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Hitchin’ a Ride

semi truck driving down a highway

Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

In the summer of 1995, I decided I’d had enough of my parents. I guess they’d had enough of me too because they didn’t seem super concerned about my threats of leaving. I wanted to go to California and be free, man. Get by on my art, or whatever. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I thought I’d get to L.A. and just miraculously be able to afford it by smoking weed all day. Because, aside from a few bad sketches of Frazetta style maidens here and there, that was pretty much all I did. Even in the world of 18-year-olds I was a particularly stupid one. 

So, I snuck out of the house one night with a few sets of clothes and my most prized bong in an overstuffed backpack. I left my parents a note that said something stupid like “don’t bother looking for me, I’m already in California.” Like I said, I was dumb and their patience with me was wearing thin so that note might have been a relief to them at that point. I met a friend at the end of my street and he drove me to a truck stop where I figured I’d hitch a ride with a trucker headed west. 

We got to the truck stop and my friend asked if I wanted to smoke a bowl. Well, of course I did. So we smoked out his ’72 Vega and then, of course, we had to eat. We went inside the truck stop to the all-night diner and we both ordered something

called the “Weigh-Station Special.” It was an irresponsible combination of a short stack of pancakes, sausage, bacon, three eggs, toast, hash browns, and French toast sticks. Apparently, potheads and truckers have a similar palate. 

It took two waitresses to deliver our breakfast monstrosity and we started to devour it almost as soon as it hit the table. With our bloodshot, half-open eyes and stupid grins dripping with syrup it was painfully obvious that we were a couple of stoned kids that didn’t belong in a truck stop on a Wednesday night. 

The waitress came by and slid the check to my friend. He picked the thing up and squinted at it, trying to decipher exactly how much we owed and how much tip we needed to leave. I tried to help him with it but more than likely we got it wrong. 

We returned to the parking lot and my friend agreed to wait with me until I could find someone to pick me up. We stood out there smoking cigarettes and listening to Grateful Dead tapes on his car stereo for a couple of hours until he decided he should go home before his dad woke up for work.

So, there I was in a lonely truck stop parking lot at 3 o’clock in the morning. Just me and my poorly made cardboard sign. And with every truck that rumbled by without even slowing down my hope began to slip away. I started to have terrifying images of having to call my parents from the graffitied payphone outside the restrooms. Little did I know this scenario was actually the least terrifying way this misadventure could have turned out. 

I had just put out my second to last cigarette when a purple Mack semi-truck pulled up beside me on the curb and stopped. The air brakes hissed and blew dust into my eyes. The heavily tinted driver’s side window rolled down. 

“I’m headed west,” the driver said, “you wanna hop in?” 

I did, so I grabbed my bulging bag and cardboard sign and hurried over to the passenger door. I climbed in and was sort of shocked by the inside of the cab. There was an unreasonable amount of fringe. There was fringe on everything. Hanging from the seat backs, the arm rests, the gear shift. Anywhere you could hang fringe it was hung. Anywhere that you could not hang fringe was covered in purple shag carpet with cream colored lightning bolt accents. The cab and the sleeper section was divided by a shimmery beaded curtain. There was a solar system diorama hung from the ceiling of the cab between us and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial sat on the dashboard phoning home. 

“Sweet truck,” I said. 

“Aw, it’s just a fun little project,” he said, “When you don’t spend much time at home you kinda have to make your own little piece of home on the road.” 

The truck bucked a little at first but then we were off. I had begun the first phase of my ill-advised cross-country trek to my Mecca in the west. As we rolled along the trucker and I talked a bit about where I was headed and why. We talked about how parents “just don’t get it, man” and “you gotta be your own person, ya know?” I said they probably wouldn’t even miss me and he said screw ‘em. 

After bashing authority for about an hour our conversation kind of petered out and I decided to take a nap. I told him I was going to get some shut-eye and he said it was cool. Then I watched him pop a couple of white pills. I didn’t bother to ask him what they were. Pills weren’t my thing but I didn’t judge.

I’m not sure how long I slept but I woke up to the trucker shaking me. “Hey, man, you ever see any weird things in the sky at night sometimes? Like, lights and stuff or whatever,” he asked. 

I looked over at him and saw that his eyes were bulging and his pupils were dilated. He was grinding his teeth and the muscles in his cheeks were writhing. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel. 

“You know, man, like maybe something like aliens or UFOs. Space stuff,” he said, “do you know what I’m saying?” 

“I guess,” I said. I reached down for my bag and it was gone. I looked over and saw that he had taken it and dumped the contents of it onto the floor between us. My prized bong sitting on top of everything else. 

“You got any weed, man,” he asked. 

“No, I- uh, I don’t. I was hoping to score some when I got to L.A.,” I said, “why’d you go through my stuff?”

“Man, that’s a real bummer, man. Real freakin’ bummer, ya know?” He said. 

“Yeah, but why’d you go through my stuff,” I asked. 

“I just need something to kinda mellow me out a little bit. These speedballs are kinda makin’ me- really kinda, uh, they’re whoo-boy, ya know?” He said shaking his head. 

I did not know because I had never done any amphetamines but I told him I knew anyway. At this point he was beginning to freak me out. His body language was getting more and more tense. The lines on the deserted highway were screaming by us. 

“Hey, check this out,” he said. He pulled a butterfly knife out of his boot and started flipping it around. While he was showing me his sweet knife tricks he was not looking at the road. We drifted onto the rumble strip and he swerved the truck back into his lane. 

“Oops,” he said, putting his eyes back on the road. “I found this knife on a dead dude. His head was all crunched up, man. It was gnarly. You should’ve seen it. You wouldn’t think a tire tool could do that, but it totally can.”

I sat with my eyes facing front and my fingers digging into the arm rests. I didn’t know what to do. I was pretty sure this guy had just admitted to a murder or, at the very least, was an accessory to a murder. I knew I had to get out of that truck but I didn’t know how. We were probably doing about 90 so jumping out wasn’t an option. I asked him to pull over so I could take a leak but he said we had to make up some time and he’d stop at the next exit. 

After a moment the trucker snapped his fingers and his face lit up with a new bright idea. He had just remembered he had a couple of beers left in his mini fridge in the sleeper. He asked me to go get them and, at this point, I couldn’t do anything but oblige him. So I walked through the beaded portal that led to his sleeping quarters and it was more of the same weird decor as the cab. 

I found the fridge and opened it up. Inside were two beers and something wrapped in cellophane. I didn’t immediately recognize it but the more I looked at it I realized it was a human hand. My knees hit the purple shag carpet and my vision narrowed. I almost passed out. I scooted myself away from the fridge and backed into the small bed behind me. Something thumped against my back. 

I turned around to find that when I bumped into the bed I had dislodged the folded arm of a woman’s body that was stowed underneath the mattress. My vision narrowed again and my pulse started to pound in my ears. 

“Did you find those beers yet,” the trucker called back to me. I couldn’t answer at first. I was afraid my “Weigh-Station Special” might come back up if I opened my mouth. I could not understand how a person could forget they had body parts stored in the fridge. Was it all just part of his M.O.? Maybe he liked for people to see his work? I don’t know. All I knew was that I had to get out of this truck and get away from this man before I ended up a souvenir in a dorm fridge. 

I brought the beers to the trucker and told him I really had to take a leak. He said after he was done with his beer I could use his bottle. He laughed but didn’t slow down. He just drank his beer and started talking about asteroids, the big bang, reptiles, and octopi. I really didn’t hear any of it. I just stared at the deserted road in front of us wishing that I wasn’t a stupid, stupid idiot.

“I’ve seen them, you know,” he said, pointing up at the solar system diorama. “They talk to me. I hear it inside my head. It’s a chip they implanted. Kinda like a radio receiver.” 

I came out of my stunned daze a bit and realized that the solar system hanging from the ceiling of the truck was not ours. There were only five planets and none of the colors and shapes matched our planets. There was no Earth. This guy was off his rocker. He was on some Charles Manson shit. 

“I’m gonna throw up,” I said, “I think I ate something bad at the truck stop.” 

“Just hang your head out the window,” the trucker said and tossed his empty beer bottle through the bead curtain. 

“No, like, out of my butt,” I said. 

He asked if I could hold it and I told him this was about to happen. I had no choice in the matter. We were on a countdown clock. He grumbled to himself but he started to slow the truck down and pull over onto the shoulder. I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door before the semi had come to a complete stop.

I stumbled at first but once I gained my footing again I bolted. I was no track star but I think in that moment I could’ve given my high school track team a run for their money. There was nothing but open field in front of me but I could see a line of trees in the distance. I thought if I could make it to those trees I might have a chance. 

The trucker was shouting at me and he was out of the semi as soon as he could get the brakes set. He took off with a speed that was unexpected for a truck driver. I looked back and while he wasn’t gaining on me he was somehow keeping pace. I turned around to face the tree line again and I pushed harder. He knew what I was doing. He knew what I had seen. He had to put an end to me. 

Then something like a sonic boom hit me and knocked me backwards. It was like being clotheslined by a sound. I was on my back struggling to regain the breath that was knocked out of me. I opened my eyes and I saw this bright crimson light hovering above me in the sky. It was surrounded by smaller yellowish lights that were orbiting it. The thing moved past me and I rolled over onto my stomach to see that it was now directly over the trucker. His hands were raised. He was shouting obscenities at the thing. Talking about how he had tried. He tried to do what they wanted. 

I watched as an incredibly bright light beamed down on him from the thing in the sky. It looked like a spotlight but once it hit him he started screaming. His body and clothes started to disintegrate and the tiny pieces that came off of him floated up in the beam of light. He screamed until his head was mostly gone and the rest of him followed pretty quickly after that. The process sped up as it went. In the span of probably a minute and a half the trucker was gone. All I could do was lay on the ground and watch. I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I still don’t really understand what I saw. The guy was a psychopath but I guess he was telling the truth about the aliens. At least to some degree, anyway. 

UFO beaming up a person
Created by Danny Ingrassia

After the trucker was fully beamed up, or disintegrated or whatever they did to him, the crimson light left with the same booming sound it had arrived with. I probably laid out there in that field for about half an hour. I was afraid I had lost my mind. 

After the sun came up I decided to start walking. I walked for hours in a bit of a trance. Im not entirely sure how far I made it before I got picked up by a sheriff’s deputy. He asked me some questions and I don’t really remember what he or I said. It wasn’t until he got me back to the station and locked in a holding cell that I began to realize they thought I had something to do with the severed hand and the woman in the truck along with the truck’s missing driver. 

Once they started the interrogations I found out that the hand in the fridge did not belong to the dead woman under the mattress. So at that point I was being accused of at least three murders. They kept asking me where the bodies were. The handless one and the trucker’s. Obviously, when I tried to explain what had happened they didn’t believe me. 

Eventually I was allowed to call my parents. They were pretty mad but glad to hear that I was ok. The police determined that the victims in the truck had been killed days ago and were missing persons from another state. My parents were able to confirm my alibi for the murders of the victims in the truck. And with no trace of the trucker or any evidence of foul play the cops had nothing to charge me with and had to let me go. 

Needless to say, I never made it to California. I actually quit smoking weed too because it only ever made me paranoid after that. Somehow I am still a fan of the “Weigh-Station Special” though.