The following is an account transcribed from an anonymous source about their encounter with an unidentified anomaly.
I just want to start out by saying that I wasn’t on anything, I wasn’t drunk, and I wasn’t dreaming. I was driving for Christ’s sake. If I had fallen asleep behind the wheel then I would be in a hospital right now, not talking to you. Besides, Ab—my friend was there. She can tell you I wasn’t asleep. What happened to me was real.
Do you know Pellissippi Parkway? Most students here do. I don’t drive it a lot, but I’ve learned that driving ten over the speed limit is considered going slow. It’s crazy. Something else I learned a few months ago is that if you miss the Alcoa exit, not even three miles down the road, it just ends. You have the options of turning right, which will lead you into Maryville; turning left, which will lead you I don’t know where; and going straight, which will lead you into a field because the Parkway is just gone.
I was disconcerted the first time I made that mistake, but at least it was during the day, and now I know how to get back to campus from there. Here’s the thing. What I’m about to describe to you happened at night, but that doesn’t explain … anything.
It was late, and we were driving back from Oak Ridge. I was a little tired, sure. That’s why I missed the exit, but I told A—my friend that it wasn’t a big deal and that I knew another way. It was taking longer than I remembered. I tried to pull up my GPS on my phone, but it wouldn’t load. It wouldn’t load on my friend’s phone either. We joked about having to rely on my memory, and I didn’t even think about the fact that I had full bars on my phone.
I swear it’s only about three miles, but we were on that road for fifteen minutes before I started to get worried. It was then that I noticed that there were no other cars on the road with us and that there were no road signs.
It was when the lines for the other lanes disappeared, and the road narrowed into a straight, single lane road that seemed to go for as far as my eyes could see in the dim light of my headlights that I considered turning around.
I asked [Redacted]what she thought but she didn’t respond. I tried to look at her, but I had the sudden fear that if I took my eyes off the road in front of me then I would be lost forever. I tried to slow down, but nothing happened. My foot didn’t move from the gas pedal. I couldn’t even turn the wheel.
The huge shadow of the mountains seemed to loom ahead, unnervingly close, yet never seeming to get closer. Is it strange? That in that moment, I was terrified of them, the mountains. It was like they were taunting me. I could keep driving and driving and never reach the one thing that was different from the vast expanse of nothing I knew was on either side of me.
I tried to get [Redacted]’s attention. I couldn’t move, but I could shout and scream, and trust me, I did. But she did nothing. As far as I could tell from my peripheral, she just sat there, unmoving and silent. Maybe she didn’t have the luxury of noise in whatever personal hell she was experiencing.
Is that what it was? Hell? It was nothing like what I imagined hell could possibly be like, but if I was able to choose between fire and brimstone and the feeling of wild panic and dread that consumed me in that car forever moving forward, I would choose damnation. At least then I would have known why.
It was as I was considering this when I saw the billboard. It’s not like I drove up on it. One moment it wasn’t there, and then it was, blinding white in my car’s headlights with plain black text that read:
You are where you are meant to be. Stay.
I started crying then. Silent tears turned to sobbing and dry heaving and I couldn’t wipe the mess away. My vision blurred, and had I been able to move I would have been concerned of driving off the road.
Except I could move. As unaware as I had been of when I exactly I had lost control of my body, suddenly I was moving my arms to direct the steering wheel. I blinked the tears out of my eyes and quickly adjusted for the curve up ahead on what was now once again a four lane highway, and before I could comprehend the fact that I was free, we passed a sign that read “Alcoa Highway exit.”
It was a short drive after that. Ridiculously short. My friend and I haven’t talked about what happened to us, yet. I don’t even know if she saw what I saw … but she did see something. She was scared, too.