I hate creamed corn.
Let me just make that really clear to you.
That stuff is poison. I mean, do you even know what's in that stuff? Not to mention all the preservatives. If you ever look up those ingredients somewhere, you'll find them in the top ten toxic crap unsafe for human consumption.
Lately, I've heard that they're growing a type of corn that emits an insecticide as it matures. Who'd want to eat that? Bio-engineered food is something that should remain science-fiction. Do you know what eating bio-engineered food does to your body? Your genes? Genetic mutation is more like it.
I really hate creamed corn.
It just looks-gross. Like something the dog threw up after eating some grass. And the taste...
They tried to feed it to me in the hospital but I wouldn't eat it. You'd likely get sick from it and stay in the hospital for good.
No, no. Don't ever eat creamed corn.
You ever watch Twin Peaks? Now that's a weird show. They knew about creamed corn. Talk about crazy...
By the way, the radio's broken, so you can't get anything. It's a few more hours to your next stop so unless you want to get some sleep there's not much else to do but listen to me. Or you could do both I suppose, not that I would mind. I'm used to talking to myself, it keeps me company. You're the first person I've seen here in a long while since I stopped at the last town some ways back.
Why was I in the hospital you ask?
Well, that's a long story...
I don't talk about it.
I mean I like talking to people, don't get me wrong. I can tell a story from here until Poughkeepsie, but that might tire us both out. I like telling stories, it's a lost art, you know? People nowadays don't talk much except on their stupid phones. Drives me crazy.
Don't worry I'm a safe driver. I haven't had an accident since I got my license over twenty years ago. How old did you think I was? You really shouldn't judge by appearances. Yeah, time flies, doesn't it?
Seems like we've been on the road near forever. I wonder if it's possible to drive to the end of the world...
Listen to me, rambling on, you'd think I lost a few of my marbles. It gets pretty lonely out here on the road sometimes. I run a delivery service. Guaranteed delivery on the contracted date or your money back. No, No! I'm not talking about drugs here. That's not my thing. Usually, the odd package or two, stuff that the other guys won't handle. Nothing totally illegal like guns or animals. Just stuff that people don't want to send through the mail, more personal stuff, if you get my drift. I don't look into the packages, they're all wrapped in plain brown paper but I do have a weight limit.
Oh, sorry. I can see your bored already. You were probably expecting some grand scheme involving me and some illegal contraband. Nope, no such thing.
You're not too cold, are you? The nights are chillier since fall has come. I'm not looking forward to the winter months but as long as my heater holds up I should be fine. Right, Sheila? Yep, I named my truck Sheila, as in "She'll do me fine on the road".
I hate the cold winter months. You say it isn't so bad, but once I was stuck out in the cold. I almost died...
Like I said it's a long story.
Nah, you don't want to hear it. It's not the kind of story you tell to people, at least not without a shrink present. You see, there are some stories out there you just shouldn't tell. Some stories have happy endings, some don't. The really awful stories can incriminate you and lock you up. Well, my story is the same. No, I didn't kill anyone. But this is a story that can lock you up in a similar way.
You know, there are stories that have a life of their own. Once it's told it becomes something else, a new story, for those who listen to it. It passes from person to person, giving it new life, and new meaning. But my story is not something I want to give new life to. I don't want that responsibility. Oh sure, you think it's just a story.
The story is hard to tell.
They say starting is the hard part but that's not really it.
When you get into the story-that's when you need to be careful.
The story takes control, it takes over.
And all you can do is go along for the ride.
It takes and takes, and when you can't give anymore, it takes some more.
It bleeds you.
It bleeds you dry.
Until there's nothing left.
It's more than a story. Just think what a story like mine can do to you. Yes, we've got loads of time, as you said. You're here to go along for the ride. I was once like you. Without a place or home in this world, just roaming through it, a constant traveler. But that way of life gets old pretty quickly...
You want me to get to the point don't you?
So, you want to hear a story?
All right, I'll tell you my story...
This is a story I didn't want to tell. I don't want to go back there, to that time, in my mind where this story takes place. Because once I leave I may never come back, do you understand? Do you really understand what telling a story can do to you? I don't think you do. But don't say I didn't warn you, 'cause you're about to find out...
It was a dark and stormy night.
No, wait a minute, that's not right at all. Hell's hailstorm was more like it. The sleet and the horrid slush and the cold. Such coldness to numb your bones, to freeze the blood inside you until you just want to lie down and die. I was standing in that torrent for two hours waiting for a ride. Even now my clumsy words struggle to convene some imagery of this exact moment but I have to admit, time blurs the memory. Only in my nightmares can I recall all the details of that night.
All the other trucks passed me by. They had all passed me by. On the streets, you don't know real loneliness until you see the people, just passing you by. Like they don't see you. Because they don't want to. If they saw you, they might see themselves sitting there, begging for change to eat some fast-food junk that only lasts a few hours in the belly. It didn't bother me much. I managed. By that I mean I took, stole and rummaged-through garbage, pockets and purses. I didn't have much sympathy for those who had passed me by. But I took what I needed just the same. It really isn't a big deal. It could be worse. Much worse.
There was trouble at home. I ran away. Classic story. It's what everyone says. Boo-hoo.
But I did something really stupid and it was something I regretted. Only the regret kept me away from the only place I called home. Until things got so bad that I just wanted to come back, to whatever home was left for me. To the people who opened their home, and yes, their hearts, to me. I betrayed them but they also betrayed me by not taking my side of the story.
If only they had listened...
If only I had stayed...
But I didn't want to. I wanted to get away.
So I left.
Now I was here alone, drenched in sludge and slush, walking the rest of the way from the last rest stop after being dropped off by a stupid cop who said, "Don't let me catch you hitchhiking again. Get the hell out of here!". And left me in the cold.
I should've known not to trust anyone who'd stop for me. Being the freak that I am, no one else would notice, except for those I want to avoid. For some reason, I always attract the weirdoes. Like attracts like, so the saying goes. But I always wondered, "What the hell did I do to attract a weirdo like this?"
My coat was drenched, soaked, stiff with the ice that had crusted over from the freezing temperatures. My feet frozen in my boots, sloshing the wet ice through my numb toes. I prayed not to get frostbite. Please, oh, please don't let me lose my toes! My chest ached from breathing the air, scalding my bronchial tubes, so I was coughing and hacking through it all. I was horribly thirsty, that was the strange part, because I forgot when I last ate but I was so thirsty. I thought about eating the oil-slicked ice from the road. It all had looked gray and dirty before the dim sunlight sank into the barren wasteland of the horizon.
Middletown, USA. Between here and nowhere. Not a nice place to be. This was the first time I had been there in winter. I was just finding out how hard life could be on your own and now this, being near frozen to death, trudging along Highway 999. It was a living nightmare.
I stopped thinking, I was only walking to keep my body moving. Somehow I wanted to keep moving at all costs, if I didn't I knew I would lie down and never get up again. It was so damn cold. Hearing my dry breathing, not feeling my feet, lurching along-all of this without thinking. The closest thing I can think of is being a zombie. I was a barely alive zombie, lurching my way along, stiff as if with rigor-mortis. Stiff with the cold. The unbearable cold. I can't tell you how cold it was.
The road turned white. That's what it looked like at first.
"Here I go, I'm going to die". This was my thought.
A noise. What is that noise? I heard it behind me. I was so exhausted I couldn't even turn around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a truck, rolling alongside of me on the road. I can't remember how many steps I took before I finally stopped but I think the big-rig followed me for quite a few paces before my legs got the message that I should stop.
I felt like I was still moving but the truck was motionless. The passenger door opened. But there was no light inside.
You may not believe me but I don't think the driver even moved to open it. I hadn't seen any movement from within the cabin compartment. Usually, trucker's will turn on their lights when they stop, as a way of safety. I should've known then this was a bad sign. But I didn't really care, seeing how I was half frozen to death already.
I slowly made my way over, lurching on my frozen mushy stumps. That's what I imagined in my head, that I was walking on mushy stumps, because I was sure that by now I had lost all my toes to frostbite.
I made it to the door but the seat was way up high. I put my hand up to grab hold of the handlebar and it took all my strength to do that much. I imagined it took me a while to just lift myself up to the first step and I kept thinking, "This guy's gonna drive off and I'm gonna fall, right on the side of the road here, and never get up."
The man said nothing the whole time. I saw a vague outline of a person with a hat on and a light jacket. Yes, I said a 'light' jacket. It hadn't crossed my mind then as to why this strange person had only a light jacket on. But I would figure that out later. For now, I had to concentrate my every being into getting into the big-rig cabin. I really didn't want to be left behind. That's my worst fear.
I crawled onto the seat. I put my head back and closed my eyes. The man shifted gears and got the big-rig moving. Did I even shut the door? As I remember it now, I never moved to shut it, yet later when I opened my eyes it was shut with the lock down.
I jerked myself awake. Or rather, I had shuddered awake from the huge shiver that rocked my body. I couldn't stop shaking, and I think I was having hypothermia since the body temperature drops in your sleep.
Do you have the heat on? I had asked. Really, all I did was stutter and point to the heater which I noticed was turned off.
The man turned it on and freezing cold air blew out of the vents which spewed leaves and dirt into my face. I coughed and hacked what I felt was blood to the side, near the smeared window. I looked around for a blanket to cover myself. But somehow the guy never got the message and just sat there in silence.
That was the most disturbing part, the silence. No radio, no static from the CB either, just complete silence. He didn't even hum or mumble to himself.
Finally the heat came on but it wasn't much. My throat still hurt from when I was coughing. I kept looking at the guy but he didn't so much as wipe his nose. My nose however, was leaking like a faucet and I kept wiping it on my soaked jacket. Trails of snot crusted on my upper lip, making it raw, so that it felt like I was taking a bit of flesh each time I wiped at it. My jacket was supposed to be water resistant but I guess they never thought a person would wear it in a sleet storm.
I dozed off but kept shivering, so I really didn't sleep at all. Thirst got the better of me and I tried to speak, but my voice was raspy.
"Water?" It pained me to force the air through my lungs and vocal chords.
He handed me his canteen without a word and without looking at me. I shivered and nodded my thanks and unscrewed the cap.
I was about to take a sip but a foul odor met my nose. No, it wasn't piss or anything like that but it was disturbing. Worse than stale water, this water smelled dank, like it had come from the swamps or a sludgy pipe. My thirst was too great though and I took a sip, coughing and retching after the disgusting indescribable taste. I'm sorry to say, I actually threw up, onto the floor from my seat. Then I felt something clammy brush against my arm. I jerked back, spilling the filthy water all over me, but it was the man and he was handing me an equally filthy rag to wipe the vomit up. There wasn't much I could do to wipe it up, so I put it down under my foot to cover up the vomit and made a raspy apology.
The guy nodded.
He drove without any map or directions that I knew of. I saw no road signs along the way and the dingy lights of the big-rig barely lit the way in front as I rode in his truck. I had a bad feeling about this guy but I didn't want to get out for fear of the freezing cold. I was unable to control what would happen next. I was truly helpless and I have never felt that terrified since.
"What's your name, kid?" His voice startled me so terribly that I banged my hand against the window.
I answered without hesitation, through my blood-tasting throat, "Dash".
"Where you from, Dash?" He didn't look at me when he spoke but kept his eyes on the road, though there wasn't much to see.
"Indiana". I didn't want to say which city, somehow I didn't want to tell this guy anything about myself. The odds of him knowing where I used to live would be one in a million but I've known in my time how the odds have a way of drastically tipping toward the improbable.
He spoke again, in some indiscernible accent that I couldn't place. "Tell me a story".
This guy gave me the creeps. All of a sudden, I knew I had taken a ride with Jack the Ripper, or Wayne the Whacker, or Charles Manson. Of all the trucks that had to stop for me, it would be the one with the killer inside. Just my luck.
"Me?" I croaked out as best I could.
"Tell me a story". He didn't elaborate.
I really didn't feel like talking but I didn't have a choice and if I refused he would kill me. Not just leave me by the side of the road, but kill me, as in: shoot me, strangle me, suffocate me with a plastic bag, chop off my head, gut me like a squealing pig, or maybe just rip my eyes out and leave me to die on the road. I was thinking all of these things as I opened my mouth and started to talk, very hard at first but I realized once I got going, I was afraid of stopping.
"Well...I'm from Indiana. I've lived there a while." I paused for breath, feeling like I was inhaling needles before I went on. "I live in a small town-I mean, I used to live there, in a small town. Then I left..." I paused and waited. He didn't look at me. "I left. I got a job-I tried to get a job..."
"Why'd you leave?" He asked.
"I left 'cause...I didn't like the place."
He seemed to be interested and for the first time he looked at me. His eyes were black holes under the cap of his hat. I noticed he wore a light jacket, zipped closed, over his worn jeans. He wore no gloves and didn't seem to feel the freezing cold. I blew on my hands, putting them on the vent to warm them up, but I think the heater was broken. It didn't feel warm.
"Because I ran away." May as well be honest. "I did something stupid."
He looked at me. Watched me. I was put on the spot.
"I uh...did something I shouldn't have." I really didn't want to tell this guy anything. "I stole money." It was true. I had taken money but I only meant to borrow it. I was going to pay it back. "I lied". I had to lie to cover up the fact that I stole money but one hand washes the other, right?
Then he asked something I really didn't know the answer to. "So, why you going back?"
"Back to Eerie?" I had said without thinking.
He just looked at me again and I had the funny feeling that he could read my mind.
"I don't know. I just figure, things can't get any worse." Boy, what a stupid thing to say to a killer.
The guy turned his head, back to watching the road.
The silence was getting on my nerves. "You gotta radio?"
"Nope. It's distracting."
"Oh". I tried to look for a CB, the kind that all truckers have to keep in touch with their routes. There wasn't a radio in sight. I looked out the window and didn't see a sign anywhere, no speed sign or rest stop sign-nothing. It was definitely weird.
"Where's your next stop?" I asked in hope that it would be soon.
"I have a long way to go."
"You stopped...when?" My voice trailed off into gravel. I was trying to find out where this guy came from. I hadn't remembered seeing a sign on his big-rig but then again, I was close to collapsing at that time.
"I already made my stop." He didn't explain.
I decided to let it go for now and concentrate on bringing the circulation back into my body, starting at my feet. Blocks of ice wouldn't cover what my feet felt like then. Nor would lead weights suffice. By this time, I wasn't even sure I still had any feet to bring blood back to.
I tentatively lifted them up and a pain shot through my legs. I looked back to the guy, wondering if he'd mind that I take off my soggy boots but seeing how I already threw up in his truck, I guess it didn't matter. He didn't take his eyes off the road. I numbly undid the laces, picking at it slowly until my bent back ached with the effort. I finally managed to get it loose and slowly peeled away the frozen mushy leather from my feet. The worst part was that I couldn't feel my hand brush against my foot at all and I knew I was in trouble. I took my threadbare socks off but my toes didn't so much as twitch because they were stuck together. I couldn't see inside the dark compartment but I'm sure they would have been purple from the cold and lack of blood flow. I took a break before attempting to do the other foot, which was just as numb. I probably put my bare foot right into the rag covered vomit but I really didn't know, since I couldn't feel a damn thing.
Again, I looked around for something to cover my feet up with but it was no use and the man didn't offer any help for me. I really started to wonder why he bothered to pick me up at all. I know all the sick reasons perverts pick up hitchhikers and truckers are notorious perverts. But this guy didn't strike me as a pervert. Like I said before, I was afraid he was going to kill me.
After getting my feet loose from the boots, I put my head back to rest and closed my eyes. I wouldn't have done this in my sanest moment but seeing how I was near dead tired, it was something that I couldn't help. I must've dozed off again but when I opened my eyes we were still on the road. My bleary eyes tried to take stock of the location but all there was to see was the steady fall of the slushy rain and the wipers wiping across the smeared windshield.
I drifted through a daze that wasn't sleep with a strange other consciousness that takes over when your body is wracked with exhaustion but still tethered to the waking moment we call reality. In this state I happened to glance at the man.
His features shifted. His face was not a face. His hands, what were supposed to be hands, were claws grasping the wheel. My heart was pounding and I nearly coughed when I felt it try to jump out of my chest. I think the man (no, the creature!)-It looked at me and I may have looked back. I think he (it) read my mind, that I could see this thing staring at me. But somehow I reasoned it out in my head, that I was only dreaming and didn't see what was in front of me (let the creature think this). I managed to shut my eyes though it was the last thing I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was get the hell out. I kept going over where the lock was in my mind, in case I had to wrench the door open and jump out. I don't know how fast we were going but I would've risked any speed above 50mph just to get away.
Nightmarish images kept flooding my exhausted mind. I wanted to cry and scream, like a child lost in the woods.
He (it) spoke.
All I wanted to do was sleep but he (it) wouldn't let me.
My eyelids lifted heavily. I gasped a response, something like, what?
"Talk to me".
I didn't want to talk.
Then he looked at me.
I suddenly wasn't sure if I was really awake or not. Would he change back into that thing?
I opened my mouth to speak but only a rough sigh came out. I lifted my hands and could barely feel my fingers. I looked at the heater and it was turned off.
Suddenly, I got really angry. What the hell was he doing? Trying to freeze me to death? Why the hell doesn't he turn the goddamn heater on? I sat up and being the stupid angry person that I am, I reached for the heater and jerked the slider to ON.
The man did nothing, just kept on driving like usual.
"How long..." I gathered my strength to speak and made sure to enunciate through my thick tongue that was sticking to the roof of my mouth. "How long has it been?"
"Since what?" The man answered curtly.
I did my best to remain calm and inhaled air to speak again. "Since you picked me up".
He took his time answering which just made me want to bang my numb fist on the dashboard.
"Hours". I clarified for him. "Two, three?"
After another silence he spoke again, "Don't know".
How long could it be? You measured the time by how fast you drove from one point to another. Unless you were a freaking idiot who wasn't paying attention, anyone would have some idea how long it's been. I pretended to adjust the heater then took a look at the speedometer. It seemed to be stuck at 40mph though through the lights of the big-rig it looked like we were going 70mph. There was only slush on the road and it was too dark to see. I did notice that it wasn't raining anymore though, so that was something.
You're probably wondering now, "What's this guy going to do?" When you're stuck in a truck with a freaky creature with nowhere to go, what do you do? Frankly, at the time I was totally clueless and didn't have a chance in guessing where I was or what would happen next.
A funny thought flashed through my mind, not because it was funny but because it was terrifying to me. Pee-wee Herman takes a ride from a trucker, who happens to be a woman, only the woman turns out to be dead. Cue scary music and freaky looking special effects on dead woman.
What if this guy was dead? Worse yet, what if I was dead? I was in reality, lying on the side of the road, frozen to death while this ride was merely part of some never-ending hell to nowhere. Talk about going around in circles...
"Where are we now?" I asked. My throat was as sore as ever yet I spoke with a stronger voice. If I was already dead, I had nothing to lose.
"We're still on the highway here."
Dead or not, I was going to get some answers. "Yeah, I know that. But where the hell are we? Did we pass any gas stations, rest stops, highway patrol men?" I looked out the window again. Nothing to see.
"We're on Highway 999, before the next town."
"Which town is that?" I looked at him.
"Your town". He looked back at me. For a long time.
I wonder now how he didn't swerve off the road.
"We're close to Eerie?" That didn't make sense. I had been dropped off by the cop after Cleveland, Ohio, far away from Indiana. We hadn't been on the road that long, had we? No way, I thought to myself. We would've run out of gas or something.
"How do you know where we are?" I was going to get some answers dammit.
"Tell me a story". He said again.
"I'm not telling you anything until you tell me what's going on!" I was half frozen to death and barely thawing out in the freaking big-rig with a freaking weirdo creature driving to nowhere land.
He was silent once more.
So, that's how it's going to be then? I decided to answer his silence with a bit of my own.
What if this was it? The long ride to hell, riding along in silence with nowhere to go. Myself trapped here for eternity, dead to all but this creepy creature, my own Charon ferryman from Hades on the black asphalt river, Styx. No memories, no past and no one...
I know what it's like to have no memories or past. To have no family...
Like I was already dead from the beginning.
What had my life been for? I had no more answers now than when I started.
A bitter lesson.
I finally broke the silence. What else was there to do? If we were close to my old town then maybe if I got my little story going, we would be there soon. Of course, I only had his word about this, he could be lying for all I know.
"So you want to hear a story..." I started.
The man's silence continued but he must've been listening.
"All right, I'll tell you my story."
My story began, as best as I could recite it in my exhausted condition, and sure enough once I got going it was like I couldn't stop.
"I wake up with no memory of who I am or where I come from, out in the middle of nowhere. I wander around for a little while, hungry and thirsty before I see something in the distance digging through garbage. As I get closer, I realize the thing isn't human. It's tall and shaggy, but too thin to be a bear and I see it has hands because it's picking things out of the trash and throwing it on the ground."
I wait for the man, the creature driving me in this endless nightmare to respond. He doesn't so I just go on.
"The animal digging through the trash, though it looked somewhat human, was none other than the creature called Big Foot." I wait for the driver's reaction but he doesn't so much as huff in disbelief.
"Yeah, well..." I continued on, "I didn't believe it at first. But I did notice the thing picked out something to eat from the trash. It took a bite out of it then pitched it over its' shoulder. So when the thing was gone I picked it up, I think it was old bread, some old sandwich or something. I ate it."
My stomach finally woke up and growled in response to my horrid memory of my first meal. This was both a discomfort and a surprise to me. If I was hungry then I wasn't really dead, was I?
"I ate it. But I really shouldn't have." My stomach gave another lurch. "I felt my stomach contract with horrible pains and I threw up-and I also shat all over myself. So I had to ditch my clothes, while I was writhing in horrific spasms, praying to whatever God was listening not to die."
I thought back to what happened. Big Foot rejected that bread, if only I had known not to eat it after the dumb creature threw it away.
"I don't know how but I managed to find a place to hide while I was terribly sick. It was an old abandoned mill, by the slough where the old match factory burned down."
My throat was getting dry but I wouldn't drink that foul water.
"I hid there for a while. But there was water, the pipes still carried water through, I guess the city forgot to turn it off. This was before the draught..." I stopped, licking my dry cracked lips and tasting the dried snot that had gathered on my upper lip.
"I found water and drank it." Damn it, I was so thirsty now. "I don't remember what happened after that, I blacked out, I think. When I woke up I found food lying beside me. With some old clothing and some rags..."
To this day I still don't know who left it there. Why did they bring rags? Maybe it was Big Foot. Har Har! As if...
"I ate the food. With the water I also washed myself." It was hard to talk, my words were getting lost and my sentences shorter.
"Mushrooms..." I closed my eyes, still talking as if in a trance. "There were mushrooms..." Why? Who had bothered to give me such things? It had been so long since I had thought of this.
"They were fine. Not poisonous." The mushrooms had made me better. Like medicine.
I escaped through my memories. It was all I had left.
"I slowly got better, though I had a fever, it finally went away."
The memories came to me in a lucid dream and I was walking through them, living them, as they happened.
"I managed to go outside. At night, I went out to see what was around me. On the road, I found cars driving. They were loud and smelled-made me cough. It stung my eyes when they passed. The road, was black and hard. I followed it then came to buildings, people were around there."
I wasn't making any sense but I had to go on.
"I stayed away from them. I don't trust them, they may hurt me. Like the monster I saw, digging through the trash. I'll stay away and just watch."
As I watched I saw a person, though I didn't know it then, it was a cop in uniform in his patrol car. He finally left and I crept closer to the building with the strange yellow light. Someone came out with the trash.
"I saw them bring something out, in strange shiny black sacks, before dumping it into a metal canister. I waited until they left and went through it. There was food and I ate it."
My chest rose and fell as I breathed, hurting and aching, yet I was still alive.
"I saw something then. A ghost..."
I looked into the window and the thing jumped back as I did with wide frightened eyes. I saw its ' gray hair and pale white skin. It raised its hand to me as I raised mine... My right hand had a mark, a black dash across the back of my hand. On my left was the other mark, a short cross sign. The ghost I saw was my own reflection.
"It was me. I was the ghost."
I laughed and started coughing, my head thrashed back into the hard seat and I moaned in pain, feeling as though the flesh within my throat was splitting apart.
"I threw something at it, at myself..."
I threw the glass container at the window and it broke, shattering the glass, and raising the alarm from people inside. Then I ran.
"I ran away, before they got me..."
I ran back to the mill, my secret hiding place, away from all the people.
I realized I had to be careful, not to let myself be seen.
When I had looked into the window and saw the ghost of my reflection staring back at me, I knew what I saw was different from the people I hid from. No one else looked as I did, gray hair with strange marks on my hands. At first I thought I was strange. I knew I looked different but as I watched the people I knew there was something wrong with them. They weren't right. They were strange and acted as if they didn't see what was around them. I started to wonder if I was really the strange one...
"The people...they acted strange."
I saw Big Foot digging through their trash at night and in the morning the trash man cleaned up the mess as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I watched all this from a distance.
I learned what food was worth eating and what I should leave alone. I scavenged for things I needed, stealing from people who were unaware of my existence. Since they never noticed much, it wasn't hard for me to get close enough and take things from them. I stole clothes at the park, from benches where people would leave their coats. Later, I learned to break into people's houses, walk right in as they slept upstairs. It was a nice neighborhood, so no one suspected a burglar would intrude. The only worry I had were dogs that would bark and guard their unsuspecting owners. For the most part though, it was all very easy.
I read the news from discarded newspapers, watched TV through house windows and watched the people of Eerie go along with their strange lives as if everything was normal.
On a clothesline, I saw a woman had hung up a jacket with buckles, which I later learned was a straight-jacket. At nights I heard a man screaming from her house but no one else noticed. Dogs on the street would bark in perfect unison as they sat on their haunches, barking as if in code. Strange lights would flash in the sky, hovering over certain areas at times, but would quickly vanish into thin air. I knew something was seriously wrong with these people and the town they lived in.
"There is something wrong with them."
I opened my eyes.
The man had finally spoken.
"Yes." I answered.
He looked at me and nodded as if he understood.
It was then that I knew he must be reading my mind. I mean, really reading my mind-as my memories played out, like a streaming movie, on a big cerebral projector.
"What are you?" I asked him.
He took a long while before he spoke. But his words shocked me out of my trance.
"I'm a driver." He said then continued.
"I drive the Long Ride."
My hand reached for the door. I yanked the handle and it pulled back uselessly as I jerked it toward me.
I had forgotten that the door was locked.
I was ready to jump out then, even forgetting my soggy shoes, just to jump out of this moving metal horror-house that was driving and driving.
"There's nothing out there, 'ya know." The creature was mocking me.
And as I looked I saw that he was right. There was blackness outside, no trees, no silhouettes of passing shadows-just nothing. The headlights in front of the truck showed no road, only more blackness. How was this possible?
"You can't keep me here." I uselessly replied.
I looked at him, at this hideous monster and then his face really did change in front of me. It became a grinning monster, no real eyes or mouth, just a few gaping holes that grinned at me.
"GET ME OUT OF HERE!" I screamed.
Then the truck sped up, full speed, to nowhere in sight.
But I felt the rushing, onward as if to a dead end.
The truck sped faster and faster.
Into the darkness dead ahead.
"What's your hurry?" It growled at me, no longer a human voice that spoke this time. Its claws gripped the wheel and it kept grinning through that horrible gaping mouth, a hole that would suck out my soul.
I pounded at the window and scrambled for the lock on the door. I lifted it but it came out, like a rotten tooth long decayed. I threw it against the dashboard and pounded at the window some more. My frozen fists did nothing to it though my knuckles were bleeding raw.
"If I'm going to hell then you're coming with me..." I said in my thoughts but sure enough it heard me. I grabbed the wheel and pulled.
But the damn creature just laughed, throwing its god-awful stench across my face and I threw up whatever was left of my stomach. It just kept laughing and laughing at me-
HAW HAW HAAAAW!
I went to grab for anything in sight to pummel this creature with but there was nothing. I grabbed its arm and pulled but the monstrous thing shifted in my grasp, like some freaky tentacle before it knocked me against the window. My head hit the side hard and my vision went blurry.
In the distance I saw lights. I wasn't sure if I was imagining it or not.
The lights were coming closer.
It was another truck. That's what it looked like.
The bright lights were getting brighter.
They were coming head on.
We were going to crash.
My dulled mind took this in but didn't react.
Finally, a way out of this hell...
Though I was somehow sure this wouldn't be the end.
The bright light appeared across the dash board, swallowing up the whole truck. Instead of focusing straight ahead, the strange light spread all around, surrounding me inside. The light blinded me, as it did the creature that was driving but the truck was still moving.
A rushing noise filled my skull.
My body became weightless.
I wasn't cold anymore...
I woke up.
I was lying in the snow.
"Get up, get up now!" A voice nagged at me.
My head was throbbing and my whole body was numb.
I crawled on my hands and knees but to me it was just this heavy mass of lead that was holding me down. I longed to feel the weightlessness I had felt in the truck...
What the hell had happened?
It brought me back to my senses for a moment and then a shudder shook my whole body. I was feeling the pain all over again, my body was being punched with nails, but it got me going. I didn't attempt to stand, not yet, but I was more aware of my body and that I had to get moving-or else freeze to death on the ground right then and there.
The driver, the demon-whatever the hell it was.
It couldn't have been a dream.
Just to prove my theory, I managed to look up and ahead of where I was staring with my bleary eyes. I could barely see the dawn breaking through the cold cloudy horizon. In the distance it looked a thousand miles away yet I knew it would be daylight soon. Whatever passed for daylight in these freezing god-forsaken winter months.
I crawled through the snow.
I crawled and I crawled and when I couldn't crawl anymore, I rocked back and forth sitting on the ground. I rocked myself until I could feel just a tiny bit more blood creeping into my veins. I rocked back and forth until I attempted to crawl again. I did this for what seemed like hours.
When the strip of dark blue turned into dark gray, I managed to make out a road. I dragged myself along the freezing cement, with no other goal than to keep alongside of it, for fear that I would wander off it and die in a ditch.
I crawled and I crawled...
But the sky remained dark. The winter months are so damn pitiful cold and dark. That's all I can say about it. Even daylight is depressing in those winter months.
On and on, I crawled.
Until something was in my way.
I stopped and attempted to go around the big thing sticking up from the ground but when I rocked back on my legs I saw it was a sign.
Eerie, Indiana. Population 36,669.
Now let me remind you, in case you forgot. I was more than 300 miles from Indiana when I was dropped off by that crap-for-brains cop at the rest stop. Which means that there was no way I could've crawled my way to Eerie, Indiana-unless of course my nightmare with the Truck was real.
But being so damn cold as I was then, this hadn't occurred to me until later.
All I could think was, "I'm here."
I was back in Eerie, Indiana.
It wasn't quite home for me, then again I never really had a place to call home. But it was better than nothing. So I headed in the direction for town, hoping that I could make it without collapsing and dying in the snow.
Let me tell you I was such a pitiful sight. Me crawling along like death in a trench coat, on my hands and knees, into a town I once loathed so much that I risked everything to get away from it.
Well, look who came crawling back.
Yeah, Eerie, it's me. Dash X, the one and only, on my hands and knees just for you.
Excuse me for the bitter sarcasm here but this was definitely the lowest point in my life-no pun intended.
I started to cough.
God all-mighty, in heaven above, pray for us sinners now.
Oh man, I started to cough real bad. I may have spit out blood. I don't remember but I probably didn't even care at the time.
I got to a point where I finally gave up.
I lay in the road, praying that somebody, anybody-except that monster truck creature, would find me.
I just lay there coughing and coughing. Wheezing what could've been my last breaths on this earth.
Then I closed my eyes.
What now, you ask?
Well, obviously I didn't die otherwise I wouldn't be telling this story.
No, the monster trucker from hell didn't return.
But I was finally picked up.
I got to thinking about what happened on that highway, Highway 999.
Believe me, I checked all the maps I could and there is no Highway 999 anywhere in the US or possibly in the world.
Highway 999 must be like a transit point, between the real world and some other place, maybe hell. I certainly don't know how I managed to get on that highway in the first place. I had just wandered through, walking along and minding my own business from the rest stop I was dumped at. I saw no signs pointing to Highway 999, unless the Trucker From Hell could move between real highways and imaginary ones. That's my guess. That must've been what happened.
I still have no clue about the white light I saw that brought me back to the real world. I don't even know why I was saved from death, if you believe in Guardian Angels or whatnot. I only know that I lived to tell the tale.
Now you know my story...
So it would seem we're right back to where we started from. No answers and no ending to this story of mine. Just me talking to you about what happened to me on a night I almost died. But like I said, once you get into a story, it's really hard to stop. In fact, you might say the story continues, just goes on and on. And as I had warned you before, you may never come back from a story that takes hold of you, not if it doesn't want to let you go.
They say there's a highway somewhere around here, a Lost Highway.
Where you get on but you never get off.
I've been there and I've lived to tell the tale.
If you ever get on that highway you better beware, your driver may not be what they seem.
It's best to stay on the beaten path and never stray from the line.
That thin line between reality and nightmares.
Don't take rides from strangers.
And whatever you do, never get into an unmarked truck, or ride with a guy whose face has a way of melting like oil-slick snow on a deserted highway.
In the back you'll see things that should NOT be.
In the back of that unmarked truck, that big-rig to hell.
If you were to look inside there's a very good chance that you'd lose your mind.
I didn't think to ask what he was carrying and I don't want to know. Maybe monsters from another universe, making their way through that inter-dimensional portal of Highway 999, that should never exist in the first place.
Funny that he picked me up, the anomaly of Eerie, Indiana. I've lived through the weirdness. Why? I don't know. What could be the meaning of my existence? A witness to the everlasting weirdness of Eerie, Indiana. And the rest of the world. There are more things in heaven and earth than you can dream of, or something like that.
You don't want to know where I've been. It may drive you insane.
So tell me...
Are you enjoying the ride?
I picked you up off the highway some ways back, I don't remember how long it's been, 'cause I really haven't been paying attention.
My speedometer's broken, so you can't tell by looking at that.
There also hasn't been a sign or rest stop for a long time.
Looks like you're stuck with me.
Oh by the way, we're almost to Eerie, Indiana now.
Do you like creamed corn?