By Larry O. Grand

Chapter Three

NOTE: This chapter contains scenes and imagery that may not be suitable for some people.

HE woke up again, on the highway.

The sound of speeding cars notwithstanding, he simply could not make 
himself fall asleep.  The bright headlights of the ignorant fools who 
continued to use their high beams despite the flashing lights of the 
other drivers were not a factor in his continued problem of sleeping, 
nor was the uneven and odd-shaped gravel digging into his back.  It 
wasn't even the adrenaline rush caused by the cop, who reeked of urine 
who had spotted him a quarter of a mile down the road and had awakened 
him the first time, with a rude squeal of the siren, when he stumbled 
and skinned his knee as he climbed over the fence and tumbled over the 
embankment and into the abandoned drain pipe.  No, it wasnÕt any of 
those factors.
This did not feel right.
He fumbled for his Walkman, a few feet away connected to the rest of his 
body by the thin cord which lead to the two miniature speakers, each a 
centimeter across, plugged into each of his ear canals.  Somehow the 
auto-reverse switch had been jostled in the chase twenty minutes 
earlier, because the tape was not moving, and he knew that the batteries 
could not have died yet because he had opened the pack only that 
evening, in the coolness of the abandoned barn, which was now four miles 
away.  He felt along the side of the black plastic case, his index 
finger caressing the smooth controls, past the rewind and fast forward 
buttons.  Ah, there it was.  Yes, it was over to the left.  Grunting a 
little, he eased the switch over to the right and depressed the play 
button.  The familiar hum crackled in his ears as the five seconds of 
leader glided over the tape heads, before silence yielded to the 
familiar bellow of Bruce belting "Badlands." 
Satisfied that at least one thing was working, he turned over onto his 
stomach and tried to figure out what was wrong.  Coarse bits of gravel 
mixed with pieces of glass and other debris commonly found on the 
shoulders of a highway ground into his bare chest and legs, all 
attempting to comfortably fit into gravel-sized cravaces on his body and 
failing miserably each time, since his body did not have any gravel-
sized crevaces on the surface.  He stretched his arms out in front of 
his head, mimicking one of those costumed flying super-heroes that he 
used to read about, whose adventures he still kept in the battered 
at the warehouse.  He exhaled, letting the air rush from between his 
clenched teeth, his unshaven jaw sustaining some slight discomfort from 
resting on the gravel.  He slowly moved his arms back, away from in 
front of his face, until the rested by his sides, clasped against his 
hips.  He pondered masturbating as a possible aid to achieving 
sleepiness.  The magazines were also back at the barn, as well as 
Melanie's semi-nude photograph, which would always work when the colored 
glossy pages failed to provide proper stimulation.  Sure, it would be 
rough, against the gravel, but the images in his mind should be arousing 
enough.  He was about to give it the old college go when the loud 
bleating of a truckerÕs horn interrupted his stream of thought.
"Get the fuck off the side of the road, ya crazy sack'a shit!" was what 
the trucker shouted from the open window, but all he managed to hear as 
the big eighteen-wheel rig sped by at approximately eighty miles an hour 
was "offth" followed by some unintelligible screaming mixed in with the 
sonic 'whoosh' the all speeding objects make when they pass by 
stationary objects.  His concentration broken, he decided against doing 
anything damaging to his private anatomy.
Not feeling at all comfortable, and wondering why this time was any 
different, he rolled once again onto his back, staring into the darkened 
sky, at the stars which stared back at him.  Something was definitely 
wrong.  He could not comprehend why he did not notice this feeling 
before, this annoying feeling as bits of road debris and more gravel 
pressed into his back, stimulating his nerve endings and sending 
messages of discomfort this brain.  Another truck flew past, horn 
cutting a swath through the night silence.  Why did that sound annoy 
him?  It never did before; in fact, he had never noticed that the truck 
drivers had been honking until then.  Did they always honk their horns 
when they saw him lying on the side of the road?
He stared straight into the sky and frowned.  He reached up with his 
right hand and gave his eyes a good, hard rub, so that the stars 
continued to shine on the inside of his eyelids.  The bright haze slowly 
faded away to inky darkness and he opened his eyes again, looking at the 
stars, to make sure that he hadnÕt seen what he had seen.  But they were 
still there.  The stars, pinpoints of light in the night sky, staring 
down at him, giving him tacit, even irate, but mostly embarassed 
of disapproval.  In the past, even a few days ago when he had last tried 
spent the night by the road, the stars were happy, smiling, glittering.  
They were his friends.  He had smiled at them, and they had smiled 
toothy grins, shimmering and shining in an expression of love and 
happiness.  But now they were not at all friendly, glaring down at him 
as if he had commited the most heinous crime in the world.  These 
not his friends.  At first he thought that maybe some celestial god of 
the heavens had come in the night before and replaced all of the stars 
with evil duplicates.  But no, these were the same stars, the same 
that had always been there.  And they were not friendly.  This was not 
right.  This was definitely not right.
For the first time ever, he wondered if his clothes would still be where 
he had left them.

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All contents copyright (c) 1997 Larry O. Grand
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