The Hitchhiker Who Wasn't There
About 15 years ago, when I was 25, I was living in my hometown of Sacramento while finishing college. My long-time boyfriend was attending college at Colorado State and we hadn't seen each other for at least 6 months so I decided to drive to Colorado to surprise him for his birthday. I had made the drive before and knew that I could expect long stretches of road with little to no civilization around. I'd plotted my stops beforehand so I wouldn't find myself driving tired and looking for a motel.
My first overnight stop was to be in West Wendover, Nevada. It's a small gambling town with nice hotels, and I was looking forward to getting there and relaxing after a long day on the road. I had been driving for 6 or 7 hours and the sun was starting to get low in the west, but it was still light enough that I didn't need to put on my headlights. I had just passed a little town called Wells and West Wendover was my next stop. I was a little road weary, but fully alert and not at all sleepy. That's why I can't wrap my mind around what happened. If I were sleepy, I could chalk it up to that. If it were dark, I'd assume that I had been seeing things. But I can blame neither of these things.
This stretch of I-80 was long and straight and pretty flat. The shoulder dipped down a little bit toward the land, but not very deeply. Here and there, there were large bushes and some grasses, but for the most part, it was very barren and rocky. Not a lot of hiding places, is what I'm getting at.
Pretty soon, I noticed what appeared to be a person standing on the side of the road. I immediately assumed it was a hitchhiker, though I hadn't seen many of them on my trip, strangely. As I approached, I saw that it was a woman with a small dog at her feet. It was a little brown dog that I immediately thought of as a "Benji dog."
Now, when I say she was a woman, I use that word loosely. She appeared to be very young. Maybe 18 or 19 at the oldest. I felt sad for her that she was out here thumbing a ride with her dog and that all of the cars ahead of me had passed her by. I'm not one for picking up hitchhikers myself, but she looked so sad and young, and I wanted to make sure she was safe.
By the time I'd decided to pick her up, I had passed her, so I pulled to the shoulder and reversed, watching her in my mirrors the whole time. I saw her look up at me. I saw her say something to the dog who stood up. As I came to a complete stop, I checked my sideview mirror to make sure I wasn't going to be sideswiped by a semi or anything. As I was looking in my mirror, the backdoor opened and I said, "hey! Get in!" There was no response and no sound. I looked over my right shoulder to see if she needed help with her things, but there was no one there. My car door was open, yes, but the girl was not, nor was her dog. I got out of my car and walked around the side to see if she'd fallen or something. She was nowhere. Just gone. Her dog. Her bag. Everything. Gone. There was absolutely nowhere she could be hiding as all of the plants in the immediate area were small. My mind was scrambling around for a rational explanation, so I walked all the way around my car. I looked again in the backseat to make sure I wasn't crazy and just didn't see her climb in. I was absolutely alone.
I closed my car's backdoor and got back in the driver's seat. I just sat there for what felt like an hour, but was probably only 5 minutes. I couldn't understand what had just happened, and I think I was a little bit in shock. I finally started up the car and drove the final 45 minutes to my destination, but I was in a bit of a fog the whole time. I just felt stunned. That's the best way I can put it.
The rest of my trip was uneventful, but I was so scared to drive past that area on my way home. I had met up with another friend in Colorado, and she decided to come back home to Sacramento with me. I was so glad I didn't have to drive past the spot where it happened alone. I couldn't bring myself to tell my friend about it, but I was quiet and alert as we passed the area, terrified that I'd see the disappearing hitchhiker and her dog again.