“I told you, Chris; we needed more gas!”
“Look, if you don’t like it you can always get out and walk the rest of the way to Chicago!” As much as Chris was upset with Kevin for rubbing salt on the wound, he knew he should have listened to Kevin about an hour ago about stopping for gas. It was his fault!
Kevin looked at his co-worker over his black-rimmed glasses with a sardonic grin from the passenger seat. “Well, it looks like neither of us has a choice but to do that, now!”
The two twenty-somethings were agents for an advertising firm in Manhattan, New York called N-Grove. N-Grove was courting a major clothing company in Chicago and needed a couple of their employees to go there to close the contract. Kevin Lotsworth and Chris Maddison were the chosen victims. N-Grove was one of those youthful companies ran by youthful people and only had so much money; even after a couple of trials with crowd-funding. Therefore, old school traveling by car was a necessity.
The only problem, now, was that Chris and Kevin had to take some unexpected detours on the interstate due to construction zones and just plain old getting lost! Which, of course, meant that more of their gas was expended than they budgeted for. They had just a few more hours before they had to be in Chicago on time for their meeting, and they were just now entering right in the middle of nowhere Indiana...
“How long has it been since we passed the last convenient store,” Kevin asked nervously. He was now surveying the bleak landscape that enveloped them and their silver, two-door car. Behind them, Kevin could see the signs of dawn splashing reddish light on the few trees that were in those parts of Indiana. They were somewhere between Toledo, Ohio and South Bend, Indiana.
“Probably about an hour ago,” Chris answered absent-mindedly.
For a long while, neither said a word. Truth was, they were both scared out of their wits! Both had lived in New York all their lives, and when they did go on trips it was usually to other big cities...this was something that neither realized still existed in America in the early 21st century: nature! The section of Interstate 80 that the two Hipsters were on was far enough away from even the smallest of towns in Indiana that they could actually see the details of stars in the sky and even slices of the the Milky Way system!
Chris, after pushing the trunk button, finally got out of the driver seat and walked over to the trunk and pulled out a flashlight. Kevin retrieved his online map on his smartphone and joined Chris outside.
“What’s the closest town from here,” Chris wondered out loud.
“Hmmm...” Kevin was scrolling around on his phone with the map of continental United States with the region of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois at the center. “Angola is the closest bet, but that’ll still take a while to walk out there.”
“Still better than sitting around here waiting for another car to show up,” Chris said as he looked around; frowning as a thought occurred to him. “Interstate 80 should be a little busier than this, shouldn’t it? I mean, there are several fairly big towns around these parts.”
“Yeah, but remember all those construction zones you had to drive through...truth is, Chris, I’m not even sure if we’re still on I-80!”
Chris, alarmed by now, shot his head up and glanced around the area. “It would explain why we don’t see any other cars around. I don’t care how early it is in the morning, any parts of the Interstate should have some kind of traffic!”
Now it was Kevin who became pensive as he continued to scroll through his online map. “Yeah...detours or not; wouldn’t there be other cars on the same detour routes as us?”
Chris had opened his mouth to respond but nothing came out as another sound showed up in the indigo-dark! To Chris and Kevin, it sounded as though someone was dragging their feet as the individual slowly walked toward them! The sound of the soles of some pair of shoes scratching against the textured surface of the road slowly got louder. What was worse, when they both looked around there was no one to be seen--even when Chris pointed the flashlight all around the area of the car!
The two New Yorkers jerked out of their casual posture and were in the silver car within a matter of nano-seconds! Chris, apparently used to being in the driver seat after so many hours of driving, locked all the doors with the master panel on the driver side. He was criss-crossing the flashlight around the immediate area of the car--yet finding no one! Kevin had already started to dial Emergency!
“Get anybody yet,” Chris had asked Kevin. Both were shaking and panting at this point!
Kevin still had his smartphone to his ear. After a few more seconds, his face soured with confusion. “It just keeps ringing! Since when does 911 keep ringing?”
Chris handed Kevin the flashlight then stretched himself in the driver seat so he could reach his own smartphone from one of his pants pockets. The icon of of an old-fashioned land-line phone was all that Chris needed to push to reach Emergency...nothing but the sound of digitized ringing met his ear. Sheer panic was beginning to fill both young men--the car was out of gas, and for whatever reason they could not reach 911, eventhough they were able to access their online maps on their smartphones! The closest town was several miles away, and now they heard disembodied footsteps!
Before Chris could even curse, Kevin had a hand on Chris’ right shoulder, which prompted Chris to freeze. Both remained silent...
“The footsteps stopped,” Kevin observed. He slowly surveyed the area with the flashlight and saw nothing. Even when he directed the light down the stretch of road it was bare.
Chris tried 911 again and got the same results.
“Well, it can’t be the lack of satellite connection,” Chris was saying with a shaky voice, “we still have access to the Net!”
“Then why the hell can’t we get Emergency,” Kevin questioned tersely; the stress of it all breaking the surface. All Chris could do was shake his head.
Apparently they both had the same idea at the same time: Chris and Kevin began to search the car for any kind of weapon!
“Crowbar,” Kevin spat out; looking at Chris with some askance, since Chris had opened the trunk to the car.
Chris winced. “All I got out was the flashlight!”
“Shit! Did you close the trunk?”
Chris froze out of terror. He looked in the rear-view mirror while Kevin twisted his whole upper body and looked back toward the trunk of the car...the hatch wide open and blocking the view of the road. Anyone could have access to the car’s crowbar at that point, and whatever else was in the trunk!
Neither moved nor said a word. Both were now officially on survival-mode! All they had in the car’s main interior were most of their luggage. Given that they were cultured big city boys, they did not have a gun available.
“There’s got to be something in our bags that we can use,” Kevin whispered urgently.
Just then, from a distance down the road from the front of the car, they could see headlights to another vehicle! Both jerked an excited motion that was a mixture of victory and surprise. Chris started honking the horn of their car and manually flashing its lights! And just to make sure, Kevin decided to dial 911 once again...More electronic rings. By that time, the other vehicle began to approach their car.
It was a camper; one of the newer ones that could pass as a tiny house on wheels. At the dashboard was an elderly couple, dressed as if they could pass for being tourists in Florida--though their license plate was from California.
“You boys look like you need some help,” the man at the steering wheel greeted them straightway after the driver-side window rolled down.
“Sir, please be careful,” Chris shot out toward the man after his own window rolled down. “We think there’s someone out there, but we don’t see him!”
The older man gave a quick nod. He and his wife looked around the area and whispered something to each other. “I’m assuming you’re having car trouble.”
“Yes, sir...ran out of gas! Would it be ok if we hopped along for a ride to the next town that you pass?”
“We’ll pay you for the ride,” Kevin threw out from the passenger-side. Even though the couple was going the opposite direction, the New Yorkers did not care. They just wanted to get away from the scene and whoever could have been out there!
N-Grove meeting in Chicago be damned!
The man waved them over. Kevin and Chris quickly grabbed their wallets and other, small essentials from their luggage and did not even bother to look back at the car as they sprinted to the camper. The older man quickly drove away from the area after the two young men practically leapt into the camper.
It took approximately an hour for the camper to reach Angola, Indiana. Morning was now starting to make its presence known with some orange and blue strokes on the lightening sky canvas. The first convenient store that the small crew of four in the camper saw, they made sure to stop there.
The couple had introduced themselves on the way to Angola as Greg and Janet Vilnack. They were an older couple that were vacationing the Lower 48 and just happened to run across the road that Kevin and Chris were on...
“So, you boys want to buy some gas here and take it with you to fill your car up,” Janet asked, her voice maternal and sounding concerned. All four were still in the camper. Greg had parked it off to an isolated area of the store.
The two Hipsters glanced at one another.
“To be honest with you, Mr. and Mrs. Vilnack,” Kevin admitted, “we haven’t even thought about what to do next! We just wanted to get away from whoever was out there!”
The couple gave a glance toward each other. Noticing this, Chris spoke up; careful not to offend the people that just rescued them.
“Look, I know it sounds crazy in retrospect, but, believe me, someone was out there!”
The couple smiled, as if they were the boys’ grandparents!
“Well, being stranded out in the countryside at night can play with your mind,” Greg said with an air of understanding.
“Greg, Sweetheart,” Mrs. Vilnack said to him, “we should get them something!”
Chris and Kevin shot uncomfortable looks at one another.
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Chris insisted. But Janet was even more insisting!
“Don’t be ridiculous! Listen, all of our kids are grown and live all over the world--it would be nice to be able to take care of somebody again!” She gave a grandmotherly smile to them.
Kevin and Chris both forced a smile and relaxed in their seats. Greg nodded with a satisfied face and slowly exited the camper...the sound of the soles of some pair of shoes scratching against the textured surface of the road slowly ebbing...