Cradles the Brain: A Book of Short Tales

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Eternal Drift

The bass bumped against her skull, sending all her dopamine to her brain. Wind whipped at her hair, and the cool air felt along her face, soothing her. The farmland air smelled like home.

She knew she was speeding but didn’t mind. Cops generally didn’t patrol the back roads, especially at night.

Tall grass and weeds grew on either side of the two lane road. She saw it blur past her. No traffic was headed toward her or behind her. She felt at ease.

She slowed to a stop and turned right at the three way intersection. Once up to speed, she spotted something in both lanes up ahead of her. Checking her rearview mirror and finding no one that could rear end her, she slammed on her brakes. Nothing was lit up, so she couldn’t tell what was in the road. She turned down her music and rolled up her windows.

Finally stopped a few car lengths in front of the object, she squinted. A truck was parked facing her in the oncoming traffic lane. She crept forward until her lights struck the thing in the road. The lump quickly shot up, and she saw that it had been a man crouching low. Standing up, he appeared to be over six feet tall. His build was that of a hard-working man; that much she knew from her view.

She tried to wave to the man. He just stood there, staring at her. She sat for a minute, unsure of what to do, then she tried to creep forward, hoping that the man would move. The man stood his ground. Aggravated and scared, Annabelle motioned that she needed to get past. The man stepped forward. Relieved, she prepared herself for the rest of the drive home, but the man didn’t step to the side to his truck. He continued forward, toward her truck.

Eventually his whole body lit up in the headlights. He smiled at Annabelle as he walked forward, illuminating himself. His white beard was streaked with crimson and his teeth were stained black.

A squeal escaped Annabelle’s throat, and she pulled her truck into reverse. Looking over her shoulder, she drove backwards until she got to her turn. She slightly passed it, then turned down it.

She got well up to speed and over the legal limit, when she saw something in the road. A vehicle in the oncoming lane and a lump in the road. She shook her head and smacked her hands on the steering wheel. Slowing to a stop, she exhaled a shaky breath.

The lump jumped up. He stood there a while, as Annabelle just stared back. It was stuffy in the cab and her AC didn’t work. She felt for the window switch, but couldn’t find it with her trembling fingers. She briefly glanced down to push the switch down and when she looked up, all the air left her body at once.

The man had his hands on her hood, which was most definitely up to broiling temperature, and he was panting. He leaned over the front end so the ends of his beard sat on the hood, dripping and smearing blood. Annabelle quickly rolled up her window. Now she was panting. The atmosphere in the cab made her feel claustrophobic. She gasped for air. The man tried to climb onto her hood, lifting his left leg to hoist himself up.

Annabelle shifted into reverse and did the backwards boogie until she got to the three way intersection. She backed up toward the direction she had first tried and punched it down the only way she hadn’t gone. She got up to sixty-five miles per hour, well over the country road’s speed limit.

She saw the lump in the road. This time, she didn’t stop. He stayed crouching and Annabelle struck him at full speed. The truck shook, but took no real physical damage. Tears streamed down her face and she wept, scared but relieved.

She slowed down to forty-five miles per hour, the road’s speed limit, and cruised. Able to slightly relax, she turned her music up a bit. She cracked her window a few inches and sucked in the cooler air.

Annabelle frequently checked her rearview mirror, but her mind cleared a bit. She was unsure of where she was headed, unfamiliar with the road to the left side of that three way intersection.

She saw headlights in the oncoming traffic lane, but they weren’t moving toward her. They held their position and next to said headlights was a figure in the road. The man was already standing, staring at Annabelle.

No,” she whispered to herself. Her hands tightened around the wheel as her breathing intensified. She slowed down and there was the man in her headlights. It was the white bearded man that she had run over not ten miles back, same truck and all.

Maybe that wasn’t this guy. Maybe I ran an innocent person over. “No,” she tightened her grip on the steering wheel and shook her head, knowing damn well what the truth was.

He pulled his hand from behind his back as Annabelle got within forty feet of him. He aimed his shotgun at her, and she gunned it. Her truck hit him going thirty miles per hour. His body found its way to her hood. His head smashed into the windshield, splattering red. His bruised, bloody face still stared at her. His eyes were lit up, just as his headlights had been. The spider web crack seeped blood. She slammed on the brakes, tossing his body off of her hood. Punching it, she yet again ran his body over. She felt the thump as her tire grinded over him.

Annabelle sped away and traveled along the road for a while, completely on edge. The road never turned or curved or had any intersections.

“Does this road ever fucking end?” She punched the steering wheel and pressed the accelerator.

Headlights approached her in the oncoming traffic lane. This time they were actually moving toward her. She slowed down a bit, fearing it may be a cop. The headlights suddenly shut off. The cab light switched on. There he was. Driving his little, black truck, beard still dripping. He switched into Annabelle’s lane. She tried to swerve, but he swerved with her. Screaming, she slammed on her brakes. Her scream stopped, the wheels taking on her shrill voice in their own squeal. After looking for space to get around, she glanced back to his cab. The moving truck was empty.

A hoarse laugh shook her. She looked to her right as she and the truck hurled toward each other. The bearded man sat next to her and belly laughed. His black teeth glinted blue and red from her dash lights. Annabelle screamed and looked back to his truck, where he sat yet again.

Everything seemed so slow. She thought they would have hit by then. She looked to her right again to find nothing but a pool of blood in her passenger seat. The truck still came at her. They were both moving but remained the same distance apart. She checked her rearview mirror, hoping to find someone to help her. She noticed it was smudged and could barely see through it. Pulling her sleeve over her hand, she wiped it off, tilting it toward herself in the process.

She looked forward again before checking her mirror, still the same distance away from the truck. This time the cab was empty. Her heart pounded as she wondered where he was. The speedometer read thirty-five when she looked down at it. She checked her mirror, which was now facing her.

She looked into yellow eyes in a sallow face. The face laughed, bearing black teeth. She looked down, seeing a slight beer belly where her tone tummy used to be. Her arms and hands were now manly, buff things. The beard lay down her chest, steadily dripping onto her crotch. Her body was no longer her own. She screamed as she watched the face in the small mirror laugh at her.

The two trucks collided, sending debris thirty feet into the air. Scattering it all about the surrounding area. Blood sprayed and Annabelle’s heart stopped.

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