Stars were spread out across the moonlit sky as the car made its way north along Highway One. There was very little traffic, that night in spring 1975; even the rigs had deserted the highway, drivers snatching a few hours of rest in the post-midnight darkness. Jean looked at her watch.
“I know it’s only another couple of hours’ drive to Kamloops, but it’s already past 1:00,” she said. “I don’t think your brother will be too happy if we wake him up in the middle of the night.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” replied her husband Jeff, stifling a yawn. “That’ll teach us to leave Vancouver so late. Beautiful night for a drive, though.”
“Too bad we’re seeing it for the first time in the dark. It must be spectacular in the daylight.” Jean shivered. “It’s getting chilly. And I don’t know about you, but I could do with some shut-eye. so that we aren’t exhausted when we arrive.”
“Spences Bridge is the next town,” said Jeff. “It’s sure to have some motels. We’ll find a decent-looking one and stop for the night.”
He was right about the motels, but they soon realized they weren’t likely to find a room. Everything was in darkness, including the “vacancy” signs, and the chances of finding anywhere that was still open and staffed seemed slim. With a sigh and a shrug the couple continued on their way. “Kamloops or bust,” joked Jean.
“Nah, it’s not that bad. Cache Creek’s not too far; I’m sure it has plenty of motels.”
The car raced on through the night. Jean gazed out the window, watching the play of moonlight over the landscape. There were few signs of the presence of man: a fence here, a sign there, but no houses that she could see, no lights, no traces of . . .
“What’s that up ahead?” asked Jeff, his voice startling in the silence. Jean turned to look, and saw a jumble of shapes that seemed to form no pattern that made any sense. She blinked, and looked again.
“Some sort of settlement,” she said finally, as Jeff slowed down and she could get a better look. “Make that an abandoned settlement,” she corrected herself. “They’re nothing more than shacks.”
They weren’t the first deserted, collapsing buildings they had seen on their journey, but something about these particular structures made Jean uncomfortable. I wouldn’t want the car to break down right here, she thought, although she couldn’t have said why.
“I can’t see any lights,” she heard Jeff say. “Whoever lived there must be long since . . .”
Jeff’s words died in his throat. They were cresting a small hill, and the high beams had picked out something on the side of the road ahead of them; something small and dark, moving along the shoulder of the highway. A bear, was Jean’s first thought, but as they drew closer she could see it was a person; someone small, certainly under five feet tall, wearing short dark pants, a white shirt, and a dark vest, with straight black hair falling just above the shoulders.
‘”Funny time of night to go for a walk,” said Jeff. He was still driving slowly, and they were almost parallel to the woman.
“Maybe she’s had an accident,” Jean said.
“I didn’t see any car at the side of the road,” replied Jeff. Something about the figure made him uneasy. Perhaps it was her short, almost mincing steps, or the curious way her arms were swinging back and forth, like a metronome.
“She could have gone down a bank, or into a ditch. Pull over, and I’ll ask if she needs help.”
Jeff brought the car to a halt slightly ahead of the figure, and Jean rolled down her window. A sharp, cold breeze washed over her and she shivered again. “Excuse me,” she called out, “do you need any . . .”
The figure turned its head in the direction of the car with a curious, jerky movement, as if it was unused to moving in such a way. Jean and Jeff, who were both looking out the window, saw a face turned towards them: a face of startling whiteness, in which sat eyes that were black as coal, and which seemed electric in their intensity. Even worse was the mouth, a dark gash contorted into a snarl of malice that made Jean stifle a scream.
Jeff muttered something under his breath, then slammed his foot down on the gas pedal, and the car sped forward. Almost reluctantly, Jean twisted around in her seat to look out the back window.
There was no one in sight. The road stretched out behind them, bathed in cold moonlight which showed that the highway was completely empty.
The turnoff to Ashcroft came and went, and then Cache Creek, but there was no talk of stopping. There was no talk at all, except for Jeff asking quietly, “What the hell was that?”
Jean had no answer.
Neither did the Ashcroft RCMP. Jean phoned them from Kamloops to ask if any accidents had occurred along the highway between Ashcroft and Spences Bridge the night before. When she was told that nothing had been reported, Jean asked if there were any houses along that stretch of road.
“Not anymore,” came the reply. “There used to be some farms in the area, a long time ago. A few Chinese families settled near there, and worked the land. Some of the buildings are still standing, but they’re in bad shape. Ought to be pulled down, really. No one’s lived around there for years.”
Based on a story recounted in Robert C. Belyk’s Ghosts II: More True Stories from British Columbia (Victoria: Horsdal and Schubart, 1997). The names have been changed.