The Last Stop – By Richard E Schell

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I fight to control my fears, the fears and thoughts that began the day when all things changed the world forever. With many miles before me, the desert road stretches endlessly ahead, one mile blurring into the next, an unaltering panorama surrounds me. For hours not another car was in sight.

Only the occasional tumbleweed crosses the path which carries me back into a state of full consciousness of the present, then a moment later, I drift back into near somnolence from exhaustion. Yet I must go on with so much distance yet to travel. My mind turns again to thoughts of fear, provisions low and uncertainty about what the future journey brings. I can’t let the thoughts overtake me now, not any longer. 

Then without warning, the station appears, a quick right off the road, with little time to waste. Opening the cab’s door, I catch a blast of the scorching midday heat, the wind and sand in my face. Filling my tank, I can barely make out the sounds from the rusty old speakers.  The music seems to play on endlessly without beginning or end. The abandoned open door seems out of place. Wondering as I enter, “How could they have forgotten it in this wind and heat?” The country music is now clearer in the lonely stillness of the interior. Just the wind breaking the unexpected silence of the station’s emptiness.

Greeted by a lone straw cowboy hat atop the quiet dusty glass counter, I wonder how long it may have rested in its place. “Hello”, they must be in the back somewhere. Gathering a handful of protein bars onto the counter, I repeat “Hello, somebody!”

I eye the bathroom door at the back of the quiet lone corridor and approach, ”Hello, anyone there?” Grasping the dusty doorknob, I’m surprised when it opens. Just emptiness and the same country music from the restroom’s lone ceiling speaker. Impatiently I approach the front counter, then circle around to the side. Then I see him, first his boot, then his worn-out Levi’s, then the red and white of his plaid flannel shirt. He’s sprawled out, face down behind the counter.

Returning to the pickup, I grab the duffel bag from the seat and quickly dump its contents into the back of the cab. Sand in my eyes, I return through the open door. I stuff the protein bars from the counter and head down the aisles, quickly filling the bag with packaged foods and drinks. Then back to the car to empty the contents and repeat two more times. 

The engine initially gasps, then revs as the truck heads out onto the road. The station quickly disappears in the rearview mirror leaving nothing but empty desert again. Hours and miles pass. The sky transforms to purple, then red, then grey with the inevitable approach of evening. Heading further down the road, fear changes to relief. I managed to stay ahead of it, for today.


 

About the Author

RE Schell works in the biomedical field in California. He enjoys writing and has been published over fifty times in both the biomedical field as well as in fictional genres and poetry. He enjoys photography, literature, and travel. He also volunteers in animal rescue.