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Authors: Mark Campbell

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BOOK: Fracked
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Epilogue

 

It was nearly midnight.

The diner was an old relic from the fifties, and the years weren’t kind. The checkered floor tiles were cracked, the neon signs flickered, and the barstools were tattered and torn. A scent of old cigarette smoke perpetually hung in the stale air.

A group of overweight truckers sat at the bar and stuffed down their burgers and fries as they stared up at CNN on the small television mounted on the wall.

The Tres Rios disaster dominated the news all evening.

The waitress, a middle-aged woman with leathery tan skin and puffy blonde hair was sitting behind the cash register flipping through a tattered magazine, yawning.

One of the truckers belched loudly as he finished up his burger. He had a blonde mullet and a scraggily goatee. The tattoo on his hairy forearm read ‘What, me worry?’ with a smiley face.

The other truckers laughed.

The waitress rolled her eyes.

“Real classy, Ted,” she said.

“Darlin’ you know I’m as classy as they come,” Ted said as he ran his fingers through his greasy mullet. “I’m not going to let you bring me down today anyway with your ol’ sass.”

The waitress cackled.

“Oh? Why’s that? Did you finally see your feet past your gut?” she asked.

The other truckers erupted in laughter.

“She done got ya’ again Ted!” one of the older truckers said from the end of the bar.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Ted said with a smirk. “She can try all she wants, but I’m a lucky son-of-a-bitch! Nobody can bring me down!”

He smiled and slapped his belly.

“What’d you do? Hit the Powerball?” one of the other truckers sarcastically asked.

“Nope,” Ted said proudly. He pointed at the television. “See that? I was there!”

“Oh, bull!” the waitress said. “You’re so full of it!”

“No seriously!” Ted said. “I was just down there in Tres Rios this morning to take away a broken pump! If I didn’t get out of there when I did, I would’ve been blown up with that refinery!”

“You done told us some tales, but this one takes the cake,” the older trucker at the end of the bar said, laughing.

“Sometimes I think the damned fool believes his own lies!” another trucker added.

The truckers laughed.

Ted frowned and his face reddened.

“I ain’t lyin’!” Ted said. “I was there! I don’t care if you bumpkins believe me or not. I know where I was. I made it out before it blew up. God has plans for me!”

Ted stood up, threw a wrinkled twenty-dollar bill on the counter, and hiked his pants up.

“Plans? I wish God would make you mute so we’d all get a blessing,” the waitress said with a smirk.

Ted laughed.

“I think he kept me alive so I can spend another day baskin’ in your company,” Ted said.

The waitress cackled and shook her head.

“Honey, if that’s the case, then God wasn’t the one who spared you. It was the other guy,” the waitress said as she looked back down at her magazine.

The truckers chuckled.

“I gotta make a run to Jacksonville tomorrow so I better head off. You take care now, beautiful,” Ted said to the waitress as he started walking towards the door.

“Be safe now,” the waitress said without looking up.

“Always,” Ted said as he walked out the door.

The door slammed shut and the bells attached to it chimed.

He walked across the dark parking lot towards his neon blue rig. The air was humid and the sound of persistent hum of freeway traffic filled the air. His rig was parked in the dirt on the side of the restaurant alongside the other trucks.

The large defective pump from Tres Rios was still strapped down on his trailer by thick nylon straps and covered by a tattered blue tarp adorned with the Triburton company logo.

Ted burped, pulled his keys out of his pocket, and started to open the driver-side door.

He stopped when he noticed that a large black puddle had formed at the back of his trailer.

One of the hydraulic lines was leaking.

It was the last thing he needed since he was already behind schedule.

Getting a repair crew there to fix it would eat up valuable hours on the road.

He was still in Texas; he’d never make it to Jacksonville in time.

“Christ…” he muttered as he ran his fingers through his dirty mullet. He sauntered towards the rear of the trailer, grumbling. He stared down at the oily puddle and frowned.

Sighing, Ted ran his fingers along the hydraulic line underneath the trailer.

He looked at his fingertips, confused.

Nothing.

He glanced up at the trailer bed and saw that the oil was everywhere.

“What the hell?” he grumbled. He stepped forward and pulled up the blue tarp.

The oil was dripping directly from the pump; something was left behind in the line.

If the highway patrol caught his leaking cargo, he’d get into serious trouble.

Ted dropped the tarp and crossed his arms over his chest as he thought about a way to plug the leak for the rest of the trip.

He glanced down and noticed that he was standing in the middle of the oil puddle.

“Goddammit!” Ted shouted as he quickly stepped out of the oil and started dragging the soles of his boots across the dirt. “Great! So much for my clean cab!”

He stopped talking and looked down in confused horror as the oil started to bead, slide to the top of his boots, and roll up his pants.

Panicked, he started kicking his legs while simultaneously swatting at the beads with his hands.

The beads rolled onto his hands and shot up his arms.

Ted stumbled backwards, tripped, and fell against the truck parked next to him. He ran his hands up and down his arms, shaking himself, but it didn’t do any good.

As he opened his mouth to call for help, the substance snaked into his mouth and forced itself up his nose.

Ted started clawing at his face and grasping his throat, panicked, as he struggled to breathe.

The substance pushed its way into his eyes and ears.

Ted collapsed and started convulsing.

About five minutes later, Ted got back onto his feet. Black bile foamed from his lips, his skin was pulled taunt, and his eyes were pitch-black.

He walked erratically towards the edge of the parking lot and stopped at the ledge that overlooked the city.

Ted started at the city’s glimmering skyline, snarling as he listened to the sound of the traffic.

In the distance, an ambulance siren echoed and wailed as it sped along a massive freeway many miles away.

Ted let out a vicious howl, leapt over the edge of the embankment, slid down the dirt slope, and started sprinting towards the noise of the city, hurrying towards bustling metropolis of Houston, Texas.

About the Author

 

Mark D. Campbell was born and raised in a small subdivision outside Houston, Texas. In 2003 he studied creative writing at the University of Houston before finally entering a career path in the federal criminal justice system in late 2005. Mr. Campbell has always had a certain affinity for the horror genre and draws inspiration from the likes of Robert McCammon, Richard Matheson, and Stephen King.

 

BOOK: Fracked
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