Gary writes “Grit Fiction,” because life isn’t always smooth. His stories are characterized by wit, wordplay, and plot twists that will leave the reader guessing.

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Unlimited Miles

 

Trucker’s Amnesia gradually tightens its clutch on its victims, so I can’t pinpoint exactly when my mind went missing. But it’s gone, and in its void is miry gelatinous fog. I can’t recall where I am, or where I’m headed. I have no clue of who I even am, for that matter. The only thing I know for sure, is that I’ve been out here too long. Dangerously long.  

 I’m clearly sleep-deprived. I tell myself that I’ve got to get off the road. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a rest stop. Even a pulloff. Or even any sort of sign, come to think of it. Where is the next town? What is the next town? Where is everyone? Where is anyone?  

 Coffee might help, or water. I have an empty Styrofoam cup and an empty plastic bottle. I’m both hungry and nauseated, exhausted yet innervated.  

 Cold air blasts in my face. My eyes are dry; I can’t remember the last time I blinked. I swear my fuel gauge is broken; the needle hasn’t moved at all. I look at the miles on the odometer. I look away for what seems like an hour and look back. It hasn’t changed. Or maybe I’ve forgotten the number.

 I’m a zombie, “the driving dead,” we call it. I stare straight ahead. The only thing my headlights reveal ahead is more road. There are vague silhouettes to my periphery, impossibly dark shadows that somehow manage to contrast with the surrounding murk. Everything is either black, darker black, or impenetrable. There are no stars, no moon, no headlights. It’s been midnight for a week, it seems. 

I look around the truck’s cab. For a clue. A visual cue. Anything that will snap me back to reality, to who and where I am.  The clipboard with my driving log would have my destination on it, but it has slid across the seat. I see only a glint of metal. It might as well be a mile away.

 I flip down the sun visor on the passenger side; I usually tuck receipts and jotted down notes in there. There are none. The rearview mirror reveals nothing. I can’t even see my reflection. I touch my face to make sure I have one. It’s all bumps and grit. My hand comes away feeling sticky.

 I know there’s highway running somewhere to my left. Why is there no one traveling in the opposite direction? Or the same direction, for that matter? I’m alone out here, worrying that the world is gone, but for me.

 I check the rearview mirror again; this time I see a faint roseate glow in the sky far behind me. It looks like heaven. It must be nearing dawn. I’m tempted to stop this rig and head back that way. I try to remember the last turnaround I’ve seen, but my mind is as dark and barren as the road ahead.  

 I see no signs that any time has passed. Is it hours later? The sky hasn’t lightened a bit. Still only an enticing tinge of color behind me. Then I see it, miles off, in the vast distance ahead. A single headlight, burning faintly, yet a bright as a beacon as far as I’m concerned. It remains frustratingly distant. If we’re getting closer to each other, I can’t tell. I begin to think it’s a hallucination.  

 Then, the roads heading in opposite directions near each other, and the headlight gets bigger and brighter. The motorcycle is finally getting closer.

 Except that it isn’t a motorcycle at all. It’s a car with one headlight. In the moment that we pass each other, I try to process what I’m staring at. The car appears to be undrivable. It isn’t just dented, it’s demolished. There’s not just a missing headlight, there’s a missing front bumper, hood, driver’s side rear door. Whatever happened to this car, the occupants could not have survived. 

 As I come to that realization, I see the family clearly; illuminated by the interior light. I recognize them. God help them, I do. And now, I remember. Everything.

 The gray day last week, when I drove eighteen hours straight. My heart is pumping ice cold blood through my veins. Oh God. I see the blind curve I took entirely too fast. Sweat is pouring down my face. I see them. Mom. Dad. Their child, so young, so undeserving of this fate. They are standing in front of their car along the shoulder of the road. Pure terror on their faces. I’ll never forget now. The screams. Forty tons of my semi pushing them and their car over the embankment. My foot, to my eternal shame, stomping the gas instead of the brake. My tears are flowing as copiously as the terrible memories. I try to say an apology, but only a sob comes out. I never stopped. Not after the terrible shriek of steel. Not when I heard sirens behind me. Not when I approached the police barricade, where they waited, guns drawn. The details are visceral, agonizing. They barrel furiously through my brain like…  

 Bullets. I reach in front of me to trace the sharp edges of the holes punched in the glass. Freezing air is blasting the matching holes in what used to be my face. Terrified, I remember the searing pain as the guns’ lethal barrage punctured my flesh. Destroyed it. Something inside me breaks, as I finally realize my destination.  I press down hard on the accelerator, and speed into a night that will only get blacker.