sheldon had committed terrible crimes, but it looked like nobody was following him.
he had been driving for eleven hours without stopping, over seven hundred miles.
in the past forty-five minutes he had been passed by two trucks and a bus going in the opposite direction, back toward civilization.
he had not seen anybody behind him for almost two hours.
it really looked like the end of civilization.
maybe he was finally safe.
he decided to stop at the next place he come to where he could at least get gas and a cup of coffee.
darkness was finally catching up with him.
yes, he was safe. he could feel it.
no sooner did he feel safe than he began to feel restless.
wasn’t there anything out here? if there wasn’t a burger king or an arby’s roast beef, couldn’t there at least be an old-fashioned truck stop?
there had to be a gas station. the roads were being kept up by somebody.
and there was supposed to be civilization again if you just kept going.
an old-fashioned truck stop diner beside a one-pump station - there had to be one.
somewhere along these miles and miles of nothing.
yes, that would hit the spot - a little diner. a few hundred yards off the highway.
with a freckle-faced high school girl putting in a few hours after school behind the counter .
or an old-fashioned gum-chewing blonde floozie with big knockers.
either way, they would be all alone…
and sheldon could have some fun and work off the tension of his long drive…
he kept going and going.
finally it was dark.
except for a quick stop to take a piss he just kept going and going.
some barbed wire by the side of the road. for what - cows? sheep? he didn’t see any.
but no buildings.
no sign of human beings.
sheldon knew the problem, at least part of it.
everybody wanted to be safe. they were afraid to live out in the middle of nowhere.
where some big bad boogeyman - like sheldon - might get them.
where was the spirit of the pioneers?
weren’t there even any indians out here, for christ’s sake?
finally, finally, he saw something.
but it was not an old-fashioned truck stop. anything but.
it was brightly lit, with nothing old-fashioned about it.
white and bright and shiny, like a goddamned space station or something.
but it did seem to be just a rest stop. three self-service pumps, and a white, brightly lit building labeled - rest- coffee - food .
sheldon entered the building. it was just a cafeteria - a few booths, and a rectangular counter area.
it was empty. nobody in the booths, at the counter - or behind the counter.
but each booth, and each seat at the counter, had a small display terminal at it.
sheldon sat down at the counter. as soon as he did, the screen in front of him lit up.
there was a large blue tab labeled “menu” and sheldon pressed it. a menu - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - came up.
he looked around, more closely. he noticed aluminum chutes leading from the counter spots and then angling down to the floor area behind the counter - presumably where the food would be delivered from.
he also noticed slots for coins and bills just below the terminals. good, he would not need to use a credit card.
sheldon ordered a big breakfast - four eggs, sausage, home fries, etc. and black coffee.
the apparatus took his hundred dollar bill, and gave him his change. nothing about a tip - he could live with that.
in a few minutes the breakfast came smoothly out of the chute in front of him.
it was good - quite tasty, in fact. he wondered if it was made from soybeans or some more basic substance.
there were no signs of any other humans, and at this point he did not expect any.
he took his time. as he did he considered the situation.
nobody home. nobody anywhere. everybody holed up in their safe little holes.
disgusting. pathetic. how was a guy supposed to have any fun? but what could you do?
sheldon finished his coffee. he might as well get some gas and be on his way.
as he got up he noticed a vending machine with candies and gum and nuts.
he looked the selection over and decided to get a packet of planters peanuts.
he put his coins in and waited for the peanuts to drop into the tray at the bottom of the machine.
he put his hand into the tray -
the lid of the tray clamped down on his hand.
tight, biting into his wrist.
sheldon tried twisting his hand and extracting it slowly. that didn’t work.
he tried jerking it out. that worked even worse. his hand was held fast - with no give to it at all.
what was this? just when things were starting to look good.
he took a deep breath.
sheldon had been in worse situations before - in worse situations with the worst of them.
he started to really notice the complete silence. despite all the machinery and bright lights, there was no humming.
and no sound from the highway outside.
what could he do? he would cut the hand off if he had to.
except that he didn’t have anything to cut it off with. he looked back at the counter - the plate and cup and fork and knife were all gone - not that they would have been any use if he could have reached them.
he had not had a gun or a knife on him when he had to make a quick getaway back in cincinnati - just some heavy artillery in the trunk of the car.
he wondered if he could chew the hand off, like a wolf. probably not - he didn’t have the teeth, even if he had the guts.
would he just have to wait for somebody to show up?
somebody like the police of seven continents who were looking for him?
i am not going to panic, he thought… i am not going to panic…