16 Jan One Lone Long Haul
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"One Lone Long Haul"Written by
Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
You’re an out-of-state truck driver, taking a load of bacon through Wyoming to Salt Lake City. Once the sun set, your trailer was finally released to you, you loaded up and headed out.
That was hours ago. You’d been on the same highway for what seemed like an eternity. All around you stretches nothing but shallow, rolling, grassy hills, stretching away till they meet the sky. In the fields edging the highway are dozens of wind turbines, but you can’t see them, it’s too dark. Nothing is discernable from the black but a red pinpoint of light, blinking, on the tip of each turbine. Stories off the ground, dozens and dozens of blinking red lights.
As you make your way down the highway, the blinking lights slowly begin to sync up, something your sleepy, bored mind is interested to see. The miles fly by under your rig, and, almost subconsciously, you feel yourself growing increasingly anticipatory, waiting to see all those lights brighten, then simultaneously fall dead, blanketing the landscape in a visual silence. You find yourself counting the blinks, fading in and out, 3….4…..5….in and out…..6……7……8….waiting for that last one, that ends in total darkness. You’re a bit more awake, as more and more of the lights are fading as one, only a few left to get into the shared rhythm….
At last, all the lights fade as one. For some reason, you are filled with an incomparable sense of satisfaction. A second goes by in the darkness. The only lights for miles in any direction are your rig lights, and the gauges on your dashboard, reflecting off your windshield. Another second goes by. Out in the distance, something catches your eye; a pair of red lights are still on! But wait, you notice they’re not blinking. That’s odd, because a second ago, darkness painted grass to sky. Odder still, they were much lower than the other lights. And…..they were moving? No, that can’t be right, all the lights are stationary….nope, they are definitely moving. You’re fully awake now, watching the 2 lights fly low to the ground, parallel to each other.
Another second passes, and all the other lights in the area fade in, glowing brighter till their apex. Even at their brightest, they did not come close to illuminating the ground, so you still cannot see what is making the lights move. Your eyes are glued to them, trying to make out an ATV, dune buggy, something, behind them. Slowly, you begin to drift into the opposing lane. You notice, tear your eyes away from the lights, and correct your rig. At that moment, you realize that the lights, whatever the hell they are, are moving towards the highway. At a substantial speed too, you’ve probably been watching them for 10, 15 seconds, and they’d already halved the distance between where you’d spotted them, and the highway you’re driving down. With how fast they are going, and how fast you’re going, it looks like your rig and whatever it is may collide. Unsure, and protective of your truck, you slow your speed a little, not wanting to risk any damage to the truck, or anything else. God forbid if that thing is an ATV, maybe with a stupid kid behind the wheel, looking for some cheap thrills by joyriding on private property.
Your speedometer needle drops below 60, and you notice a substantial drop in the lights’ speed as well. You think that perhaps the driver, because you’ve committed yourself to the ATV idea, may have noticed you as well, and also did not desire a collision. Strange though, if that was the case, why did the driver not turn on their lights? Even the most standard of ATVs, tractors, even the dune buggies, they all have SOME kind of light. And on the off chance that maybe it DID, and the lights were just out, why would the driver not have a flashlight, headlamp, even something reflective on? Jesus how stupid was this kid? Driving reckless in the middle of the night, on state-owned land, towards a (usually) busy highway, with no lamp, no lights, and no reflective gear? You press the gas a little more, thinking that you’ll either pass them first, or you’ll indeed intercept them, and you can give them a piece of your mind.
While you’re thinking, you notice the lights have also sped up again. That’s fine, let the little bastard meet you on the highway, you know whatever the hell he’s driving has no chance against your 80,000+lb rig, not to mention the 4,000+lbs of bacon in your trailer. He’s not ready. You laugh at your quip in your head.
Up ahead, you can see about where on the highway you’re going to intercept the little guy. You bare your teeth in a savage grin, and step on the gas. The lights accelerate as well, and you both move towards the same point on the highway at a blinding speed. You start to grit your teeth. Each second seems to stretch into infinity, and you eagerly await the meeting.
Finally, you both near the crux, and the lights on your rig seem to reflect off something shiny, pebbly, and small. You still have your mind set on ATV, but as you watch the lights, you fly right on by. Whatever it was seemed to have stopped short of the highway.
That thought passes through your mind, and at that exact moment, something collides with your truck trailer.
The entire truck shakes, and its weight shifts to the right; you can feel your driver-side tires come up off the ground, clear back to the back of the trailer! Whatever hit you wasn’t a fucking ATV, not to hit your trailer what felt like dead center, hard enough to rock it off a whole side of dually tires!
You mash the brakes, downshifting furiously, trying to maintain both the road and your rate of deceleration. You can feel something in your trailer, moving around. Thinking back to the fast and furious movies, you think that perhaps someone is interested in your load, and may be trying to steal it. What anyone but a distributor would want with thousands of pounds of bacon you have no idea, but being a criminal mastermind is just a hobby for you, not your job. The truck slows to a stop, and you grab your utility knife, stuff your P22 in your waistband, and pick up your shotgun as you hop down out of the truck. The trailer is being repeatedly jostled with some kind of movement inside, and when you slam your door, the shaking stops.
You come out from your cab wide, looking for some kind of vehicle, but your mind loses track as you see that whatever had hit you has left a gaping black hole in the side of the trailer. Upon closer inspection, it looks less like something hit you and went through the metal trailer side, and more like something with razor-sharp claws and jaws-of-life strength ripped it open. You can see claw marks, gouging the metal, and strips have been peeled OUT from the hole, not INTO it, like with impact.
You shoulder your shotgun, and pump a round into the chamber. You call out a warning, “Whoever’s in there, you better clear out quick or get an ass full of buckshot!”
You pull a mag light out from your pocket, and click it on. The moment it flashes into the blackness of the hole, something SHREIKS out at you.
You stop, torn between doing your job and protecting the load, and saving your skin, getting back in your truck, and hauling ass out of there. In your moment’s hesitation, something huge and black and scaly launches itself out of the opening in the trailer. It collides with you, knocking the breath from your lungs and your feet from the asphalt. Whatever it is, it’s on top of you, teeth going after your throat like a dog after a bone. Its momentary struggle with your jacket collar buys you the fraction of a second needed for its momentum to carry you both into the ground.
Your back hits the asphalt; the impact causes you to squeeze the trigger. The shotgun fires in an explosion of heat and light and noise that’s only slightly muffled by the body on top of you. Something sticky and warm gushes over your chest and hands; the pressure on you is instantly relieved as the thing convulses over onto the roadside.
You scramble to your feet, not about to let the thing get the drop on you again. You don’t have to worry, the body at your feet has a hole in it to match the one in your trailer. Looking down at your hands and jacket, you see you’re covered in its blood, the remainder of which is gradually collecting in the grooves in the road.
It’s the fucking weirdest thing you’ve ever fucking seen, a humanoid body, but black and scaled from clawed feet to muzzled head. It looked just like a big ass black lizard, complete with tail, but the claws on the ends of its digits were long and serrated. No wonder it could peel back the side of your trailer like a tuna can. How strong is the damn thing? How many pounds of pressure are required to peel back inches of steel like it was an orange? You stuck the shotgun down, and poked at it in the muzzle. Its jaw fell open, revealing rows upon rows of black, jagged teeth. There are still bits of fabric from your jacket stuck in the serrations of some of them.
Your mind takes you back to the lights, flying across the field as fast as your truck down the highway. Raising the barrel of the gun to its cheek, you press down, peeling open one of its eyes. A ruby orb stares out at you. You just stand, in shock, and almost don’t register the fact that there’s a light slowly coming back on in its eye.
Suddenly, the pinpoint of brightness comes alive, and swings your way, to land on you and glare, menacingly. You curse, and shoulder the gun again, pointing at the thing, and fire point-blank into its cold crimson gaze. Its head bursts open in a splatter of blood and bone and thicker things. A lump of matter lands on your shoe, and you take a few hurried steps back. The body on the ground twitches, and goes limp again. You stand braced, gun at the ready, finger on the trigger, waiting, not about to let your guard down again. Minutes tick by, and there’s no more movement.
You take a deep breath, calming yourself, and head to the back to check out any interior damage to the trailer, or your load.
The doors swing open at your pull, and your mouth falls agape at the mess in the trailer. Faint moonlight streams through the hole in the side. There is a lit circle painted on the opposite wall, occasionally hued pink by the dimly flashing lights outside. It illuminates turned over pallets, ripped open boxes, shredded plastic wrap, and the entire trailer reeks of raw meat. Scraps of bacon were strewn about, and you can tell by the massive dent in the product that you picked up, that the creature had eaten quite a bit of it. Several pallets had enormous holes, just eaten into the sides of the boxes, through shrink wrap and industrial zip ties and layers of cardboard. Your nose wrinkles at the stench.
A sigh heaves out of your lungs, how are you going to explain this to safety? To the distributor you’re delivering to? Hell, what are you gonna tell your boss? That the damn truck got hit by a fucking meteor? That a scaly reptilian beast chewed its way in? You close and lock up the back, shaking your head, and start towards your cab, turning over questions in your mind. So deep in thought, that you are almost completely past the huge pool of blood trickling off the roadside, before you notice the body is gone.
Terror makes your blood run cold. Bringing the gun back up, you keep your finger on the trigger, and put your back to the trailer. Your head whips back and forth, eyes scouring the darkness for any movement, ears straining for any sound.
The blood on the road draws your attention, and you notice that there are drag marks, pointing towards the field the creature came running from. Cautiously, you take a step towards the edge of the road. The night is too dark to see through, so you pull your mag light back up, and shine it out from the road. Its bright LED beam does little to penetrate the inky landscape, and you can discern nothing.
You turn back towards your truck, and hear a scuttling in the dry grass. Bones crack in your neck in response to you whipping your body around and bringing the gun up again in one motion. The only thing you can hear now is the blood roaring in your ears, backed by the thumping pressure of your heart. Wind blows past you. Whatever is out there, probably the THING, is upwind. The pounding in your ears begins to fade, and the moving air is bringing sounds of something’s progress to your ears. Whatever it is, was, whatever, is moving away, at a pretty good clip.
Eventually, the breeze reports no more movement. You consider tracking the creature, trying to find it, as some form of proof. Then you try to figure how hard it would be to bring it back, considering it was able to pick itself up and take the fuck off with a hole in its chest, almost bisecting it, and its head a loose, pulpy mass of blood and other things.
The image of its brains splattered all over the blacktop, all over your boot…there’s no way in hell you’re gonna go find that thing. No fucking way. You head back to your truck, mag light in one hand, shotgun in the other, nerves frayed and raw and on edge.
As you pull your door closed after you, and pick up your phone to notify dispatch of the accident, you see, off in the distance, a miniscule pair of shining red lights, much too low to be turbine lights, and pretty far away. But you see them. They flash, like a blink, in tandem. You roll down your window, never taking your eyes off the pinpoints of light in the distance.
Out of your waistband comes the P22, and you fire off 2 rounds into the direction of the lights. They disappear. You watch for a long time, not once looking away, all throughout your call to Dispatch, then 911, then safety, and finally your boss. Minutes tick by while you tell your story, over and over, to each person on the phone, not breaking your gaze. The lights did not return.
After explaining to everyone in the company and their mother, brother, and Uncle Bob, that you had been hit in the trailer, no you didn’t know by what, no the load wasn’t ok, and no you didn’t see anything, they finally agreed to let you turn your load around and come back home.
With no regard to the non-existent traffic, you make the most unprofessional, unorthodox U-turn in your semi, and blast out of there like a cat from a hound pen. The turbines slowly disappear into your rear-view mirror, and as soon as you cross the state line, you realize how tight your chest has been, relaxing as soon as you’re back in familiar territory. Like a fist around your heart suddenly letting go. You take a deep breath and relax, knowing you will not ever take this highway again, and if they try to make you, fuck em.
Credit: Lia le Fae