It wasn’t that hard to find God, if you knew where to look.
Phil said that he found God behind a 7/11 out in Arkansas after eighteen hours on the road – one hour for every wheel on his truck. It was three AM and he’d stopped to get snacks, and there God had been, just hanging out by the dumpster. Debra found Him in a laundromat at midnight, when the only people in the building were her and her rain drenched slacks and a security camera with too many blind spots to work anyways. Mike found Him in an abandoned Target back when he was a teenager. He’d broken into it with a bunch of his buddies so that they could smoke pot and chew mushrooms without the local deputy finding out. A lot of people found God when they were getting high, it turned out.
Most people were lucky to run into God even once in their lives, but when you spent most of your life trucking through flyover country, you tended to run into Him more often than normal people. And when the only things to do were listen to Rush Limbaugh rant about lizard people or put on your “Best of Queen” album for the fifteenth time that week, turning on the CB radio and talking about God to all the other sad saps on the line felt all the more appealing.
No two Gods looked alike, at least according to the testimony on channel nineteen (most chatter gravitated there eventually, and it was easier to talk about God when you were already talking about other stuff anyways). But you always knew they were God when you saw them, way down in your soul. Phil’s God had been a faceless, burning white figure, with a halo like fire and savage red eyes running in columns up and down His cloak. Mike’s God hadn’t had a halo, or even a body at all. His had mostly just been wings and teeth.
“Teeth,” he’d just kept saying, behind the crackle of the radio. He clacked his teeth into the mic a couple of times. “Nothin’ but teeth.”
“What, like those pictures on Facebook of the kid with the mouth disorder?” Darryl said, when he’d happened to finally catch some snippets of the conversation during a traffic jam on I-20. He’d been stuck there for an hour, and the hum of the engines around him was starting to put him to sleep. He remembered reaching for an energy shot and deciding against it, because there was only about fifteen miles left before he’d hit his exit anyways.
“I think that’s Photoshopped,” Debra said with her Southern drawl. “At least, my grandson was sayin’ it was.”
“Well, God ain’t Photoshop, and we didn’t even have computers back in West Virginia anyways,” Mike said. “Scared me right sober though, He did.”
“Didn’t you see Him again last week?”
“Listen, if some fella offers you some shrooms as thanks fer a job well done, you ain’t gonna turn ‘em down.”
Darryl chuckled, and some of the others listening gave comments of assent. But through his laughter, Darryl found himself shuddering. The last time he’d seen God, it had been on the day of his son’s funeral, and he had been in jail.
The next time that Darryl saw God, it was when his truck broke down on the side of I-85. It was close to dusk, and there weren’t any streetlights to cloud out the gathering stars in the sky. He’d been on his way to a truck stop when his engine started to sputter and smoke, forcing him to pull over onto the strip of grass between the woods and the road. Luckily, he’d already dropped off his shipment for the day, but the towing people said it’d be a good couple of hours before they could make it to him. There wasn’t much for Darryl to do besides hang out on the side of the road and wait.
This wasn’t the first time that his truck had broken down on him, but it meant a delay to his timetable, and he only got paid when he was on the road. There was no way that he was going to get the repairs done before tomorrow, and he’d need a motel room, too. But it wasn’t like he was going anywhere until the tow truck showed up, so he pushed the driver-side door open and leaned out the side of the cab. For a while, he just ate potato chips and watched cars drive past in the dimming sunlight.
It was after an hour of waiting around that he realized how long it had been since he’d last taken a leak. He glanced around the road, squinting in the dimming sunlight, until he spotted a trail running into the roads nearby. It was a light little dirt path crawling between some scruffy looking bushes and the pines, probably a deer trail by the look of it. Better to head down that way than get caught by a cop pissing on the side of the road.
He hopped out of the cabin, locked up, and headed down the thin trail, pushing the bushes aside as he went. The trees grew in closer around him as he walked, their spindly branches becoming shadowy cracks in the night sky. The dimming light made the woods feel desaturated somehow, like all of the colors were fading to grey. As he walked further in, the sounds of cars speeding down the highway grew muted, until they were nothing but a dull hum on his periphery.
Finally, once he’d walked far enough that he was sure no one would walk in on him, he unzipped his pants and relieved himself. After he’d finished and zipped back up, he turned to walk back down the trail, and stopped.
Standing in the path, framed by the grey pines and toothless bushes, was God.
This wasn’t the first time that Darryl had seen God, but every time he did, he felt like he was drowning. God wasn’t wings or halos or teeth. God was a deer’s skull mounted on a spindly, starved body of a man. He dressed in an ill-fitting, unzipped camo hoodie and slacks, with antlers that twisted in spiraling shapes against the night sky. God had eyes like dark pits, and if Darryl stared too closely, he’d be sucked in and devoured. He could hear the air being sucked in and out through the figure’s empty nostrils, every rib on its chest visible in the dim light.
Darryl gulped. When he thought back on that night in later days, he would remember that part clearly. The sweat that dripped down his forehead and into his eyes and beard, less so. His vision had never been bad, but he felt like the figure was more distinct than anything else he could see. Maybe it was making the world less distinct, less colorful, just by being there. The figure did not move. It only stared at Darryl with its dark, empty eye sockets. Darryl’s mouth fell open as he struggled to find words.
Finally, he gulped and said, “Do… you know how to get back to the road?”
The figure pulled its hand from its pocket and pointed down the trail. It moved with a sound like bones clacking together.
“…Thanks,” Darryl said. He carefully edged his way around the skull-faced being, not wanting to touch it, but not wanting to look away either. Its head moved to follow him as he walked.
As Darryl pushed the bushes back from the trail, the figure spoke, its voice like crackling cinders.
“AS THE SON WAS DEVOURED, SO SHALL THE FATHER BE.”
A bolt ran down Darryl’s spine. He turned back toward the figure, and for a second, his eyes met those dark pits in its skull. His gaze became locked to them, and suddenly, he found himself searching for something in the shadows – a pinprick of light, anything that suggested there was more than a yawning maw of darkness in those empty sockets. There was a roaring sound in Darryl’s ears, and he felt his vision getting dimmer.
And then he heard the sound of bones clacking again. He tore himself away from the skull’s sockets with a yell. As he ran down the trail, he realized that in his paralysis, the figure had taken a single step toward him.
Getting out of the woods did not take as long as getting in had. When he emerged from the brush, he was a half-mile down the road from his truck, and a tow truck was pulling over behind it.
For the rest of the night, Darryl felt distracted and shaky. He fumbled his wallet when giving money to the tow truck’s driver, almost losing his credit card in the tall grass by the road. He slept with the lights and television on in his motel room that night, and ended up being lulled to sleep by static when the cable went out around one AM. When he woke up the next day, he was half-convinced that he’d dreamed his encounter with God. The only reason he was certain that the previous day had happened at all was because he’d woken up in a motel and not in the back of his truck.
When the repairs were finished (with a fresh several hundred-dollar hole in his savings), he told the story to the guys on the radio, only to be greeted by awkward chuckles.
“Dude, that was a goddamn wendigo you saw,” Phil said over the radio feed.
“The hells a wendigo?” Darryl asked.
“Cannibals. The Algonquins talk about them. They’re these gaunt, human-lookin’ monsters that smell like death,” Phil said.
“Oh yeah, isn’t Darryl in New York? That’s wendigo country for sure,” someone else added.
“Virginia. Besides, I didn’t smell anythin’ rotting,” Darryl said. He sighed. He knew what he’d seen. Everyone always did. “So, my God’s a big monster man. Big deal. Ain’t Mike’s nothin’ but teeth?”
Someone clacked their teeth into the mic in response, which got some more laughs from the other end of the receiver.
“Y’all are makin’ a big deal outta nuthin’. Honestly, gettin’ fixed back up again was the bigger trouble. Hell of a day, ya know? Got spooked by God, got a big ol’ repair bill for it. Next thing ya know, the Red Sox are gonna win the World Series,” Darryl said.
“Fuck the Sox. Liked them better when they weren’t winning all over the place,” someone else said. The conversation pivoted to baseball from there. He was glad for the change in topic – he hadn’t mentioned what the figure had said to him, and he preferred to keep it that way.
Darryl’s next trip took him up through Maine, and then back down through West Virginia. The problem with going through West Virginia was that there was a good chance his trip would take him past the telescope up there. Cell service was spotty enough when he was going cross country, especially when he was working the plains instead of the coasts, but the area up by the telescope was just a hundred square mile dead zone. Having the crew on the radio channel helped stave off boredom, but there was always that niggling fear that he was missing something important while he was there.
He knew he was out of the dead zone when his phone started going off, a million notifications hitting all at once. As soon as the next truck stop came up, he pulled in, parked, and went to scroll through his notifications.
“Shit.” Ten calls, all from his ex-wife. He cleared the messages and stowed his phone away.
He knew why she was calling, and he had no intention of showing up. Next week was the anniversary of their son’s death. While his wife’s family had been busy burying the kid, Darryl had been sitting in the county jail, waiting for a bail payment that never came. He’d served five years, gotten divorced while in prison, and ended up working for the first company he found that would hire a felon. He’d been trucking ever since.
No doubt that she wanted him to come visit the grave. Leave some flowers or something. Get screamed at by his ex-wife’s family, like usual. He could live without that this year. It wasn’t like him showing up was going to change that the kid was dead and gone, and it would do them a whole lot better if the in-laws would realize that.
He leaned into the back of his seat, sighing. His thoughts drifted back to when he’d seen God the previous week. A shudder ran down his spine, and he closed his eyes. Phil’s words from the other day came floating back to him.
“That was a goddamn wendigo you saw.”
He knew what he’d seen. It was hard to mistake something that told you what it was just by existing. You looked at it, and you knew that it could see every sin you’d ever committed dripping down your spine. No wonder the Bible always had people screaming and hiding whenever God showed up.
After a few moments of sitting there, his thoughts rolling around his head, Darryl pushed the door open and stepped out of the truck. He needed a break.
Darryl slept poorly that night, his dreams full of forests and deer and gunshots. He awoke hours before his alarm was supposed to go off in the bed at the back of his truck’s cabin, with a crick in his neck and a pounding pain in his temples. The hum of the engine rumbled through the cabin’s floors, and he sighed and crawled out of bed to shut it off. He’d left it on for the heat, but there was no point in wasting more gas now that he was awake.
Irritably, he checked his phone, and then stowed it back in his pocket before flicking the cabin lights on. Four in the morning. He hadn’t planned to be back on the road until at least six. If he was going to be up, he was do laundry.
He went to the cabinet and pulled it open, reaching for a collapsible hamper. There was a sudden thump against the cabinet’s other door as something long and metal fell out of place and against it. Grumbling, he reached in and propped his rifle against the back of the cabinet again. He wasn’t even supposed to own the damn thing with his record, but a buddy of his had wanted to get rid of it, so somehow it had ended up in his lap. It made him feel a little safer, but after the past few days, the last thing he wanted to do was think about it at all.
With the rifle stowed away again, he grabbed his hamper, propped it up, and started to throw the stained t-shirts and jeans lying around the cabin floor into it. Once he’d finished, he slung the hamper over his shoulder and walked out into the truck stop’s lot to find a laundromat.
Somehow, he was the only one awake. Usually, there was at least one other truck pulling in, or someone loitering in the lot. The night was not silent, however – the growling of other engines idling was a constant hum in the air.
He passed under the high streetlamps, heading toward a convenience store he’d visited after his trip to the Cryptid Crypt, and then past it to a small side building. Two rows of coin operated washing machines and dryers greeted him. The facilities had an aged look to them – though, that might have just been the effect of the light. There was something about fluorescent bulbs that threw every crack and ounce of dirt into sharp relief.
After popping a couple of quarters into the machine, he began to load his laundry. The lights flickered in and out for a second, giving him pause, but not enough to get him to stop. Once the machine was loaded and began to spin, he sighed and turned away—
And found a skull-faced figure standing in the aisle.
Darryl yelped, scrambling backwards. His back impacted against a washing machine, and he put a hand to his chest, breathing heavily. The lights in the laundromat continued to flicker intermittently, but even if they turned off, he knew he’d still be able to see the being standing before him. It felt like the two of them were standing in a shoebox diorama – everything around them just poorly constructed props, and him and God were the only real things in the room.
He gulped. His chest felt tight, constricted. The air was pressing in around him. The figure tilted its head toward him, that rattling sound punctuating the movement. He could see the awful seam in its neck where bone met emaciated flesh. Strained viscera filled the gap between bone and skin. Flecks of red rose from that stretched wound in a light mist, floating like snowflakes into the air behind it.
Those dark pits met Darryl’s gaze. He squeezed his eyes shut to keep from getting pulled in. After a couple of seconds, he opened them, and saw that the figure had straightened up once more.
Its head began to twitch. Words began to emanate from somewhere around the two of them, stuttering with every twitch of the figure’s head.
“I-I-I-INTERNAL H-H-H-HEMORRHAG-G-GE. SHOT SHAT-T-T-T-TERED THE SP-SP-SP-SPINE.”
Darryl’s breath caught. His memories were jerked away from that shoebox diorama, and back to those woods all of those years back. He was there, watching his boy fall into the rotting leaves blanketing the forest floor. Watching his boy scream futilely as he tried to hang onto life despite the hole in his back.
“I C-C-CANNOT SAY THAT HE DID NOT SUFFER.”
“You’re not him,” Darryl whispered.
The figure lifted its hands toward him. With a loud creaking noise, the jaw of the deer skull wrenched open, and its jaws began to clack together in a crude facsimile of spoken word.
Darryl screamed. He ducked to his left and ran around the bench in the middle of the room, running for the door to the lot. He tripped on something – a chunk of asphalt, a curb, he didn’t know what – and fell roughly, landing on his face. He tried to scramble to his feet, his knees and hips protesting, and glanced over his shoulder.
The beast walked through the laundromat’s door, silhouetted in the fluorescent light. The sound of bones rattling rang out over the rumble of the idling engines.
He forced himself to his feet and kept running, kept screaming. His throat was on fire, his voice giving out on him. Until, finally, his truck came into view. He slammed himself up against the driver’s side door, and reached into his jacket pocket, fumbling for his keys. The clacking of the bones was getting louder. Darryl’s hands began to shake even harder.
He jammed the key into the door’s lock and turned, before pulling himself in and slamming the door. He locked it behind him, and, breathing heavily, forced the key into the ignition and cranked it. The engine roared to life and the headlights turned on, illuminating the skull-faced figure in the road ahead. Darryl pulled the truck out of park and slammed his foot on the accelerator. The engine snarled in protest, the truck rushing forward. Darryl spun the wheel and pulled the cab around the figure in the road, the ramp back onto the highway coming into view quickly.
As he pulled out of the truck stop, Darryl checked the rearview mirror. The skull-faced man stood motionlessly beneath the light of a streetlamp, still facing the spot where Darryl’s truck had been parked. For the first time, Darryl could see the figure’s back.
There was a hole in the back of the jacket, revealing darkened, dried flesh and a hollow chest. The space where the figure’s spine had been was ravaged, leaving only a lightly weeping, blackened hole.
As if it had noticed it was being watched, it turned its head toward Darryl, and its mouth creaked open once more. Before Darryl could see any more, he rounded the corner and merged onto the highway, his hands still shaking.
He drove for hours, though to where, he didn’t know. Anywhere that took him away from the skull-faced monster. The thing that his brain told him was God, but he was certain couldn’t be. Anywhere that could shroud those all-seeing eyes from his shaking knees and the sin oozing under his flesh. His phone buzzed intermittently as the sky lightened. He’d checked once while stuck in traffic, and saw that the calls were from his company, no doubt wanting to know why he’d never shown up for his next shipment.
At some point, he realized that he’d crossed state lines and was heading into flyover country. The roads bore on with a monotonous sameness as he left Appalachia and entered Middle America. Trampled, husked cornfields broke up the endless grass and dirt, but the horizon never got any closer. Sometimes a building, or a city, or a billboard would give more definition to that horizon, but it wasn’t long before it was past him, and the endless curvature of the earth greeted him once more.
The roads became all the same, endlessly repeating. The only definition between one stretch of road and another was whether the billboards read “Eat at Arbys!” or “KEEP THE FAITH.” Cities changed names – St. Louis, Columbia, Odessa – but he knew they were the same in their bones.
He chugged through every lukewarm can of soda and energy drinks in his passenger seat, devoured every stale potato chip. There was a heavy pain behind his temples, his body screaming at him that it needed sleep. There was no point, though – the caffeine and chemicals in him wouldn’t let his eyelids close comfortably. They would keep his body moving against its will so long as his truck still had fuel to burn.
The skies began to darken. Darryl’s tired mind told him that he needed to stop, but his survival instincts told him he couldn’t. If he stopped for a second, it would catch up with him. He didn’t know what would happen.
The red gas light came on the dashboard as the sky turned completely black. It started to blink demandingly at him an hour later. The truck had hit its limit.
A sign marking a rest area came into view, and he turned onto its ramp, parking it in the empty lot. The visitor’s center stood sentinel at the center of the field, flanked by a large parking area and a gazebo. As the engine rolled to a stop, Darryl leaned back into his seat. His body was drenched in sweat. It might have been cold outside, but the heat radiating from his skin felt so much worse. He couldn’t even change – he’d left all of his clothes back at the truck stop.
He dragged himself out of the cabin and plodded his way toward the visitor’s center. They’d have bathrooms and road maps. He could rest up and then… do something. He didn’t know what.
The visitor’s center was empty. It wasn’t vacation season, and it was night time, so of course it was empty. He was lucky that the doors hadn’t been locked. He dragged his body to the rack of folded maps and the “WELCOME TO KANSAS” pamphlets in the center of the room. He thumbed through them as the room started to get colder, his body shaking more and more in the chill.
The sound of rattling bones behind him made him drop his hands. Of course. You couldn’t run from Him.
He turned around and faced God. It hadn’t changed since the truck stop, just as it hadn’t changed since the forest, just as it had been in his jail cell. The only time it had been different was when he’d first seen it back in those woods, when the only thing around for miles was him and the corpse of his son.
“I know what you want. You think I ain’t been punished enough,” Darryl said.
The figure’s jaw chittered. He wasn’t sure if it was grinning or not.
“What kinda God stalks a man just so that He can take revenge on ‘im? For somethin’ that happened years ago? Why can’t ya just talk straight to me? What makes ya so self-righteous?!”
The eyes of the head met Darryl’s, and he jerked his gaze away before it could trap him.
“Ain’t I done enough? I served my time! I send the boy flowers! I’ve done it every year since I got out! Ain’t that penance enough? What do ya want outta me that’s makin’ ya show up to me in my own son’s skin?” Darryl’s yells echoed in the empty hall.
The voice grabbed Darryl by the skull, stronger than anyone’s hands ever could. It yanked his gaze toward those eye sockets, and he couldn’t look away. A nagging thought suddenly stuck in his mind – there were stars in those black fields, and he desperately needed to find them. Somewhere, deep within them, past the veil of reality.
The figure’s head began to shake once more, and then, it began to speak again, the playback stuttering like a bad CD. Only this time, it spoke in the voice of the prosecutor from his trial.
“THE DEFENDANT ARGUES THAT HE M-M-MISTOOK HIS S-S-SON FOR A D-D-D-DEER. HOWEVER, THE DEFENDANT KNEW THAT CAMERON H-H-HAD STEPPED DOWN FROM THE DEER STAND, AND B-BOTH P-P-P-P—”
“Stop it,” Darryl whispered. His vision was growing dim. The roaring in his ears grew louder. He could feel himself sinking further and further into those black pits. The figure began to take slow steps toward him.
“—P-PARTIES WERE WEARING BRIGHT ORANGE—”
“Please stop,” Darryl said, even quieter than before. The skull snapped its nose into the air, as if it were receiving a new signal. When it spoke this time, it was in the clear, deeply Southern voice of Darryl’s childhood preacher. The figure drew closer.
“’What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.’”
The figure was only a few steps away from him now. But Darryl couldn’t see the visitor’s center anymore. He hadn’t seen it since the moment he’d been caught by those black pits. He was in the woods again, sitting in a deer stand and watching his son bleed out into the mulch. In the movies, it was easier – you shot someone, and they died. But real life wasn’t like that. If you were lucky, maybe. But Darryl hadn’t been lucky, and neither had the boy. The boy had hung on for hours as his body futilely clung to life. He’d hung on long enough to call for help when it wasn’t going to come. Long enough to make Darryl realize, far too late, that he hadn’t needed to go this far.
He remembered climbing down the deer stand in a haze, rifle still in hand, and holding his son’s hand as he bled out. He’d hung on for so long, until the boy’s body went still. And then he’d left the woods, found a payphone, and asked the 911 operator to send him home in handcuffs.
Darryl raised his hands in a longing gesture, grasping for the figure. A sob raised in his throat. The figure raised its hands in turn. Its fingers were long and spindly, more like twigs than human hands.
“AS THE SON WAS DEVOURED, SO SHALL THE FATHER BE.”
Its fingers brushed his arm.
A deep gash suddenly erupted from the point where he’d been touched. The pain brought Darryl back to awareness again – he wasn’t in the woods, he was in a rest center in Kansas, and his arm was dripping blood all over the floor. The gash went right through his jacket, through his flesh and down to the bone.
It took Darryl a few seconds to process what had just happened, in time for the figure to grab him by the cheeks.
Gashes erupted from his cheeks and temples. Darryl shoved the figure back, and the figure swiped at him, clawing at his leg. Its finger touched his thigh, and a gash erupted upon impact, cutting right through his jeans.
Darryl fell backwards, catching himself against the display of pamphlets. The figure stood up straighter, its spine stretching higher and its limbs lengthening. It was as if someone was grabbing it and tugging it taller, lankier. Its clothes began to tear and bleed like they were flesh.
Darryl pushed himself off the display and ran toward the door. The beast fell into a four-legged stance, and it sprinted after him, letting out a screech like metal on ice. Darryl pushed his way through the doors of the visitor’s center. They swung closed, and from behind him, Darryl heard something slam against the glass.
His run quickly became a limp as the adrenaline wore off. The blood oozing from his leg left a trail behind him as he limped his way to the truck. As he walked, the sounds of the massive beast slamming against the door continued – and then stopped.
Darryl tugged the truck’s door open. His leg gave out on him completely as he went to step in, sending him collapsing into the truck’s floor. He pushed himself up on the seat, doing his best to not put too much weight on his injured leg. The moment he was comfortably in the seat, he slammed the door shut, locking it behind him.
A heavy weight suddenly slammed into the truck’s roof. Gasping for breath, Darryl grabbed onto the wheel and pulled himself standing. Using the seat and the dashboard to steady himself, he limped around to the back of the cabin. The cabinets lay open, inviting. Leaning against the shelves for support, he pulled his rifle from the back of the cabinet, and then took down the box of ammunition from a higher shelf. With sweating, fumbling hands, he opened the chamber, slid in two bullets, and snapped the chamber closed.
The sound of bones rattling grew louder. Darryl pulled himself to the front of the truck and collapsed back into the driver’s seat. His vision was getting blurry. He felt faint, nauseous. Blood dribbled down his face, his arm, his leg, soaking into his clothes and the floor mat.
He rested the rifle against his shoulder as he reached up to the CB radio. He switched it on and grabbed the mic, pulling it down to his mouth. There was nothing but static on the line.
“This is Darryl Cliffton, signing on for the last time. Dunno how many of y’all are listening. Dunno how many of y’all even care,” he said.
He let out a long breath. Sweat dripped down his forehead, mixed with blood and tears.
“Y’all were right. God is the wendigo, and the wendigo is God,” he said. “It’s wings, and halos, and teeth, and it’s waitin’ to swallow us all.”
Something slammed down onto the hood of the truck. Darryl looked up to see the beast staring at him, its jaw chattering, molars on full display. Its antlers carved swirling, galaxy-like patterns into the night sky. Two more pairs of spindly arms tugged free of the hole in its back, and they grasped hard onto the truck’s hood. The beast began to crawl forward on all eight of its limbs.
Darryl dropped the radio receiver and lifted the rifle. He trained the beast in his sights as it crawled forward, aiming the rifle’s barrel for its chest. His shaking hands made his aim wander.
Darryl’s eyes met those eye sockets for the last time. He lowered the rifle to his lap. His breaths rattled. He shifted the rifle so that the barrel was to his chin and pinched its butt between his knees. He began to breathe heavily, and then gulped. The beast pressed itself against the windshield of the truck, staring in expectantly.
Darryl let out a hollow laugh, and pulled the trigger.
The body of Darryl Cliffton was found seated in the driver’s seat of his truck five hours later, its rifle leaning against the wheel. Its bones had been picked clean, without even a bit of sinew or flesh left. Between his shattered skull, the blood and viscera on the truck’s seat, and the bullet embedded in the roof of the vehicle, there was little doubt as to what had caused his death. However, the identity of what had devoured him remained a mystery. The marks gnawed into his femurs and ribs were flat, molar-like – closer to the teeth of a deer or a person than that of a coyote or bear.
After a short investigation and no conclusive finds, the case was closed. His body was never claimed by his family. Instead, it was cremated, the plot his ashes scattered on retained by the county in case anyone came calling. No one ever did.
Those who had talked with Darryl regularly on the road talked about him sometimes. None had a face to ascribe to their memories, just the voice of a man who had accompanied them during those long-haul trips across the continent. With time, even the memory of his voice faded.
But sometimes, during those late nights when the roads were empty of all riders but the eighteen-wheelers, the CB radio would crackle to life with nothing on the other end but silence and the sound of bones rattling together.
Nora Shank lives in Acworth, GA and is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in English at Kennesaw State University. She prefers to write short fiction, with occasional dabbles into the realm of art and nonfiction. You can find more of her short stories at her blog https://cawfulwriting.tumblr.com/.