so appreciative that I’d stopped and told me that he too was going to Seattle, but he had no bags of any kind.
When I asked him about that and why he had a gas can, he laughed and said it had sentimental value, so I let it go.
I was happy to have company, even though he talked about things in the past like they were happening right then.
The strangest thing was that he never wanted to eat and wouldn’t leave the car – even to use the restroom.
He accepted the bottles of soda I gave him but I never saw him drink. Still, he was a great companion so I let it slide.
When we were halfway through Oregon, we were stopped by a State Trooper who was conducting a random search.
After answering all his questions and showing my paperwork, etc. I noticed that he hadn’t spoken to my companion.
When we drove off, I realized that I didn’t know his name. I felt a chill when he told me that he couldn’t remember.
He said that even though he had distant memories he had no idea who he was or what was waiting for him in Seattle.
I still had no idea that I was living one of those ghost stories
The closer we got to Seattle, the stranger my new friend became. For example, he never squinted in the sunlight.
The only time he got out of the car was when we’d stopped to take in the view of a sweet sunset, which he admired.
On the final night, as we drove through a town in Washington, the smell of gasoline and BBQ got stronger.
I couldn’t help asking, “Hey, what’s that smell?” I felt a chill when he slowly turned and said, “I’m dead – of course!”
Laughing in disbelief, I said, “Sure, pull the other one!” His eyes were dark and sad as he looked back at the road.
He said, “It's true. I died in a fire. It’s strange that I remember now, but we’ll get there soon – then I’ll know more.”
I was so shocked that I drove on in silence, thinking that maybe he was crazy and that I’d better go along with it.
As we approached Seattle the stench was even worse. When I looked over at him, I saw smoke coming off his body!
I know it sounds stupid, but I was still speechless. I knew that I was in my own version of The Twilight Zone.
Suddenly he said, “Stop the car!” I did so and watched him get out of the car, turn around and smile at me.
He thanked me, then he burst into flames on the roadside! I screamed as he disappeared, then I put my foot down!
I never understood the ghostly hitchhiker’s bizarre story and since that day, the sight of fire and the smell of gas and BBQ makes me shrink in fear!
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