Michael Williams is an online student, and a future graduate, at Full Sail University. He began his journey as a Game Design student before realizing his passion for writing. He hopes to realize his dreams as a proficient and exciting writer in the entertainment industry books, digital fiction, film, and gaming narrative. His uncanny perception on reality and life have given him the curiosity to seek change by way of words. It is his hope that through his writing he will inspire the generations of tomorrow to right the wrongs of our generations past. When he isn’t creating interesting characters or innovative new story plots, Michael spends his time playing through interesting and exciting game narratives like Assassins Creed, Watch Dogs, or Horizon Zero Dawn. He also writes music and plays the piano and guitar. Those all fall second to Michael’s greatest creation, his two boys, Calum and Syler, and his little princess Aubrielle, where he draws his greatest strength from.
The Last Ride
The rugged old Mac truck came to a rough and loud stop. The welcome neons shined through the passenger window flickering like a strobe light. After emptying the anti-lock brakes from the air tanks the driver reached over and gave the sandy haired girl a good shaking trying to wake her up.
“Missy, you need to wake up naw. We’re here.” said the truck driver.
Misty eyed and a little concussed from the deep sleep she was in, she stirred stretching her arms and extending her long porcelain tanned legs. Those legs didn’t go unnoticed by the driver who took a longer assessment than he needed to. With a smirk on his face that stretched from one side of his cheek to the next his yellow mustard teeth paving the way. The sandy haired girl rubbed the back of hair neck revealing a small ladybug tattoo that was very well colored.
“Come on ladybug,” said the truck driver, sarcasm rolling off of every word as if he were giving his best attempt to flatter her.
“This is the last stop till we get to the Nevada, Utah border. I know you gotta be starving.”
“Fir the last time sir my name is Sammie.” replied Sammie, with a deep Arizona accent.
“They got showers here, old man?”
“They ought to. I could show you where if you like, ladybug.” said the truck driver, his eyes following every curve of Sammie’s figure. The grin on his face couldn’t have gotten much more apparent in his real intentions for showing her to the shower.
“Dah name is actually Sirus like after that Greek God or somethin.” chuckled Sirus.
“You mean Osiris. As in the Egyptian God of Death. Heralding in lost souls for his afterlife?” replied Sammie. Thinking hysterically to herself what an idiot he must be to use an ancient historical reference to pick up babes. What is this world turning into?
Siris sat back in his elevated seat with a look of disgust across his face. The light from truck stop playing color shows on his half shaven half hairy face. Sammie looked confused as if feeling that correcting an important historical reference was wrong and why he would take that so offensively. Unless he really has been using that to pick up chicks and the reason it fails and they leave off laughing is because Osiris is actually an Egyptian God and not a Greek God. Sammie had no idea how much she just changed Siris's life. She didn’t feel bad though. How could she? History was a big part of her life and well, at the moment, her present. Siris was lowering the seat so he could reach the floorboard of the truck. In comparison, Sammie was a bit taller than Siris, considerably more actually for a teenage girl.
“Look I’m gonna grab my bag and ask someone inside where the shower is. Are we still good for the rest of the ride,” asked Sammie, as she extended her hand out bearing sixty dollars?
Siris looked down at the money then back at Sammie with the same look of disturbed frustration. All this time woman laughed at him when referencing Osiris. His world was withered with loneliness and Sammie had just shattered his confidence. He sized her up again and rubbed his chin. He adjusted his hat and stared out the window for a minute. Sammie was looking confused. She and Siris had a deal. She would give him one hundred and twenty dollars half at the first stop and the rest when they reached Reno, Nevada where her older cousin dances at.
“Right. No, yeah sixty dollars. I knew Osiris was Egyptian I always joke about that seeing if anyone could tell the difference.” exclaimed Siris, trying to cover up his lack of historical accuracy. As painstaking as it was to realize he had been wrong a lot of his life.
“I will be in the back cab probably sleeping or so just don’t touch the AC and lock the doors when you come in.” said Siris completely turned off of his previous intentions he thought as he snatched the sixty dollars out of her hand.
Sammie felt so rejuvenated in the shower. After being on the move the last couple of days avoiding police cars and stores with cameras. She was relieved little shanty places like this existed still. She stepped out of the shower and washed her face in the sink. Wiping away the moisture from the mirror she stared at herself. Barely remembering the all-state athlete in high school she used to be. She rubbed her fingers over the scar on her head that drove a nice ninety-degree imprint into her skull. Remembering the horrors of the night her boyfriend tried to take her virginity by force. A tear swelled in her left eye. She wiped it away before it could travel down her fading bruised cheek. Sammie purchased a few snacks from the counter and a cold drink before walking outside.
She noticed the truck was gone. Her eyes went from normal to panic. She sprinted to the outlining of the truck stop to see if maybe Siris moved the truck to a darker part of the drive because of the lights. To no avail, the truck was gone along with Siris and her hopes of reaching her cousin. She ran back to the store to see if anyone saw him. A man sitting on the tailgate of old rusty truck was eating some old pie.
“Excuse me, Sir!” yelled Sammie from afar as she was still in mid-sprint.
“Did you see an old red Mac truck leave or move somewhere on the lot?”
“Yep. About twenty or so minutes ago. Odd fella if you asking.” said the man.
“I hope you weren’t riding with him. Me I would be a little concerned.”
She put her hands to her head cringing her face and wrinkling her forehead trying not to hear the truth of the what just happened. How could someone just abandon some else at a dark old creepy truck stop? It was unethical not to mention it was a dick move. That was Sammie though always correcting people when they were wrong never thinking of how others would feel about. She sat on the bench nearby. It was cold and rough. The paint barely stuck to the surface of what used to be a nice glossy red. Who paints a bench red in the middle of a desert? That is kind of an oxymoron, right? Sammie curled up on the bench her arms wrapped around her legs her sunk into her knees.
What could she do now? All she could think about was going to jail for the rest of her life never going to college or going to the prom. What would her parents think? Probably what anybody would think when you leave your, now ex-boyfriend, in puddle of his own blood after introducing him to the fine artwork of a dremeled granite square. It was an engraved piece of granite she made for him on their one year anniversary. She began to sob into her fresh dry designer jeans as the sand begin to crunch below the footsteps of an old man.
“That was a pretty good piece of pie.” said the Old Man, as he took a seat next to Sammie on the bench
Sammie heard the old man's comment but did not care to lift her head to respond. After all, it was like the middle of the night. She felt as though an old man eating pie that looked like it had been expired for fifty years was kind of out of place. So entertaining his comments felt odd.
“You know what they say about pie don’t you?” asked the Old Man.
“It’s not the texture of the pie that makes it beautiful it’s the first bite. You taste buds become overwhelmed by the flavor it’s like riding a bike for the first time. The wind in your face the cheering of your father behind you and the feeling of accomplishment you feel inside. It’s very warm like the pie, of course, is where I was going with that.”
“I’m not stupid. I understand metaphors and figures of speech pretty good,” replied Sammie, flushed tones echoing carrying the odd sound, her head still buried in her knees.
“Well, I never presume anyone's intellect. Everyone is a genius in his or her own right. It is impossible to know everything unless you're of course a God.” said the Old Man.
She lifted her head and gave the Old Man a peculiar stare with an eyebrow raised then she asked the Old Man, “Were you listening to our conversation in the truck earlier?” Not realizing the Old Man wasn’t there earlier before she had gotten out of the truck to go take a shower.
“Well you know how it is these days. I’m not much good with my eyes but my hearing likes to hear things I, of course, object but I can’t help it.” answered the Old Man, intertwining his hands resting them in his lap.
“You know it’s kind of rude to listen in on someone else’s conversation.” snapped Sammie. She was very paranoid about the nature of her travels she has worked real hard to avoid being heard when asking for help even when you came across Siris at the local truck stop in Danes, Arizona she used her wits to lure him to the truck faking a story about hitting the back of his trailer.
“I would apologize but last time I checked noises weren’t owned and the desert was a free place to eat a good piece a pie. You kinda interrupted my quiet time so don’t be upset with me.” answered the Old Man.
“Why are you out here in a desolate run down place like this crap hole anyway?” asked Sammie curious to know why he was there. Ignoring his argument completely. Anyone could eat pie anywhere else in the world and this old guy decides to eat his in a corroded old junk haven like this truck stop.
“Well believe it or not this ‘ole crap hole’, use to have a nice diner back when the owner's brother was alive. I was a great place to eat some of the best home baked pie this side of the Utah state line.” replied the Old Man, excited at first but his expression turned cold as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He opened it up showed a picture of young girl with bright blonde hair her smile was so perfect it would put crest whitening products to shame. In the picture, she wore a red bow in her hair that was attached to a band that folded her back. Her bright blue eyes brought out the light brown, perfectly placed, freckles on her cheeks that washed over the bridge of her nose like a small river. She was wearing a light blue dress with thin silk like sleeves.
“I use to bring my daughter her every Sunday. After we ate here we went up to my brother's ranch about fifteen or so miles up the highway right before you get onto the 191 to Nevada.”
Sammie’s face went pale feeling very bad now. She noticed he used the phrase ‘use to’ in past tense. An Old Man spending his evenings trying to hang on to the memory of his lost daughter. She felt like a total failure. Thinking of her mom and dad back home wondering if they were doing something to remember her by. It had been three days almost. She remembered that her little sister had a dance recital this week and how she promised to help her with her routine. A feeling of pain came over her like a gut feeling that what she was doing was wrong. She couldn’t let her family see her like that though. The blood that covered her hands, the ripped clothes she was in. Her hair in a frazzled state of chaos as she remembers that moment in the bathroom looking into the mirror smeared makeup and a busted lip.
“Her name was Sheena.” said the Old Man, he kept staring at the photo remembering her laughter as she would ride the horses on the ranch at his brothers. How happy that made her.
“I’m sorry about your daughter,” said Sammie, her head completely straight in unison with her back alert and attentive. The look on her face no longer sorrowful but still fraught with disappointment.
“What happened to her if you don’t mind me asking?”
The old man closed the wallet rather fast and moved to put his wallet back into his back pocket. The pain of the answer to that question painted his face like no tomorrow. For Sheena, tomorrow never came. The Old Man face reeked of what looked like guilt, not just pain. He gathered his senses and deflected the question though.
“Well she died running away from her problems.” snapped the Old Man.
“I know a runner when I see one and you young thing are running from something. Or is an Old Man eating pie in the middle of the early morning at a ‘crap hole’ like this, not the only thing out of place?” exclaimed the Old Man, sarcasm filling the tone in which the statement carried.
“I’m actually going to visit my cousin in Reno.” replied Sammie, her eye’s avoiding the Old Man's gaze as he looked up her face.
The Old Man chuckled. He looked around for a bit. They both sat in silence. Out of nowhere, he asked her a question.
“Do you smell something?” asked the Old Man, sniffing the air acting like a skunk just walked by.
“Well now that you ask I can smell that nasty old pie you were eating.” replied Sammie, her stomach turning just thinking about it.
“No that’s not it.” said the Old Man.
“Well then Old Man I guess your sense of smell was affected too.” replied Sammie.
“Yep that’s what I thought.” said the Old Man.
Sammie looked confused feeling like she missed some part of the conversation. She looked around as he did and nothing was going on around them. Truthfully the stench of old rust and stagnant water was really the only thing she really smelled.
“What is it that you smell because you're starting to creep me out a little.” snapped Sammie, moving a little closer to the edge of her side of the bench.
“Well if you really want to know. I smell the biggest bowl of…”
“Of pie.” interrupted Sammie.
“No, I was gonna say the biggest bowl of horse shit. Which is metaphorical because you would need a pretty big bowl to put horse shit in. It’s not the cereal bowl type” finished the Old Man.
“Look, you don’t think a cute young thing in designer jeans and name brand shirts with your long blonde hair, blue eyed self, isn’t a little bit suspicious? Hitching rides with truckers and showering and ‘crap hole’ truck stops are out of place. Lady, you can’t polish a turd with a gold nugget you just have to accept that you just put a gold nugget in a turd now the gold nugget has crap on it. Everyone and everything here is a pile of crap and you're the gold nugget.” finished the Old Man, staring at her with the most serious pie eating old man face this side of Utah.
“Sammie my daughter was killed because she didn’t face her problems. I’d hate for you to experience the same fate. Judging by the clothes on your back and counting the teeth in your mouth you got a pretty good life where you're coming from.” stated the Old Man.
“I did something bad a few days ago and I didn’t know what was gonna happen to me if I would have stayed, so I ran,” replied Sammie, not trying to give too many details. She had held onto this for so long, she felt, it was somewhat pleasant that someone cared enough to ask her what was wrong. Anyone else would genuinely do the opposite.
“Running never ends well Sammie, never.” said the Old Man.
“Then what am I supposed to do go back home tell my family I’m sorry your daughter is a murderer and a failure.” shouted Sammie, realizing how loud she had gotten the Old Man oddly not flinching by what she had just said.
“I told you my Sheena died because she didn’t want to face her problems but really it was because I never faced mine. I killed my daughter Sammie so I come here every Sunday night and I punish myself.” said the Old Man, a tear trickling from his cheek the penance from his heavy heart weighing heavily on his face.
“I don’t understand.” replied Sammie.
“How did you kill her? You don’t look capable of beating this bench to death,” asked Sammie.
“Sheena was a barrel racer. Ever since my brother bought the ranch. She started when she was six. Her mother was a rider and I use to tell Sheena stories of her mother's rides all the time before bed. Her eye’s lit up with happiness so she made her mind up and told me she wanted to be a barrel racer forever like her mother. She was my little princess how could I say no? Sheena was twelve and Utah were accepting riders twelve and up into an exclusive competition team. She had brought me the flyer home after one of her rodeos that my brother took her too. After losing her mother I...uh. I developed a really bad drinking problem and I didn’t want Sheena to leave me too. She was all I had left. In order for her to be a part of this team, she needed to attend training sessions and sponsored events which were closer to my brother's ranch than our house which is a good four hours away.” explained the Old Man, as he began choking up. Guilt covering his face as it turned a light shade of red. You could tell his remorse was real.
“She ran away, didn’t she?” asked Sammie, looking sad herself crossing her arms as the goosebumps plagued her skin.
“She asked for a ride from one of the other riders moms who frequented the rodeos because of her son and her husband did the father/son roping events. I had gotten home from work early and found a note on the table that said…”
I’m sorry but I want to ride just like mommy. You told me to follow my heart no matter what. I think mommy would not tell me no. I will call you when I get to Uncle Robby’s ranch. Please don’t be mad at me daddy.
I love you,
“I flipped over the kitchen table broke a few plates. It wasn’t pretty. I took a fifth of Captain Morgan into the shower with me. It didn’t take long to get my senses to scream Sheena’s name at the wall of the shower. All the while I was blaming her mother for making her leave.” said the Old Man.
“Well, that wasn’t fair to her mom. She was just trying to be like her,” said Sammie, her tone flustered with sympathy for Sheena and her mother.
“I am an ass hole, thank you. Like I didn’t already know that. Anyway, I got in the truck and drove slamming down can after can of beer. When I got to my brothers he came bursting through the screen door outside to defend my daughter. It’s like I had tunnel vision I didn’t hear a word of what he was saying to me all I could see was my little Sheena cowering behind the door. Quietly she spied on the one sided conversation hoping Uncle Robby would save her like he always did. I pushed my brother away and walked up to the door told Sheena if ever wants to ride a horse again she will go get her things and get in the truck. On the drive home she cried the pain in her face was reeking of fear and hatred of me crossed between trying to be a good daughter and following her dreams. I was blinded by my own broken heart. I never moved on from her mother so I couldn’t ever let go of Sheena I used her like a child used a night light in the dark. The last thing I remember telling her was that she was a disappointment. I blamed her for my loneliness. Then..” the Old Man stopped to sit up a little more on the bench then he put his hands in the pockets of his brown pleather jacket.
“Then what?” asked Sammie, her heart pounding hanging on to every word the Old Man was saying as if she were watching from the inside the truck as it was happening.
“Then the headlights of a large semi shined through the truck window. In my drunken stupor, I veered into oncoming traffic and me met the semi head on. I threw my arms around Sheena hoping my body would shield her from my stupidity but it wasn’t enough. She flew over my grasp and was launched out of the passenger window into the side of ditch. I bounced off the dashboard through the rear windshield landing in the bed of the truck. I remember worrying about Sheena. When all the screeching stopped and all that remained was the hissing of smashed radiators and burnt tires all I cared about was Sheena. All I could hear was the driver of the semi screaming, “Oh my God!, Oh my God!”. I woke up in a hospital and the first thing I saw was Robby’s face. His demeanor was depressed and sad like the coldest stare you could ever imagine. All he told me was Sheena was gone. It echoed in my head as I began to lose consciousness again. It never stopped.” finished the Old Man.
Sammie was in horror over Sheena’s story. She died because of his problems all because he was too afraid to be alone. She stood up and paced a bit. Anger carved into her face like a makeshift totem. She started to think about her problems. She stood at the end of the lot looking up at the stars. Thinking about the pain she was putting her family through. Thinking about Sheena’s tears as she cried because she didn’t wanna make her daddy sad then she thought of her little sister. They were like peanut butter and jelly. Her sister took dance because of all the times they danced together when her sister was a baby. She looked up to Sammie and she took that away from her.
The cranking of an engine snapped her mind back out of it the walk down memory lane she was playing through. The brake lights glowed red and began to move backward. The old man backed up around the outer gas pumps giving himself room to make a turn. You could hear every bit of this clunky old turn too. Every inch of the wheels turning in her direction was like a million fingernails digging into a chalkboard screeching so loud even the store clerk inside came to the window to check it out. The sound of the old man’s foot on the gas pedal made a whining noise but it kinda calmed the screeching in the turn. He pulled up beside her. She noticed through the window her bag was in the seat. She put her hands on her hips and gave him a suspicious stare but before she could speak he cut her off at the tongue.
“So it would appear you need to a ride. This ole gal ain’t much for looks but she rides great. Rusty or not this ‘87 Chevy is the greatest in the line of trucks ever made.” exclaimed the Old Man.
“I don’t know am I going to die on the way there.” snapped Sammie, realizing the words that just flew out of her mouth. She was still mad at him for what he did. She didn’t have time to digest that this was a long time ago and the man kinda tortures himself for it. Besides, how was she going anywhere sitting on that old raggedy half red bench?
“Unless there was a fifth of crown or bourbon in that pie I pretty sure we will keep it on the right side of the road tonight.” replied the Old Man, with a sarcastic look on his face trying to hide the pain of the low blow she just dealt him.
Sammie got in the truck and the two never spoke after that. All Sammie could think about was what her parents were thinking right now. Were they worried? Were they mad at her? She thought she was positive that her ex-boyfriend's parents were not going to be too happy with what she had done. It was all so overwhelming the thought of everything going on then being dumped at a truck stop. She began to close her eyes sinking her face into the old ripped up and worn out seat. As her eyes drew closer together so did her thoughts far, far away.
Sammie was dreaming of the struggle between her ex-boyfriend and her. She screamed and pleaded for him to stop it. He kept tearing at her clothes like he was possessed. The waiting for a year culminated in the miscommunication that he was finally going to get what he had always wanted one way or another. As he went for her jeans she got in a good elbow to his face. His hands were busy so she took her opportunity of a lowered guard. Thanks to dad's love for UFC she picked up on a few things.
He immediately grasped his face where her elbow impacted his nose. She rolled through away from him onto the floor crawling toward the end table a few feet away. He leaped off the couch after her going right for her pants again this time managing to rip one of the legs off through the already ripped design on the jeans. She kicked him in the face where her elbow had landed before. He lost his balance and her force knocked him back. She turned back on her stomach and crawled toward the end table, struggling to get to her feet. He staggered upright holding his face, his nose covered in blood, but that would not stop him.
Sammie was on a knee bent over the end table. He grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head down on the end table leaving a ninety degree cut on her forward that began to swell. Her vision began to blur a little but without hesitation, she grabbed the piece of engraved granite and nailed him right on the head sending him backward a few steps. Rocked she grabbed the granite with both hands and swung striking the left side of his temple. That brought him to his knees, his back towards her. He seemed confused and dazed but she didn’t want him to move she couldn’t let him get another shot at taking her. With everything she had, she broke the granite piece of art over the back of his skull and he fell forward, face first.
She fell to a knee, shaken and in shock tears pouring from her eyes her breath stammering with waves of chuckles from her throat. She cupped her face perplexed by how south things just got. Sammie couldn’t make sense of it. They promised each other the day they wed they would finally do it, make love. Covered in blood her clothes torn not knowing when his parents would come home. She stood up then walked toward the door to lock it but the door kicked in and several men dressed in black military gear pointed heavy machine guns at her screaming and yelling at her.
One of the men grabbed her by the arm and threw her against the wall while the other two made for the living room. She pleaded with the man that he tried to hurt her. The man put her in handcuffs and she heard one of the others say he was dead. The man that put her in handcuffs turned her around slammed her against the wall again and started shaking her. She closed her eyes best she could her tears pouring out like a waterfall. The man steadily yelling at her, “What are you doing?, What are you doing?”
“Mam? Mam? What are you doing?” said the ticket salesman.
Sammie jolted to her feet backing away from the man in the button-down shirt and brown dress pants. Looking around she was confused. Realizing that she had just experienced a nightmare. The last time she was awake she was riding in a beat up old rusty Chevy. How did she get here?
“Great he dumped me at an old crappy looking bus stop.” stated Sammie, her sarcasm confusing the ticket salesman.
“What are you doing napping on the bench?” asked the ticket salesman.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t aware that I was on a bench. Before I fell asleep I was riding in a truck,” answered Sammie, regretting the faith she puts in the hands of strangers. Seriously considering stealing a car this time she thought.
“Sorry, I’m just gonna walk around a bit. Do you guys have a bathroom?”
“Yes mam, it is down that corridor inside to the left. Snack machines are in the lobby. None of the restaurants open till nine. I’ll be opening my register at eight if you're going to purchase a ticket if not I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises. Loitering is kinda illegal and every since the terrorist thing our company started enforcing the rule.” answered the ticket salesman.
Sammie came out of the bathroom changed and fresh as possible. She decided to use some of her change to buy something out of the machine. She turned into the lobby and saw the four big black snack machines. Upon walking up to them she realized there was only one thing in the vending machine. A small snack sized cherry pie. It reminded her of the pie that old man was eating on. Disappointed her stomach spoke and made a rumbling noise that she couldn’t even ignore. She took a seat in a somewhat sturdy orange chair.
It reminded her of the chairs in class back at school. She took her first bite into the pie and her taste buds exploded. It reminded of the time her mom bought her, her first Shirley Temple at an old classic dinner they use to eat at when she was younger. It was delightful. That old man was right, it is the first bite, she thought chuckling a little bit. For an old guy, he wasn’t all that bad. Examining the room a little she noticed an old newspaper article on the table. The front page story caught her attention. It was titled “The Highway Tragedy of Highway 50”. The article had a picture of an accident involving a semi and an old Chevy truck. The shock on Sammie’s face was cold.
There she was the little girl Sheena just like the picture in the Old Man's wallet red bow and everything. Her complexion turned pale like that of a corpse absent a soul. The pie literally fell from her lap onto the floor. She was fixated on the article. She was reading it word for word like how the old man told her. Then she stopped, her eyes grew wider as the paper read.
Mr. Connor Gunthree died late that next morning in the hospital moments after gaining consciousness. He leaves behind a younger brother Robert C. Gunthree and a horse named Isabelle said to be the horse that young Sheena rode during her competitions at rodeos throughout the state.
Sammie sat back in her seat. Her mind was officially blown. How can she have experienced a ride in a ghost truck from a man who was pronounced dead? Everything she told him about how nothing ends well running from your problems came back to her. It had to be a sign dead people don’t just come back to life to tell people to turn around you're going the wrong way. She remembered that promise to her sister and the guilt came back to flood her again as did the fear.
She bent over in her chair. She played out her odds. Going to Reno getting a job as a stage dancer like her cousin laying low till things blew over before she called her parents back. The end didn’t play out well in her head. Someone would see her dancing notice her face from the media, probably, call it in then she would be on the move again probably in less clothing with no money sitting on a red bench. She had to go back.
The thought of her little sisters heartbreaking brought her to a conclusion. She needed to go home. Maybe her family would take her side. Maybe she could get a lawyer and prove her innocence and it was out of self-defense. She had to fight for it. That first bite of pie. Now she knew what he was talking about. She picked up her bag and headed out of the lobby toward the ticket booth.
“Well, there benchwarmer. Decided on where you’re heading too?” asked the ticket salesman.
The only thing Sammie could say was, “Home.”