The End of the Road
Illustrated by Betsy Streeter
Cliff was on his way home. He’d been on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico for the last six months. He was enjoying the scenery on both sides of the highway. The rolling hills and forests were a welcome change from the derricks stuck like push pins into the vast blue map of the Gulf waters.
The interstate was empty. The three cars behind him took the last exit, as if they were traveling together. He caught a glimpse of a sign that read something “Maneuvers.” But it didn’t mean anything to him, so he kept going.
This wasn’t a remote part of the country, so it was odd that he was alone on this stretch of interstate. Not even a state trooper who, if there had been one, would undoubtedly have enjoyed writing the speeding ticket.
Coming up was road construction, and it was one lane. There was no one working though. No heavy equipment operators, no flag men, no one. The single lane lasted 5 miles, but with no traffic, no workers around, and a fairly smooth road, he was able to maintain a good speed.
He drove along for another 50 miles, and it felt creepy, like he was the last man on earth. He had felt that way on the oil rigs late at night sometimes when the moon was just right—either full or new.
Or, he imagined he was driving to the edge of the Earth where it had been split in half and when he reached the end of the road, he’d be looking out into dark space. Out on the oil rigs, he had seen the deep blackness before, as if he were out in empty space with nothing but derricks floating about like so much space debris.
But that was nonsense. Besides he would have felt any catastrophic event that could have cleaved the entire planet in two.
Suddenly several thundering explosions rocked his car. At the bottom of the hill he saw two huge this-worldly tanks draped in camouflage crossing the road, firing at the opposite hill.
Just as he reached for reverse, he was swarmed by jeeps filled with barking MPs, yelling for him to get out of the car, NOW.
As soon as he got out of the car, he was forced face first onto the ground, where he glanced up at spindly green legs that were too long for their khaki pants.