They say your sins will find you out, and that they will. I know this from experience. No matter how smart or how clever you think you are, you can't outrun yourself. Can't outrun the judgement. I thought I could, but like so many who try, it all came out in the end.
Now, first things first. You gotta know that I never meant for any of this to happen. No, Sir. And I can't really even be sure that it was my fault at all. It all happened so fast, you see, and I don't really have a clear recollection of that night. All I really know is that he's dead and somehow I was the instrument of that death.
I drive a semi truck. I carry all sorts of things all over the country. I'm one of the guys that makes the world turn, because if you didn't have us America, this great land of liberty and freedom in which we live, would stop cold dead right in its tracks. I'm not bragging. It's just the way it works. The company I work for is much like other trucking companies in the good ol' US of A, and I'm just about as average a trucker you can find.
I get paid an extra 10% if I get my haul to its destination a day or more early. That's good money, and I do just about anything I can to get there as soon as I can. Speed limits, sleep and sometimes safety be damned. My family needs that extra 10%. All freight companies pay this bonus. It's just the way the business works.
I was travelling through Ohio when it happened. I had driven the whole way straight, all the way from Huntsville, Alabama on my way to Bangor, Maine. It wasn't real late, but it was getting there and I had been on the road for a whole bunch of hours. But I was headed back home to Maine, it was Friday, and I had a whole three day weekend ahead of me.
I'm still not real sure exactly what happened, but suddenly there was a small red sports car in the lane next to me. The lane I had just started to merge into. The car hadn't been there a moment before, of that much I'm sure. It was as though it just appeared one minute out of thin air. I didn't even feel when it bumped the front of my truck. All I saw was it start to spin wildly out of control, all the way across the freeway, which was pretty busy. I was amazed it didn't hit any other cars before smashing, violently, into the concrete barrier that divided the northbound lanes from the southbound.
"Shit!" I said aloud. I pulled off to the side of the freeway and called 9-1-1. "There's been an accident on northbound I-75. I'm a truck driver and a small car just merged in front of me and crashed. I think the driver needs help."
"Ok, Sir," the operator said. "What was your name?"
"Alright, Mr. Phillips," the operator continued. "Is the other driver hurt?"
"I don't know," I told her. "He hasn't come out of his vehicle."
"Ok, the Highway Patrol and a rescue squad are on their way," she told me. "Stay on the scene until they arrive."
I fully intended to. I was not the hit-and-run type, even though he hit me. He did hit me, didn't he? I mean, you can see that, right?
The police arrived on the scene first, and the rescue squad was not far behind them. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. I saw him when they pulled him out of the car. It was brutal, and I really felt sorry for the poor guy. He was wearing a blue security guard's uniform and I knew he was just on his way to work. He had set out on a normal evening to go through his normal routine, and he ends up dead. Tragic. A tragic freak of nature. An act of God, you could even say, but I certainly hadn't done anything wrong. Had I?
The policeman asked me a few questions, had me fill out a written report of the incident as I saw it, and then told me that the Coroner's office would be in touch in a few days to testify at the inquest. But he allowed me to go back on my way, so he obviously didn't think I had done anything wrong. He would have arrested me if he thought I was to blame, right?
I planned to find a motel to bed down for the night soon anyway, and this town was as good as any. I was tired and stressed and in no condition to drive any further. I pulled off at the next exit, where the sign for Quality Inn could be seen from the freeway. I checked in, went to my room and ordered a pizza. The pizza never came.
Instead, I could hear my rig start up. I ran outside, now wearing nothing but a t-shirt and my boxers. Someone was stealing my truck. I ran as fast as I could and jumped up on the steps that led to the passenger seat.
"Hey!" I yelled through the window. "Stop this truck right now!"
The truck thief didn't even acknowledge me. The passenger window was open so I reached inside, unlocked the door, opened it and quickly pulled myself inside. I reached for where I keep my gun stashed. The gun was still there and the thief made no move to stop me. I pulled the Baretta 9mm out and held it to his head.
"Pull this truck over right now," I said pulling back the nine mil's hammer. "Pull it over or I blow your goddamn brains out."
At this, he finally acknowledged me. He took his eyes completely off the road in front of us and stared me squarely in the face. Man, this guy looked so familiar. Then he spoke.
"That doesn't scare me, Sam."
"How do you know my name, Fella?"
"Your gun doesn't scare me," he said again, his voice seemingly devoid of all emotion. "You see, I'm already dead, Sam. You killed me, Sam."
"I don't know what your talkin' about, Man," I said. But I did know. As soon as those words escaped from his mouth, I knew. My mind flashed back to only a couple hours ago. This was the guy they pulled out of that car. The guy who hit me on the freeway.
"You killed me and then you lied about it," he said. "You said you were only going sixty miles per hour, Sam. I was doind seventy-five so you must have been doing at least that. A full twenty miles over the speed limit for a truck your size. You said I veered into your lane when the truth was, you drifted into mine."
"That ain't true, Man," I said. I couldn't really tell, but I'm sure my voice was in a panic by this point. "You drifted into my lane, Man. You did. I was there."
"You fell asleep, Sam," he said flatly. "You nodded off, drifted into my lane and hit me and now, my kids are gonna have a daddy that never came home."
Oh jeezus, I didn't know this guy had a family. He looked so young. But this wasn't my fault. I know I didn't fall asleep. By this time we were back on the freeway. I looked over at the speedometer and we were now pushing eighty. Soon we would be past one hundred.
"Where are we going in such a hurry?" I asked.
"Eternity," he said. His voice was cold. "You killed me, robbed my babies of their daddy, and then you lied about it. You were irresponsible and now I'm dead. And you lied!"
"What do you want?" My voice was now cracking from the panic and I could feel my heart in my throat. "Do you want me to go to that Coroner's inquest, tell them I was neglegent and then go to prison for manslaughter? Do you want to rob my children of their daddy?! Will that bring you back to your family?"
"No, Sam," he said. There was still no emotion in his voice. "It's too late for that. Now I want you to suffer, Sam. To live in the same torment my wife and kids are going to live in when that cop knocks on my door and tells my wife that I'm not coming home."
Then, up ahead, I saw the overpass. We were doing well over a hundred miles an hour now. The needle to the speedometer was burried. Then he veered to the right. The truck crashed through the concrete wall and I saw the street below rushing up to meet us. Then everything went black...
When the lights came back on I was no longer in my truck and the strange apparition had gone. I was now in a strange car, a car I had never been in before. It was his car. I don't know how, but I knew it was. I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw my own rig barreling down on me. It drifted into my lane a little too close and I felt a slight bump. Nothing bad, just a tap. But then the whole world started spinning and I saw the concrete barrier. Before I hit it, his whole life flashed before my eyes. I saw that he was a good man, a good husband and father, and worst of all, I saw that it was my truck that hit him. He never moved from his lane. Then I hit the wall and the whole world went black.
Then I was back in the car, my rig in the mirror, slight bump, life flashing before my eyes, into the wall, world goes black. Then I'm back in the car. That's all I know now. Damned to relive the last thirty seconds of his life. Damned to an eternity of death. Damned, and now I know, that I deserve it.
COPYRIGHT 2011, William Allen Avitt
NOTE: Mr. Avitt frequently comments on our site under the name "Sheldon Cooper."