Approx. 1am on a deserted country road.
In his prime, my father was a Rugby League football hero and played for the ‘Country’ team against ‘City’ in the early to mid 70’s.
On one occasion, the entire team travelled by bus to a town called Queanbeyan, and this incident took place when my mother (Von) and another footballer’s wife (Judy) were travelling together by car to meet their husbands and see them play. They had been driving for maybe 6 or 7 hours and it wasn’t to be too long before they would arrive.
Anyone who has ever driven at night on an empty country road would know that whatever falls under the headlights are the only things you can see outside the car. Apart from that, the occasional bright star on clear nights and the glow of distant town lights over the black horizon.
I love night driving. Every time I travel out to the country to visit my parents, I always like to stop the car at least once along the way and turn off the headlights, just to experience the clear country sky and the sounds of open space at night (something you just don’t get in the city)
…but back to 1973…
On this particular night, there was a bright half-moon rising behind the car. Outside of the headlight pools they could see a rolling, pale landscape striped with long black tree shadows. The landscape was slightly hilly and the road gently winding. The women had been talking for most of the way, but after a few hours even the most talkative people fall silent. And they did. As the car moved through solid hill shadows and speckled tree shadows, Von was lost in her own thoughts while driving and Judy was on the verge of sleep.
They rounded a corner and there on the side of the road sat a small group of kangaroos. At sight of the car they scattered, some cleared the nearby fence in smooth leaps, but a few bounded across the road straight into the path of the car. Von hit the brakes and narrowly missed hitting one of them.Suddenly both women were wide awake and buzzing with adrenaline. There’s nothing quite like a roo on the road to snap a driver back to attention.
A few short comments passed between the two women but no sooner had the pulse slowed, when cresting a small hill and then down into a dip, both women saw clearly in the light of the headlights a large face on the road, larger than a car and as wide as the road itself.
It was the face of a dirty-looking man with a black beard and long straggly hair, the eyes looking off to one side. At first glance it appeared to be painted on the road, but as the car came towards it, the eyes moved to look directly at the women, then the entire head turned to face them as the car moved over it at speed.
Von gasped sharply, and Judy screamed. At that moment, both women knew that it wasn’t a trick of the eyes. The fact that they had both seen it and it appeared real, frightened them both even more. There was no bump under the car so it was definitely a flat image, but it had appeared photographic in it’s detail and had moved with life-like clarity. They didn’t stop the car, and continued on until they reached the motel where they told their husbands all about it.
In hindsight and among other details, they described the fact that it was just the head, no shoulders or neck. Also that it was in colour, which ruled out the possibility of tree shadows on the road playing tricks. My mother once drew a picture of the face as she had seen it on that night, but it’s long gone. Should get her to do another one huh?
psst! The big scary character in my hitchHiker movies is designed based on my impression of ‘the face’.