By: Evelyn H. 

October 31st, 2026. The wind off the interstate smells like asphalt and gasoline, but we still have every window rolled down to let the cold night air rip through the car like a wild creature. The moon races down the road with us, barely a sliver of light against the smoggy sky above. We’re nearing the city–the highway is getting busier, red tail lights zipping around us like caffeinated fireflies.

Do, do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do do-do

Do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do

“Hey, Hannah, could you roll the windows up? I can't hear the song.”

“What?” I can barely hear my own voice over the thunder of the cars around us. I turn around, squinting into the darkness of the backseat, searching for Ellis’ face. Rose smacks me on the shoulder from the passenger seat, scolding me: “Eyes on the road!” I stick my tongue out at her, but I do what she says.

“FINE, I’ll roll them up myself!”

“WHAT??” I yell back, almost turning around again (Rose glares at me before I can). I feel Ellis’ arm clawing its way up my armrest, reaching to pull the four window tabs by my wrist. When the windows shut, it’s like we’ve been put in the airlock of a spaceship–everything goes still. The absence of noise leaves my ears ringing, but the song fills them again quickly.

Well, you must be a girl with shoes like that

She said, you know me well

I seen you and little Steven and Joanna

Round the back of my hotel

Oh yeah

“Ah ah ah, this isn’t a Halloween song,” I say in a singsong voice, wagging my finger in Ellis’ direction like I’m scolding a small child. “Not very festive of you, I have to say.”

Rose nods emphatically, using their privilege as a passenger seat rider to physically turn to Ellis. “Yeah, I thought you’d play us a Ghost song. That seems more fitting for the mood, no?”

Ellis gasps in mock astonishment, clutching at invisible pearls. “Who, me? Never! Besides,” they continue, “This is my birthday celebration, so I get to choose the playlist for tonight. You’ll hear plenty of Ghost, don’t worry.”

We drive in and out of the beams of streetlamps, almost in perfect time with the music. Rose pumps their fists and jerks their shoulders to the rhythm of the guitar. Ellis is nodding along, leaning up to rest their elbows on the armrest. Their short, fluffy hair looks like they’ve been caught in a tornado. Oops.

Someone said you was asking after me

But I know you best as blagger

I said, tell me your name, is it sweet?

She said, my boy, it’s dagger

Oh yeah

I’m having so much fun that I miss our exit.

“Wait. None of this looks familiar,” I interject suddenly, squinting at the buildings rushing by us, looking for a landmark.

Rose reaches to turn the music down a bit (Ellis quickly protests this), and checks the GPS. “Ummm…” She zooms in, squinting to read the street names on the screen. “Yeah, uh, I think we’ve passed our exit.” She scrolls some more, muttering to herself, and adds: “About three exits ago.”

“Ah, dangit.” I slap the steering wheel in frustration. Rose gives me a smug grin, leaning in to deliver a classic line: “You know, I have two very comforting words for you, if you’d like to hear them.”

“Don’t you dare.”


“I swear to you, if you–”

“... issue.”


Ellis has been dancing again in the backseat, enjoying the song by themself, but my outburst startles them back to reality.

“Wait, what? What happened?”

“Hold on, we’re taking a detour,” I say in exasperation, gripping the steering wheel with newfound focus. I begin to cut across lanes of traffic as carefully as possible, and eventually we cruise onto an exit ramp. Other than the fact that there were no other cars on it, it looks like any other exit, with a sign claiming a Racetrac gas station is coming up (which we desperately need; candy for us, fuel for the car–maybe even an extra birthday gift for Ellis).

As Ellis reaches to turn the music back up, I notice the digital clock display flicker. A moment ago, it read 11:59, but now it reads 00:30.




“Woah, uh, that’s freaky,” Ellis comments, flinching back from the console. Their voice is low, and they sound (understandably) frightened. Rose is staring wide-eyed at the clock display as well. Both of them are silent and still. The only sound in the car is the song’s catchy tune.

Do, do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do do-do

Do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do

After a few tense seconds, I speak: “Should we like… pull over? Is this thing going to explode?” 

Nobody answers. It appears my weak attempt at a joke did not land.

“... I’m pulling over.”

I press down on the brakes, but nothing happens. I try again, but the car doesn’t seem to care. In fact, it feels like we’re slowly picking up speed.





“I thought you said you were pulling over.” Ellis’ voice is taught with fear.

“The brakes aren’t working,” I reply, stomping on the ineffective brake pedal to prove my point.

“What do you mean the brakes aren’t working?!”

Call me up, take me down with you when you go

I could be your regular belle

And I'll dance for little Steven and Joanna

'Round the back of my hotel, oh yeah

The exit ramp curves to the right, and as the car speeds up, inertia presses us to the left. At this point, Rose is clutching onto their seatbelt for dear life with both hands, just about hyperventilating. I’m turning the hazard lights on, honking the horn and slamming my foot on the brakes over and over (to no avail). Ellis has started rocking back and forth, pressing their lips into a thin line, their eyes wide.

“We’re running out of exit ramp!” Ellis exclaims, gripping the side of my seat.

“I can see that!” I shout back. Rose is letting out a low groan, her eyes closed and feet pulled up to her chest.




The lights in the car all go out at once, causing Ellis to release a string of expletives. Rose has nearly torn the seatbelt from its port.

I’m jerking the wheel left and right, trying to run the car into the ditch as a last resort so we don’t hurt anyone on the upcoming highway. But the wheel has stopped responding to my hands–the car’s wheels follow the road on their own, going faster and faster.

Do, do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do do-do

Do do-do, do do-do

Do do do-do do

With no warning, the overhead light in the car kicks on, an oversaturated indigo. At this point, I’m grabbing the wheel and honking and stomping the brakes because I don’t know what else I can do. We’re about to merge into traffic, whether we like it or not.

Time seems to slow down as we all turn our focus to the clock.




A calm, robotic voice comes through the speakers. “Liftoff initiated.”

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