The man awoke, drenched with sweat. He was in an enclosed space only slightly larger than himself. He became aware of a continuous vibration – a low rumbling. There was no light, and the enclosure was stifling. He tried to move but seemed to be paralyzed. Finally, he was able to break out of his trance, and struck a desperate blow to the wall of the box that enclosed him.
His fist parted the leather curtain of the truck’s sleeper compartment. Blinding sunlight poured in, making the man wince in pain. His head felt as if it was on fire.
The man lay there, exhausted, not caring to look out of the truck to see what the damage to the building was like. He felt hopeless, and allowed himself another lapse into unconsciousness.
Outside the truck, the air was clean and warm; a slight breeze blew a candy wrapper across the concrete parking lot. The idling purr of the diesel droned on, still punctuated by the occasional thrum and release of the air compressor. A bird landed briefly on the truck’s grill, looking for dead bugs to pick off and eat.
The man’s dream returned. The dark foreboding of the alien spider, laughing at him from far above, planning an even worse fate for the couple. The man tossed and turned, just below the surface of conscious awareness.
The woman opened the driver’s door and climbed inside the cab, placing a Thermos and a paper sack on the passenger seat. She pulled aside the leather curtain and made sure the man was still there, still breathing. She reached for her log book, opened it and drew a line in it, set it aside and poured herself a cup of steaming coffee from the Thermos.
After taking a sip, the woman pulled the seat belt across her lap and buckled it, pressed the clutch pedal and slipped the gearshift lever into gear. As she released the parking brakes, the truck’s tires began to roll.
Half an hour later, the curtain between the cab and the sleeper moved, then was pulled open by the man.
"Hey," said the woman. "How you doin’?"
"Well, I’m glad to see you’re still alive. I was starting to worry. I figured if you hadn’t woke up by the time we get to Salt Lake City I was taking a detour to a hospital. That was some fall you took. Let me see your forehead."
"Salt Lake City?" the man asked. "Wha… where are we?" For the first time since awakening, he looked out the windshield at the landscape. They were driving along Interstate 80!
"About to Wendover and the Utah border. Hey, you okay?"
"Uh, yeah. Yeah. I’m just… What happened? How did we get here?" Confusion was apparent on his face.
"Well, after you tripped over that rock and hit your head when we made that pit stop just outside of Fallon last night, I took a look at the map and decided not to take Highway Fifty. I know you said it would be a short cut, but with the way you seemed to be kind of, well, ‘out of it,’ I decided that I didn’t want to be out on some desolate two lane and not be able to get help if you ended up in really bad shape. So I decided to go back and cut over to I-80. Oh, I picked up a can of beef stew for you at the truck stop back in Wells. You want it now?"
The man felt the bruise on his forehead. His throat felt raspy; he could feel the sting of acrid, inhaled smoke. He was disoriented, but he knew he didn’t want any canned beef stew.
The truck rolled east. Tires whined as they passed a dead rattlesnake on the fog line, a loose chain rattling inside the back of the trailer. The chain was attached to a dusty bottle cap thermometer which sat next to a tarnished brass cash register, a rusty "Rocket Gasoline" sign, and forty-two thousand, nine hundred fifty eight pounds of palletized canned foods. The shipper’s seal was intact.
"Hey, when are you gonna get this air conditioner fixed?"
"Uh, maybe when we get to Wichita."
Copyright 1987, Craig A. Bass. All Rights Reserved.