July of 1999 was warm and humid in Illinois, even at two O'clock in the morning.
I was reasonably carefree 19 year old girl behind the wheel of my grandmothers 1985 blue-rinse Oldsmobile with my friend Ryan beside me. We had had a fun evening with friends, first going to a movie at the big Randhurst theaters and then having a midnight snack at a 24 hour restaurant before heading home.
Ryan and I were busy talking and laughing and gossiping about friends from high school when I decided to take a shortcut.
We lived in the old Northwest suburbs of Chicago where the rich folks of the city built their summer places before urban sprawl set in and engulfed them. The short cut I had decided to take was through the old Lutheran campgrounds, a leafy, heavily forested site on the bank of the Des Plaines river consisting of perhaps 15 white painted cabins, a small swimming pool, and lots of privacy. Churches and other organizations often had day camps there, but very few of the cabins were in use these days. It was a lovely alternative to drive along that quiet path rather than go past all of the Dairy Queens and gas stations that littered the major roads.
Ryan and I, still talking and laughing, turned off Busse Road, making the sharp turn that led under the overpass by the river. The road had gone into a blind turn when I interrupted Ryans chatter by hitting the brakes and shouting "Oh My God, that woman is going to get herself killed!" Directly in front of us, hidden previously by that blind turn, was a woman bicycling almost in the center of the lane. She shone whitish in the brightness of the headlights, a thin older woman in a floppy knee length skirt on an old fashioned bicycle without reflectors. I was furious, not only because she was bicycling on such a deserted road at that time of night, but because she made no indication that she had seen or even heard my car.
I passed by her carefully in the dark, giving her a wide berth. I looked in my rearview mirror a second later just to make sure that she was okay, but she was no longer there. I yelped in surprise and Ryan turned around to look for her, but she had vanished. There was absolutely nowhere we could think of where she could have gone. One side of the road was thick rough Mid-Western forest that was hard to navigate even on foot and impossible by bicycle; the other side was a 10 foot high wall of concrete that held up Busse Road. Behind us was only the Des Plaines river lapping at the bank and there was not a soul in sight.
I don't think I've ever speeded quite as badly as I did driving the rest of the way home that night. The only thing we, two normally chatty and unsuperstitious people, said to each other during the rest that drive was "What happened back there?"
We've talked about it since and Ryan definitely remembers it. We still don't understand what happened or where that woman could have gone or who she might have been.
I've been down that road dozens of times since and nothing else has ever happened.
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