You're driving through the darkness. State highway eighty something. A nice, tight two-lane. Winding though the mountains, the foothills, feeling your way through the S-curves, climbing then falling. Gunning it hard on the straightaways. Watching that white line. It's hypnotic isn't it? The way it just goes on, mile after mile. You've got some music on, feeling pretty good. Miles Davis, Lady Gaga, the Clash. Whatever you like. Adele? I should have guessed. You're settling in. You do this every night. It's routine. You feel comfortable out here. Safe. You aren't safe. Everyone out here's doing seventy. You're doing seventy. No, don't look down. Keep your eyes on the road. Seventy, each way. Head on, that's one-forty. You won't survive that. Your car will just be twisted metal and burning plastic. They'll be using the jaws of life to pull out the body parts. Look ahead. What do you see? Be honest. You see a white line on your right, a yellow line on your left. And headlights. Plenty of them, coming at you. But that's about it. You just aim the car and hope. That's what they're all doing. There's a line of cars on a straightaway up ahead. They're all going too fast for the curves ahead. How many of them do you think are competent drivers? How many are sober? How many are more or less sane? Out of all those cars? Not all of them, that's for sure. And it only takes one. Watch that Subaru coming up right now. Small car, but it'll be a nuclear weapon when it slams into you at one-forty. And the driver's had a hard day. Since his wife left he's been having panic attacks. Bad ones. Today it happened at work. He's distracted. He's distraught. He thinks he hears voices. Watch that Subaru. And that pickup with the busted headlight. You think he maintains his vehicle well enough to be doing this? What if a steering belt snaps? What if one of those bald tires he hasn't gotten around to replacing blows out on a curve at seventy? That's a big truck. How much of you will be left after he slams into you? Watch out for him. Watch real hard. Look at that. Some fool pulling a house trailer in the darkness. It's a little wide for this road, don't you think? And he's doing seventy. It's kind of swaying, getting ready to fishtail. Better move over, give him some room. Not that much. Careful. You don't want to hit that soft shoulder, it's pull you right off into the woods. It'll be days before they find you. And that SUV. Explorer, Expedition? Something like that. Explosion, if the driver misses a turn. See him weave coming out of that last curve? He's had a few. The guy's hammered. You can tell. Everything he does is a half-second behind. At seventy, that's a long time. And if he passes out? Well, at least it'll be fast. He won't have to go through the horror of a high-speed head on collision. But you will. You'll die screaming, with the sight of those headlights in your eyes forever. Watch him. And you don't know. All you can see is headlights. You can't tell which car is which. It could be any of them. There's a Dodge Ram coming up. That's me. Two big headlights. I'm out there somewhere. You won't know where until it's too late. Truth is, I've got some problems. I've been mad about something or other since I can remember. Road rage? I get that standing still in a parking lot. It's always something. Right now I'm real worked up about this guy in front of me. He hits the brakes going into every turn, guns it coming out. You know the type. It's getting to me. I'm gripping the wheel way too hard. I can feel veins throbbing. I'd like to give him a good tap from behind the next time he does it, give him a quick driving lesson. One he won't forget. Or I could pull out and pass him, just gun it like a madman with no idea what's coming up around that next curve. Why not? What do I care? But you care, don't you. You've got your nice little life, things going pretty well. New boyfriend? That's nice. You want to get home, curl up with a good book. Maybe watch some TV. I hope you make it. I really do. But I can tell you this. We won't all be making it home tonight. Someone's going to wind up in the meat wagon, cold and bled out. Maybe a lot of us. Drive safe, now. Enjoy the ride. Don't forget to buckle up.
Bio: Brian Haycock is the author of Dharma Road (Hampton Roads, 2010), a book about Zen Buddhism in everyday life. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Yellow Mama, Amarillo Bay, Pulp Pusher, Swill and other upstanding publications. He enjoys running, backpacking and reading stories of all kinds. Unlike the people he writes about, he is law-abiding and reasonably sane. His website is www.brianhaycock.com. Visit anytime.