I found this on my computer. I don’t know why I have it excerpted and hanging out on my computer or what I was doing with it. It’s from the rough draft of my novel, very early on, and as poorly-written as it is, it’s a little scene that I like. It was supposed to be a bit of foreshadowing and character development, but it didn’t work and I replaced it with a scene that might or might not work better, who knows? we’ll see what happens when I get to the final rewrite of this epic bastard.
They had stopped there for breakfast—Jack touting the biscuits and gravy as the best anyone could get anywhere. The day had started early, before the sun had properly risen, Alec had assessed, for the sky was a scabrous red, as if the mountains had rubbed it raw, and the air dry and warm, with winds barreling down the highway, buffeting Jack’s Jeep.
Alec curled up like a cat in the back of the Willys. Against the protestations of his co-campers, he’d unrolled and unstuffed their sleeping bags, piling them and making a nest, upon which he promptly fell into a soporific daze. He watched through heavy eyelids as the city was slowly stripped away from land. The wilderness peeked out from behind houses and from under bridges—red rocks winking and the branches of scrub oak waving coyly. Eventually, wilderness replaced the city, and the houses hid behind stands of evergreens and outcroppings of granite and sandstone. He had only been camping once before, and only in the past year,
They drove west through a narrow valley, the road running beside a creek. Gusts of wind barreled down rocking the Willys, “a Chinook wind,” Jack called them. They simply made Alec’s attempts at sleep that much more difficult. When he had finally begun slumbering, Greg pounded on the back windows snapping him awake.
“Ey, Sleeping Beauty, we’re going in to breakfast, you comin’?”
Alec waved him away and sat up. He watched as the three walked up to the small shingled building. He fumbled his way out of the Jeep and staggered, a somnambulist, across the parking lot to the squat shingled bungalow. A trucker walking out of the Donut Mill headed in his direction, whom Alec disregarded until he stopped in front of Alec.
“You and your friends. . . You going far?”
The trucker trapped Alec. He was only a smidge taller than Alec, but his presence and bulk gave him the feeling of a giant. Bursting from his flannel shirt, and with a bristly white beard, he looked like Santa Claus, if Santa Claus spent the off-season driving big rigs. He watched his friends helplessly as they stood gibing each other on the porch. He decided that the best tactic would curt and quick. “Yes. Camping. I’ve got to go join my friends now.” As if to punctuate this assertion, his stomach growled fiercely. Alec started walking again, but the trucker snared him, grabbing him by the shoulder.
“Look, you boys. . . .” The oafish man peered at Alec from behind his beard, as if he were hiding behind it. Alec was about to assert himself, but those eyes stopped him.
“There’s something. . . That fog, the roads. They aren’t what they seem. There’s things going on.” What the man couldn’t voice his eyes spoke of: uncertainties in the shadows, something worse than bears lurking behind trees or nighttime tricks played by trees and boulders, something haunting and sinister. “Hell, I don’t know what I’m saying. Maybe it’s the hunger or late-night driving. Just. You boys be careful.”
They stood in silence. The traffic hushed and the outlines of buildings and roads blurred as the fog tightened around them, a downy comforter blanketing them, and they became like two children in a blanket fort where the world outside has become whatever they imagine it to be. Alec looked around him and the world seemed a little more menacing: the cars passing and the people waiting in line took on an unseemly glamour, but most of all it was the mountains and the fog. It was nature that had become nefarious and plotting. The wilderness waited for them maw agape, ready to devour them in one greedy uncivilized bite. Something skittered from one smeary building to the other, the fog swirling, giving glimpses of an orangeish tail and paws padding ghost-like, hinting at an animal but revealing nothing. Eyes flickered with eldritch flame, cutting through the fog, twin beacons burning them with awareness: “We know that YOU know,” they flashed before disappearing. The two men shivered, as if a parade just marched over their graves.
He let go of Alec, and pointed a last warning finger at him, “The mountains. . . They aren’t right.”
They went their separate ways. Alec shuddered, thinking about the gruff man’s warnings, and then his stomach growled again. Hunger brushed aside these fantastical thoughts, and the warnings of the trucker became nothing more than the ramblings of an unbalanced mind on the road too long.
Jack and the others were at the counter by the time Alec caught up with them. They ordered, filled coffee mugs and shuffled to a table by a window, where the fog peered in, palming the window like a hobo and leaving moist, greedy prints upon the glass.
“What’d the big guy want?” Greg asked.
“You guys were out there sometime,” Jack observed.
“Ah, he was crazy. A real nutcase right out of a horror movie.” Alec’s eyes widened. “He blocked my way in and then told me that the mountains are haunted and we shouldn’t be going camping.” The last part sounded nice, and he really wished that the mountains were haunted, or that something would come up to keep them from going.
“Sounds like something straight out of An American Werewolf in London: ‘Stay on the roads, boys. Don’t go onto the moors.’ or out of Twin Peaks: ‘The owls are not what they seem.’”
Gary pointed his coffee mug at Jack, plashing coffee over the table. He didn’t seem to notice, while Alec began sopping it up with a napkin. “What if the mountains are haunted? What if there’s something in the fog, like werewolves or ghosts? “
Jack, interrupted, his imagination alit by the conversation. It reminded him of his childhood, and coming up with stories with his brother when they’d go camping. “What if we run into a sasquatch—some Bigfoot, the last of his people, and he’s lonely. Tired of sitting on the top of the peak watching the city lights. . . .”
“Bah, that’s straight out of Harry and the Hendersons,” Greg interjected. The boys became animated by the possibilities of what might be waiting in the fog. Coffee cups emptied and refilled, and the plashes and pools of coffee were left unnoticed and unattended. Aliens and extraterrestrials, cowboys and Indians played out a spectral warfare, ghosts and zombies hungry for soul and flesh—a menagerie of horrors paraded across the table, tromping and trudging and hovering through coffee spills and over donut crumbs.
“What if. . .” Jack speculated, and his eyes began to glaze over as he stared past the window and the fog and the world around him, “What if we end up in another world. What if we’re driving, say up Wilkerson Pass, and we crest the pass and on the other side we don’t find a road or a rest stop or houses or towns, but. . . Something else. Somewhere else.”
They all stopped for a moment of miraculous silence as each one considered this possibility. Alec looked around the table, scanning each face: Greg’s brow furrowed and his thin lips clenched, Gary sipped his coffee and chuckled, and then drew out his pack of Camel Wide cigarettes and began tapping it on the table, a rhythmic, shamanic drumming. Jack smiled a small, deft smile. Elbows on the table, his coffee mug held like a bell, swinging to-and-fro soundlessly.
Each one of them, Alec knew, envisioned another land—someplace distant and different. Change enticed him, but not necessarily a change of scenery. He travelled yearly, often around the world—trips to Japan and Australia and New Zealand—and a new place, as interesting as it might be, would be just like any vacation he’d taken. To be someone different though, that piqued his interest. Stronger, swifter . . . dangerous. A force to be reckoned with, now that enticed him. He could always travel, but becoming something else, when did that happen? A little taller, stronger, more clever? That would be noteworthy.
Gary broke the silence. “What if there was nothing? What if it was the edge of the world and we just drove off. . . Now that would be wacky. . .” He drew out a cigarette and stood up. “I’m going out for a smoke, boys.”
Plates of biscuits and gravy arrived, transforming the formica tabletop into a trough as the boys planted their faces in their plates and gobbled up breakfast. The conversation ended, and all thought of the trucker and his forebodings disappeared with gobbets of sausage and biscuit hunks.