Dreams and Questions
The seat he awoke in this time belonged to the cab of a huge truck. The steering wheel and console was crushed into where he, as the driver, he would have been sitting and left side door was severely concaved. Noxious steam spewed from several splits in the demolished radiator as bits of windshield still fell onto what used to be the dashboard. Brian began to move towards the passenger door when he noticed a failure to respond from his legs. Examining himself for the first time he felt as though seeing through another’s eyes. The body he saw was a crushed pulp. He knew at once that he was having another accident dream, but this time, he was the trucker. He paused, absorbing the realization, as in awe of the experience as he was grateful for having been spared the physical sensations of it. He caught movement just outside and wasn’t entirely surprised to see himself, filthy jumpsuit and all, tumbling down the rocky slope. Instinctively, he cringed, as much for the memory of the pain as in shame over his own pathetic wails.
As if controlled by a puppeteer, Brian clumsily exited the cab of the semi. Trapped in the mangled body, he watched helplessly as he approached his other wounded self, prone and moaning. He wanted desperately to say something to the other Brian that would lessen the horror of what he knew he was about to experience. When his second self got to his feet, however, he almost didn’t recognize the older man he’d changed places with, dressed up in his jumpsuit. The trucker’s injuries were gone, replaced by the ones Brian had sustained and his eyes were solid black.
“Do not squander the gift. “ The apparition in his work clothes advised. As if in reply, Brian’s one good hand involuntarily held out the small object that the trucker had given him. “Yes.” The thing in his jumpsuit said, holding its hand under his as Brian had done with the trucker. He neither willed nor felt the arm that rose from his side. His motions now were purely a reenactment of the grizzly encounter, but now he was cast in the other role.
Before Brian had dropped the key-thing, the creature’s fingers lengthened into tentacles that wrapped around his hand, tight enough to pop his knuckles and make him cringe. This pain he felt. This pain was meant for him to feel.
“There you will find the song.” It grated.
“Song?” Brian asked, noticing tiny orange sparks blazing deep within the thing’s ebony eyes. He reminded himself it was just a dream. That thought bolstered his courage.
“Maybe I lost it.” He dared. The thing came almost nose to nose with him. Its eyes narrowed and it grinned sardonically.
“There are worse things than death.” It hissed. Suddenly, its black, split tongue, lashed out like a whip at Brian’s face. A stinger on each tip found both his eyes as thorns grew out of the finger-sized appendages.
He awoke with a gasp, blinking away the blurriness in his vision. As real as the stinger and thorns felt in the dream, he had no doubt he was awake now. It was night. The hospital room was dark except for the illumination of a distant street light filtering in through partly closed blinds. The dark stripes of their shadows curved over the shape of his body, reminding him of the tentacles in the dream.
He had a cast on his left arm and bandages all up and down his left side. His lacerations, he was told, were deeper than they had previously guessed. He had rocks and chunks of old dead trees hiding in his solar plexus, hence the big need for surgery. Brian spent the next four days eating egg salad sandwiches and drinking orange juice while he flipped through eighty six channels of boring crap. In the five years he had not had a TV, he found himself sometimes wondering what he had been missing. That answer came to him the first day of his hospital stay; not a damn thing. At some point he had asked a nurse about the truck driver, but she had to pass the question along and it was a while before he found out anything. Eventually his doctor informed him that the truck driver had been thrown from his vehicle and probably died instantly. Brian decided his encounter with the ruined man had been a hallucination brought on by shock, no more real than his dreams in the hospital. He had seen the trucker, of that he had no doubt. It was probably the sight of this, being his first witnessed dead body that kicked his panicked brain into fantasy mode.
On his second day, the usual authorities had paid a visit to him, asking the details of the crash. He told them as much as he could remember, omitting his hallucination of the zombie trucker approaching him to deliver his “gift”.
“I was sitting in my work truck and just managed to get out before the semi hit it. I tried to see if the other guy was okay and fell down the ravine. When I heard the sirens coming I climbed back up as best I could.” When he got this far, each of his interviewers, the cop, the insurance agent and a journalist for the local paper all asked the same question.
“Did you see the driver of the vehicle that hit you?” To which he lied,
“No. It was still dark and after I fell and I just wanted some help, you know?” This seemed to satisfy everyone, so far as he could tell. It was the cop that complimented him on his “heroic” effort to help the other guy, even though there wasn’t anything he could do.
“Had I only known that ahead of time.” He remarked. “I could have saved myself some boo-boos.” This got the laugh he expected and the journalist, still there taking notes, asked if he could print that. Brian said he could, even though it made him sound like an ignorant, insensitive asshole. His boss, reluctantly, informed him that when Brian was able to come back to work, he, Mr. Sanders had to, by law; accept him back on as an employee. Brian couldn’t help but smile at that. He knew it probably gave the old guy heartburn just thinking about it.Upon being released, he was given his prescriptions and all his belongings were returned to him. When he had first been admitted, the contents of his pockets had been emptied into a plastic container. As he was gathering his items, Brian froze when his eyes fell on a small dark rectangle. Right next to his wallet and some ballpoint pens, was a small, plastic object, the key-thing. It was a flash drive. Another nurse informed him his cab was waiting outside to take him home. When the driver asked him for the destination, Brian showed him his driver’s license. Suddenly, even talking was wearing him out. He was sure it would be awhile before they arrived at his place. He could use a nap. No sooner had he put the card back in his wallet and returned his wallet to his pocket, exhaustion overtook him, again.