It was Ben who insisted that they play with the Ouija board he had brought to the sleepover. He claimed he found it in a deserted building site, despite its near-mint condition. Plus, they were ten and Adam was pretty sure he stole that story from when they saw Jumanji a few weeks before. Regardless, the four young boys had gathered around, strategically dimming lights for the right ambience.
Adam had smiled and laughed with the others as the planchette began moving, convinced it was his friends playing with him. At one point he tried to spell something funny, but found he could not alter its path. He had stopped laughing then, but the others did not seem to notice. They asked a series of questions about crushes and dead relatives.
Then Ben asked how he would die.
Nine years later, Ben died in a horrible crash. He had never been one for safety gear, so the long smear of blood on the road was what led the emergency responders to find his body in the bushes, 50 metres from the bike.
Adam’s best friend, Josh had also asked, a little less jokingly.
Despite making his best efforts to lead a healthy life, Josh was diagnosed with brain cancer during his first year at university. Against all odds he had gone into remission, but nothing anyone said could convince him it would not come back again. Two years later, he was proven right. There was only a month between the diagnosis and the funeral.
David then asked, egged on by the others.
Really, the aneurysm would have killed him if it had happened anywhere except the bath.
Adam had not wanted to ask. But to his young mind it would be unfair and shameful to refuse to ask, regardless of how scared he was.
More confused that frightened, Adam had written it down. It was not until days later, at the crosswalk with his friends that he realised what the message referred to. Revving its engine impatiently was a dark red cadillac, with a familiar licence plate.
Adam managed to not think about it until Josh contacted him, passing on the news about Ben. He dug out a box of childhood treasures, finding a scrap of paper with messy handwriting. He almost thoughtlessly tucked it into his wallet, wondering if it would be too morbid to mention when he saw Ben and David at the funeral.
Adam chose to keep his silence, until he received the news about Josh. It came as such a hit that he took a week off work, spending time in familiar bars with old friends, reminiscing about Josh.
It was one of those nights, too many drinks in, that he had struck up a conversation with David. Then Adam made a joke about David needing to be careful to not drown in his drink. The reaction was a look of sudden panic. David tried to laugh it off, mentioning that he never went into any water he couldn’t sit up in. Adam had apologised and tried to talk about the ouija board, but David insisted that he had to go, leaving an almost full pint on the table.
That was the last time Adam saw him alive.
Over the next six months, Adam became obsessed. He set up online alerts, notified local car dealers and tried to contact any authority that might help him. He needed to find the car with that licence plate.
Adam had made a nightly habit of working his way through satellite images of his town. He slowly trawled his way through neighbourhoods, looking from above for a dark-red car. When he found a likely candidate, he would grab cash and the necessary paperwork, rushing to the location like his life depended on it.
His seventh investigation finally bore fruit.
It was in the driveway of a nice looking house. The car was not very well-kept and from the bumper stickers and scratches, Adam suspected it had been passed down to a teenager to learn to drive. But all that mattered was the licence plate. Once that was verified, Adam began to pound on the front door of the house. The surprised occupant listened as Adam offered any amount of money for the car. He could even get more if they wanted, they just had to promise not to drive it until he came back.
An hour later, a large sum of hurriedly withdrawn cash was handed over and a towing company arrived to collect the car.
The old owner was incredulous that Adam would not even test drive the car after all the fuss, but his bizarre smile and wad of cash convinced them to close the door and count their blessings.
Finally, Adam had the car safely stored away. It was in his garage, propped up on bricks and unable to enact his nightmares. He had removed the tires, drained the petrol and oil and unplugged the battery. It was stationary and it was harmless.
He could live out the rest of his life in peace, knowing that he was safe until he chose to meet his fate.
Before covering the car with a tarp, Adam ran a finger over the edge of the licence plate, almost caressing it. It was surprisingly sharp, but he barely noticed as he was too elated by his circumstances. He covered the car and turned off the light, deciding to celebrate.
He had barely felt the small cut the rusted metal made on his finger.