7PM-6AM. That’s the truckers shift. Assuming the driver doesn’t take any breaks, and tonight, he isn’t. Richie’s the one on the road. Carrying a double trailer on the back, this one weighs 120,000 pounds. Richie needs to make sure the back is secure on the truck before he sets out on the road. That takes about a half hour, after which, he is soaring.
He starts driving at 7PM. The sun is just beginning to set. It’s the summer, so Richie isn’t enveloped in total darkness yet. He loves watching the sunset while he drives. The sky is a pale orange color, reminding him of the days when he was a kid. The days when him and his brother would be at the beach with their family. The days they would race to the pier to watch the sunset, and Richie would always lose. Sadly, Richie can’t watch the sunset because he drives in the opposite direction right now, but he can still see the reflection of it in the colors of the sky. As he drives down the road, it looks like an amateur painting, where someone forgot to draw the sun.
That first hour of driving is always the easiest. Besides knowing you still have ten hours left, as long as Richie doesn’t let that dread sink in, everything will go smoothly.
Around 8:30 the sky is a midnight blue. Not black enough to be entirely night, but dark enough where Richie’s vision only allows him to see a few hundred feet in front of him, instead of all of the I-95 highway. He’s used to that now, been driving around twenty years. This night’s no different from the rest.
Richie sees a sign,
And then below that there’s the curve symbol, and a picture of a truck tipping over. Richie knows not to take the corners too fast. He’s lost too many friends to that over the years. Too many. He slows down to a smooth 35MPH, taking the curve slow, nice and easy.
He doesn’t have a wife, a girlfriend, or kids. No one that would notice if he fell off the face of the Earth, besides the trucking company. And chances are they'd be more concerned with the fact that the shipment is late.
Now the clock strikes 9:00 as Richie arrives in Pennsylvania, and the midnight blue is replaced by a pitch black sky. There’s a half-moon, and the stars are illuminated by the lack of city lights. All flat farmland around. Richie can’t look straight up at the stars as he drives, but looking straight ahead he can see hundreds of stars. At least he thinks it’s hundreds. It’s actually millions of stars in his vision. This is when the driving gets harder, when he can’t see as well. At least the roads are clear, Richie thinks to himself. When Richie drives his 2012 Honda Civic and the roads are clear, he flies, but in this 120,000 pound giant, he doesn’t risk that.
As he cruises down the highway, and the clock approaches 10PM, he sees a dead deer on the side of the road. Even going by at 67MPH, he looks down at the deer, and it’s eyes stare back up at him.
Kill me, they’re saying to him, in a language every living organism on Earth speaks.
Nothing he hasn’t seen before, but for some reason this one emits a deeper, contagious sense of dread. The eyes of the deer are stuck in his head, and in every vehicle on the other side of the highway, every bright white light he sees, the eyes come back to him.
Richie turns the radio up louder. He likes to listen to Old Rock. The Stones, Clapton. Timeless classics. The clock draws nearer to midnight. Nothing too odd he’s seen besides that deer. He switches the radio to a late night talk show.
“With the latest paranormal news!”-brzzt-he changes the station-”So we were in the middle of the woods, no camping gear, 3AM, and we found a staircase. It looked like a staircase from an old victorian home-brzzt”-he changes it again.
Why are there so many goddamn horror shows on late at night, he thinks. This time when he changes it, there’s prolonged silence for ten seconds. And then there’s a noise. Was it silent at first, or was the noise too quiet for me to hear, Richie ponders. It starts out really quiet, and gradually gets louder.
What started as a mumble can now clearly be heard. There’s no mistaking it.
Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.
It’s not the voice of a man, or a child, or even a human. It sounds like a deer screeching it, struggling to speak through a blood filled throat.
Richie’s hand shoots out to the radio, but instead of changing the station he just turns it off. That’s enough radio for tonight.
Just gotta keep on keeping on. That’s what he tells himself. Eyes on the road, eyes on the road. You’re carrying 120,000 pounds, nothing can hurt you. Not another car, not a man, not an animal. Nothing at all.
And then on the side of the road there’s another deer. This one is definitely dead, he thinks, as he drives by. He only notices it when it’s a few feet from the car. His eyes are getting tired. It’s intestines are sprawled out all around it. There’s no trace of the once brown fur which is entirely coated in red, as if a child that didn’t know how to draw within the lines scribbled with the world as his canvas. The deer couldn’t have been much more than a year old, Richie thought. He was no expert in deer ages, but this one’s size gave it all away. Those words in the back of his head come back.
2AM now. He’s in the final stretch. Four more hours, and that final hour, from 5-6, is always a joy. Watching the world come to life. Seeing the sun again. But 2-4 is the hardest. No other cars on the road. No other souls awake at this hour. The brightness of the stars are emphasized. Not emphasized by the lack of light, for the lack of light is the same, if not less, than at midnight, but by some cosmic entity. As if there is a reward for being awake at this hour. A reward for robbing yourself of sleep.
The rest of Richie’s path goes as follows: stay on this highway for two more hours, then take exit 32, to another highway, and then arrive at destination after twenty minutes on there. He would do anything to get onto a different highway right now, anything to get away from the voice that pervades his mind. The same voice as that of the deer. But if he were to try and take backroads, or a different highway, this two hour drive would turn into a six hour drive, and that’s not allowed for truckers. Stick to the road.
So he sticks to the road. Time ticking down. He sees a truck crashed on the either side of the highway now, and decides to turn around. With no other cars on the road, he might be the first to call it in. Deciding to turn around, he looks for the nearest speed trap, but has to go down the road for a minute before he finds one. Barely fitting through, he speeds up now.
The dark black of the night starts to turn to that lighter purple, and Richie thinks he can see the sun on the horizon. He needs to get to that truck and help in any way he can. As he stares into a cloud he believes the sun to be behind, a deer runs out onto the highway. He slams on the brakes and swerves to the right in order to avoid it, but the truck overturns, crashing to the ground and sliding. Glass shatters and flies through the truck. Richie passes out at some point.
In a hospital room, Riche lays on a bed in a coma. The nurse grabs the collection bag connected to the catheter, dumps the water, and changes it.
“Krrrr. Mmmmm. Krrrr. Mmmmm.”
She thinks she hears some mumbling coming from Richie, and walks over, but when she gets closer, he doesn’t make a sound. The nurse leaves the room, and Richie is alone, on the road. His shift begins again. He hopes to reach the sunlight.