I originally wrote this story for the Dialog Open Challenge(DOC), that's why it consists entirely of dialog. But it always seemed more of a
Halloween story, so I'm posting it now.
"She's a hot little number, all right. Probably steal your wallet though, even if she's not a working girl, so I'd forget it if I were you."
"Aw, what's the harm? She only wants a lift as far as Eugene, and we've got plenty of room here in the cab. Besides, she's just sitting there on
the bench, all by herself. She'd be a helluva lot safer with us than hanging around this place, especially at one o'clock in the morning."
"Forget it, Denny."
"Maybe she's got a friend, too. I tell you, Roy, we're passing up one hell of an opportunity."
"Look, if you need some action, you can get a hooker when we get to the next stop. Hell, I'll even pay for it. Just not this one. Not here, and
not tonight. Okay?"
"Why the hell not? What is it with you tonight, anyway? We've been on the road for ten hours, but ever since we stopped you've been sitting here
the whole time - except for getting out to buy the gas, and you damn near forgot to pump it. I had to remind you of that."
"Don't push it, Denny. I mean it. Just let it go."
"It's my turn to drive, or did you forget that too? Why don't you catch a few z's, while I go talk to Baby-Doll over there."
"Stay in the truck. That's an order."
"We're co-workers; you ain't my boss. Besides, how often do a couple of hard-luck cases like us get the chance to bag something like that? Tell
me, Roy, or is there something else I should know about hauling furniture all over the country? Some great benefit I wasn't aware of, like free
hookers at the Mirage, or complimentary first-class service in Atlantic City? 'Cause the hookers at Rowdy's don't even come close to that, and we
might never get this chance again. I say it's worth the trouble, stolen wallet and all. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"FOR CHRIST'S SAKE DENNY STAY IN THE FRIGGIN TRUCK!"
"Okay, okay! Calm down. If it freaks you out that much, I won't. Hey...are you having a heart attack? Gimme the phone, I'll call 911."
"No!...no, I'll be fine."
"You sure? Because the way you're breathing and grabbing your chest, I could swear...."
"I ...I said...I'll be fine."
"And you looked scared. Real scared."
"It's okay. Just give me a minute to catch my breath."
"Okay. Forget about it then. It's all good, man."
"No, really. I apologize. I guess I owe you an explanation too, so let's have a talk, okay?"
"Sure, Roy. Whatever."
"Just keep the door locked, all right?"
"You got it, man."
"You ever hear of a town called Moad Garden?"
"Moad Garden? Nope. I've seen a lot of towns with weird, funny names, but not that one."
"Maybe you were too young to remember. This would've been back around 1980, back when I had my own rig."
"You had your own rig?"
"Yeah, a nice one too. It was a Peterbilt Class 8, and damn near brand new. Not as big as the five-axle haulers, but it was pretty decent. It even
had a sleeper-section in the back."
"One night in December of 1980, I was hauling a trailer full of live poultry up Interstate 5, and passing this very truck stop we're at now. I'll
never forget that night as long as I live, because that was the night of the great I-5 pile-up that killed over one-hundred-fifty people. It was the
worst accident in state history."
"A hundred and fifty! Holy crap!"
"Denny, I was in that accident. I was the only one who survived."
"You ain't never mentioned this before. Not once."
"I've never mentioned it to anybody, but tonight I'm going to tell you my story. One thing, though. This has to stay between us - it goes no
further than the cab of our rig. I want you to promise me that, okay?"
"Uh, sure. You got it."
"Yeah, I promise."
"All right then..."
"Look, if we're gonna be sitting here for a while, you mind if I at least crack the window a bit so I can have a smoke?"
"Go ahead. It's freezing outside though, so I'm gonna start the heater again."
"So...anyways, back in December of '80 I was hauling this load of chickens on I-5, only I was coming the other way, from Fresno; and I didn't stop
here, even though I'd been awake for over twenty-four hours. It was hard to make it back then, inflation was killing us, and I had to push hard for
every run I could get, even if it meant going beyond my limits. And I was pushing it that night, all right. My eyelids had gotten so heavy I was
seriously considering the idea of super-gluing 'em to my own forehead. Still, I decided to pass on the stop; I was going to make Portland by eight
a.m. come hell or high water, and this was in the days before I started messing around with crank, so I was running on nicotine and sheer willpower,
nothing else. Also, there was the fog; by the time I passed Eugene it had gotten so thick that I could barely see more than fifteen feet ahead. Real
I was also trying to keep alert by listening to the radio, and all night they'd been breaking in to cover the news story about what had happened in
Moad Garden. Some chemical plant had an accident there; lots of people had died from a gas called "methyl isocyanide". Real nasty stuff; a whole
neighborhood had been wiped out, suffocated by that poison. It was so bad that The National Guard had moved in to secure the area, keeping residents,
the press, and everyone else out. Hearing that gave me an eerie feeling, because Moad Garden wasn't that far away; I'd passed the Highway Eighteen
Junction only ten minutes before.
"I never even heard about that."
"Like I said, you were too young to remember. Anyway, it was almost four in the morning; the fog was heavy, and I was damn near close to falling
asleep, when all of a sudden the cars ahead of me started slamming on their brakes. That woke me up real quick. An eight thousand pound diesel rig
doesn't stop on a dime. I hit my brakes hard, so hard that I smell the smoke from my burning tires getting into the cab, all the while hoping that my
truck wouldn't crush the small white station wagon in front of me like an empty Budweiser can. But it didn't, and I managed to come to a complete
stop. I was lucky the trailer hadn't toppled or jackknifed either, so I let out a slow breath of relief, that is, until I felt a little jolt, and
heard the sickening crunch of a vehicle hitting the chicken-trailer. Oh sh&t.
Grabbing my big black flashlight, I jumped out and ran around to the side, imagining what, or who, might have been shredded in the impact, and when I
got to the rear, what I saw made my blood run cold. There in this little green pickup was a girl who must've been about twenty or so, and she'd
slammed into the crossbeam on the rear of the chicken-rig, shearing the roof of her pickup clean off. By the look of it, I'd say she came damn close
to getting decapitated, but instead then she managed to crawl out of the pickup and stand up on her own two feet. Aside from a minor cut on her
forehead, she was okay - pretty shaken up, but still okay.
Her name was Lee-Anne. If this had been a normal accident, I would have been getting on the CB right then to call for help, or exchanging my insurance
information and all that, but instead we found ourselves staring back down the road at the line of cars that were backing up along the entire stretch.
We were stuck; no one would be going anywhere for awhile, and when I gazed the other way - to the road up ahead - I knew it was bad up there, because
I could see the reddish glow of flames licking through the fog and the darkness.
Lee-Anne mentioned that she was nurse's-assistant who worked at a convalescent home in Eugene, so I retrieved the first-aid kit from inside the cabin
and we ran up the highway, past the backed-up vehicles and road flares that some folks had already put down, and up to the head of the traffic jam to
see if anyone was hurt, to see if we could help. There were injuries all right, a couple of serious ones too, but no fatalities, thank God."
"Wait, didn't you say..."
"I know. A hundred and fifty people. There's more to the story - I'm getting to that."
"When Lee-Anne and I got there, we saw that some other folks had already gotten out of their cars and started helping the injured: making them
comfortable, immobilizing fractures, applying direct pressure to cuts and lacerations - typical emergency first aid stuff. Beyond all this, about
twenty yards ahead, was a jackknifed trailer; it had overturned and broken free from it's tractor rig. The tractor rig had run off the road and was
lying on it's side in an alfalfa field next to the highway, engulfed in a blazing inferno. The thick odor of smoke and gasoline filled the air, and
the heat was so intense that I couldn't get any closer - not that it would've been any use to try, because the driver was a goner, no question about
"Was that was caused the accident? The rig, I mean."
"Yep. Blocking traffic on both sides of the highway. What a mess. But like I said, it was pretty foggy, and that's why we hadn't noticed the
"Lee-Anne screamed when she first saw them; scattered across the road behind the jackknifed trailer. The heavy double-doors in the back of the
trailer had broken off, and the bodies had spilled out from inside. As I made my way toward them, I focused my flashlight beam on one of the doors,
and I noticed the lettering on it. Stenciled in big, black letters, it said U.S. ARMY.
As for the bodies, there must have been at least ten of them, all naked and just lying in middle of the road. At first, I thought they were medical
cadavers, because they were pale, almost white, and the weirdest thing about them was that they had no hair - not on their heads, or anywhere else for
that matter. That, and the smell - they had the musty odor of carrion. A bunch of nude, hairless cadavers lying in the middle of the highway like
road-kill. Some even had their eyes open. By the light of the fire, it was a real freaky scene.
"Jeez, that would give me the willies too."
"Yeah, and I was just standing there, gaping at them, trying to make sense of it all, when I realized that I hadn't even gotten on the CB to call
for help yet. So Lee-Anne stayed and helped out with the injuries, and I ran back to my rig as fast as I could. Eventually I managed to raise
someone on the emergency channel, and got the message through that we had a pretty bad pile-up, but the nearest town was forty minutes back down the
road, so I figured it would take at least that long for the first ambulance to show up.
Then the screams started, coming from up ahead. My lights were still turned on, and through the fog I could make out a crowd people running back down
the road from the wreck. They were all bloody, and some were missing fingers, hands, you name it. I was about to roll down my window and ask what the
hell was going on, when all of a sudden Lee-Anne appeared there under my door, banging on the window, pleading for me to let her in. So I opened the
door and she climbed over me in a panic, right into the back of the cab while screaming at me, telling me to lock the door."
"That's what I wanted to know! Lee-Anne was out her mind in terror, and she tried to tell me what happened, but she was so freaked out that her
words weren't clear, and I couldn't understand everything. What I could make out, though, went something like this:
While she and the others were trying to help the injured, one of those "cadavers" had started to move. It crawled up to one of the unconscious
victims - a elderly woman - and started licking blood from one of her wounds. They pretty much all started doing that, and then things happened fast,
real fast. These things started attacking everybody, biting them on the neck, hand, leg, anywhere they could find exposed skin. It was like once
they had gotten the scent of fresh blood in the air and tasted it, the feeding frenzy was on. People started running for their lives."
"Let me get this straight. You say this happened before you started using drugs?"
"I'm serious, Denny! This ain't no joke, and it ain't no spooky campfire tale either. The way I see it, if we're gonna be running this delivery
route on a regular basis, you might as well know the whole story."
"Sorry. Go ahead."
"Like I said, folks were running down the road in our direction, all wide-eyed and full of panic. As I grabbed for my CB mike - I was about to call
on the emergency dial again and ask someone, anyone to call the police and let them know we were going to need more help - a young guy wearing a Green
Bay Packers jacket started banging on my door to be let in. He was screaming, and Lee-Anne started screaming too, telling me not to open the door. I
started telling her to calm down - that we should help the guy, and all of a sudden WHAM! One of those things jumped out of the fog and landed on his
"One of the cadavers?"
"They weren't no cadavers, but I'll get to that in a minute. When that thing landed on him, it damn near scared the life out of me, and I jumped
back to the other side of the cab where Lee-Anne was sitting, but not before it raised it's head and looked me dead straight in the eyes. It had the
blackest eyes I've ever seen: like a reptile; a snake. Then it sort of unhinged it's jaw - again, like a snake, and displayed the sharpest, ugliest,
meanest set of fangs you can imagine. Then it sunk them straight into the guy's shoulder."
"That wasn't the worst of it. This thing didn't just bite; it ripped a chunk of flesh clean out his shoulder, spraying blood all over my driver's
side window. I was thinking it must've carried him off somewhere after that, because he stopped screaming and I couldn't see him anymore. But I
was wrong. Dead wrong. And he wasn't the only victim either, because in the light of my headlights I could see dozens of people running around,
trying to get away from them. One by one, they were taken down, like deer caught in a pen with a pack of wolves. All we could do was watch.
Now I've seen some strange things in my time - been to some strange places, and met some awfully strange people, but none of it comes close to what I
saw going on there outside my truck my that night. It was like being in some other world - a world made up of the worst parts of hell."
"Hold on! Just...hold on a minute. Let me get this straight; you're saying the cadavers, or whatever they were, started eating people? Right
there on I-5?"
"Denny, what do you know about vampires?"
"Huh? Aw hell, this is ridiculous! I knew you were pullin' my leg!"
"You're pullin' my leg, right?"
"The way I see it, the popular version of what we call "vampires" is mostly B.S.. Especially all that romantic garbage about Dracula seducing
women, and turning into a bat and such. That don't mean it's all B.S. though, 'cause some of it is based on reality; some of it is based on the
old legends, and those legends were for real."
"I saw a show on TV once about Dracula. It said he was based on a real guy."
"Dracula? Sh#t, that's mostly fantasy, but real vampires did exist, that's for sure, and they were monsters, monsters more horrible than anything
any writer or movie producer could ever make up. How do I know? I'll tell you how, Denny. You know the part of the vampire legend that says if
someone gets bit by a vampire, they turn into one?"
"Uh-huh, I remember that."
"Well, for some it happened right away, and for some it seemed to take longer, but pretty soon Lee-Anne and I found ourselves staring out the windows
at some of the very same folks we had met minutes before, only now they were standing with the other vampires, watching us. Their skin had turned
white, like they'd been drained of blood, and just like the vampires, their eyes had turned that evil black color. It was a bad situation, real
"Roy, if what you're telling me is true, then something doesn't make sense. What were a bunch of vampires doing in the back of a U.S. Army
"That's a good question, and my theory has always been this: remember the "gas leak" that supposedly happened in Moad Garden? Well, the way I
figure, it wasn't a gas leak at all. It was them: an outbreak of vampires. That's why the Army had come in, and that's why they'd sealed off the
town. As for why they were carrying them in the trailer, well, who knows? Maybe they were keeping them for study, or maybe they had to dispose of
the bodies in some special way. In any case, at least one of those things probably got loose in transit. I figure the driver was already dead before
his rig started to roll over."
A couple more things happened during that night which convinced me that we were dealing with vampires. As Lee-Anne and I were cowering in the back of
the cab, all of them: the vampires, as well as those who'd been "turned" into vampires, surrounded the truck, and some of them had even started
clawing at the doors, climbing onto the grill, and getting into the trailer. Yeah, the trailer! I knew they were getting into the trailer when I saw
it start to wobble back and forth in my rearview mirror, and heard the sound of chickens screaming as they were being torn apart. Feathers starting
flying out of it and onto everything: the highway, the truck, and them.
I was noticing those feathers drifting onto the hood of the truck and the windshield, and thinking how crazy it all was - me huddled in cab with this
twenty-something girl while staring in horror at the vampires covered in chicken feathers, when one of them jumped onto the hood of the truck,
crawled up to the windshield, and glared at us with those awful black eyes. Then it bared it's fangs, and hissed. It was an angry, evil hiss - like
that of a viper - and the worst part of it was that I could smell the thing. That's right, even with the windows rolled up and the windshield
between us, I could still smell its rotten, filthy, dead odor drifting into the cab. The stench got into my nostrils, my hair, and my clothes. Hell,
even after that night was over, the odor was still in my clothes, so I never even bothered to wash them; I just threw them out. It was that bad.
My point is, they never actually tried to come inside, never tried to open the door or break the windows or anything like that. We were totally safe
in that truck, and I think I know why. After that night, I decided to do a little research into classic vampire lore. You ever hear the part of the
legend that says a vampire can't come into your home unless it's invited? Well, I think that part is true, because I'd been hauling loads for at
least three and a half months straight, and that cab had been my home. Not that I realized it at the time, because right then I was scared out of my
wits, gripping my oversized flashlight and getting ready to hit that bastard on the head the minute he tried to..."
"So you stayed in there the whole night? Until the sun came up? Because that's part of the legend too, right? Sunlight kills vampires, or at
least in the movies it does."
"No, it didn't turn out that way. There it crouched, on the hood of the truck, glaring and hissing at us with the most hateful, resentful expression
I've ever seen, when all of a sudden everything lit up like daylight. The vampires looked up at the sky and hissed, then jumped down off the truck
and scrambled away with the others into the darkness. I guess it was either the spotlight or the sound of the rotor blades that spooked 'em; either
way, I was sure glad that the life-flight chopper had arrived. But at the same I was kind of worried, thinking that maybe we should find a way to warn
them or something. I had a hunch that the vampires hadn't gone far, and would pounce on the paramedics as soon as they set foot on the pavement.
As it landed in the highway, however, I realized that it wasn't a life-flight chopper after all; it was a dull green color, and when it landed these
guys got out and were wearing suits - I guess you would call them bio-hazard suits. Over their faces they wore gas masks, and each of them was armed
with and M-16 rifle. I'm pretty sure they were Army, but whatever they were, at least they weren't vampires, and so Lee-Anne and I both started
shouting and waving, trying to get their attention. They split up and starting combing the area, rifles raised, searching this way and that among the
cars, while Lee-Anne and I continued waving and hollering. One of them saw us and came over, slinging his rifle around to his back, and jumped onto
the step-rail while motioning for me to open the door.
That's when he got attacked; not by one, but by two of them, coming from opposite directions. The poor guy never had a chance. At least the others
were able to put up something of a fight, firing off rounds from their automatic rifles, and I kept hoping they would at least make it back to the
chopper okay. It was like the goddamn battle of Armageddon was going on out there. They did manage to take down a number of the vampires, but there
were just too many. In the midst of the fight, one of the Army guys got jumped by three of them, and as they wrestled him to the ground his weapon
went off in our direction. The bullet cracked through my windshield, bounced off the interior of the cab, and landed on the passenger side seat. For
some reason, I picked it up and stuffed it in my back pocket. Here, check this out."
"So that's why you were grabbing your chest! A little crucifix! Is that silver?"
"When I got back home, I had the bullet melted down into this. I know it's tiny, and as for the whole crucifix-keeping-vampires-at-bay thing; well,
I don't know if that's true or not, but those Army guys were using silver bullet rounds in their magazines, so if it worked for them..."
"Silver bullets? I thought that was supposed to be for werewolves."
"Like I said, I did some research later into the old legends, and guess what? Silver is said to work on vampires too. Silver, and running water;
both are considered "pure", and both are said to kill vampires. Anyway, I've kept this crucifix around my neck for the past twenty-five
"Too bad you didn't have it with you that night."
"Yeah, no kidding, because things got worse real fast. Within a few minutes, the entire Army unit had been massacred - I mean, the vampires really
tore them apart. Hell, they didn't bother turning them either, just ripped'em limb-from-limb like play dough. All except for the pilot, who must
have realized it was a hopeless situation and took the chopper skyward. If only he'd known a couple of the bastards had already made it
onboard...but then again, I suppose it wouldn't have made much difference anyway. I'd say that chopper got about twenty feet in the air before it
came crashing down beside the road, exploding into a great big orange ball of fire. I remember seeing at least a couple of the vampires that'd been
caught in the explosion - they were squirming inside the flames: roasting, popping, and sizzling like bacon.
Lee-Anne and I were still okay at that point, but when the chopper hit the dirt, the rotor blades sheared off and I heard the impact as one of them
hit the side of the truck. By the light of the fire, I could tell that it had punctured my fuel tank, because I could see the diesel trickling out
onto the highway toward the flames. 'All right,' I thought, 'now we've got a whole new problem. Ain't life a bitch.'
Lee-Anne saw it too, and wanted to make a run for it, but I grabbed her arm and wouldn't let her get out. A couple more vampires had already climbed
over the grill of the truck and onto the hood; she'd be dead within seconds. The trouble was, we'd both be dead the instant that diesel fuel made
contact with the flames. I knew I had to make a decision. We couldn't get out, and we couldn't stay inside. I had to think of a third option, and
that's when I realized that I was sitting behind a three-hundred and fifty horsepower engine with fifteen-hundred pounds of torque that could tear
through pretty much anything. So I started the engine, pushed down the clutch, shifted into second, let the clutch go, hit the gas, and we were on our
way, crashing through the traffic jam like a bulldozer through a junkyard.
The sound of crunching metal filled the air as we made our way through the cars, knocking them to the side of the highway like toys. I tell you,
Denny, it was beautiful, even with a couple of the vampires clinging to the hood. After hitting the first couple of vehicles, they fell forward onto
the front grill, and the next impact squished 'em like snails. Finally, we smashed through the last of the wrecked cars, and then plowed past the
jackknifed Army trailer. I was grinning with satisfaction, and figured Lee-Anne must be feeling the same, all things considered, but in the heat of
the moment I hadn't noticed that she'd gone completely silent. Happy almost to the point of tears, I turned to let her know we'd made it, and
that's when I saw her; she'd slumped forward in her seat like a corpse, and I knew something was wrong.
Earlier that night, after she'd climbed into my cab, it never occurred to me to ask her if she'd been bit. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel,
I reached over to give her a nudge. That's when she turned her head, and I saw that her eyes had gone black like the others. Only she didn't hiss;
she screamed, and it was the most blood-curdling scream I've ever heard. The memory of that scream haunts me to this day.
At the same time, I was trying to keep the truck on the road, when all of a sudden she lunged for my neck. I raised my arms in defense, but she was
fast, and so damn STRONG - I never thought a woman could be that strong. There I was, fighting for my life against her, and because I'd lost my grip
on the steering wheel, we careened off the side of the road and into a ditch, then collided with a large oak tree. The impact sent me flying through
the windshield, over the hood, and into the dirt.
Bruised, broken, and dazed, I slowly rose to my feet, only to see Lee-Anne standing on the hood, glaring at me with eyes full of hatred and rage, her
teeth and fangs bared. She screamed again, and I thought I was a goner for sure, because I knew she was getting ready to leap for my throat again. I
had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I knew I was about to die, and I screamed, Denny. I screamed in sheer terror. But what came next wasn't death,
at least not for me, because the sound of our screams were drowned out by the deafening roar of a military jet thundering through the night sky
overhead. In that same instant, everything around me turned white from the blinding flash of the high-explosive detonation.
They must have dropped one helluva a big bomb. The U.S. Air Force has a special kind of weapon called a fuel-air explosive - it's pretty much the
most powerful non-nuclear bomb in existence - and I think it was one of those, because the blast wave blew out one my eardrums and sent me flying
backward into the alfalfa field. Everything went black, and I don't remember anything after that. My next memory is of waking up in a hospital bed
the following day; a clean-up crew had found me that morning, lying in the field behind the burned-out hulk of my rig, and I'd been rushed by
ambulance to a nearby trauma center.
I spent that day resting and recovering, while watching the local news channel coverage of the massive pile-up and ensuing deaths, all of it blamed on
"poor driving conditions". Of course I knew it was all a lie, a cover-up, that it weren't no "accident" that killed all those people, but there
wasn't any use in arguing against the "official" story. Who would believe me? I thought if I said anything, they'd throw me in a straight jacket
and lock me in some loony bin for the next ten or twenty years, so I kept my mouth shut.
Every so often, I still have to pass by this here stretch of highway, but I always try to avoid stopping here. Tonight I didn't have a choice, we
were low on gas and I figured there was no way we'd make it to Rowdy's on fumes. Everything looked safe enough, but I started to get a little
worried when I saw you talking to that girl over there. And now you know why.
Well, it's two o'clock, time to get back on the road. You ready to switch places? I guess I could use a nap, after all. Hey, are you awake, or did
I put you to sleep? Come on Denny, wake up, it's your turn to drive.
What's that on your neck, Denny? Did she...?"
[edit on 20-9-2006 by Flatwoods]