Mark picks up a load of fresh fish in Pouch Cove Newfoundland headed for Toronto. But as he heads out, the icebergs that had drifted farther south than usual cause a thick fog to roll in off the ocean, cutting off visibility and forcing Mark to pull over and wait out the weather. As he readies for some sleep he notices people walking through the fog. He tries calling out to them, but they vanish. Deciding there’s nothing he can do for them, Mark turns in.
Mark is awakened by a trucker knocking on his door. He lets the man in and the man begins to talk. But instead of idle chatter, the man talks about how his life is over, how his brand new International 9900 is a write-off, and how much he’s going to miss his kids. Then, as he’s talking, blood suddenly begins to leak from the man’s ear and nose, and a cut on his forehead. Mark goes for the first-aid kit, but by then the man is gone. Over the radio Mark gets a report of a trucker in a International 9900 driving like a mad-man through the fog. Mark feels a chill, and has a hunch, someone needs his help…
Mark headed south through the fog…slowly.
His headlights were shining into the mist, throwing up a white wall of cloud in front and all around him. Mark opened the driver’s side door and looked down in the hopes he could see the highway’s median beneath him. He could just make out the line on the asphalt and that, along with what he could see out the front windshield, was just enough to allow him a speed of five or six miles an hour.
But even though he was moving, what was it he was looking for? He knew there was someone out there in trouble, but what exactly did that look like through the fog? And, even if he did find what he was looking for, how would he know when he’d found it? It was crazy, like looking for a needle in a haystack, but Mark had done plenty of crazy things in his life, some of them a lot crazier than this.
Something suddenly appeared in Mark’s field of vision. It was a road sign informing him of the exit for Flat Rock. That meant that Torbay couldn’t be very far away.
Mark checked his speed and kept a constant eye on the line on the road snaking its way past his rig. So far he hadn’t passed anyone on the road, and that was a good thing. The last thing he needed was to end up in a collision, or getting himself killed while trying to save some other trucker’s life. Sure, it would look good in the papers, but Mark wasn’t interested in becoming a dead hero.
He’d travelled another hundred yards down the highway when the fog in front of him began to brighten. Mark checked all of his headlight switches, turning them off and on again, but they were having little effect on the light in front of him. It was getting brighter, and…turning orange.
That was strange, thought Mark. Sure, plenty of rigs had orange lights on them, but they were all small signal and running lights, nothing that would create such a large glow.
Unless of course, he was right on top of somebody’s rig and about to collide.
Mark slammed on the brakes and Mother Load shuddered to a stop. Then he pulled the truck slowly over to the side of the road, watching the median line veer to the left and then fade away into the mist. He kept an eye below him, hoping the border between the road and the shoulder would come into view, but it never did. Mark decided he’d gone as far onto the shoulder as he’d dare, then stopped and engaged the parking brake.
Before him the orange light continued to glow.
It was obvious it wasn’t a rig, the light was pulsating, as if behind the veil of fog there was a flickering, dancing sort of light.
Fear suddenly hit Mark like a iron fist.
There was something on fire just up the road and Mark was willing to bet it was a truck in the ditch.
He grabbed his flashlight, and scrambled out of Mother Load. He headed for the light, feeling the heat from the fire growing warmer against his body with each step. And then he could hear it, the sizzle and crackle of the flames.
But as much as he could feel and hear the fire, he still wasn’t close enough to see it through the fog. And so Mark started to run toward the light until the ground beneath his feet dropped away and he was tumbling off the shoulder and down into the ditch next to the road. His legs crumbled beneath him, and then his shoulder hit the ground and he rolled.
When he opened his eyes, the fire was above him. He turned and looked and could see the truck now, flames rising up from the engine and a broken trailer twisting away into the mist.
“Hey!” he cried. “Is someone in there?”
There was a moan in response, but nothing more.
“Hang on,” Mark said, “I’m going to try and get you out.”
Mark tried to climb up the bottom – now the side – of the tractor, burning his hands on the exhaust pipes before searching for another hand-hold. When he found one, he scrambled up the truck until he was standing on the driver’s side door. The heat from the fire was intense, burning his face and hands. If Mark didn’t get out of here soon, he’d suffer burns without even getting near the flames.
He tried to open the door, but it was locked. Through the window he could see the driver, awake, but unable to help himself out of the truck. Mark had to break the window.
“Cover yourself!” Mark said. Then he raised the flashlight over his head and brought it down against the window. The blow put a crack in the flashlight but did nothing to the window. Mark tried it again, hoping the flashlight would hold together long enough to smash through the glass. This time the flashlight blew apart in his hand, but not before it managed to shatter the window. Two kicks with his boot and he was through.
Knowing he’d never be able to pull the driver through the broken window, Mark reached in and tried to unlock the door. His arm flailed around blindly until he found the lock. He flicked it and yanked his arm out the window, tearing his jacket sleeve in the process.
He tried the door again, and this time the it lifted open. And everything felt cooler as the door momentarily blocked the heat from the burning engine.
Mark looked inside the cab.
And the driver turned toward him.
Mark gasped. The driver looked familiar to him… He had a dirty yellow ball cap on, and a red-and-black checked jacket. There was blood leaking from his left ear and mouth, and from a cut on his forehead.
“It is you!” Mark said. How on earth had the guy who’d been in Mother Load end up here? The answer wasn’t on earth, but some place like The Twilight Zone. And even so, an answer could wait, right now was time for action.
But there was no response. The driver had suddenly gone unconscious.
“Hey, wake up, man! Wake up!”
Mark shook the man by the shoulder, tapped the side of his head with an open hand.
“C’mon, wake up. Remember the wife and kids…” Mark saw the pedal car smashed and broken in the bunk behind the driver. “Hey, it’s the youngest one’s birthday today. You don’t want to miss out on the fun, do you?”
There was movement then, and the driver’s eyes slowly fluttered open. He looked at Mark curiously, as if through a fog. “Have we met?” the driver said.
Mark smiled at that. “Yes,” he said.
The man looked even more uncertain.
“But not in this world,” said Mark.
Mark would have loved to explain, but a fresh fireball erupted from the engine, blowing off the side of the compartment and turning up the heat on Mark’s rescue operation. “We can talk later,” Mark said. “Right now, give me your hand!”
The man reached up to Mark with only one glove on his hands.
Mark pulled, but the man wouldn’t budge.
Mark reached in and tried to unlock the belt, but the weight of the man’s body was making it impossible.
“You’ve got to help me,” he said, and together they managed to shift the man’s wei
ght enough to click the belt loose.
Mark pulled the man up and out of the truck, and then left him to climb down from the truck himself.
Mark wondered about what to do next. The man needed medical attention and the truck might still be able to be saved.
If he tried to get back to Mother Load to use the Cobra, who knows how long it would be before he found the truck in this fog. So instead, Mark reached down into the truck’s cab and fished around for the this truck’s radio.
When he found the microphone cord, he pulled on it hard…too hard it turned out, as the cord whipped past his head leaving him with a microphone and a cord that were connected to nothing.
Suddenly a hiss from the engine told Mark that radio or not, it was time for him to leave.
He jumped down from the truck and ran away from the heat.
Mark was worried he’d lose the driver in the fog, but as he ran he tripped over something big and solid at his feet.
The driver was laying there, groaning from the impact of Mark’s boots in his side.
“You okay?” Mark said.
“No,” came the response. “You just kicked me.”
Mark laughed, somehow knowing that the man would be fine.
He fished inside his pocket for his cell phone and began calling for help.
A half-hour later there were flashing red and blue lights in the distance. Mark put his shoulder under the driver’s arm and began walking toward them.