"Night comes to the desert all at once, as if someone turned off the light." - Joyce Carol Oates
a Quantum Leap fanfic
There was a blue flash, sparking electricity, the distinct sound of the rending of time and separating bodies from their auras, and Doctor Samuel Beckett found he had once again Leaped into a new body.
He entered right in the middle of dismounting a motorcycle. He tripped a little as he adjusted to this new body and reached out to catch himself, only to have his hand smash into a cactus. He cried out and pulled away, yet managed to trip over a rock. Finally, he was on his feet firmly. Not his most graceful entrance, but not his worst. He pulled a couple spines out of his hand. The damage would have been much worse, but he wore leather riding gloves. Finally he was able to look around.
He felt the rumble of a passing semi truck about a hundred paces away. He glanced in that direction first and saw a dark highway. He spotted the trail the Harley Davidson motorcycle's wheels had left in sand and rocks as it pulled off the highway and down to this cactus. All around him stretched the beauty of the American desert. The sky glowed purple with a setting sun. Stars began to twinkle, a few soloists shining for now, but in less than an hour it would be a choir of celestial titillation. Puffs of clouds spotted the sky, flat pink bottoms with towering tops still gleaming white with the sun.
Then he glanced at himself. Leather jacket, riding chaps, leather boots, leather everywhere. He pulled a helmet off and scratched out his hair. Sweaty, dirty, stiff. He leaned over to the motorcycle's side mirror and glanced at the reflection. He had expected a roughened biker with long hair, a fierce beard, and tattoos. The face that greeted him seemed incongruous with the bike and the outfit. It was a lean face, pink with sunburn, cheeks only slightly stubble-darkened from a day of riding, hair in a businessman's trim, although it was darkened with sweat and crushed down against his scalp. His teeth were too white. He has seen sleazy lawyers with smiles like that.
The urbane face was nothing compared to the beauty of the desert sunset. Sam had to smile as he gazed at stretching shadows of cacti, yucca trees, creosote bushes, and stumpy sagebrush dotting the rocky plain that was only interrupted by occasional uprisings of pointy mountains and the silhouettes of flat-topped mesas squatting across the horizon like a restaurant full of tables ready to serve a community of giants. If not for the noise of the highway, it would have made a serene picture.
There was something magical about this place … and familiar.
The honk of a passing semi truck brought Sam out of his revelry. Night would be upon him soon. By how cool it felt and the clouds in the sky, he instinctively knew it was winter. Winter nights in the desert could get dangerously cold, and those clouds hinted at thunderstorms approaching. He wondered why this man pulled off here, in the middle of the wilderness, instead of driving on to the nearest small town for a motel. Perhaps the reason laid in his bags.
He began searching the saddlebags that bulged out from the sides of the Harley. There were changes of clothes, some jerky, dried apple slices, water jugs, and boxes of spare ammunition for a .45 which he suddenly felt at his side hidden under the leather jacket. In the other saddle were more jugs of water and a duffel bag. Sam opened the bag. An evening breeze ruffled the ends of numerous stacks of hundred dollar bills. Sam pulled one stack out and flipped through it.
"This can't be good," he muttered. He put the money back and shut the saddlebag tightly.
There was a rolled-up sleeping bag strapped to the back of the seat, but nothing to tell him more. He checked his jacket pockets. A switchblade, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a pack of gum. Then he reached to his back pocket to check the man's wallet.
"No wallet?" he asked in surprise.
No wallet, no paperwork, nothing at all to identify this person. Only enough food and water to last him for a few days and enough cash to buy a small island.
Maybe he had a reason for avoiding towns, or perhaps he pulled off the road merely to see the sunset. All Sam knew was, despite the sleeping bag, he could not sleep out in the open like this, so close to the highway. There could be snakes, scorpions, roadside thieves, and he was still visible from the highway if he decided to build a fire.
He jumped at Al's shout and nearly crashed into the cactus again.
"You gotta get out of here, Sam!"
"No time! Get on that bike and ride! Go! Go!"
Al looked frantic and worried. A moment later, Sam heard the explosion of a rifle. He ducked as the cactus next to him splintered. He vaguely saw a set of headlights pull off the highway and bounce toward him. Two more shots just missed him.
Sam wasted no time with questions. He pulled the helmet back on, straddled the Harley, and gunned it back toward the highway, kicking up a trail of dust and sand behind him. He gripped tightly as the bike climbed the slight grade to the main highway and crashed into the right lane hard. He swerved for only a moment, nearly sideswiping an RV, then settled the bike onto the road.
Al appeared behind him, half of his body standing through the rump of the motorcycle as if it was not moving. "That was a close one!"
Before he could asked, he heard an explosion behind him. He looked in the motorcycle's side mirror and saw a ball of flames rise up where the cactus had been.
End of Chapter 1