The summer air cooled as the evening mist hovered faintly above a dark New England wood. An unlit back road curved and pitched downward under a starless sky. A light breeze jostled the blood red leaves next to the street and filled the air with white noise, while the rustling of tree branches harmonized with the uneven sounds of frogs and crickets, croaking and chirping in the surrounding wetlands. Tree trunks and telephone poles whisked by like dark horizontal brush strokes against the moving backdrop. The rhythmic slapping of new running shoes paced across the damp pavement, blending with the symphony and growing louder as the figure approached.
In the distance, starting as a faint rumble and a dim light in the haze, a large grey truck rolled down the road and approached the bend just as the runner stopped to catch her breath and adjust the headset that piped late 80s rock and roll into her ears.
The truck veered slightly to the left and right as the runner stepped off the curb to continue her workout. But as she did, the truck lurched toward the breakdown lane. The jarring screech of the breaks sliced through the night, echoing off the trees and down the narrow road as the fender of the semi struck the runner in the hip. Upon impact, the mass of the vehicle snapped her head back, breaking her back instantly. Her limp body flew through the air and landed face down in the mud at the bottom of the ditch off the side of the road.
The fog lingered. Quiet returned to the scene, punctuated only by the restless wind-blown tree branches. The frogs and crickets fell silent. The truck twisted and stopped, laying frozen in time and crooked across the road into the breakdown lane. The rumbling idol of the engine at rest replaced the sounds of her breathing.
A door opened. Worried footsteps scuttled across the street, around the grill of the semi to the edge of the road. The headlights blinked as the figure passed in the dark. No other cars appeared. No other sounds echoed through the lifeless night. Time passed.
Soon after, the headlights blinked again. The door slammed closed. The red brake lights flashed, and the engine heaved. And then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, the truck disappeared into the darkness.