Darkness on the Edge
Something was just not right. Ok, maybe it had been awhile since Roger Garner had last traveled this route, but the fact is he HAD traveled it before. Many times in fact. But tonight something was wrong. He should have reached the interstate hours ago. Instead he found himself driving on and on along the gravel surface of County Road 156 - or what he thought was CR 156. And there was nothing in sight.
How long had he been driving? The clock on the Silverado dashboard had died last year so it was of no help. And for some strange reason his wrist watch had quit too; it still read 8:45pm as it had for hours. He now had lost track of time as fear and uncertainty began to creep in.
He slowed down and tried to see any sign of something... anything. But all he could see was the gravel in front of the truck's headlight beams. There was something odd about the gravel too. Last time he took this route, this road was dirt and much bumpier. 'County must've done some improvements' he thought.
But there seemed to be absolutely nothing out there except the road in front of him. County Road 156 wasn't exactly a well traveled highway, but he should at least be seeing a ranch or two along the way.
He continued along listening to Bruce Springsteen belting out poetry from the CD player -
Some folks are born into a good life,
Other folks get it anyway, anyhow,
I lost my money and I lost my wife,
Them things don't seem to matter much to me now.
Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop,
I'll be on that hill with everything I got,
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost,
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost,
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town.
Suddenly, the truck's engine began to sputter and one glance at the fuel gage confirmed what he already knew - it read 'Empty'. The large truck gasped a few times and finally the engine quit. The truck rolled down the grade of the road a bit further, but soon came to a complete stop.
He sat in his truck for a moment cursing his luck. He should be Spokane by now, in Kim's arms. In fact, he should have finished making love to her and be well on his way back home by now. Now not only would Kim be wondering where he was, but his wife Cathy would wonder too.
He picked up his cell phone and opened it intending to call home. "No Signal Found" was the message displayed on the phone's screen. He waited for a minute, tried again, and finally snapped it shut. "Where the hell am I"? he said out loud looking around.
He opened the door and stepped out. He stood looking around him. When the interior cab lights of the truck switched off, he immediately noticed something strange. Darkness, no, a complete blackness surrounded him. There were no stars, no clouds, nothing. Just a black void all around him. He could not see the truck even through he was standing right next to it. He had to reach over and touch it to make sure it was still there. Now panic began to set in. 'Easy Garner' he thought to himself 'let your eyes adjust to the dark.'
But even after a few minutes, there was still nothing but a black void all around him. Leaning against the invisible truck, he tried to clear his head. Then he remembered the flashlight in the tool box and what luck! He had replaced the batteries in it only weeks ago. He dug it out and flicked it on.
'Some light will help' he thought. He shined the flashlight all around him but it just lit up a beam in the void. It revealed nothing; no hills, no shrubbery, no rocks, no empty beer cans.. nothing. He walked to the edge of the road and shined the light down at the ground. But there was no ground; just more void where the road left off. He did the same thing on the other side of the road - same results. It was as though there was nothing except him, the truck, and this road.
He got down on his knees and ran his hand over the edge of the road. The edge indicated a drop-off of some sort. Could he be on a road that ran along a cliff? But what kind of road had a drop-off on either side? It would have to be on the crest of a narrow ridge and he knew of no such roads in the area. Even if that were the case, it didn't explain the complete blackness. There should at least be stars out; if not there should be clouds.
Then he noticed there was something else missing too: sounds. There was a complete absence of sound. The only sound he could hear was that of his feet shuffling the dirt when he moved. There were no crickets, no creatures, and no sounds in the distance. Complete quiet.
As if the absolute darkness and stark silence weren't enough, there was also an inexplicable cold that began to gnaw at him. September in Eastern Washington State could bring cold nights, but this was not like any cold he had ever felt before. It penetrated all layers of his clothing quickly and bored its way right to Roger's bones.
Standing the dark thinking for a few more minutes, he decided to quit trying to find an explanation for his situation and instead turned to considering his options. There were really only two. He could wait here for someone to come along or else he could start walking and maybe find help.
That was an easy choice because he could not imagine hanging around his truck waiting in the cold, dark silence for someone who may or may not ever come along. Wherever he was, he sensed that not many people ever passed this way.
Having made that decision, he now had to decide which way to head. Did he walk further on this road or head back the way he had come from? Perhaps civilization (and light) was just around the next bend of the road. Perhaps there was a junction or a farmhouse just ahead. After all, it would be a long walk back. He had been driving for what now seemed like at least 3 hours. Although it now seemed a bit fuzzy. At 35 miles per hour, that would leave him with at least a 100 mile hike.
On the other hand, this place he was at didn't look like it would have anything "just ahead". He had the feeling that heading further on this road would be a mistake and he was in no mood for any more mistakes tonight. At least if he went back the way he came, he could eventually get back as long as he could re-trace his route.
With that he started walking. He adjusted his flashlight to its lowest setting to conserve the batteries. He knew that in this complete darkness he would be dependent on the flashlight just to see where he was going.
As he walked along he again cursed his stupidity. If he hadn't had the urge to have these extra-marital affairs he would be warm and cozy at home right now. But no! He had to go seek younger pussy in Spokane. It wasn't just Kim; before her it was Michelle, and before her was Julie. There were even others before that, but he didn't want to think about that right now. 'If only I could undo tonight and start over' he thought.
As he shuffled along back up the road, he continued to feel as though everything was wrong – the darkness, the silence, the cold, and even … the ground. "What the hey?" he said out loud as he begin to notice how tired his legs were getting in such a short distance and how hard it was to walk. He stopped and bent down to examine the dirt on the road. He reached down and grabbed a handful of it and was amazed at how light it was. It slipped through his fingers like sand, only it was even lighter than sand – more like the texture of granulated sugar.
He stood back up and looked around on all sides – nothing - complete and total void. He looked back and could no longer see the truck. It was as though the darkness was some sort of black fog that had swallowed everything up.
He continued plodding along the road. His legs quickly became tired and his body suddenly was beginning to feel sore as though the cold had worked its way right into his bone marrow. Progress was slow and he was afraid of falling off the edge of whatever this road was.
In just a short distance he got a pleasant surprise. Directly ahead of him he saw a lighted cabin!
'What the…?' He thought. 'Why didn't I see that on the way in?'
But that wasn't important now. It was small, cozy looking and more importantly it had light coming from it and the door was open slightly.
Never was he so glad to see such a small cottage in his entire life! He ran toward the cabin as fast as he could - even though the sugary dirt road made running difficult. The closer he got to the cabin the lighter the sand (or whatever it was) became. It was becoming almost like quicksand. By the time he reached the cabin, he was winded and had to stop to catch his breath.
"Hello", he called. "Anyone in there?"
He walked up to the door and peeked inside. He could tell immediately that no one was inside because the cabin was just a small one room cottage. He stepped inside and looked around. Not much to see -- one empty room with a window and a very inviting fire going in the fireplace. He took the liberty of shutting the door and then went to stand near the fireplace to warm himself.
As he stood near the fire, he noticed that the size of the cabin was very odd. It was about 10 feet across the front in length but only about 6 or 7 feet deep. There was no furniture, just an empty room.
'Oh well', he though to himself, 'tonight seems to be full of odd things. What's one more?'
He considered going back out the front and getting the chair off the front porch. He was very tired and his legs for some reason could barely hold him up.
'Certainly I couldn’t have walked that far', he thought to himself.
Just then he saw something he had not noticed before. Right next to the fireplace was another door heading out the back of the cabin. This was an odd door, however, and the only reason he knew it was a door was the fact that there was light streaming through the edges from the other side. There was no doorknob or handle, but the extremely bright light on the other side drew the outline of the door.
He pushed on it slightly and it began to open outward. The light was warm and inviting but he could not see any detail in it – only light. He pushed the door open further and stepped out. Here was just another odd detail to add to the list of oddities for the evening. There did not appear to be a floor or ground, yet he did not fall.
He did however, feel like he was floating. He could feel his body beginning to tilt backward, yet he did not fall. His head began to feel light and he felt dizzy. He felt his body tilt backward even further.
Soon he found himself in the lying down position and he could suddenly feel something supporting his body. Sounds began to form in his ears and suddenly he recognized his wife's voice.
"No he still hasn’t come to."
He opened his eyes and he could see his wife talking on her cell phone. He blinked and looked around. He was in a bed.. no a hospital bed in a hospital room.
"Cathy?", he spoke but his words came out raspy "Is that you? What happened, where am I?" He tried to sit up, but something tugged at his arm. He looked down and could see an IV tube stuck in his arm.
"Oh Thank God", Cathy hung up her phone. She starting crying and held her husband in her arms.
After a moment or two she composed herself and said "Honey, you were in a really bad accident. Do you remember any of it? You swerved to avoid a vehicle and plunged down a hill out off County Road 156. You’ve been in a coma."
"No… umm… I really don't remember that part."
"It's ok honey, don't worry about a thing. Just lie back while I go get the doctor". She kissed him and hurried out the room.
He looked around at the nicely kept hospital room and noticed there were beautiful flowers on the table near his bed. He felt the flashlight still in his hand and looked down to see that it was still on – still shining and set on low just as he had set it. He switched it off.
Springsteen was part right. There is a Darkness…....on the Edge of Life.
Story Blook Home
Tags: Fiction, Short Fiction, Blook Fiction, Online Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story, Fiction Blook, Blook