• Dylan Roche

Post-Midnight Drive: A Story Prompted by Storymatic

Updated: Jul 28

As a way of encouraging (or forcing) myself to be creative while quarantined, and while I procrastinate on revising my work in progress, I busted out my Storymatic cards. I figure a daily writing prompt for my blog will help me commit to writing every day without the pressure that comes along with working on a manuscript that I actually care about. The premise is simple: I have to draw two character cards and two scenario cards, and I have to use those to create some kind of narrative in approximately 500 words. I'll use tomorrow's prompt to continue what I start today. I can't guarantee the story will be any good, but at least it's one more way for me to stay creative when inspiration and motivation are hard to find.

He couldn’t sleep.

Typical. This wasn’t the first time his brain was buzzing well into the night, past midnight and into the hours when normal people were achieving their deepest slumber. It seemed as if this happened more often than it didn’t.

Sitting up, he turned to look at the alarm clock on his bedside table. Its glowing orange letters read 3:00.

And that was how, with nothing better to do, he put on a sweatshirt and ambled out to his car to drive around. Sometimes it calmed his mind enough that he was able to get to sleep upon returning. Other times, it was just something to do to pass the hours until morning came.

The long stretches of highway through the farmland surrounding his sleepy town always made a perfect escape. He liked the peaceful serenity of being surrounded by total darkness except for the little patch of road just ahead of him that his headlights illuminated. Plus there were the stars and the moon, so much more visible out here where there was no air pollution to cloud them.

Exploring ­— that was how he came to think of these post-midnight drives. He was never exploring with the intention of finding anything. But the world just seemed so much different late at night.

He hadn’t been driving more than an hour when his gas light came on. Again, typical…just like insomnia. He hadn’t bothered to fill up his tank while he had been out running errands earlier that day. Now he had to interrupt his nighttime drive to get gas.

As luck would have it, there was a small rest stop on the side of the highway only a half-mile up ahead. On the edge of its parking lot stood a small forecourt with only two pumps, but it accepted credit cards, so it would suffice.

An eerie stillness greeted him as he pulled into the parking lot. He had passed the rest stop many times before, but he had never before needed to pull over. Neither a car nor a person disturbed the silent, motionless scene. The glow from the streetlamps lining the parking lot illuminated patches of the pavement, leaving the building where the convenience shops and bathrooms were housed completely silhouetted and most of the other surroundings to his imagination.

He pulled up to one of the pumps and got out to fill his tank. A soft breeze sounded like somebody whispering to him, and the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.

“Is anyone there?” he asked.

No response from the darkness.

Maybe, he thought. Maybe it’s worth checking.

He couldn’t remember how long he had known about this filter on his phone’s camera — he hadn’t had it on any of the previous models of smartphones he owned — but he rarely used it. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, it scared him. But he was feeling adventurous and curious that night.

He opened the camera app and snapped several shots from around the parking lot.

When he pulled them up on the screen to examine them, they looked normal. Just like they looked to him while he was standing there, staring at his surroundings with his own eyes.

What the filter showed would be a different story though. He clicked the “Edit” option and selected the last filter on the list.

Just as expected, the image now showed a blurry, shadowy figure standing on the edge of the parking lot, staring directly at him. He wasn’t alone.


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