Puffy
rating: +11+x

So I was told that apparently this is a creepy story or whatever, and I should share. It is creepy, I guess, but it's just a weird thing that happened. No cursed haunting or stalkers in the dark or anything. So don't come crying if it's unsatisfying or whatever.

First, a little backstory.

I am 30-ish, married, and live with my husband and two children. He does government work, mostly from home now. I was a stay at home mom until about three years ago, when my husband's work changed and suddenly I had more options besides looking after the kids. An opportunity had come up to work in a field I both loved and trained for, so I jumped at it. The only downside was it was a little over an hour away, but we considered it a fine trade-off. Getting out of the house was nice, and the extra income was very nice. Forgive me being vague, but I'd rather err on the side of caution instead of saying the wrong stuff and getting someone fired. Sorry.

Now, the important part for this is my drive. We live in a big old farmhouse on the edge of a small-ish town. The area around us is pretty woody, so seeing stuff on my drive or around the house is normal. Foxes, deer, raccoon, even bear and once a huge heron, it's typical. Now, to get to work, I need to drive somewhat through town, typically getting gas and buying lunch because I fucking forgot it at home again and I'm late. Once through town, I need to drive a fair bit to reach another, smaller town, really just a wide spot in the road. There used to be a sawmill there ages ago, but now the primary export is payday loans and meth. About 10-15 minutes past that is my work site, which is it's own detached facility.

Now, between these two towns there's three primary ways I can take. There's the main highway, which is a straight shot but typically busy as hell. Lots of lakes and industry in the area, just spread out, so the main arteries are about as congested as someone with hay fever. Get lucky sometimes though, but typically a gamble. The second pick is a set of back roads that worm along the edge of town and the woods, and spit me out near methmill town. Not nearly as busy, but nowhere near as direct, but it's pretty easy, and the area can be real pretty at certain times of the year. The third option is Catscratch.

I have no idea why this stupid road is called Catscratch, but it's about as thin as one. It shoots right from our town, then about half-way it winds into the woods, skips along the edge of methmill town, and splits off right before the edge of my worksite. It is sometimes two, often one-lane, narrow, and inconsistently paved. However, if you know it, and know what you're doing, you can shave some serious time off the drive. It's also creepy as shit. The first part isn't so bad, but the woods around the second half are wild and dense, in the summer the trees and leaves make a dark tunnel, and in winter the light-dark contrast of snow and black trees can make it look like things are moving. Still, to someone trying to squeeze down twenty minutes, it's tolerable.

I was coming home from work. It was late fall, and while it wasn't full dark yet, the light was going fast. I was going down Catscratch mainly because I was wiped out and just wanted to take my time and sing like a crazy person. It was near the edge of the woody section, going on to that long, narrow straightaway, when I suddenly saw this bit of bright orange on the side of the road. Construction isn't uncommon, so I just mentally blipped over it, dismissing it as a traffic barrel or cone that was left behind or something. I was belting out Zombie by The Cranberries when I realized the orange thing was moving.

It was a bright orange coat, being worn by a gangly black guy in dirty jeans. I instantly shut up and felt crazy embarrassed, sort of hunching down and looking sideways as I drove by. All the windows were up, but it's just one of those things, I guess. I though maybe he was a road worker, or maybe a hunter, it was that kind of blaze, semi-reflective orange color. Then I realized it was puffy, like one of those big, poofy almost-parkas people wear. The hood was up, and the guy was walking the same direction I was driving, so I couldn't see his face. He was pretty tall, and seemed kind of dirty as well. I drove by, and he didn't respond, just kept walking, arms swaying at his sides. I just blew it off, swore a little, and went back to singing.

The area, as I said, has a meth problem, so it's not unheard of to see strung-out tweakers wandering about now and then. It was kinda late, and cold, but again, meth, baby. It kind of seemed like he was doing that hazy sleepwalk thing, so I just chalked it up to that. It was weird, though. I kept dwelling on it on the ride home, and I realized I hadn't seen his face, which seemed to bug me. Told my husband about it when I got home, and he did his best to roll with it. He likes spooky and weird stuff, but tries to play the skeptic. He told me to keep away from there for a couple days, just to be safe. For all we knew, he could have friends waiting for an ambush, who knows. I agreed, and we went to bed.


So my husband sleeps like a dead man, and I sometimes don't hear my alarm. So Catscratch again.

I was flying, not really speeding, I swear officer, but maybe faster than I should be going. I was barely paying attention, honestly, and likely would have missed it even if the orange vest guy jumped on my hood. The only reason I noticed the truck was because it was nearly blocking the whole road.

It was a beat-to-hell rust bucket you see around lonely towns in the middle of nowhere. It might have been…green? Maybe? It was sitting, taking up two-thirds of the one-ish lane section. I could see a guy leaning out and waving his arms, and I thought he was trying to signal to me. Then I saw a couple guys out in the bare trees, gesturing back and I'd assume yelling. I'd had the music up and couldn't make anything out. When I saw both had rifles, I got a little nervous, but again, this exact scene isn't that weird. Probably hunters, poachers, or what have you. The guy in the truck noticed me, and slowly puttered out of my way, and I whipped by with a minimum of swearing. It wasn't until I was at work when I realized they were in the same-ish area I'd seen orange puffy-coat guy.

I sort of forgot about it, and didn't take Catscratch for another two days. I'd driven in on the main highway, but just a bit after I got in a bad storm blew in. It snarled and boomed for most of the day, finally tapering off late in the evening. I ended up getting held over, and when my relief finally came, he told me to keep off the highway, as there'd been an accident and everything was backed up for miles. I groaned, and was debating on how to go home as I worked my way out to the car. The sky was still boiled up with clouds, and the weather said it was going to start storming again soon. For whatever reason, I pulled out and headed down Catscratch. I think I was just settling on the fastest way home, shit conditions or not. I'd totally forgotten about puffy-coat guy as I worked my way through the trees and turns.

I know there are explanations for what I saw, I just don't know what they are. All I know is what I saw, or at least what I think I saw. Strung-out people can do amazingly weird stuff, or I could have nodded off for a second, or it was just someone fucking around. It just…honestly it scared the hell out of me, like, more than it seems like the situation would warrant, if that makes sense?


Anyway.

It was full-dark, the road was wet and the wind was just enough to kick up leaves now and then. I actually wasn't speeding for once, and was too worn out to sing, so when I saw that puffy orange coat again, I actually looked as I drove up to the guy. It was just the same as before, old dirty pants, bright orange coat with the hood up, hands swaying absently at his sides. He was walking along the gravel on the edge of the road, and didn't seemed to be weaving or stumbling really. Just had an odd, stiff posture, like maybe his back hurt or something. He was tall, like six-five-ish, give or take? His hands were long and dirty, with that kind of ashy patina that homeless folks seem to get. I sort of moved over to the far side of the road to give him some room, and I watched, waiting to see what he looked like. I don't think I was expecting something, just the same impulse that makes you slow down at accidents I guess. His head sort of turned a little as I started to pass alongside, walking the same direction I was driving.

There was something horribly wrong with his face.

I don't know if it was drugs, or injury, or what the fuck, but he had this huge smile, and I mean HUGE. It looked like it went up to his cheekbones, winkles pushed up by his ears, and these huge, flat, white teeth crammed in. Not a one was straight, but they weren't decayed or broken, just like someone crammed his mouth with a couple fistfuls of blank white dominoes. His nose was small, and nearly lost above his big, pale, stretched lips. He looked like he could eat a cantolope whole, his smile was that fucking huge. His skin was dark, but gray and ashy, like he was dirty or sick, maybe. I couldn't see his hair because of his hood.

His eyes were black. I mean solid black, so black I'm not even sure he actually had any. Just dull, empty, hollow blackness above that huge, jagged smile.

I sort of yelped, and punched the gas. I watched in the rear-view, and he was watching me, his head slowly turning as I passed…then suddenly it leaned back, from the base of his neck, and pressed into his coat.

If you've ever blown up something human shaped (ha ha) there's a thing that happens sometimes when you deflate them. The whole thing sags, and then the head sort of flops backward and down, still inflated. The body sort of collapses, and the head kind of plops in to it, neck and head still full and unmoving, like tipping a lamp onto a fluffy pillow. That's what this guy's head did. The neck was still straight, face still frozen in that horrible smile, and it all just fell back and to the side, like his right shoulder had deflated a bit and made his head fall. It sounds stupid, but it terrified the fuck out of me, because I have no idea how you could do that without breaking a ton of bones and worse.

It only lasted like…a second or two, maybe, then suddenly he jerked to the side. Not like he hopped, like something yanked him, hard, into the woods. I saw his arms and legs fly for a half-second like a doll being tossed across a room, and then he was gone, not a trace left. I drove like hell back home and locked everything up tight.

This was a couple months ago, and I've only been down Catscratch twice since then. One of those times, the last time, I saw that pickup again, this time pulled all the way off the road with two others beside it. I didn't even really look or slow down, and I've been keeping away ever since. I don't know of any stories or urban legends that deal with something like this, and there's been nothing in the news. My husband says it's creepy and weird, and I should share, so I have. I saw some weird, sick homeless guy with a messed-up face on the road, and I drove the hell away.

Thank you for reading, if you got here. I did warn you it's unsatisfying. My husband thinks maybe it was some sort of supernatural ambush or lure thing, but he thinks he saw bigfoot once, so make of it what you will.

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