Mile Marker 20

G. K. Derickson

She hums softly, twisting the dial on the radio, trying to find a channel to listen to through the static. She glances up at the endless, dark, foggy road. Goosebumps travel up her arms as cool air blasts from the vents. She’ll need a sweater if the fog doesn’t disperse soon. She sighs and settles for turning the static low. She leans forward to see the road and brakes enough to slow down. Her fingers tap on the steering wheel and she tilts her head from side to side, attempting to clear it.

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      Ashen, dead trees twist into haunting shapes reaching across the cracked road, some standing so tall they disappear into the black sky. They fade to blurry shapes as she speeds up once more. There should be a motel just ahead, she can stop for the night, get a good night’s sleep and wait out the fog.

      The static fades into soft jazz music. It drifts through the car, cutting through the cold air. She smiles, glad to finally have something to listen to besides her own voice.

      The headlights reflect off a car sitting on the side of the road. A tall man crouches next to the back wheel, setting up a jack to change a flat. She pulls over behind him and exits the car, not bothering to lock the door, and crouches next to the tire. He looks up, clear, icy eyes staring right through her, but he sees her, they always see her. She helps him in silence and with her help, the tire is changed in a moment. Or perhaps a few hours, neither really knows.

      She stands, once finished. He nods his thanks and without a word, they part ways, her continuing on the road and him returning the way she came.

      The radio changes to a comedy show. She ignores it.

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      A child skips along the gutter; her brown pigtails bouncing along with her and pink dress a bright signal in the fog. Her hand is raised to the road, her thumb up. Her bare feet kick up dirt.

      She doesn’t pull over.

      The radio turns to static.

      She glances in her mirror. A boy sits in her back seat. He looks as if he walked off the set of a late 1800s movie. She smiles.


      “Do you have something I can eat?” He tilts his head to the side, mismatched eyes gazing at her through the mirror.

      “Sure, here.” She hands him an apple from a paper sack sitting on the passenger floor. He bites into it with pointed fangs.

      “Thank you,” he says.

      “Of course,” she answers. 

      He’s no longer there the next time she glances into the mirror. 

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      A dirt road supports a sign announcing “short cut” just not quite those words. The car bounces as it leaves the paved road. She shuts the radio off.

      It starts playing blues.

      The trees change from knotted and dead to immortal pines. An abandoned farmhouse sits by the side of the road, cradled by the trees. Children play along the broken, once-white, fence. A little boy peeks out of the loft window and waves. She waves back.

      Fluffy, white flakes fall on the windshield, vanishing as soon as they touch, but large drifts pile along the woods. The white is bright against the dark road. She pulls a red sweater on over her head and turns the air conditioner higher.

      She’d rather be a little cold then deal with what lives in the fog.

      The snow never stops falling. Trees turn dead.

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      The snow vanishes. The road turns to asphalt.

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      The route never seems to end. On and on it goes.

      She hums, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the music.

      A 20-mile marker passes.

      It occurs to her that the radio stopped working years ago.

      A 20-mile marker passes.



G. K. Derickson is an adventurous young writer who often gets lost in a story. After many years of reading she picked up a pencil and hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found playing with her dog, stargazing or drawing characters from her stories.