Monday, January 9, 2012

Daily Prompt: The Double-Yellow Line

Daily Prompt Rules: Must be written in third person, past tense.
Prompts are decided the day of the exercise. You write until you feel you're done.
Minimum-- 200 words.

Your character picks up a hitch-hiker on his/her way home from work. The hitch-hiker tries to persuade your character to leave everything and drive her across the country. (January 3rd, 2012)

The Double-Yellow Line

With the desert stretched before him and civilization at his back, George Danforth let his eyes travel the desolate landscape. The splintering wood and crackling paint of Old Towne whittled away in the spotted rearview mirror of his ’45 pickup.

The wind had picked up sending vats of tumbleweed down the lone stretch of highway. Two lanes was all it was; separated by a decade-old and faded double-yellow line. The line you’re not supposed to cross.
The tumbleweed hadn’t been a surprise. This time of year the winds picked up and scattered what little lived in this part of the country. Back. Forth. Again. And eventually straight up into oblivion. Oblivion was El Paso. George hated El Paso.

George hadn’t been looking forward to the drive. It was long and lonely. Occasionally, he’d see truckers out on the side of the road. Some would be stretching their legs, some would be relieving themselves. And then there were the ones who weren’t doing anything. They’d just stand there, on the side of the road, in the middle of the unincorporated desert. Those were the ones George had made a point of avoiding.

Strange things happened in far out places that local folks didn’t care to mention. You only heard about the disappearances when they were trying to get rid of you. The local folk never did have a problem getting rid of visitors out here. There wasn’t anything to visit.

Yards ahead and across the infamous double-yellow line, stood figure, clothed in a loose-fit white tunic. As George guided the truck onward, the figure in white became clearer, more real.

It was a woman with nothing more than the clothes on her back and well-worn army-grade boots on her feet. George slowed at the sight, knowing that he had to pull over. A small embankment lined the right side of the highway making it impossible to avoid crossing the double-yellow line.

He’d heard stories—wives’ tales—in passing; nothing that earned much attention; though he’d be inclined to turn a more attentive ear now. On the other end of the county, Old Lady Crathbaum had asked George if he’d been following the laws of the road. He’d nodded his dusty head and had given her assurance that he minded his manners. She’d nodded, said he was a good boy, and that it wasn’t likely they’d catch on to him. George’s attentions had been on Old Lady Crathbaum’s use of the word “boy”. It’d been three wars and as many decades since anybody had considered him a boy. For that, George had always held the old lady in high regard.

George crossed the double-yellow line and pulled the truck to a stop. The woman moved slowly, but assuredly, and climbed in the cab. Her movements were deliberate in nature—that much George could tell. He’d wanted to protest. He’d wanted to ask her if she was out of her mind—climbing in the truck of a passerby she didn’t know. Instead, he sat and watched her acclimate herself to the vehicle.

“Go north, George,” she said; confidence in her voice. His eyes grew wide with confusion at the sound of his name coming from her silky voice. Her eyes still hadn’t met his, but he could see they were dark from the corners. Her skin was pale, hair was long, and she was dirty. Her white tunic looked much darker, dirtier, this close.

“Pardon me, ma’am,” George drawled, careful of his tone. “But I’m not heading north.”
The woman stilled in her seat. Her head turned slowly toward him. Her eyes, dark indeed, trained on George’s hair. The brown mess was tinged with grey and clouds of dust that had built up into it since the crack of dawn when he’s begun his day. His fingernails were dirty and his knuckles calloused, giving him away as a working man. He wasn’t a dirty man by any means, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dirty when he left work.

The woman’s body jerked, her dirtied flesh giving way to a dark green sheathing that glistened from the setting sun. George remained stock-still as he took in her appearance. Her eyes glassed over, marble white and her nose collapsed into three tiny slits that set evenly parted between her eyes. At that, George threw himself backward, slamming into the door of the cab; one hand braces on the steering wheel, the other clawing into the leather of the backrest.

“Follow the laws of the road, George,” her tongue, slit in two peeked out from between her lips. “Be a good boy.”

1 comment:

  1. This was extraordinarily Steinbeck-ian (which is the HIGHEST compliment, coming from me)... until the last paragraph, that is ;). You should write more stuff like this.

    You'd also love Roald Dahl's short stories. They end with a sort of messed-up, twisted shocker like this. I'll loan you my old copy. :)