The absent sun had been dominated by a permeating straggle of dark clouds that foreshadowed the possibility of rainfall and thunderstorms. I feared the thought of having to drive in such weather as I was advised to travel cautiously on Highway 13. It was that time of the year where many embarked on their holiday destinations of which a good amount were in such a hurry, they'd drive carelessly and become vulnerable to the countless accidents that have occurred on that road. I, for one, was not fond of a twenty-hour trip with my 1968 Honda Coupe - an ideal car for inner-city travel, nothing more. I could've taken a plane, had I been able to afford a ticket. Nevertheless, I ensured to pack as little luggage as possible so as to not weigh down the vehicle.
The purpose of my trip commenced at my brother’s behest after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. It turned out to be severe, in which case his body grew abnormally weak, allowing him nothing more than to rest in bed all day long. As soon as I received the news, I made the immediate decision to set out for Manitoba to see him. Granting him my company would at least put a smile on his face, considering he’d been the only family I had left. As was typical of his introverted personality, he expressed great enthusiasm for the countryside, and hence, took the liberty to continue his life within the panoramic plains of sprawling green meadows and farmland pastures. He required nothing more than his beloved cottage and front porch. That was his defined life in paradise.
The highway ran alongside the sweeping yellow grasslands of rural Saskatchewan which, in my opinion, would’ve made for a more vibrant atmosphere under blissful sunshine. Alas, the lively skies were dimmed by restless grey clouds, abstracting the exuberant colours of nature. I was determined to reach the nearest motel before dark since I grew exhausted from having travelled nigh ten hours from my home in Vancouver - let alone the upcoming storm. It seemed most inconvenient for the weather to change so suddenly, having merely reached the halfway point of my trip.
Aside from my ever-growing weariness, my stomach began to gurgle. Thankfully, I ensured to prepare enough sandwiches for the journey. After a few bites, my hunger had been treated for the time being. As I continued down the highway, I noticed other passing vehicles vanish beyond the horizon as they sped past me in all their haste. Though, as much as I wanted to reach the next town before nightfall, I figured the best thing to do was to remain calm. After all, it wasn't as if my brother was all by himself. He'd arranged for a nurse to act as a personal caretaker for the meantime until I'd arrive. This broadened my time frame in getting there at my own pace. Hence, I didn't need to worry.
My surroundings of grassy fields had passed into a barren gritty landscape of a rather lifeless wasteland. Not only did the weather seem dull and depressing, but likewise, the environment gave off an isolating feeling of emptiness - not a single plant or tree in sight, and strangely, no sign of a house, building, farm, or any other civil presence of any kind. I admit that it certainly felt a tad unsettling to find oneself as the only traveller on a large highway, usually occupied by many, in the middle of nowhere. Yet, it was reassuring that I wouldn't be at risk of an accident.
I could feel the muscles in my body slowly succumb to exhaustion. This didn't prevent me from forcing myself to stay focused whilst keeping my eyes locked on the endless road ahead. In the midst of advancing at a steady speed, my peripheral vision caught a quick glance at something odd. It appeared in the form of a contorted oblong shape. Its black shade conformed to the equally colourless dusty desert. What puzzled me was how it looked as if it somehow bulged out of the ground - coincidently at the exact moment as I passed it. Whatever it may have been, I cared too little to ponder over it. I maintained my concentration and witnessed the first few drops of rain patter against the windscreen.
Within a matter of minutes, the rain intensified and rinsed the dust off my windows. The soaking wet road became slippery, and thus, I had to slow down. Needless to say, I could no longer bear the constant silence and proceeded to turn on the radio. The newscaster’s voice was muffled by the static crackle of a bad signal. I turned the knob in the hopes of tuning into a more audible station. Unfortunately, there were none. Nor had there been any nearby radio towers among the vacant desert around me, which didn’t surprise me at all.
As I anticipated the darkness of eventide, the wind flung strong waves of raindrops through the air under loud cracks of echoing thunder and frequent lightning bolts tearing through the clouds. I figured if I didn’t make it to a place that offered shelter, I’d be left with no choice but to pull over and sleep in the car until early sunrise. Additionally, I soon found myself driving through faint layers of mist that began to obscure my distant view of the road.
Having kept little track of time, I glanced at my watch - ten minutes to eight. I found it most unusual that it took an abnormally long time for the daylight to fade. Nevertheless, I maintained my confidence to travel as far as I possibly could before engaging in a well-deserved resting period.
The coat of mist began to clear outward as I ripped through. I was able to see my surroundings again. To no expectation, I passed something amidst the desolate terrain that appeared to protrude from beneath the ground - exactly like what I had spotted earlier, only larger in size. I recognized its obscure shape and could make out what looked like a tree’s naked branches, except for the fact that it resembled a solid structure of sorts with symmetrically jagged edges. As if my bewilderment hadn’t led me to question my whereabouts, I found myself passing more of them; each one jutting upward as I laid my perplexed eyes upon them. This began to agitate me since I was sure to have been heading in the right direction.
My weariness increased over time. I’d been yawning more often than before. Perhaps I was only seeing things that weren’t there due to my brain's desperation for sleep. That was when I decided to park off the road which would just as well grant me the opportunity to examine those bizarre objects that spread in a vast multitude throughout the landscape. What I was about to discover next sent a frantic shiver through my veins.
As I tapped the brake pedal, it somehow didn't slow down the car. Even when my foot applied more pressure, there was no decrease in speed. Clueless as to what else I could do, I lifted my feet off all pedals. This attempt was followed by what I can simply describe as incomprehensible. All of a sudden, the car began to accelerate. It got to a point where it reached a speed that I would never dare drive at. I let out a loud gasp when the gear lever shifted itself higher. In a rapid manoeuvre, the steering wheel jerked itself, leading me to instantly release my grip. As preposterous as it may sound, I got the impression that my Coupe was somehow . . . alive.
Paralyzed with fear, I sat with my trembling hands raised above my shoulders as if I'd been held at gunpoint. My heart throbbed at a rising rate. I hadn't the faintest clue what was happening to me or where I'd ended up. Everything appeared to take an unnatural toll the further I travelled down that highway. How could I have ended up in such a foreboding place? I knew for certain I remained on the very same road since Vancouver. Was I dreaming? Did I fall asleep behind the wheel? Unlikely so. I may have felt worn out, yet I forced myself to stay wide awake. It was undoubtedly real. All of it. It was as if my surroundings somehow conspired against me. My mind could not remotely predict the possibilities of what was yet to come.
The knot in my stomach tightened the more I tried to fight it. In my attempt of pulling the handbrake, it seemed to have been stuck. There was no way of stopping the car. It didn’t let me. I needed to get out before it would reach its maximum speed. In all my panic I violently tugged at the door handle as I expected it to unlock. How foolish of me. It wouldn’t let me out. Nor was I able to open my window. No matter what I tried, it resisted my need to escape. I could no longer ponder over what was happening or why. I didn’t care how my car suddenly developed a mind of its own; I needed to fight my way out. There was only one thing left to do - smash the window and climb out. To my dismay, propelling my elbow against the glass felt as if I knocked it against a concrete wall. I grunted loudly at the painful impact of obtaining a bruise - or possibly a broken bone.
It was then that I realized there was nothing I could do. The car picked up an alarming speed and continued to race along the never-ending road. It left me no choice but to sit in my seat and hope for the fuel tank to run empty. It didn’t matter how much I hoped to wake up from a lucid nightmare. The grim reality of my life being in danger daunted me more than ever. Simultaneously, it was nauseating. The series of unexplainable mishaps continued as the car bolted at the speed of a bullet whilst my surroundings began to blur out of vision. The only thing that my eyes could vaguely capture was an odd humongous shadow materializing amidst the overwhelming clouds.
My nerves shivered at the anticipation that time had come to a halt. My wristwatch revealed it to still be ten minutes to eight after nearly half an hour’s struggle of facing an unknown force. To no surprise, the sky remained as grey as it’d been the entire time. The corner of my eye captured what I can merely describe as a valley of those strange structures as they’d grown into a monumental size, dominating the distant horizon further than I could see. Needless to say, I'd been to Saskatchewan before. Never have I witnessed something so . . . otherworldly. My clueless mind could simply deduce that I may have been trapped and bound within a formidable void of some sort. Whether everything would return to normal - or whether I'd safely reach my destination - was uncertain.
My hands tightly clasped the seat belt over my chest as the car continued to speed onwards. The highway remained a perfectly straight line - not a single curve or crossing. As uncanny as the sudden halt in time had been, I noticed a similar anomaly of the fuel gauge not having descended even slightly. My agonizing state of shock lingered as I struggled to breathe to a point where I began to see sparks from my blood pumping through my arteries. Deep within my floating mind, I begged for unconsciousness to carry me out of this horror.
A rumbling noise broke out. Not as impactful as the cracks of thunder, but rather an animalistic roar that arose at a deafening volume. What my ears picked up, my dismayed eyes identified. The enormous shadow that billowed through the sky became evermore visible as it crept from behind the vaporous clouds that cloaked it. What I could make out was an infinitely towering wall of thick matter bulging countless clusters of guzzling mouths and stupendous sets of fangs hungrily gnawing at me. The vastly intimidating presence slithered amongst the heavens in warps of no conceivable shape.
I gazed in a dreadful degree of confusion. My mind could no longer bear the thought of such horrendous abnormalities closing in on me - something of which my own vehicle succumbed to. I could barely grasp the reality of finding myself in sheer solitude in the middle of a broad open area. Did I suffer a delusional episode? Did I descend into madness as a result of what began as a perfectly normal road trip? Was there not a single thought of comfort that could spare the last bit of hope I had left? No matter how or where I'd end up, I simply wanted to remain alive, considering that anything could occur outside the boundaries of my imagination.
At a nearing distance, I noticed the road ascend up a dangerously steep hill. The closer the car approached it, the further it continued skyward through the obscuring clouds. Outside the order of passing time, I could feel my life tick away with every second. The unthinkable entity expanded itself, distorting the sky into sombre shades of a waning moon's night. Like a rocket, the car sped atop the road as if to deliver me to the unearthly predator. I beheld my unmitigated demise. I would perish with no understanding of what I had gotten myself into. There was nothing left to do other than to pray for a painless death. My humanly attempt to seek an ounce of serenity was made with fond memories of the time I had spent with my brother, yet I could not suppress the mutual pain that he would endure of never seeing me again.