I needed a little palette cleanser after the first draft of my Santa story was done. I’m not sure where this is going, but I hope you enjoy what I’ve written so far of Do Not Stop. And don’t forget to stop by the Amazons and download a book.
This would have been the perfect stretch of road to have a breakdown and never be heard from again. Bill had just crossed over from driving for a long time to driving forever when he began picking out plots where he could potentially be buried. He had never driven across state before and hopefully would never have to again. At least not this state. There was nothing to see here, nothing people would have to write home about, as the saying went. Just long stretches of tall grass to either side of the road, blue sky, and endless paved road.
The steady susurrus of his tires on asphalt tugged at the edges of his consciousness. It was an extraordinarily clean road, more free of debris than he’d seen anywhere else. No broken glass tinkled along the roadside, no shredded tire treads to weave around, no billboards to distract him along the way, and no road signs to tell him how far to civilization.
The most interesting thing worth seeing was on the underside of his eyelids.
Bill slapped himself awake and returned the hand to the two o’clock position on the steering wheel. His hands had gone numb from gripping it so long but he had four minutes before he could rotate position. It was as much a game he’d made for himself for added mental stimulation as it was to keep him at least slightly uncomfortable for physical stimulus. Coffee wasn’t doing the trick but he picked up the giant cup he’d gotten at the 7-11 what felt like a million years ago and took another healthy yet tepid swig.
That reminded him he was going to have to pee soon. At least there was that.
Before his lids grew too heavy again he decided to pull over and relieve himself. Bill couldn’t understand why it was so hard to stay awake, it wasn’t even noon.
There was no shoulder. He wasn’t worried about a vehicle coming along and swatting him like a bug, there was literally no one else for miles. He’d created a hundred miles an hour several times, mentally inviting a hidden police car into existence so the cop could have pulled him over and issued a ticket. It would have been a welcome change of pace and a swatch of conversation he could have fed on for at least a dozen miles.
As he unzipped he wondered how far away he must have been from any radio towers that even in flatlands he could get no signal. He would have taken anything—country, gospel music, classical, even the farm report. Anything besides his own voice that he’d grown tired of listening to after three hours. He’d grabbed his CDs but the rental he’d gotten at the airport didn’t have a CD player, only a port for an MP3 player.
As he zipped up something in the distance caught his eye, sticking out like a fire hydrant in a forest. It looked like a sign.
It had to be a mile away at least and could have easily been a number of other things, although he couldn’t imagine what.
Bill climbed back in his car, excited something was coming to break up this monotonous landscape. It was on his side too, so it was bound to have some sort of direction for him. Maybe there was an exit coming up, he’d even take a rest stop. Bill drive at an even sixty, letting anticipation build like the last few days before Christmas.
As he drew closer he saw clearly that it was a warning sign by its yellow color and diamond shape. He wondered what would anyone would need to be warned about out here. Maybe deer or some animal that crossed the highway, although the cleanness of the highway also included a complete lack of animal carcasses.
Bill snorted in annoyance when he finally could make out the three words in bold black print. They made absolutely no sense.
“Don’t stop?” he said aloud. “What the hell does that mean? Of course I’m not going to stop. What for?”
Maybe it was some sort of goof, he thought. A bunch of high school kids with nothing to do drove out to the middle of nowhere and put up a sign just to annoy passers by. Bill had been an obnoxious teen once although he couldn’t see him and a bunch of his buddies with that much inclination to be complete dicks. Okay, maybe he might have done that, but that sign wasn’t something somebody had done up in their garage. It looked professional enough, not even a bullet hole in it. And weren’t those signs expensive?
He saw another warning sign a little bit ahead. Bill pressed the gas to catch up to it faster and was even more agitated once he’d read it.
“Okay, what the hell?” The remnants of his errant teenager theory were trashed, leaving him with no clue as to what the sign—correction, signs—were for.
“That couldn’t be for real, could it?”
As a precaution he slid his cracked window the rest of the way up. Maybe there was an actual reason for the signs. Maybe there was something out here…
Bill looked around him as if for the first time. The danger couldn’t be other drivers. Perhaps there was a prison nearby and they wanted to discourage people from picking up hitchhikers. But then again, circumspection was not a good idea in such a case. And he’d actually seen signs that spelled out that he was in a prison area and not to pick up hitchhikers. Coy wasn’t the best policy in such a circumstance.
So if the danger wasn’t hitchhikers or other vehicles he wondered what that left. Rabid birds? Sinkholes? Poison gas?
That last struck the biggest chord. The air had smelled clean. A little too clean. It didn’t smell like anything in the city and it didn’t smell like any country area he’d ever been through. No cow patties or horses or anything like that.