Chapter Five

 

When they had driven at full throttle for an hour and a half, the man spoke.  “Look.  I saw what I saw, and what I saw is not physically possible.  It’s, it’s …”

“Okay okay.  I believe you saw something.  Why didn’t you show me what it was?  I think you’re goin’ whacko on me, and that’s the last thing I need right now.”

The truck began to slow, then rolled to a stop at the top of a ridge.  “This should be about it,” said the man.

“Should be about what?  What the heck are we doing?”

“I figure this is about the halfway point.  From here we head back to Sage, no matter which way we go.  This is probably about the edge of the horizon on that – that … model I was telling you about.”

“So?”

“So, maybe there’s an answer here.  Somewhere.  Let’s take a walk.  There was some kinda clear dome over the model; maybe there’s a full-size equivalent or something out here.  Some kind of line on the ground, maybe.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about, but, okay.”

They found nothing.

Three weeks passed.  They began to tire of their limited diet.  Their diesel fuel supply ran low due to their fruitless attempts to leave Sage.  Tempers flared, and the man’s sanity began to unravel.

“This is all your fault!” the woman had once screamed.  “You always gotta take some God-forsaken back road way out in the sticks just so you can think you’re gaming the system by dodging scales.  And for what?  We were nice and legal, but no, you gotta go traipsing off cross-country like some kinda flippin’ gypsy.”

“We were cutting a hundred and fifteen miles off our run by going this way instead of following the Interstate,” the man had replied in anger.  “I checked it all out on the map before we left Oakland.”

“Sure, you cut out a whole hundred and fifteen lousy miles.  So what?  Instead, you got mountains to climb, sharper curves and roads that ain’t worth a damn.  You probably burn more fuel on these damn ‘shortcuts’ than you would have driving a hundred fifteen more miles on a nice wide Interstate.”

The man had walked away from her.  She had picked up a rock and thrown it at him, missing him by inches.

Later, they had both apologized to each other.

The two spent many hours in what became known as the “control room,” looking for some kind of answer to their nightmare.  Somehow, they knew that this room held the key to their captivity.  There were no labels anywhere in the room, no markings resembling operating instructions.  All the lights appeared to merely be indicators of some sort, not controls.  They could not find anything resembling a switch, lever, knob, or button anywhere.  Running their hands and fingers across the panels had no effect on the flashing lights.  The man and the woman always left the room without finding any answers.  “I’m just a truck driver, James, not an electronics engineer,” the man had once said.

One evening after yet another futile search of the town and the control room, the man and woman were sitting in the truck.  “You know,” said the woman, “By now the people in Wichita have reported that this load of theirs never arrived.  Somebody’s probably out looking for us right now.”

“Yeah, maybe, but if they were, they’d probably only be looking for us on the Interstates.  I doubt if they’d be checking the back roads.”

“Why not?  They could figure we took a shortcut.”

“Nah, by now they probably figure we just stole the load.  Maybe went back east or to Mexico with it, I don’t know.  Besides, I been thinking. We can’t be on Fifty.  That’s probably a well-traveled road, and we couldn’t possibly be the only people sucked into this, this, whatever it is.  We surely would have seen somebody else by now.  I don’t what to talk about it right now.  Get some sleep.”
 

Chapter Six