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A Bad Road Trip

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Part I


The temptation of sleep was strong, but Maggie fought it. She cranked the AC and blasted the music. And, for good measures, she popped candies that she hid in her purse on the passenger seat. Still, fatigue fought back and put her into momentary trances as she drove down a long stretch of highway in a deserted land.

She yanked herself up from the steering wheel and hit the headrest of her seat. The shock opened her eyes to witness the first sliver of daylight dancing on her dashboard. It was a welcome sight, considering that she had been up all night in order to get home as quickly as possible.

“By the dawn early light,” she sang. A reassuring smile crossed her face. But the sudden jolt from sleep, as well as the presence of the light revealed another problem: her eyes were stinging.

Maybe this mad dash home from college was not a good idea. Yet, as a glimmer of common sense entered her mind, it was soon beaten back by that desire to be back home. She had chosen a drive home rather than a flight home. Maggie believed that it would be cheaper to do (she didn’t account for gasoline, however). Still, she surmised she could make the 1000 mile drive in three days or less.

Her eyes kept stinging. Maybe it was the light, she thought. She grabbed her sunglasses and immediately realized that was a bad move. Despite the present of dawn’s early light, the land was still dark. The glasses only made things darker. She whipped them off and tossed it on the purse.

The purse! It had the cure for her. Somewhere near the vial of powerful prescription pills, her mp3 player, wallet and other necessities for the road, was her savior on the trip. She realized she needed a shot of sugar to keep her going. Thus, she fished for them (all the while keeping her eyes on the road), and eventually came up with something oval in shape. She didn’t bother to look at it before popping it in her mouth. Oddly, the sweetness didn’t last long. It became powdery and sour.

She reached a bend in the road and immediately hit a straight thoroughfare through open country. She sped up, hoping to make up time.

The sun, by this time, was peeking over the range behind her. It began to turn darkness into light. But, it was also searing more pain into Maggie’s eyes. Finally, the light began to burn. She leaned over to get her sunglasses.

And that’s when she saw it. A slender serpentine body slid from the bottom of the cup holder and wrapped itself around the automatic stick.

In shock, she reeled back and hit the driver side door window with such force that she nearly knocked herself out. The car jerked and coasted into the opposite lane. The car’s action, however, forced her to return her attention to the road.

“Oh my gosh,” she uttered as her heart pounded.

That wasn’t good, she thought. The sensation kept her awake and that was important.

“Get those serpents away! Get them away!”

Maggie wondered: “Did I see that correctly?”

She rubbed her blood-shot eyes and then glanced at the mini-serpent. Yet, all she saw was the chord of her charger.

She let out a relieved chuckle; it was the type that stated, “What a fool I’ve been.”

Something caught her attention. She peered toward the side of the road and saw a sign that stated: “Rest Area” at the top, and “3 miles” on the bottom. She blew a sigh of relief. This little incident made her realize she needed to stop, if only for an hour.

She made up her mind: “Rest stop, here I come.”

The stinging eyes and fatigue quickly returned. Some more sweets would help her cause. Thus, she reached for her little helper, and found what she was looking for. But, she was perplexed by what she grabbed. The candy was soft, not hard as the others she popped.

In the end, it didn’t really matter. Candy was candy. She retrieved it (again keeping her eyes on the road) as she and her car passed a signing proclaiming the rest area to be two miles away. She was pulling her arm away when something wrapped around her arm and began to squeeze.

The mini-serpent had returned and it was now flashing its rectangular fang at her. She tried to yank her arm away, but something else -- small and wiry -- in the purse grabbed her hand. The second attack sent her into to uncontrollable panic. With one violent thrust, she freed her hands from the purse, only to pull out a hydra-headed fiend. Each of the two heads and bodies weaved through her fingers and tried to bind it. She watched as the grid-like round faces did their hideous work.

She screamed and flailed her body. All the while, her panic caused the car to shoot, to and fro, between lanes. The tires screeched with every violent turn it took. Maggie’s panic became so intense that her senses began to fail her. She couldn’t see the road as it became blurred and populated by multi-colored lights. She couldn’t hear the music blaring from the car speakers.

But, she could feel the road under the tires. It went from being smooth to suddenly being jerky and lurching. Her vision cleared when the car hit something: She saw a green sign “Rest Stop, Next Exit” fly over the car. Eventually, that sensation vanished as well. She felt nothing but air and a feeling of falling.

Seconds later – in the final memory of the event, her senses momentarily came back. She saw the grass covered lip of the ditch, and she soon heard the car play a violent accordion solo on its hood.

Then, everything went to black.

Part III


Red and blue lights swirled in the morning light. Urgent voices carried. Maggie turned her head to see two men in dark blue uniform watching from the distance. She also felt the sensation of moving. She peered a few inches to her right to see a woman in white trotting next her and pushing. She turned to the other side to see a man in white doing the same thing.

Her disorientation was soon replaced by a shot of pain. She moaned. The woman responded: “Hold on there.”

The next thing she knew she was inside a confined area with the two that put her there frantically putting tubes into her. She panicked again, thrashing her arms at the two until the two overpowered her and finished their job.

“Get those serpents away! Get them away!”

Maggie screamed at the top of her lungs. So much so that the men outside could hear her. The howls and shrieks soon ended when the ambulance door was closed.

The men, officers Daniels and Timmons of the highway patrol, could only watch as the ambulance started pulling away from the scene.

Immediately, Daniels saw what Timmons was referring to. The nearly empty vial had a wide crack at the bottom. Daniels only noticed it when Timmons rotated it toward him.

“Serpents?” Officer Daniels asked.

Curiosity forced him to turn his attention to the wrecked car and the debris that lay around it. There, near the passenger side were two curious items: a headset to Maggie’s Mp3 player and a charger for a cell-phone (with USB connection, of course).

“What was she thinking when she crashed?” Daniels thought out loud.

Officer Timmons shook his head. “I think I know why.”

Officer Timmons ushered Daniels to his car. Maggie’s purse and its content were splayed out on top of the hood. Timmons grabbed the vial of prescription drugs.

“Notice something?” Timmons asked.

“She was under the influence? Wonderful.”

“Before you blame her for intentionally doing that,” Officer Timmons continued. “Look a little closer.”

Immediately, Daniels saw what Timmons was referring to. The nearly empty vial had a wide crack at the bottom. Daniels only noticed it when Timmons rotated it toward him.

“I found it in this,” Timmons said, holding up the bag of assorted candies.

The sunlight of the morning helped to illuminates things; the pills were sprinkled in among the wrapped and unwrapped candies. Some of the candies also looked like the pills.

“Wow,” Officer Daniels responded. “How did she last so long?”

“Who knows,” Office Timmons responded. “I just hoped she didn’t fry her brains.”

Part III

Once down the road, Maggie calmed down. Her eyes grew heavy and this time she nodded off in the back of the ambulance. But before she closed her eyes, she had one comforting feeling. Those were just tubes in her. The serpents were gone.

“No more serpents,” she whispered before sleep overtook her.

Extra: Inspiration From a Workshop Project

The inspiration for this story was actually from a teacher's workshop activity. In this activity, I was placed in a groups of five. We pulled out items from your pockets and placed them in the middle of the table. By design, everyone should have pulled out two items.

Afterward, the items were covered up. As part of the activity, one person chose at least five items from the cover that was placed on them. The rest of us were to observe the items and attempt to compare and contrast each item.

The final item to complete was to take the items and incorporate them in a story.

This activity was meant to demonstrate the use of higher order thinking in writing. It is also meant to prepare teachers for the eventual shift to common core curriculum. Part of this shift to place more emphasis on writing, thinking, and applying a problem to a real world situation. Also, it is to be an example of the rigor of "higher thinking" (this will likely be the subject of an article in the future).

Anyway, to make a long story short, my group had placed on the table pulled out from the cover a set of car keys, sunglasses, a cellphone charger, prescription pills, a packet of M&M, and the headset to a MP3 player.

This wasn't exactly the story that we came up with. However, as my group started putting this together, I decided to come up with my own and see what I could create in a short time.

After doing so, I kept it in my journal, rewrote it at home, and polished it for publication.


© 2014 Dean Traylor

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