Barren Ground: Part 3, The Highway

If you haven’t read Parts One and Two, then you’re going to be quite lost…on an island…anyway. Here it is.

The driver pulled to the side of the road and rolled down the passenger side window. “You all right?” He asked the rider, who was still smiling as the blood and saliva dripped down his teeth.

“Yeah, haha! Damn Raccoons! Think I could get a ride to the next town over?”

“No problem.” The driver swung open the door and the rider stood for a moment, a little shaken.

“Uh…you mind if I get in the back? My legs are hurtin’ and I’d rather stretch ‘em out.” The driver paused and flashed a glance in the back before sizing up the rider. He was a scrawny looking man, and couldn’t be more than early 20’s. If need be, the driver was sure that he could take control in a scuffle.

“Sure, kid. Climb on back.”

“Thanks, mister!” The rider eased his way into the back seat and the driver adjusted his mirror accordingly before checking his blind spot and making a u-turn. “Where ya goin’?”

“Nearest town’s this way.” The driver kept a slow pace as they drove past the wreck. The tail lights were bright and blood red. If there were such thing as a devil, the driver was certain that’s what his eyes would look like. The license plate was familiar. The driver checked his mirror again, looking back at the rider. “Quite a crash. Was anyone with you?” The rider shook his head and sniffed.

“Nosir.” He leaned against the window and out of the driver’s view.

“Are you sure?” He heard only silence and licked his lips, returning his gaze to the road and clenching the wheel. “No woman in the car? Maybe she picked you up?” Still only silence. “I mean you don’t look too beaten up for a crash like that.” The driver laughed. “Ahh, well I guess I should thank you, really. She might have posed a pro-“ The rider pulled the seatbelt up to the driver’s neck.

“How the fuck do you know-“ The driver pulled out his knife and reached over his shoulder, digging the blade into his enemy’s. The rider screamed and the driver jerked the car sharply to the right, knocking the rider aroundthe backseat like a rag doll, and slammed on the breaks. The rider ended up on the floorboard and the driver hopped out of the car, opening the backdoor and dragging the rider out by his feet.

When he hit the pavement, he reach up, yanking the knife from his shoulder and slicing the web between the driver’s thumb and forefinger, cutting the swastika in half. The blood exploded from his skin, and the rainwater helped spread it down his arm. He screamed in pain and the rider struggled to his feet, clutching his shoulder and leaning against the car. “Who are you?”

“I’m you…except I have a car.” The rider stood with his shoulders angled; the left lowered and blood dripping from his hand, as if his jacket were filled with ink and had sprung a leak.

“So what now?”

“Now, you either give up or die fightin’,” the driver said, “I got experience on ya, kid.” The rider scoffed and flung the knife, and the blunt end struck his collar bone. Only the driver heard the initial crack, but both of them heard the break when the rider slammed his good shoulder into him. The pain brought the driver to the ground, and the other fell on top of him, bringing his fist down on his face.

Blood, water and saliva spewed onto the pavement, and when the rider raised his fist again, the driver reached up, pressing his thumb into the wound. The rider let out a scream and pulled his shoulder free, falling backwards onto the solid yellow line in the middle of the road.

Panicked, the driver rolled over and crawled to his car, like a rat scurrying to his hole. The rider winced in pain and saw the knife lying not 5 feet from him. He grunted and inched toward it. The driver’s hand grasped the side of the seat and he used it to pull himself up. That’s when he felt the knife scrape his rib as the rider shoved it in his back.

His strength gave way and he collapsed to the ground. The rider rolled him over. “What do you do with the cars?” he asked.

The rider shrugged, “Depends on the case.” He looked up and down the dark highway, seeing nothing but more darkness. Without looking back down he said, “It’s probably safe to assume yours ain’t yours. Might just take it.” The rider dropped the knife and climbed into the car. He sat for a moment, adjusting the seat and carressing the wheel. “Yeah, I think I’ll just take it.”

Without another word; no goodbye, no closing argument, the rider shut the door and became the driver. The tires squealed as the vehicle sped down the highway. The old driver saw the tail lights fade over the hill. He lay there for what felt like hours and finally struggled to his feet. Off in the distance, headlights beamed through the rain and the old driver stuck out his thumb. The van that the headlights belonged to slowed to a stop. “Jesus, brother. You all right?” A scruffy old man spat chewing tobacco onto the bloody highway.

“Yeah. I might need a hospital, though.”

“Well climb in. Birmingham’s just up the road.” The old driver paused, staring at the spot where the old man spat. “Mister?” he asked, “Are you gonna get in?” The old driver blinked and looked up.

“Yeah. You mind if I get in the back?”

THE END

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