21 Nov Don’t Ever Stop for the People on the Shoulder
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"Don't Ever Stop for the People on the Shoulder"Written by Thomas J. Sotvedt
Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
My name is Harrison and I’m a long haul trucker. While I sometimes get routes all over the place, my most common run is Vancouver to San Francisco. It’s an easy trip most of the time with very little challenge involved. I tend to prefer driving into the night because there’s less traffic. Of course, driving around in the middle of nowhere during witching hour means I’ve seen my share of shit. U.F.O’s, bigfoot… the works man. But none of that stuff has ever scared me near as bad as the people you see walking along the shoulder of the road far from civilization.
I noticed my first one on my junior run down south on the number 5. It was a lady in a blue summer dress, just strolling down the side of the highway underneath the full moon, not a care in the world. Now we were on a stretch that was miles and miles away from anything in either direction and I was the first vehicle on the road that she’d likely seen since dusk. She didn’t even look up to acknowledge me, though. Instead, she just kept on walking with a sort of vacant smile. I chalked it up to some hippie from the Oregon trail hopped up on something from a nearby campsite and kept driving. But she was only the first.
It’s not every trip you spot them. But sometimes you see a few on a single go. It always struck me as strange because you never seem to see them during the day. Or maybe you do but they don’t stick out as much under the sun. Even so, once you know they’re there you’ll start noticing the hell outta them whenever you’re driving far from civilization in the dark. The other truckers call them moon wanders, but I prefer shoulder walkers; since that’s always where they are. Almost like trains on a track, they walk that little white line to wherever they’re going. They’re different shapes and sizes too. Men, women… tall, fat, ugly, pretty… just folks like you’d see anywhere. Sure they’re creepy, but for a long time, I didn’t pay them any mind beyond noticing them on occasion in the split second that they were visible as I cruise past.
But one night a few months ago, I passed by what looked like an old lady. She was in a hospital gown and looked just like someone on death row. Sunken, given-up-on-life sort of eyes, frizzy white hair and pale skin. She was smiling just like her grandkids had called her name. Her pace was a slow shuffle along the shoulder and just looking at her I could imagine the sound of her hospital slippers running just overtop the gravelly road. I wanted to keep driving because… well, to be honest, she gave me the willies. But hell, she reminded me of my own sweet grandma; God rest her soul.
So I brought my rig to a slow stop and, collecting up the flashlight I keep in my glovebox, stepped out of the cab. I could hear her coming before I could see her as I’d driven a few meters ahead of her due to the long stop time. Scrape, scrape, scrape. I could visualize her wrinkly feet in those hospital slippers, shuffling ever onward. Quickly I checked the maps app on my phone and saw that the closest town to where we were was over fifty miles, no way this old lady was walking that. Putting my phone in my jeans I held up my flashlight and started walking towards the sound of her footfalls. “Uh, hello? Ma’am?” I called out, hoping that she would speak up. No such luck, just more scraping. My hairs were on edge now as I waited for her to enter into the dim light of my flashlight. I nearly cried out as he ghostly appearance came into view. Not because anything was different from before, just because she looked so much more… sickly up close. “Ma’am. Are you okay? You’re in the middle of nowhere… y’know?” She didn’t say nothing. Just kept smiling and moving steadily forward.
Now my heart was beating hard. “She’s just senile. Senile and she needs my help,” I thought out loud. But my feet were frozen in place. They were going back to the truck or they weren’t moving at all. She was getting closer though and as she reached within ten feet or so her wrinkled hands began to reach slowly up. Her fingers wiggled in my direction like a grandma reaching for her grandchild’s face. She opened her mouth but didn’t say anything, just grinned at me with pale gums. “F-fuck!” I stammered as my legs gave out. As I fell onto my side she reached down for me with surprising speed and dexterity. Before I knew what was going on she had her boney fingers around my ankles and my ass was getting dragged down the road. Desperately I pulled back, but her grip was superhuman… and the addition of my weight didn’t seem to slow her walk in the least. She stared down at me with those beady, sunken eyes, mouth agape in a smile. I kicked at her with all the fight I had in me and luckily connected with her jaw. To my horror, it was like kicking solid concrete. But luckily she let go despite having no visible injury. I crawled backwards towards the middle of the road and she kept walking down the shoulder. Her hands fell back down to her side and her mouth closed into a tight-lipped smile. But her gaze stayed locked on mine as she slowly shuffled out of my flashlight’s beam.
I waited as the scraping bit by bit faded from my ears and after what ended up being a half-hour of stunned silence I worked up the nerve to get up and go back to my rig. No sign of the lady, but when I climbed into my cab and sped down the highway, it didn’t take long to catch up with her. Her eyes were still stuck on me, they probably had been the whole time as she walked away. The last that I saw of her as I gunned it away was her thin, chapped, smirking lips.
That shit fucked me up for a long time. According to some other guys I know, I’m the first to try and interact with a shoulder walker and if God is good I’ll be the last. Since then I’ve seen plenty more, strolling down the highway in the pitch dark… I even saw a kid once. But there ain’t no way I’m ever stopping again for them. And if you’re smart, you won’t, neither.
The really fucked up thing is that since that night, the shoulder walkers are always looking right at me when I drive passed which they never used to do. Almost like since that old lady saw me, they all did. I’d hate to think what would have happened if I’d not managed to get free. But I can rest easy knowing I’ve put my warning out there in public. Maybe I’ll save a few folks with this story.
Here’s hoping, right?
Credit: Thomas J. Sotvedt