I was happy to leave the crazy traffic of Los Angeles. Bumper-to-bumper cars all trying to get ahead of each other; no courtesy at all. I turned up my phone, which was connected to my grey Prius and blasted my music. I used Maps to navigate my way up North but I had done this a few times now and things were getting familiar. A few more miles and the off ramp would be approaching. I rolled down the windows some, as traffic was pretty slow, and let the cool evening breeze in. It was still early enough that no one needed headlights yet.
Bobbing my head to the music, I noticed another grey Prius come flying up from a lane over to my right. I waited several moments then put my blinkers on and got over as well. I tapped my hands on the steering wheel. I had three hours to go. The first rest stop and I was going to fill up on gas and take a leak. My ass hurt from sitting for four hours already. Road trips were fun till you realized how stressful it was to drive through traffic all damn day. I looked at my phone to see my exit and noticed my Maps begin to load continuously.
“Fuck, just what I need,” I said. “Thank you, T-Mobile.”
I recognized my exit, thankfully and turned, pulling off of the freeway behind the other grey Prius. My Maps stopped loading and flashed the words “signal not found.” I rolled my eyes and just hoped the way North would be muscle memory by now. Most of the way was pretty easy. A long stretch that took you around mountains and through a segment of forest. Immediately, we were on a two-way highway, heading towards the first set of giant hills.
The Prius in front of me picked up speed as we reached the base of the hills and took the turning road a bit too fast for what I was comfortable with. I watched the car disappear around the bend. I chose this moment to flick on my headlights. It would be dark soon and I didn’t feel like struggling to see the road as the light waned.
I switched the song on my iPod and turned the heater in the car on, feet only, sitting back and relaxing as I drove. The road was significantly less busy than the freeway. The cars in front of me had pulled up far enough that I could only see their taillights. I looked out over to my left. The road dropped off some yards away and down below was a small town by the sea, surround by tall trees and woodland.
From behind me, two headlights suddenly shined into my side-view mirrors, making me squint and shield my eyes. I could tell by how high up and bright they were, that they belonged to a semi-truck.
“There goes my night vision.”
I sped up a bit, trying to put some distance between us. I checked the time. Almost six thirty. Twenty more minutes and it would be fully dark. The next rest area wasn’t for a several miles. I was still making good time.
Lights shined into my rearview mirror and I squinted again. The truck had caught up once more but I hadn’t slowed down; it had sped up.
“All right, already. Fine, just go.”
I checked for oncoming traffic then put on my lights, pulling to the left and slowing down so they could pass. The truck sped up and as he reached me, I heard the voice of a man.
“You motherfucker! Hey!” they shouted.
I turned my music down then leaned over, confused. I looked out of my partially rolled down window briefly to see a middle-aged man, scruffy face and sun-tanned skin scowling down from the cabin of his truck. He stuck his hand out his window and flicked me off. Great. I sped up, not knowing what his deal was. As I did, the trucker also increased his speed, keeping up with me. We were flying down the highway and I was in the wrong lane. Headlights flashed ahead and a surge of fear shot through me. I laid on my horn but the truck driver didn’t budge.
“What the hell is your problem?!” I screamed, hitting the breaks.
I slowed down enough to get behind the truck and let the car in the other lane pass by without incident. However, ahead of me, the trucker was throwing on his brakes. I slammed mine and came to a steady halt. My heart was racing. What in the world was going on? I began to turn my wheel, taking that moment to try and get ahead but the trucker was already getting out and as I tried to pass, he jumped in front of my car, slamming his hands on the hood.
My mouth was suddenly dry as I stared into his dark eyes. He was full of rage. I didn’t understand. Do I get out the car? Do I run him over? Where the fuck was highway patrol when you needed them?
“You think you can cut me off, huh?!” the trucker yelled. “You cut me off at the highway!”
What? I shook my head and waved my hands to signal I didn’t I didn’t know what he was talking about. The man slammed his hands on the hood of my car again.
“Dumbass grey Prius think you can fuck with anyone,” he shouted.
Grey Prius? My stomach sank and I remembered the other grey Prius that shot ahead of me. I was certain I didn’t cut this guy off. I took in a deep breath. He was mistaken. I took another breath and collected myself. We could work it out. I unbuckled myself and got out, putting my hands up in a friendly manner. I tried to smile. The man immediately stood up straight and balled his fists up.
“Easy,” I said. “I didn’t cut you off. I think it was the other Prius that passed me.”
The man looked at me.
“Bullshit,” he said.
“No, really. There was another grey Prius. I saw it.”
The man’s eyes seemed to darken even more. He bared his teeth in a furious fit.
“Right,” he said. “Scared mother fucker afraid to admit it. I’ll give you something to get scared about.”
The trucker reached behind his back and came away with a gun. A jet-black gun that gleamed in my headlights. I felt myself freeze and my head get light. He walked towards me and my eyes widened. On instinct I moved back, frantically grabbing for my car door but the trucker had his gun raised.
“Don’t move, mother fucker or I’ll blow your brains out!” he yelled.
What he hell was happening? I didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I climbed in my car and the man rushed me. I closed my door and went for the gear but the trucker reached through my partially open window and slammed the cold, hard metal of his gun against my head. I saw stars; my head and ears rung. He hit me again and caught me on my left eye. I cried out and felt the blood and swelling begin. I scrambled towards my right and caught a glimpse of my phone, noticing my Maps had finally loaded.
“Get out the car,” the trucker said. “Get out the fucking car!”
There was nowhere to go inside my car. Where was everyone? These roads weren’t as crowded as near the city. That’s why I was alone. I hated traffic.
The car door opened and hands grabbed at my shirt, dragging me out of the Prius. I flailed and felt a scream bubble up from my chest. This was happening. This was really happening. I opened my mouth to let out the terror that filled me only to have the trucker bust the front of my mouth and teeth with the butt of his gun. I tasted and saw my blood spilling out of my mouth. I groaned and whimpered, tears blurring my vision.
“St-stop. I swear—”
“Swear what? Huh?” the trucker yelled in my face.
“Please, it wasn’t—”
He hit me again, this time with his fist. I dropped to the ground, covering my head as he began to punch and kick me. He looked like he weighed fifty pounds more than I did and I felt it in my ribs as he kicked me in the torso, knocking the wind from my lungs. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. When was he going to shoot me? Would they find my body out on the road, my brains drying on the pavement? Would my family miss me?
“Look at me,” he said. “Look at me, cocksucker.”
The trucker grabbed me by the head and turned it so that I was looking up. I couldn’t see out of my swollen left eye. The man pressed the barrel of his gun against my forehead then spit right into my blood-soaked face. I flinched and he laughed. He held my head for a moment, fingers gripping my skull so tight, I thought it would burst like a watermelon.
“Dumbass, Prius driving asshole,” he said then shoved me away, hard enough my head hit my car door.
I curled up, waiting to be shot or for the beatings to begin again but all I heard was the crunch of boots then the sound of a door closing. I listened as the wheels of his truck pulled off and his roaring engine became nothing but a purr in the distance.
I stayed on the ground, crying. A couple of cars passed me on the side of the road. One on my side of the road honked at me for laying there, obstructing their path. It was dark now and the only light I had was the moon and my headlights.
I finally got up, half blind and missing teeth. I clambered to my feet, coughing and spitting blood all over my shirt. I got into my car and felt around till I found an old rag. It was black and dirty because I used it for wiping my car windows. I pressed it to my mouth anyhow and shut my car door. I looked at my phone and thought about calling the cops. I hadn’t even got a license plate number much less the guy’s name.
I slammed my fist against the steering wheel, screaming and crying in pain. My music was playing softly in the background. Grabbing my phone, I noticed Maps was still open and my ETA had lengthened by thirty minutes. I cut the music off and sat in the silence of my hybrid car, its engine silent and still. I placed one hand on the wheel, trembling. Then I put my car in drive and headed for the nearest rest stop.