In Wyoming, nobody can hear you scream…
“Oh no!” cried Bill. The tone of his voice combined with the amount of driving already accomplished created a high probability for an unbecoming scenario. He’s going to say we’re going the wrong way. I just know it.
Theoretically though, anything could come out of his mouth. But I knew better. I didn’t have to ask; yet I would anyway. For some foolish reason, in a silly attempt to hold onto some non-existent hope, I’d ask; that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t what I thought it was… I would ask, but I already knew—He better not say we’re going in the wrong direction… He better not say it…
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“We… we made a wrong turn. We’re… we’re going in the wrong direction.”
I knew it. I freaking knew it.
“Well, where do we gotta go?” There I go again with another question I didn’t need to ask. Bill stalled for a second. C’mon dude! Daylight’s burning and we’re wasting time! “Bill…?” He better not say back to Jackson Hole… No way I’m going back. Not this time… He better not say Jackson Freaking Hole…
“Back through Jackson Hole.”
“Nope. Not doing it.”
“But Zack, we got to—“
“That’s easy for you to say! You’re not the one who looked like a dingus in front of every— what?” I didn’t like the look on his face; something wasn’t right, I could smell it. “…You knew the whole time didn’t you?” Bill lowered his head, unwilling to utter a sound. “We’ve been driving for 45 minutes, and you wait until now to say something?”
“It wasn’t that long ago—“
“Then when was it?” Again, Bill countered with silence. Who knows how long he’s been sitting on this information? Was it since we put on “Don’t Fear the Reaper?” Cruisin’ down the road with the sun setting over the Tetons and all that cowbell blasting through the speakers sure made us feel stellar. Or what about when we stopped to get gas and a Mountain Dew? I bought him an entire 1-liter! It was so good, I pretty much forgot about the whole moose incident, until now! I guess Bill never heard the old adage, “Bad news doesn’t get better with time.”
“Look, there’s a highway 189 south, but I don’t know exactly where it leads to,” said Bill while perusing the pixilated map on his phone, poorly generated from the spotty cell phone coverage provided in rural Wyoming. It appeared that my unnerving tone had forced Bill to reevaluate his proposed route.
“What about this dot?” It was the only point of relevance shown, a point unbeknownst to us would eventually dimensionalize into the hellhole known as Rock Springs.
“But we don’t know what it is, or where it leads to… And what if it’s out of our way? Do we have enough gas? We already lost 45 minutes! How much longer? Another 45 minutes? Hours? Days??? I don’t know if we can risk…” Only words. That’s all they were; too many of them, drowning in Astronomy Domine and its succession of lowering pitches that opened Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. The looming decision drilled into my skull; beating, pounding, attempting to take control; sending me into a state of madness, one of which I was desperately working to stay afloat. Each second of delay marked an exercise of exasperation. Bill went on and I sat, forced listen and watch… watch the remaining pigments of light waste away from contemplation.
I stared… I stared beyond the walls of the canyon that enveloped the isolated highway; it stared back with a shot of smugness, a confrontational smirk of superiority. “Come. Come and see what’s inside…” The rocky landscape set a tension on my soul, urging me towards her, inviting me to discover the secrets hidden deep within the heart of the beast. “Come… I dare you.” It was a challenge to drive, a bet that we wouldn’t make it out alive. I set the car into drive.
Too late. Hard contact between my foot and the gas pedal sent the Benz speeding off into the south, leaving behind Jackson Hole and all of its self-imposed misery. The madness, however, lingered, concentrating deeper the further we traveled down the rabbit’s hole.
The sun pressed down on the canyon walls, sending a sharp and sudden chill into the car; a most rotten chill… the presence of death. It would be our only company.
“Maybe we should slow—“ Bill came to an abrupt stand still, silenced by the soft, yet commanding Wah pedal augmenting the tone of the guitar coming through the speakers; a tone that altered my perception of reality. We were under its control now, our destiny purely dependent on its mercy. Bill’s arm hair stiffened from the thousands of beads along the surface of his skin, formed within a matter of seconds…
Alone in the heart of Wyoming, the most sparsely populated state in the country, nobody can hear you scream. He knew it. He accepted it. He fully understood it…
…I did not.
My eyelids narrowed, beating into a nature that I was in contest with; a nature that had taken me into consumption, all driven by an eerie organ solo, now in harmony with the existing guitar procession. Bill watched from the corner of his eye as the speedometer rose with steady inclination. “69… 70… 71…”
For a short moment, I came out of my meditated conscious. Logic prevailed for that short moment, one last-ditch effort to save me from myself. It presented me with a choice; a stark contrast of reason and madness, a choice between good and evil, one last chance to turn back before becoming one with the darkness taking over. I turned to Bill and smiled. “75… 76… 77…”
Bill lowered himself into the crease of his seat, playing out a variety of possible death scenarios that could culminate in the lonely patch of the Wyoming wilderness. It was the only thing he could do. He dared not speak, not for the time being, for any uttered syllable would do nothing but exacerbate the situation. His words would simply be of no use… he was talking to a ghost.
“Hopefully we’ll drive off a cliff and the car will explode on impact. It’d be the quickest, and definitely the least painful. But what if we flip over into a ditch—God I hope we don’t flip over into a ditch… I wonder how long it takes for somebody to bleed out? Even if it’s an artery, that still takes a long time, I think… Are there wolves out in Wyoming? What if we’re stuck and get eaten alive, or have a group of vultures slowly peck away at my skin—Oh God, not the vultures…”
The centrifugal force caused by the sharp turn on the highway knocked Bill’s concentration and shifted his body towards the center console. The swift force went unnoticed by me, as did another glance at the speedometer from Bill, his curiosity only a vehicle to intensify his anxiety. “85… 86… 87…”
One by one the bugs gathered, mosquitoes, dragonflies, wasps, moths, entire arthropod families, accumulating onto the surface of my windshield, a newly designated insect burial ground; It was distinct life, a conglomerate of free spirits roaming the earth one second, and an indistinguishable mulch of blood and guts the next, all with no warning whatsoever. The mass genocide was horrifying, fuel for my decent into darkness. It was total power, an evil pact with Mother Nature bestowed upon me, to control, to live… to destroy. Bill’s heart was sent into a furious tremble; I could feel it. “90… 91… 92…”
Bill’s knuckles turned white as he gripped the side handle of the door and turned whiter as the music built into an anticipated climax, anything he could do to hold onto dear life. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the steering wheel, unwilling to give up the power I had just inherited. “No one man should have all that power,” wise words from the great philosopher Kanye West proving all too well to be accurate; wise words that had vanished from every crevice of my intellect.
Bill’s breaths turned heavy and rapid in a panic; mine turned heavy and rapid—in through the nose and out through the mouth—to focus in on the task at hand, a task forced upon me by nature, void of its internal meaning. “100… 101… 102…” His eyes widened with fear; mine with rage. There were veins—horrendous veins, bulging from my dilated pupils, doped with an extra dose of adrenaline, waiting for their moment to burst.
The music’s tension was heavy now, a bomb seconds from detonation, a bat on the verge of making its run out of Hell, an axe murderer ready to snap, ready for destruction, ready to release carnage—complete carnage on a population! Victims, all innocent and unsuspecting! Seconds from the end… the end… the end—
Then, the words entered my head, softly, subtly, with no hint of its origin but for the dying sun, bleeding out a dark shade of red across the barren desert. They existed as its last words, a catalyst for annihilation. The last words my conscious recognized…
“Careful with that Benz Zack…”
“107… 108… 109… 110—”
The cacophonous cry matched the growing roar of my engine, an ugly farewell to the last traces of forested life. Thousands of more bugs met the speeding deathtrap, joining the growing number of its kind. There they laid to rest in several deformed pieces, turning into a thick film as the windshield wipers swung back and forth, inciting my sick and twisted pleasure; one that I wanted, one I needed… one I just couldn’t get enough of.
Bill brought the car to a violent shake, unable to calm the senses triggered by the kamikaze mission he had foolishly joined. I joined in his tremble, unable to calm the excitement from the kamikaze mission I had foolishly accepted. My bloodshot eyes beamed at the changing road and landscape moving back and forth against the winding blacktop. I crossed over solid white and yellow lines, a combination of colors and shapes whose significance had been forgotten in my fit of fury. Any wrong move meant instant death, a concept that could not be acknowledged, not to a full-blown crack head, his habit fulfilled for the time, yet still in demand for more of his fix, and getting exactly what his heart dangerously wished.
There was darkness now, darkness that encouraged—demanded our intense push forward! Deafening screams continued to howl through the car, challenging my sustained psychosis. “Please… stop!” I couldn’t tell whether it was the Benz or Bill crying out for mercy; both were subjects to the cruel and unusual punishment.
The rocky landscape, changing ever so rapidly with the increase in speed, became one solid streak of brown stone, seamlessly turning a darker shade as dusk turned to twilight, and twilight to starlight. Air, country, and road had become one with each other. The thick film of permanently deformed insect parts continued its build with each stroke of the windshield wipers, worsening the field of vision again and again until it was non-existent.
Then, there was nothing… nothing but a solid black piece of metal flying down a black road at intense speeds, the operator’s mind blacked out with rage, made to traverse the blackened countryside against the black of the night. There was no trace of our existence except for the constant scream inside and out of the car, dragging on and on until there was nobody left to utter a scream, their silence commenced by the parched and swollen throats that had expensed the remainder energy required to make a sound. The music continued on; the developed fury unabated, even in the absences of screaming. The drug had accomplished its deliberate effects, lasting well into the night. It was the last thing I remembered… the last resemblance of a coherent thought…
We pulled into the gas station of Little America in the middle of a line of semi-trucks, having survived a roller coaster that had intentionally been blotted from memory. The car was in one piece, puttering into the gas station with less than a gallon of gas and a solid streak of organic bug compounds across its windshield.
“Hey dude, we’re ahead of schedule! How about we stop at this place called Rock Springs for the night? I saw a sign for it a few miles back… It looks like it’s only about 30 miles from here… I’ll start pumping up and get us a Rockstar or two. Maybe you can start wiping the windshield down. It’s gonna need it big time, and it might…” I stopped. Bill sat in the corner of his seat, permanently lodged in the small crease between the seat and the door. His body was emotionless, completely frozen except for the constant vibration sent throughout his whole body and cold droplets of sweat pressed out from his brow and down his bug-eyed, pale face, dripping into his mouth held agape.
…It was simply no use. I was talking to a ghost.