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Off the Highway

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Ten years. Ten long years looking for that road off the highway. Now that I am here, I am frozen in place. Do I drive forward? My foot slowly moves away from the pedal and I stare at the long, narrow, straight road. I think about that night all those years ago. What brought me here again? Do I expect answers? Do I want answers?

Yes. Yes I do.

It's truly odd how I can remember that night with such clarity, but can barely remember what I ate for breakfast last week. I had a bowl of Cocoa Puffs at around 3:00 A.M (I worked the night shift), I went and took a shower at 3:15 A.M, and then I remembered that I had a big load of furniture to deliver by dawn, I then hurriedly got dressed for work. I wore black boots, baggy blue jeans, red flannel, and a tan body warmer for the cold, cold Colorado summer night. I drove there and got there at 4:00 A.M.

It is said that when people suffer a traumatic event, they can remember the most mundane of tasks, actions and daily events that happened that same day. Odd, isn't it?

Back in ‘04, I was a truck driver for a small company that delivered furniture that was centered in Durango, Colorado. This shipment was to Biston. For those who don't know, the trip takes a few hours by car, and the shipment was to reach place by the crack of dawn, when the store was to open. I, like my forgetful self, was late. My partner, Eric Singer turned to me and in a slightly annoying tone, said, "God damn it Travis, where the Hell have you been? It's 4:00 A.M! For Christ sakes, we are running a business." I apologized and gave an excuse. He nodded and replied, "Hey, no problem, just don't do it again or you'll get fired, and I'll have no one to talk to, ha ha!" I smiled, Eric was good guy, a good co-worker, and a good friend.

I looked at my semi truck, it was a bright crimson that stood out in the blue lighting of the company truck stop, and the blackish-gray clouds. It was a monster of a machine, bound in metal. And since it had been recently cleaned, it shined liked the sun when a light bounced off the rim. I opened the door, and Eric did the same. We sat down and started the car, and the beast woke from an electric slumber. The radio came to life with a few tunes that it sang as my foot hit the pedal and we drove into a long night.

Driving on a remote Colorado highway, you can expect only a few lights, however you may get some light from the lonely moon up above. Today, we weren't blessed with such luck, and only had synthetic light to guide us through this trip. Eric and I talked, he talked about his wife and daughter, while I talked about my fiance. "You're growing up too fast pal," he said with a smile. I laughed. I was twenty five back then, which was old enough to be engaged, but he was fifty-five and still saw me as a youngster. He then told me that he had just recently bought his wife a ring to surprise her with for their anniversary. He showed it to me. It wasn't much by most people's standards, but since our pay barely gave us enough to survive, and since he was trying to keep his family alive and healthy, it was a sight to be seen. Eric wasn't given the chance for an education, so he took up this job and worked hard so his kid could go to college one day and live a better life than he did. I took the job because I was hungry.

“I am tellin’ ya’, she will love this,” Eric said with a big, goofy grin.

“I hope so, ha ha! Anyways, how much more of this highway do we have left?”

“Well, let me see here,” he said as pulled out a dingy map. “Jeeze, we’re hours away.”

I sighed and took out a smoke. He was right, we were never going to make it on time, our boss would have our heads dished out to himself like the king of France. A few puffs blew out my mouth and I put it out, the smoke was getting in my eyes, same with Eric’s.

“You gotta smoke those in here? Pal, them things are unhealthy,” he stated as he put the ring in the glove box.

“You sound like my mother.”

“Well your mother musta’ had a head on her shoulders!”

“Heh, yeah, I guess she did.”

A street sign with lights flashes the words “Biston: 84 miles”. It is 4:30 A.M now, we would never make it.

“Damn,” Eric said under his breath. “We’re getting a pay deduction.”

“Sorry,” I said quietly.

“Hey, don’t get all bent outta shape over it. We all make mistakes.” He patted me on the shoulder and I looked on to the dark road ahead of us. He was like my father.

“Hey-ah, could ya do me a favor and pull over.”

“Why?”

“Need to piss…”

“We’ll be even more late.”

“We’re late as it is... what’s a few extra minutes?”

“Okay, I’ll get off at the next exit. Just be quick.”

I did get off at the exit onto a small road, a choice I will forever regret. The first sign to what we were going to experience was that the radio was starting to fizzle out. The lights on it jittered and flashed and slurs of Creedence Clearwater and something else roared through the haze of confusion that was the radio. Then came a loud silence that filled the car. After the initial shock of the radio blaring like that, Eric slapped the thing.

“Damn thing lost the signal in this tree cover, I wish I…”. As he tried to finish his sentence, something truly bizarre happened. The radio cut to what sounded like CB radio chatter. For those who are not in the know, CB radio is what truckers or even normal people will use to communicate with one another. In other words, imagine an extremely long distance Walkie Talkie. The thing is though, this was a normal radio, not CB. Only top notch radios can pick up CB, and our’s wasn't top notch.

“The Hell is that?” Eric said in a confused tone.

What I heard… I would like to call it talking, but it was more odd than just that. For starters, it wasn't in English, or in anything for that matter. It sounded like an old man was speaking gibberish while talking during inhales, not exhales. He seemed to go from whispering to a loud screaming and the fact that it was being heavily interfered with by static made it worse. Eric and I glanced at each other.

“What do you think that is?” I said in a whisper hush to Eric who responded with a simple, “I dunno, can you pull over now, we are off the highway and far from anyone’s view.”

“Fine.”

I pulled over off the side of the road. Eric opened the door and reluctantly stepped out of the eighteen-wheeler. I sat in the truck and waited, with the chitter-chatter to keep me company. I tried to listen for any words that I could make out. Nothing but a strange mumble, with an odd rustling to accompany it. I still can’t forget that broadcast.

Like a bat out of Hell, Eric swung open the door and climbed in.

“Jesus Christ!” I shouted. He looked at me, out of breath and confused.

“I-I heard something out there! A rustling in the woods. Let’s just get back to the highway, okay.” Seeing him like that scared me even more. I've seen him face it all, with a look of determination on him, once, we nearly skidded off the road, but he just laughed it off. But a few noises in the woods…? I felt like he wasn't telling me something. However, at first I didn't push it, I just turned the truck around and tried to get back to the highway.

Tried.

We drove for nearly three minutes, and there was no highway in sight, just flat road. We made no turns….and we didn't drive that far in. What the Hell was going on?

Eric started to shiver and I noticed that the air was cold, Hell, I could even see my breath. Let me tell you, the more we drove, the colder it got. Like a slow descent into the seventh circle of Hell, but instead of the Devil’s flapping wings, we heard mumbling on the radio, just as unnerving though.

We drove for five minutes more, ten minutes more, an ungodly amount of time. Eric, since he jumped into car, hasn't said anything to me. He just stared out the window into the cold, black canvas of a forest. I decided to ask him about what happened. I wanted answers, but also something to keep my mind off the damn cold.

“Eric...what are you not telling me…”

“Wha…”

“I have never seen you so dazed in my life. I know you ain't telling me what truly happened out there. Spill the beans man!”

“Fine….I swear to God, I saw you out there.”

“What?”

“You looked older. When “you” glanced at me, I noticed "you" had a limp when you walked. You kept repeating my name before "you" locked eyes with me.”

I stared at him, dumbstruck. I had the look of someone who had just been slapped. Now, thinking back to those words, I find them even more horrifying.

“Impossible!” I protested, “There is no way I could, it’s….”

He then turned to me and in looking into his eyes, I knew he wasn't lying.

Just then, the car cut out and stopped its moving. All of the power was out, or at least I thought it was out until I heard one word. One single word. In a deep inhale, I heard the first actual word on that radio since we got off the highway, crystal clear.

“YOU…..”

As that word was uttered into this world, the headlights of the car sprang to life and we laid our eyes upon a shape of a man right in front of the truck. At least I thought it was a man. Its back was to us, and it was naked. I saw its wrinkled, withered skin, covered with veins. It had a bright grey color to its skin, like a corpse, and its fingernails were long and gnarly.

“YOU…”

This time the radio spurted it out more loud and much more clear. It turned its head back at us and I could see its face. It had no nose, scratches and scars on some places and many jagged teeth. But the most notable were the eyes. They were a bright yellow with a look of pure insanity. It moved its lip-less mouth and said the word that is still burned into my mind.

“YOU…”

It looked at me and our eyes locked for about five seconds before the lights went dead again. I heard a stumbling run outside the truck and a loud wheezing. All of a sudden, the steel door to Eric’s side of the truck was ripped open and the thing pounced in. Eric screamed and it scratched him with its claws. He held his hand to his face to where he received his injury. Then thing stared at him oddly for a few seconds before it grabbed him by the throat and threw him out the truck with one hand. It then turned to me and smiled as it uttered “YOU…” again. It grabbed me by leg and as a result of fear, I pushed down on gas pedal and truck surprisingly drove. However, due to the jolt, this caused the thing to squeeze on my leg and I could feel my bone crush and veins pop. I yelped and it inched closer to my face before we slammed into a tree. I hit my face against the airbag and was dozing into unconsciousness. It got closer, and its smile got even bigger. Before I faded into black, I heard a bang and saw the glass of my windshield shatter.

I woke up in a hospital bed a day later, my fiance was there.

“What happened” I asked in a tired tone.

“You were in an accident,” she said as she tussled my hair in a reassuring manner.

“Eric, w-where is he?”

A cop who stood in the corner entered my vision.

“That’s what we would like to know. Where is Eric Singer, Travis?”

“I...really don’t know…”

He gave me the details. A passer-by on the highway found our truck on the highway, not on the rode off the highway, but the actual highway. It was a mess, dents, scratches were all over the damn thing. Blood was splattered on the passenger side of the vehicle, wear the door had been ripped from its hinges. They found me unconscious with my leg crushed and a few scars from the broken glass that cut my face up. They did not find the passenger, Eric. The cop asked me what happened that night, and I said I couldn't remember, not because I couldn't, but because I would be sent to a loony bin if I did.

A few days later, I would leave the hospital, with a permanent limp and facial scars. I would go to the truck a few days later and look inside it to see what I could find. Nothing but broken glass and dried blood, that is until I looked into the glove box. In there was the ring that Eric was meaning to give to his wife. As soon as I found it I rushed to the Singer’s residence. I gave it to the wife and told her what it was and why I had brought it to her. She sobbed for a while as I reassured her he was fine (which I to this day am not sure of) and a girl of the age of eight entered the room and looked me in the eyes and asked where her father was. The fact that I couldn't answer that question bothered me greatly. I pitied that young child, it reminded me of when I lost my father. It left a big hole that couldn't be filled and I knew it would affect her greatly as well.

I got down on one knee and said to her “I’m truly sorry, but I honestly don’t know where he is, but I promise you that I will look for him everyday until I find him.” And I kept that promise to this very day. For ten years I looked down that highway for that road, but could never find it. Since that fateful night, my hair has grown thinner. I am nearly bald now, and my skin is paler, but in those ten years amazing things happened. I got married with the woman I love and had a son, I got a high paying job managing my own business, and I give whatever money I can to the Singer’s so they can live comfortably. I hear the girl is going to college this year. Since those ten years I have carried a gun on me when I drive down the highway, just in case I see that road, because as soon as I do…I know I must go down it. Since those ten years I have always felt prepared for that event.

Until today.

Today I found that road again, and I’m more frightened than I have ever been in my entire life. Just now the radio has stopped playing music and now I can hear the oh so familiar mumbling, but this time it is much worse, because among the inhaled talking, I can hear Eric’s voice, calling my name.

I am typing this on my phone by the exit of the highway (so sorry in advance for any typos), and I am posting it here because I know someone will read it. If I don’t come back, I love my wife and son very much and I wish I didn't have to do this…but I have to find Eric…I made a promise and I’ll stick with it.

I am pulling into the road now, and I expect a long night ahead of me.

Sincerely,

Travis Harold Weatherland

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