Grandpa & Me

If your voice stops echoing, cancel your road trip.

I’m not saddened by the recent passing of my grandfather. Rather, I’m compelled to share the way I knew him best—I would not be here today if not for him. The entity came for me when I was eight years old, and there was no way I would have survived if anyone else had been driving.

My grandfather and I were on a fishing trip that day. My dad had intended to join us, but something had come up, so it was just the two of us for the first time. I was a little awkward around my grandfather because I’d never actually been alone with him. I’d always watched others interact with him, but had little to say myself because I was only eight. I was also in awe of how he was to my dad the way my dad was to me; namely, a voice of authority. When my grandfather told me about the different types of fish and what baits to use, I listened like it was the most important thing in the world. It turned out to be a good thing that I took his words so seriously. That acceptance would later save my life.

It began very innocuously. As we walked through a small gorge to get back to the car from the prime fishing spot, I could hear my grandfather’s voice echo from the high rock walls. While he packed things into the car, I had several minutes to wander around, and I used them to run back to that area and shout. Strangely, my yell echoed only feebly once, and then not at all. Scream as I might, I heard no reflection of the noise.

I was too young at the time to really understand how impossible that was. I just assumed I was yelling wrong somehow, or that my grandfather had a special grown-up timbre that allowed his voice to echo while mine just dropped off. Still, it bothered me, and I eventually brought it up on the drive back.

Everything about that moment became seared into my memory. It was 3:22 in the afternoon by the clock in the car’s dashboard, the sky was mostly clear with traces of white, and my grandfather’s eyes were wide orbs of alarm turned upon me while his white knuckles tightened around the wheel. “What did you say, boy?”

“I asked how I can echo like you,” I told him, suddenly afraid that I’d done something wrong. “I yelled and I couldn’t echo.”

His face was normally crisscrossed with little lines that ran their way along relaxed droopy skin. At that moment, his forehead and cheeks tightened to smoothness, and he scanned left and right rapidly. He didn’t seem to find what he was looking for through the windows, but he did not seem reassured. “Here.” He leaned over and opened the glove box in front of me to pull out a bag of jelly beans. I smiled for a moment, but he was not giving them to me as a gift the way he’d intended. “Eat them all.”

I held the bag in my hands. It seemed a massive feast. If I’d been left to my own devices, I might have eaten them all eventually, but not all at once. “Why?”

“Eat them all, boy!” he said gruffly, his tone brooking no argument. I began stuffing the jelly beans in my mouth. He looked down and around, then at the back seat, then at his travel thermos in the cup holder between us. He thrust it into my hands to join the spilling bag of jelly beans. “Drink this. All of it!”

“I’m not allowed to have coffee!” I told him. “Mom—”

He cut me off. “Your mother will understand. Drink it. I know it tastes bad, but down it all.” His gaze refocused on something beyond me, and I turned my head to my window to see the forested hills rolling by at various apparent speeds based on their distance. The furthest hills out on the horizon hardly seemed to be moving at all, but I thought I saw a tiny little speck atop one.

My grandfather gripped my shoulder with one hand. “Drink, boy! Drink! And eat those jelly beans! You need the sugar and the caffeine. It’s going to try to make you fall asleep. Don’t let it!

To say I was scared then would be an understatement. No part of me thought this was a prank of some sort. He was too reserved and austere a man for that. The coffee tasted horrible, but I gulped it down until none was left. After that, I began swallowing jelly beans whole until they were all gone. I looked to my right—the speck in the distance was still out there, but now one range of hills closer. It was still tiny, but now held movement akin to something waving back and forth.

I looked to my grandfather in askance; he in turn looked away from the thing in the distance to focus on my face. He breathed in through his nose and turned forward, determined in a way I’d never seen him. His leg moved, and the car began to accelerate. We’d already been going the speed limit on the empty highway.

The sugar, caffeine, and fear began to have an effect on me. I remember my cheeks and forehead warming and my hands growing clammy. I asked, “What’s going on? I’m scared!”

“Be scared,” he breathed, his eyes on the road as he continued to hit the gas. I could see the needle passing eighty. “That’ll help keep you awake. This thing—this Godforsaken thing—it came for your grandmother, and it started the same way. Just before a long drive, we noticed her voice stopped echoing.” His face contorted into a furious mask. “But cars are a lot better now than they were back then. I won’t let it get you.”

My back began forcefully pressing into my seat as he put the gas to the floor. I watched the needle pass ninety, and then I looked out the window again.

It was even closer, now visible as the silhouette of a man running up hills, between trees, and over boulders parallel to us. “It’s still out there!”

My grandfather grunted angrily and audibly slammed his foot down. I held onto my armrest and the door handle in terror as our car topped a hundred miles an hour and began to shake. It felt like we were in a barely controlled projectile far beyond any limit of safety, and I was terrified the highway would suddenly stop being empty and we would smash into a car or truck ahead.

But even through that overwhelming fear and adrenaline, a chill tiredness began seeping up my spine. My eyes began to feel heavy, and I blearily looked to my right. The shock woke me back up.

It was on the gravel shoulder of the highway now, completely visible as a black humanoid silhouette running at incredible speed alongside our car. In that moving pitch darkness, I could see lit pinpoints that made it feel as if I was gazing into the night itself. The afternoon sun burned in the sky above and behind it with no effect.

Staring as its blurred feet began to pelt across the painted line at the edge of the road, I felt sleepy again. It was running parallel to us, but drawing ever closer.

“Wake up!” my grandfather screamed, risking one hand off the wheel at a hundred and ten miles an hour to shake my shoulder. “It’s trying to drain the life out of you! Wake up!” He jerked the car one lane to the left, and, still pressed into my seat by the acceleration, I stared down at the hypnotic dashes in the middle of the road. Bit by bit, black feet began landing between each dash, keeping pace with us.

I remember the car shaking violently around me the way I imagined a space shuttle lifting off might around its astronauts. I know now we were crossing a hundred and twenty and nearing the most the car could offer, but, at the time, I was caught in watching the hypnotic dashes and stars in those void legs moving rapidly back and forth as it ran right up alongside the car and reached down with one hand to open the door.

Wind blasted around me as the gale force of a hundred and twenty mile an hour winds tore at my clothing and hair. Waking up halfway, I screamed, and my grandfather jerked the car to the left again as much as he could without going off the road. It didn’t matter—the running silhouette held the door open against the wind with its star-filled arm and began preparing to leap into the car with us. The other arm gripped my neck, and the cold that it brought cannot be described with mere words. The closest I can come is to say that the vast speeds and forces of an antithesis cosmos hated me. Somewhere, ice and anti-life were the rule, moving through emptiness at absurd velocities, and this thing was some small part of that undead will.

But it was not fully here. It could only interact with us in certain windows. That’s what I believe now. My grandfather gave the only shout of fear I would ever hear from him as the car seemed to be shaking apart around us; I looked left at the speedometer, found the needle to be unreadably far out into the red, and felt the heavy blanket of sleep fall over me as the silhouette grasped repeatedly—but failed to reach me. The door slammed shut, cutting off the wind.

Inch by inch, we began pulling away.

It ran furiously alongside, but the entity was just a tiny bit too slow.

Between one moment and the next, realizing it couldn’t get us, it vanished.

We’d escaped it.

I awoke in a hospital several days later. My grandfather told nobody the real story, of course, but the doctors had plenty of diversion. Somehow, I’d been drained of a number of vital electrolytes, salts, and so on, and they chalked my coma up to some sort of severe dietary imbalance.

But I knew the truth.

And I’ve made sure to tell the people I care about the small piece of advice that my grandfather taught me. I don’t care if it makes sense to you. Just listen. It’s out there still in the open lands of the Midwest, and it’s probably always been there—it was just never a problem before we started bringing great speeds into our daily lives. People die every day by falling asleep at the wheel, and I know for certain that not all of those incidents are innocent.

If your voice stops echoing, cancel your road trip. It’s waiting for you.

Written By: u/M59Gar

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