Truck Stop

The air wedge slid silently into the space between the truck door and the window weather stripping. Jonas pumped up the wedge just enough to fit a five-foot bendable rod through the narrow opening and into the cabin of the semi. With some finesse, the hook at the end of the rod grabbed the truck’s door lock, a small, vertical cylinder that, when pulled straight up, will unlock the door. He struggled to see clearly in the moonlight and carefully worked to avoid scratching the interior window as he pulled the rod up. Click! The door unlocked.

At the rest stop that Jonas had come to, there was only one sedan that left shortly after Jonas arrived. There were seven trucks and the one that he was working to unlock was the seventh in line. Now that the door was unlocked, that wasn’t the end of his job. He retrieved his air wedge and bendable rod, slipping them into the small red toolbox that he had sitting on the ground next to him with the words “Harold & Co.” scribed on the outside.

Jonas walked back to his tow truck and placed the toolbox in the passenger seat. He went into the popular truck stop and listened to the dripping of recently running shower heads and the shower curtains blowing in place from the cross breeze created by the opening at the front and back of the building. A quarter dinged its way down a vending machine and a stream of coffee started pouring into the disposable foam cup that Jonas set there. He took a deep breath in as the coffee assaulted his senses, evaporating the crust from his eyes and the oil from his creased, aged hands.

A familiar beep rang from the machine and the coffee finished it’s piddly drip into the cup. Jonas picked it up, placed the rim of the smooth foam on his upper lip and smelled the cheap Colombian mixture. He sat down in a stained green loveseat that was straight out of the 70’s and let the pointed springs poke his denim-covered thighs and ass and laid back into the stain of many locksmiths before him.

Again, he smelled the coffee, listening to the dripping and dropping of the shower heads, waiting for it to cool enough so as to not burn his mouth, but so that he could feel the heat inch down his esophagus. Several minutes passed and he dipped his pinkie into the rejuvenating serum. Just like the final porridge, it was just right. He smelled it one last time and lifted the cup to his mouth, tipping it back and swallowing the almost burning drink.

He pulled his flip-phone from his pocket and opened it. The time was 2:22 AM, and he had no messages. It was late but, with no family to be pulled from, Jonas didn’t mind coming out here at this time of night. Outside, he watched the flickering bulbs of streetlamps hanging overhead, creating a stream of light around the sidewalks that led him from the building to his tow truck and to the semi’s that he was equipped to unlock. With a second and last deep breath, he tipped the remaining contents of the cup into his mouth and put the cup under the nozzle of the coffee machine, adding another quarter.

Jonas pushed himself up from the dated loveseat with a grunt and his hands pushing from his thighs for support. He got up and stretched his arms into the air as high as he could, then bent down to touch his toes, then rocked left to right to stretch his core. He pushed the door open as the stream of coffee started pouring back into the cup. The cold breeze touched his face, his warmed body welcoming the change in temperature. He took in a deep breath, smelling the dew turn to frost on the unkempt grass growing along the sidewalks and buildings outskirts.

The seventh truck in line, the one that he had just unlocked, was unmoved. Jonas walked closer, examining the six trucks before and nothing caught his attention. He was almost done for the night and he had already finished the hardest part of this job. A semi blew by the stop, driving up the highway at 70-something miles per hour, but there were no other cars in sight.

He went back to his tow truck for the small red toolbox and carried it back to the seventh semi. Walking back to the truck, he thought about the cheap coffee waiting for him inside and hurried along, his walk turning to a trot. At the door to the seventh semi, he put down the toolbox and opened it, pulling out some jumper cables and a rubber mallet.

Quickly, quietly and carefully, he gripped the handle to the door and yanked it, the squeaking sound of a truck with well over 500,000 miles pierced his ears. He pulled himself up to the cabin and closed the door behind him gently. The door didn’t close completely, but it was closed enough so that a good gust of wind wouldn’t move it and cause noise, and so that no cool air would disturb the task at hand.

The cabin was dirty, but neat. The faux-leather seat was worn and rubbing off at many places. A stereotypical hula girl bobblehead wiggled slightly on the dashboard with the movement that he was causing. The odometer was at 673,993 miles and a minifridge, surely full of lunch meats, soda and beer (as so many of the independent truckers drove with,) was whirring its engine inside to keep everything cool. The microwave on top of it was black with wooden accents, and the smell of splattered foods flooded Jonas’ nose, making him crave the scent of the sweet coffee waiting for him.

There were two beds, organized one over the other towards the back of the cabin. The top one was used as storage for memento’s, such as a birthday card signed by the trucker’s daughter, a brownish orange stuffed fox and a collection of family photos. Jonas was surprised by the overwhelming beauty of the trucker’s wife, as most of the wives are sexy enough to be bridge trolls and only marry truckers because no one else will take them. He picked up a framed picture from the top bunk and pulled it close to his eyes to see better in the moonlight. Rubbing his thumb against the woman, imagining that he pushed her hair back, he fantasized about having a family with her and if he was the one with a young daughter at home, but then he shook the thoughts away, afraid to get caught up in the make-believe like he so often does when he’s doing his job.

He set the framed picture back down and his attention came to the bottom bed, which was inhabited by a snoring 40-something year-old man who was sleeping in Star Wars pajamas and a white blanket. The man snored, held it for eight seconds, then let it out, this time waiting only four seconds before he repeated the imperfect cycle. Jonas stared at the man’s balding head and kneeled down in front of him. The back of his hand rubbed his smooth head, and he savored every instance of touch that was gifted to him by himself. He ran his hands down the man’s face, pausing slightly when he stopped snoring, but continued when the snoring started again.

His skin was soft, and it reminded him of his childhood, when his parents were around to give him the cozy life that he wanted, but then those thoughts were replaced by what he had come here to do. He took the jumper cables and wrapped them around his hands as tightly as he could and held them above the man’s throat. He waited for the man to let out his last snore, and then forced the cables into his Adam’s apple. The man’s eyes shot open with bloodshot tiredness and fear in them, and he gripped for the cords, desperately pulling them back from his throat but to no avail, leaving deep cuts from his fingernails where he tried to rip them away.

The man reached for Jonas, but he was carefully positioned right outside of his reach, watching as his bloodshot eyes widened with the knowledge that tunnel vision was taking hold. Trying to lash out as hard as he could, the man reached for Jonas’s neck, almost getting hold, but Jonas was able to react fast enough and force him back into his small bed.

Defeatedly and weakly, the man reached his hands up and searched the upper bed for the picture of his family. He grabbed it with wobbly and unsteady fingers, and held it close to his face, moving it back and forth, obviously trying to focus in on the image of his beautiful family. Jonas knew the deed was done when the man dropped the picture onto his chest and it slid to the floor, breaking the glass covering his family.

He waited another thirty seconds, but then pulled back form the man whose eyes looked like they were about to pop from his head. Jonas reached down and got the picture from the frame and slid it into his chest pocket. He opened the door that he had come through and took a step out, taking one look back to see his handywork, and then, picking up his toolbox, walked back into the bitter cold, thinking only of the coffee that was waiting for him inside. He walked by the other six semis’, smiling at the thought of how productive this stop had been. He dropped the toolbox back off at his truck, happy that he didn’t need to use the mallet here and walked back inside to the uncomfortable green loveseat that he had been in before.

Jonas lifted the coffee cup to his upper lip and smelled the serum, then dipped his pinkie in to test the temperature. When he decided that it was cool enough, he took a sip and felt the burning inch down his throat, vanish behind the picture of the recently deceased trucker and his family, and drop into his stomach.

Tortured Paranoia

Most everything I write is for fun and entertainment for everyone that decides to read it, but sometimes I think it’s important to shine light on important topics. I hope you enjoy, but also understand what’s being communicated here.

Scott McTwister

Francis Long walked up the chipped concrete steps to 238 Windshire Street, a house that had more rumors floating through the neighborhood than any other in the world. People would say that they heard shrieking children, howling dogs or the construction echoing through the cool night sky. As an Eagle Scout, Francis discounted each and every stupid story that he heard, always trying to give people the benefit of the doubt.

The man that lived inside the house, Willie Asher, was a known Vietnam War veteran and was held captive alongside the politician Gregory Huang in the Hanoi Hilton. They were known to communicate through tap code, which is a way that many prisoners have communicated through the years. As Huang rose to fame, he recounted discussions that they would have, talking about their families, dream homes and what they hoped to do when they got home from the Hilton, while Asher fell deep into obscurity and forgotten by the public.

Through school, along with the philanthropy that Francis was doing, he was immediately enthralled with his past. He was an ex-naval aviator, shot down by the North Vietnamese and captured in 1971 until he was released in 1973. While in the prison, he was beaten by belts and whips, starved and forced to stay awake for days on end; there are a few accounts of his shoulders being popped out of their sockets, then hung to the ceiling like such for further beatings.

Even though he had been forgotten by the passage of time, he was still a war hero and Francis wanted to be the one that gave him the help and respect that he deserved. Through his research, he learned that most of Asher’s family was either dead or estranged due to arguments or disagreements that escalated until the family members were no longer on speaking terms. When Francis reached out to the family members to get them back in touch with Willie, they told him that it wasn’t worth the time or effort due to “severe mental damage.” That only invigorated Francis, knowing that if anyone could help Willie, it was him.

Most of the house’s windows were broken, and curtains were fluttering behind them. He pushed the button to ring the doorbell but was met with silence. He knocked on the tattered screen door and it opened a bit, closing with a slam as a large gust of wind blew. “Hello?” he yelled, but no one answered. Knocking again, he yelled louder but again, no one answered.

The rumors about the house began six years ago when a little girl went missing around the area. Eight-year-old Olivia Down was walking from her house to her friends and had to pass directly in front of Willie’s. From there, the details get a bit fuzzy because everyone in the town made up their own story. Some said Willie barged out with a rifle and grabbed Olivia, carrying her inside. Others say that she was lured inside with promises of puppies and candy. A few people even go as far as saying he used some paranormal abilities to trick her into walking through the front door. Olivia was never found, and even though police and other investigators searched Willie’s house, the rumors had been spread so much that they became truth in many people’s minds.

With another knock and still no answer, Francis started to walk back down the chipped steps and try again later, when the thought struck him that this man was 73. If his family hadn’t checked in on him in years and he wouldn’t answer the door, he could have met an untimely death. The thought chilled Francis as he turned back to the door, which was lightly swinging open again in the breeze, occasionally clacking closed. One last time, he knocked, but this time he decided to stick his head in and look around.

The house looked abandoned. Shards of glass sat below the open windows and floor boards were warped all around them. In a few places, floor boards and wall paneling were ripped up entirely, revealing the rotten core of the house. To the right of the door was what looked like a family room with a recliner torn to shreds with the foam sticking out. Francis looked closely and thought he saw movement inside. It was either a nest for rats or some other creature that he hoped he wouldn’t meet. There was an entertainment center without anything on it, and each of the drawers was missing, revealing the cleanest looking section of the wall behind it. Multiple light switches were left flipped up, but not a shred of artificial light shined. Francis looked up to see that almost every bulb had been taken from its socket and was nowhere to be seen.

Even though this was the type of place that could be in a horror movie, Francis was undeterred. If Willie was still alive, this man needed serious help. He took in a deep breath and let out a booming “Hello!” that surely Willie would hear if he was around. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He turned to see an elderly man peering around a wall, but the second Francis turned his head, the man retracted.

“Willie? Is that you?” Francis asked with wavering confidence, as the whole situation seemed strange. “My name is Francis Long. I’ve heard a lot about you and wanted to see if you were interested in sitting down over lunch so that I could finally meet you.”

For a second, the man didn’t move, but then he bounced from behind the wall and started moving towards Francis with a light bounce that isn’t expect from someone his age. With a happy smile on his face, he said “hello Francis, it’s nice to meet you.” He held out one hand with the other behind him in a kind of royal way, stopping sternly two paces in front of Francis.

Any fear or confusion that had bubbled inside of Francis quickly dissipated. Willie (Francis assumed it was him even though he hadn’t introduced himself) seemed nice and surprisingly full of pep. He reached out his hand to shake it and was met with a firm grip.

Francis was pulled closer unsuspectingly and spun around. With Willie to his back, his arm was twisted by the hand that he had tried to shake until he was about to scream. Willie’s second hand lurched up and held a knife to his throat. “Howdja find me? Who told you I was here?”

“I looked it up online!” Francis yelled. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to surprise you. I’m so sorry,” he sputtered with tears streaming down his face.

“Whatda we have here. A coward? Cowards make the best talkers.” Willie pushed Francis forward and he walked.

At one point, Francis moved his arm up to the arm holding the knife at his throat to pull it back, but the second he touched Willie’s arm, Willie pushed the tip of the blade into his neck and blood trickled down, staining the light brown Eagle Scout’s uniform. “Move again and I’ll cut’cher throat out.”

Francis sobbed, throwing out every apology and explanation that he could. He’d say, “I’m sorry for coming to your house!” and “if you let me go, I’ll leave and never come back!” and anything else he could muster.

With each string of words, Willie laughed. “I can’t believe they’d let someone as weak as you on the force.”

“The force? What are you talking about? I’m not part of any force!”

“That’s enough talking from you.” Willie pushed him through a doorway and down a flight of steps to the basement. The steps looked like they had been eaten by termites and sawdust was everywhere. When they reached the floor, Francis’ shoes were filled with water. The unfinished room was flooded by an inch of water. There was a drain in the center of the room, but it had been clogged with different debris, like the saw dust from the stairs, along with larger chips of wood, dirt, screws and nails.

There was a large cabinet that had been moved beside a massive hole in the wall. A rusted pickax and shovel laid next to the hole and large piles of dirt and rocks were next to them. Willie had carved a small hole in the wall out and a menacing looking wooden contraption was sitting in the middle. With a strong push, he threw Francis towards the machine and told him to sit in it. After a short argument that ended with Willie trying to stab Francis, he defeatedly crawled into what he thought would be his wooden tomb.

To get in, Francis had to climb onto something that was about waist height and put his arms and legs into unsanded wooded gutters. When they were in place, Willie strapped his ankles and wrists in place so tightly that the feeling in his feet and hands almost instantly vanished. “Howju you like it?”

Francis didn’t say anything. He was crying and had given up on pleading his case. He was thinking back to the conversation that he had with his mom before he left home. Desperately, he tried to recall if he said he loved her.

“What? You don’t understand me?” Willie spit in Francis’ face. “I said, how do you like it?”

“I don’t!” Francis let out in a scream that would have broken glass if there was any intact in this dilapidated home.

“Good.” Willie strapped his neck in place, then walked to a corner of the room and picked up a clamp, screwdriver and mallet. He placed the clamp around Francis’ right thigh, tightening it as much as he could by hand before he put the screwdriver through the handle and pounded it tighter with the mallet, getting two more complete turns. Francis screamed from the excruciating pain and Willie put a strip of leather in his mouth. “No one can hear ya down ‘ere. Might as well stop tryin’.” He did the same thing to Francis’ left leg and the upper part of both his arms.

“Now, lemme ask ya some questions. Who sent ya here?” Willie said an inch from Francis’ face.

“What are you talking about?” Francis said in a muffled voice through the leather that Willie was holding in his mouth.

Willie didn’t say a word. He simply smiled and moved to Francis’ right arm, which was spread out away from his body. At the end of the gutter that the arm was in, he twisted a small wooden handle that started rotating his arm at the elbow. At first Francis didn’t understand what was happening, but when his forearm had turned a little more than 90 degrees, it stopped for a second and searing pain started up his arm. He bit down on the leather and watched as Willie kept turning the handle.

Then there was a pop.

Since his upper arm couldn’t move, his elbow was dislocated, torn from the socket with one quick movement. His body convulsed when he screamed from pain and gagged from the sound at the same time. Francis couldn’t compare the pain to anything he had experienced before, but he imagined it’d be easier to have the entire arm lopped off at the elbow and cauterized.

Willie walked back to Francis and starred him in the face, only inches from his tear and sweat covered brow. “Le’s try this again ya commie bastard. Who sent you here?”

Francis couldn’t say a word. He was left motionless, distracted by the pain in his ankles and left wrist, and the numbness in right arm. Willie headbutted him, pushing his head into the wooden trough that his head lay in. His vision blurred and again, he tried to plead his case. “No one sent me here. I wanted to see if you needed help with anything.”

Silently, Willie pushed himself up from the contraption and walked to Francis’ right leg. With fire in his eyes, he was said, “I really don’t like liars,” and started turning another handle by the leg. Slowly but just like what happened with his arm, his foot and calf was turned to the right, and after it hit a right angle, there was resistance and then a sudden pop, sending pain, then a cool numbness through his body.

“You get two more tries until I try something else.” Francis couldn’t see what Willie looked at, but he looked at the entrance to the cave that he was in and feared for the pickax. “Now, who the fuck sent you here!” He took the leather from Francis’ mouth.

“I told you, no one sent me here!” Francis pleaded with all of his remaining strength. “I’m an Eagle Scout. I learned about you in school and wanted to see if you needed help with anything around the house! I could help you fix your floor boards or walls, or even get your groceries or do your laundry! I’ll do anything. I just want to help!”

Willie watched patiently, letting Francis finish his plea. With the bounce that he had upstairs, he moved to Francis’ left leg and started turning. Once he got to the point where the joint was about to be pulled from the socket, he stopped and looked at his hostage, then he ripped it all the way around, the remaining 270 degrees.

Francis screamed from the initial pain, but then threw up on himself while feeling the grinding through his leg. He didn’t know what was grinding, but that only added to his disgust. He threw up again and then his vision went black for a second. Willie placed a damp cloth on his forehead to keep him cautious and wiped some of the vomit from his mouth. “I’m not gonna ask again.”

“I – no one,” he stuttered, not sure what to do, but knowing he couldn’t risk screwing up again. “I’m a spy. I was sent to spy on you.”

“Now was that so hard?” Willie said with a smile. “You get to live for a little while longer because you cooperated, but next time I come down here, you better tell me everything you know or it’s over.”

Willie left the cave and moved the cabinet in front of the hole. Francis was left alone in the darkness of the cave. He couldn’t move and didn’t want to try, fearing that his arm or legs would grind like they had before. All he could think of was if he had told his mom that he loved her, or if they’d find him before Willie came back. With the rest of his remaining strength, he tapped the fingers of his left hand on the wooden gutter that was holding it before losing consciousness.

Tap tap, tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap, tap.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap tap tap, tap.

Tap, tap tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap, tap tap.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap.

Tap tap tap, tap tap. o�Ю�c