Destination unknown: Bayou leaves driver searching for reality

| October 24, 2012

Henry had been driving a truck for 14 years and thought he’d been to every commercial park in the Louisiana bayou, but he didn’t recognize the address or shipper coming across the Qualcomm. He was tired and it was late, but the five hours of drive time he had left were enough to make the pick up before having to shut down for the night.

He cursed the GPS for sending him on an unfamiliar route, but he stuck to it anyway. The old Pete groaned and creaked as it rocked down the road. She wasn’t fast, but she was a good truck and had never left him stranded. He settled into driving mode and soon became hypnotized by the white center lines, which seemed to be going by faster and faster, even though his speedometer showed an even 65.

Henry chalked it up to being tired and hungry, and his thoughts wandered to what he’d eat for breakfast.

The first giant bug to hit the windshield snapped him out of his reverie; it sounded more like a bird than a bug. He checked the speedometer again, the white lines were nothing but a blur, and he knew he was going faster than 65, but the Pete maintained she was rolling at a legal speed. Another bug hit the grill and sounded like an M-80 exploding on contact.

He’d driven these parts enough to know there were some huge, scary insects in the swamps, but the size of that one had to exceed anything he’d ever seen. It alarmed him, but he wasn’t about to stop. The side of the road was so pitch black he couldn’t even see if there was enough of a break down lane to pull over.

The next windshield shot was completely different. A black mass, the size of a small dog, landed on the passenger side windshield with a soft thump. This time he knew it didn’t have anything to do with being tired or hungry, something weird was going on. There was no way anything could land on a truck going 65 (or more) miles an hour.

Henry flipped the wiper switch and heard motors squeal with exertion trying to push the unknown creature off his window. Hairs on the back of his neck stood up as the object slid sluggishly across, finally freeing the blades and allowing the wipers to slap back and forth. He told himself it wasn’t the sound of claws scraping down the windshield he heard as it fell away, but the distinct noise was unmistakable.

Feeling shook up and a little silly, he tweaked the CB volume to see if he could ground himself with a little late-night banter. Static and a strange buzz were on channel after channel. No human voices were out there anywhere. With three miles left to the stop, he reduced the volume and tried hard not to have the heebie jeebies.

Glowing lights in the near distance promised human company and a return to normalcy. Shrouded in a sudden, thick fog, lot gates opened as soon as his truck turned in. A decrepit guard shack sat empty and dark. The only choice was to follow a narrow driveway toward the weirdly lit warehouse. There was no turnaround. Blackness and unknown territory filled every other option. Henry had never experienced darkness like this, the headlights barely made a difference. He could only see directly in front of the truck for maybe three feet. It was as if the night had consumed all illumination except for the warehouse lights.

Creeping along at 10 miles an hour and wishing he could go 50, he ignored the eyeshine his feeble-looking headlights caused several times and kept telling himself this was the swamp, there were animals everywhere. He also ignored the sick-sweet smell of rot and convinced himself the odor had to do with whatever refuse the warehouse produced.

As mysteriously as it had come, the fog lifted and Henry could see the docks on the warehouse. Only one door was open, and his skin prickled when he realized it was number 13. The CB crackled, making him jump like he’d been pinched.

“Hello driver! Back it on in. We’ve been waiting for you!”

The friendly voice and the fact that there was finally some human contact made him feel silly for being so jumpy. He was glad to hear they were waiting. It meant he’d be loaded and ready to get the hell out of this spooky place as quickly as possible. Henry didn’t care if he ran out of hours before he got to civilization. He’d drive illegally and on 16 flat tires to get away from here. He backed it in and got out of the truck to pick up paperwork and check his grill for damage from the bug explosion earlier.

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