Jesse Toler is a program coordinator for Game Changer, a non-profit in association with the Orange County library system. He produces a podcast called Wubbalubbadubcast, a Rick and Morty close watch. It can be found on Itunes and Soundcloud. He is currently furthering his education at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.
THE STATE OF ENTROPY IN WHEELS
The truck floated on green fog along a cracked interstate. Mindy couldn’t see the suspension gates under the wheel wells, that's how bad the leakage was. Her father's voice paraded under slips of worry that wrinkled her brow. “There’s a man who has little taste for style.”
Mindy had her thumb stuck out like she read about in library glyphs. Coast to coast, the way it used to be done. She wanted to see how sun sets on both sides of Old’merica.
The truck stopped and a window tinted black scrawled. It sounded like a nursery of starving babies.
“An old 20th century model, right? I’ve seen glyphs. Real retro-swank,” she said.
Out from a halo of oil pitch gleamed six shades of red lidless eyes. Smoke gathered over lighting burst sparks from unhinged plugs in the chest cavity. Gears slick with slime, felled green by meat rot, ground axels epoxied to a frame that smelled of cow tongues and shark cartilage. A four-fingered gloved hand reached for the passenger door. From somewhere in the truck, chains rattled.
“No.” Mindy stepped back. She white-knuckled the straps of her walker’s pack. Her bones trembled.
There was a sudden shriek of metal and the door opened. Mindy averted her eyes from full view of the cabin, turning to the road. The interstate was bare coming and going, although in front of her, kissing the horizon, she could see the fuel depot she’d been heading for.
“I’ll get the next one,” she said. A hodgepodge mech, she thought. Has to be.
Its voice was a spinning fan-belt chewing gravel.
She started walking. The truck floated where she left it. Its headlights were white phosphorous eyes.
Distance came and went under the steady beat of her feet. Over her shoulder, the truck remained as a tombstone even as the depot inched closer. The fact that it did, didn’t bring relief. She quickened her pace to match the bop-bop-bop of her heartbeat.
The sun moved through the clouds on its invisible road. Lights popped out from the darkening shades of blue. Not starlight, but satellites that kept the weather calm and held firm the world's connective tissues. Behind them, maybe she could see stars.
Her steady jog became a sprint as she passed the row of fuel pods. The truck was as she left it. The headlights blinded everything.
She pushed open the glass door and slammed it shut. The room shook with a loud bang. A holo fizzled at the service post. Seamless auto-mats filled the walls.
“Go easy, it ain’t yours.” The service holo was an old man with a white beard and tucked in pinstriped shirt. The name tag read Sam.
“I’m sorry. It’s just there’s a…truck-thing following me.” She hit the dimmer on the glass pad and the store darkened.
“Does it need fuel?”
She made a small sight in the touch glass. “I don’t know if it needs anything.”
“Don’t want trouble.”
For the first time, the twin lights crept forward on the interstate. She jumped back and the sight closed. “Is anybody else here?”
“There ain’t any living staff. I can service all your travel needs.”
“That’s not supposed to be funny, little lady.”
“You guys fixing up any wrecks?”
“We don’t do model work.” Sam folded his 2D arms over his 2D chest.
Mindy ran to the service post, poking the name badge. A holo-track came up with a menu. Sam’s head hovered over it. “Excuse me?”
“I’m calling emergency.” Mindy found the dial pad putting in the federal codes. A single beep told her the line connected. The tension in her shoulders released. “Hel-,”
A spinning fan-belt chewed handfuls of gravel. Sam’s head flickered static and his eyes went white.
Mindy hit end call.
The full body image expanded, shrinking the menu. “Can’t help you, Miss.”
“It’s not fair!” She hit the glass with the flat of her palm.
The room blared red. Steel walls dropped over the auto-mats. Sam’s face became that of the disapproving father, but the voice was mechanical. “You have caused a civil disturbance. You must leave the premises now.”
The glass wall went transparent and there, parked next to a fuel pod, the truck floated on a torrent of green vaporous faces masked in silent pain.
“You can’t. Please listen, I am not safe out there!”
Sam only glared while the same message informed her she was a disruption in service. Mindy had never felt so cold before. Her sanctuary was surrounded by an endless desert in all directions, barren and lifeless.
The truck rumbled alive, but the oil pitch halo that was the drivers head bobbed near the rear bed. Mindy bolted through the depot to the cabin, sliding across the couch of various interlocking arms sewn together. She choked on gangrene air. The holo-nav lit on the dashboard and she hit gas. The truck responded, a smooth frictionless coast. In the rear view, the driver stood at the depot, holding the intake catch in one four fingered hand.
She drove like a prisoner escaped. It wasn’t enough to get away, because she didn’t think distance mattered. Little gave her comfort. Above, the celestial engine propelled its bodies until a new day dawned.
The truck was hot and lonely. The holo-nav prompted for gas and stop; no radio app, nor available streaming service, although there was an ancient program for Chess. It wasn’t Mindy’s game.
The dot appeared on the road mid-morning. Mindy leaned on the gas and the dot grew into an old wanderer, bald and baking under the sun. Robes whipped along a breeze. She nursed stop on the nav until the truck came to a halt. Chains rattled.
The Methuselah stepped up into the cabin.
Mindy hit the gas with a four-fingered glove.