The road never ends.
All I can do is stick my thumb out and hope a stupid bastard stops. Most don’t. And the people who do stop, well…I’m positive they’ll never do that again. Yup. It’s true.
A red station wagon rattles down the dusty road. I extend my thumb as the station wagon drifts past my ankle. I retract my thumb and extend a middle finger.
“Hey! Fuck you, pal!”
My anger simmers while a blotchy shape rolls toward me. I extend a thumb, and then the blotchy shape turns into a silver truck, which stops in the middle of the road. I open the door and hop inside.
“Hello” a soft voice says.
I shut the door and force myself to smile.
She puts the truck in drive and accelerates down the road.
“Where are you going?”
My eyes roll around the truck’s interior then lazily take in muddy boots, skim over slim calves, and linger on the curves of her thighs.
“Oh…nowhere in particular.”
She nods. Thick auburn hair drapes over her face. In the dim light, I can faintly decipher a graceful, silhouetted profile through the strands.
“You gotta name, sweetie?”
“Yes, my name is John, how are you?”
“Nice to meet you! I’m Chelsea, and I’m wonderful.”
I don’t care what her name is. The mere fact that she’s willing to tell me her name shows lack of fear. John is not my name, but people tend to be comforted by familiar names, even if a stranger is the one doing the comforting. I bet she had or has a friend named John. Or a classmate. Perhaps a past lover. My fingers twitch. I have to be patient.
“Chelsea…right…ummm…I never met a Chelsea before! Such a…lovely name…right…so…ummm…lovely.”
She chuckles softly; there’s something in her laugh that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
“Really? You’re so sweet. Well, I had a friend named John. He was very nice. You remind me of him.”
My eyes open and read the radio’s clock: 1:29am. The truck cabin rattles as tires roll over potholes in the dirt. No trees…just an expanse of featureless black. Chelsea compresses the accelerator while I hold on to the door handle. My skull clips against the truck window—pain forces words from my closed mouth.
“Where are we?”
“Oh, nowhere in particular.”
A drain opens up inside my stomach, and my feelings swirl down into a pit. Chelsea accelerates over a pothole as I bounce into the air and slam my skull into the truck’s ceiling.
“Hey! Slow down! A tire may pop.”
There’s an alarm in my head that’s clamoring against my cranium. Her perfume. Her voice. Something that tells me I’m not in control like before. Before what? Diabolic laughter haunts my ears.
“Did you forget to put on your seatbelt, John?”
I can jump out. Yes! I’ll jump out. My bones might break. As long as I’m still breathing, then willpower will be my crutch. I wrap my hand around the door handle and hold my breath.
She cuts the wheel—momentum takes my skull and bashes it against the window.
Chelsea grips the steering wheel.
“Would you like to get out, or are you too scared, John?”
I should have slit her pale throat. But part of me wants to see what happens next. The truck rolls to a stop and putters for a few moments before Chelsea turns off the ignition. My ear rests against the cold window—moans and cries bleed through the transparent skin.
Chelsea stares into the wall of black.
“You wanted to get out, so get out, John.”
I place my hand on the door handle, but my eyes won’t let me leave. The things I see…
“What’s the matter, John? We arrived at your destination: nowhere in particular.”
“Just drive!” I scream.
“That wasn’t our deal, John.”
I try to look away, but my eyes betray my will.
“Please…get us out of here…”
“Please…get us out of here…please…get us out of here…please…get us out of here…” she repeats—her chapped lips twist into a sarcastic mockery. I’ve heard her say those words before, but how…
My ears ring from the mad fluttering of my heart.
Chelsea stares at me with one eye; the left orb hangs by a clotted, sinewy strand just below a black socket. Her throat is slashed; fine bones protrude from a mouthy wound. A hand, with a deep, diagonal laceration from the wrist to the base of her fourth finger, grips my arm. The scream is wedged in my throat, as heinous memories of a past summer surge over me.
“You’ve been walking this road for a long time, John.”
I dragged Chelsea, through a muddy field, by her hair. The screams never affected me. Never. My fingers ripped into her blouse while I compressed her like a hungry python. A broken liquor bottle dripped biological grease. She breathed no more.
“Can you remember when you placed your dusty feet upon the pavement? Or does it seem like you’ve been walking your entire life, John?”
She lets go of my arm, twists the ignition key, throws the truck in drive, and stomps on the gas pedal.
“That’s a silly question, of course, I remember. My car broke down near Pinerock Road, you know…near Vincent’s Diner…yes! The diner was closed. Empty. No one would stop. I had to walk, Chelsea, I had to walk! The abrasions on my feet were raw, and my skin was sloughing off. I could’ve gotten gangrene, but no one would stop for me. No one. I had to walk.”
Everything was a lie. Chelsea was right. It seems like I had been walking my entire life and forgot every step of the way.
“Let’s be honest with each other. Can you ever trust a memory, John? Can you? After all…we are just memories, John, just memories.”
My arm hurts. I pull up my sleeve—a ravaged ravine seeps across a rotted artery. Pieces of a memory flash behind the dark curtain of my vision, but the puzzle refuses to be put back together; the frames slip out of place and dissolve into nothingness.
“It appears I’m not the only one who’s dead, John!”
A red glow emits from the horizon as if the sky gushes the same goo trapped inside my veins. I collapse into the seat; tremors rake my body as she drives us to nowhere in particular.
Happy Halloween to all the monsters!