A single tractor trailer truck, when on the road during the daytime—hell, maybe even three or four when separated by flows of commuter cars—is like a caged tiger. If you keep a wide berth, it can only swipe at you through the bars of its cage, roaring its futility. In the early morning in—where did we say?—Pennsylvania, you’re in the jungle, and every cracking twig holds a tiger’s foot between its broken jaws, every ray of moonlight momentarily bathes a tiger’s back, every stray particle of light was first used by that tiger to see you, and you won’t see it before it’s too late. You pass, or you die. You’re in trucker space; you’re in trucker time; time and space are one; you’re in trucker spacetime.
And you’re there, sitting in the passenger seat as you’re all driving straight for three-hundred miles, making conversation purely for the purpose of staying awake, thoughtless and mildly disingenuously pleasant, like porridge. Turning to your friend, the driver, as heavy and imperious trucks glow and charge through the darkness, passing by; your headlights and the trucks’ spectral effulgences meet and wash over the face of the driver next to you, you with your seat rolled back for the extra leg-room, and you turn to say something, and you see a face you’ve never seen before:
From the side and just slightly behind.
A face maddened and stupor-intense with the white-yellow not-moonlight thrown over it. Familiar patterns and familiar structures of bone. The soft frustrated confusion of not knowing your way in a place, so familiar during the daylight hours, after night falls, it shocks you with a moonlit madman where your friend sat, driving the car God knows where; and the dithering gormlessness of knowing that your fear will come to nothing and that it can’t be acted upon because the madman actually isyour friend in a way that seemingly defies, while operating under nothing but, logic. You know that tomorrow night, when one of your other friends then sleeping in the back seat, takes over for the current driver, you will see another stranger, perhaps that one a demon rather than a madman, or maybe a skeletal sort of monster instead of an overtly fleshy one, something else the body of which will recede into shadow while the face stands out pale, unnerving in the way it goes on talking, ignorant of how monstrous it looks.
Naturally, you avoid looking at the driver. You carry on conversation with your eyes directed unwaveringly to the windshield, or the passenger-side window, and once again, you see the cavern-like aspect of early-morning central Pennsylvania, the horrible hemmed black expanse of the sky and the dark fields running wavy like ridges of volcanic stone until they meet the horizon’s black wall, and the trucks charging by with lurid tigers-eye lights and an alien lack of consideration paid you; their bulk presses in like prison walls that slide about, ready, not willing but not unwilling to impassively, dispassionately crush you like a gigantic pale animal or a god whose thoughts are so far beyond your own comprehension that it might as well be an animal. You have those without, and within, you have the horrific transfiguration of your friend, the promise of fresh horrific transformations to come in the maddening reproducibility, the commodity of the circumstances that make a Mister Hyde of your dearest Doctor Jekyll, and what do you have in the middle with you?
Noah is a college student and a writer, among other things. He loves spooky stuff, writing about spooky stuff, and, despite everything, going on road trips.