That’s when you hear a voice. A voice outside of your head.
“You know you’ve been talking to yourself? Out loud?”
You spin around and see a man, smiling at you. He holds his hands up in supplication: your face must be a picture of surprise. His smile widens, deepening the crows-feet on his overly-tanned face.
“It’s okay,” he says. “I do it too. Normally though, I make sure I’m alone.”
Involuntarily, you smile back. “Sorry! I thought I was alone” You recoil at the vapidity of your statement. “I mean…” you trail off. He nods, amused.
You look at the man closely. Youngish. Handsome. But you’re aware of your surroundings. A woman, alone on a hill in a strange country with night swiftly closing in. Your internal antennae are raised in alert.
The last rays of sun flare against the horizon. For the briefest moment, you get a better look at the man. You realise he’s older than he first appeared. Mid-40s possibly. Greying hair at the temples. A slight hunch of the shoulders. Is that a dark scar on his cheek? Your eyes flick over him, searching for any signs of a threat or aggression.
No. He appears harmless.
“You seem to be having car trouble,” he says, somewhat cheekily. You finally figure out his accent: British. But only vaguely so. Brits don’t usually tan so deeply.
“You could say that”, you sigh. “You don’t happen to be a mechanic or something, do you?”
“No,” he says, eyes twinkling. “Not that a mechanic could help you. Figure you need a tow-truck.”
A pause, then: “But look, it’s almost dark. Right now what you need is a stiff drink and a place to spend the night.”
“And you happen to know a place…” you answer, an edge creeping into your tone.
“I do indeed.” No edge there. Only… what? Kindness? Concern? Creepiness?
The silence between you hangs in the cool evening air. You’re tempted, but you can’t ignore the cold icicle of fear that is now sliding down your spine. The disappearing sun has cast a shadow across his Clooney-esque face, giving his smile another quality. Somewhat… reptilian.
‘It’s your imagination’, you think to yourself. ‘He’s too good looking to be a psycho.’ But still…
… but still. Where on earth did he appear from? You could swear you were alone when you pulled up in your car. You can’t remember a path. You do remember some bushes. Was he hiding behind them?
“No thanks,” you say, at last. “I appreciate the offer, but I’d best call a cab and find a hotel. No offence, but… you know.”
He remains still for a moment. All you can see of his smile are his teeth.
“It’s a real shame you said that,” he says.