Morning commutes are nobody’s friend, at least not here in NYC. There’s so much to contend with: crowded subway platforms, late trains, shoulder-to-shoulder traffic on the sidewalks, and that smell. You know the one I’m talking about, like if Dante’s Inferno were a scratch-and-sniff book. But imagine if you looked in your rearview mirror one morning and found a Basilisk staring back at you. How about a manticore? Or Gmork from The NeverEnding Story? Worst. Commute. Ever.
We turned to Twitter to ask what nightmare creature you wouldn’t want to find in your backseat, and you all delivered the terror. We’ve collected eight of our favorite (er… least favorite?) backseat drivers below!
Pennywise the Clown—Stephen King’s It
The undisputed King of Horror has made many contributions to our nightmares over the years, but none are quite so memorable as Pennywise. Even more terrifying than its final interdimensional spider form was its original face, that of a clown who handed out balloons (we all float, don’t we?), gruesome smiles, and, of course, death. And you’re going to need a few extra air fresheners to combat that lingering sewer-smell… Still can’t get enough King? Are you sure? Okay, then we’ve got a great reread just for you.
Slime Mold—John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War
It takes a true talent to turn something as innocuous as mold into a threat. But that’s exactly what John Scalzi does in Old Man’s War, creating mold that will take more than your average cleaning supplies to kill. This is intelligent fungi attacks soldiers, slipping inside their mouths, coating their throats, suffocating and thick, secreting digestive enzymes that start to break down the poor humans from the inside out… You know, the subway doesn’t sound so bad after all.
Whitewalkers—George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones
They’re here to put the ice in A Song of Ice and Fire, and they wouldn’t mind adding you to their army of wights once they’re finished with all of Westeros. No puny human can match their strength and not even the great Wall in the north seems capable of holding them for long. Since one of their only weaknesses is fire, you’ll have to set your whole car ablaze to avoid their wintry touch. Might as well call your boss now, because you’re definitely going to be late for that 9 o’clock meeting.
The Pale Man—Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth
“What slumbers there… is not human.” The faun of Pan’s Labyrinth wasn’t lying to Ofelia when he described the Pale Man this way. His chamber may have been warm, but the pictures on his walls and the pile of clothes on his floor told the true story of the Pale Man’s insatiable appetite for the flesh of children. And when Ofelia ate two of his grapes? The Pale Man awoke, hungrier than ever. One thing’s for sure, we’d be reluctant to give him a ride to the 7-11, even if he was chipping in for gas.
Cthaeh—Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear
The limbs of this aged tree might look like a nice place to grab some shade, but don’t let that fool you. The Cthaeh’s ability to see all possible futures makes it a fearsome enemy, especially when it uses that knowledge to enact the very worst outcome for your timeline. The Sithe archers try to prevent this from happening, so just stepping near the tree will get you killed, but even if you did survive, can you imagine trying to play a game of “I Spy” with an evil clairvoyant?
Cthulhu—H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”
With the epic Lovecraft Reread in full force, it’s impossible not to put Cthulhu near the top of this list. The Great Old One is described as part octopus, part man, and part dragon, which adds up to 100% spine-tingling. He helped establish a cult in his name by manipulating the dreams of human beings on land, and even now, under the waves on his sunken island of R’lyeh, Cthulhu waits.
The Shrike—Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos
At the very least, this four-armed bio-mechanical creature will scratch your upholstery. Although, with its body full of barbed wire and thorns and knives on its fingers and toes, you’ll probably be worried about more than your leather seats. Especially if it decides to take you on a detour to the Tree of Thorns, where you’ll spend the rest of your time suspended on jagged metallic limbs alongside other victims from across time and space.
Balrog—J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings
We had our choice of Tolkien offerings this time around. Would we take Gollum or Shelob or, perhaps, the Eye of Sauron? Sure, the general consensus is that spiders are creepy (so many legs!), and no, we don’t like defending our jewelry against lusty little quasi-hobbits, and of course we don’t want a burning eye critiquing our turn signals. But a demonic creature made of flame, shadow, and darkness, with swords and fiery whips to boot? Yep, our money is on the Balrog as the worst road trip companion in all of Middle-earth.
The one thing we couldn’t agree on was which Wheel of Time creature would be the most horrifying to find behind you. There’s the Gray Man and the Trolloc, and who could forget the Myrddraal, or *shudders* what about the Gholam? You tell us!
This article was written and researched by Ashley Mullins and Cameron Summers.