The Call Of The Void
Yannick Layton /  Wed, 20 Apr 2022

This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.

A slight breeze whispered through the roads of west Utah, a mild day but not unusual for late August. Another uneventful day on the road darkened from a day of drizzle. The setting sun over the horizon reflects a soft orange through the thin meniscus of water coating the road. Driving along the canyon's edge was a monthly trip coming home from Arizona. Last month it was Wyoming and the month before Washington. It’s much easier driving into Wendover than leaving. Navigating the mountains and canyons with an empty rig is infinitely easier. Though Wendover borders Nevada I seldom drive-through, passing through the 46 other states in mainland USA. Stopping in Minnesota before heading to Texas, then New York. Seemingly in a new state every other day. My one break is Wendover on the 23rd of each month. The 23rd is always a peaceful day, spending the day driving home through the mountains, canyons, and valleys of Utah. The 23rd is my favorite. One may say I love it but it’s without reason. There is no home for me in Wendover, a disgusting 1 bedroom apartment reeking of asbestos and mildew doesn’t deserve that title. Coming home is my time to relax, taking the same route home almost romanticly. Being able to execute each turn with my eyes closed. The road felt different today; it didn’t feel right. One that had been mine for so long now felt like it was solely a road; My rig, my home felt uncomfortable. Akin to trying to fall asleep but unable to be comfortable. The drive that I used to shut off my brain and relax was now the opposite. Peering over the edge of the guard rail inspecting the rock below. Dreaming of the peace, the weightlessness of driving off the cliff into some 600-foot drop below. This fantasy is not unusual, happening regularly in the Rockies. "The call of the void." The other truckers call it. in the past I'd snap out of it, it would be a funny thought, this time the thoughts stayed. Thoughts of driving off the cliff through the guardrail left, the feeling didn’t. My brain turned on again. I have been drifting through life for the past 30 years. The discontent with my life bubbled to the service, all the excitement of coming home left. I pulled over to the truck stop on the side of the road. I was the only truck there. As I pulled in I saw a man on the edge of the canyon across the street. Through the sound of the wind climbing up the walls of the canyon, I heard the man faintly crying. I put my hands on the guardrail to vault over to the other side. The cold, sharp, wet feeling of the metal on my hands brought almost a sensation of pleasure. Feeling my fingers sliding against the moist dirt of the back of the guardrail. I finally made it over to the other side and came up to the man and said “Hey”, “He-hey?” He said shakily. His voice cut through the air like an arrow. It was sharp but deep, a very unique voice; it caught me off guard. I had no expectations, certainly not expecting a voice of that timbre. I could see through his shaking hands what looked like a locket so I asked. “Can I see inside the locket?” He opened the locket. It was your standard gold locket with flowers engraved, Roses perhaps? I couldn’t tell but what surprised me was the picture inside. It was what looked to be his wife and daughter. His wife was beautiful, the same type of beauty as your first love. I told him “ I sure hope you’re not killing yourself with her waiting at home” I knew it wasn’t the best thing to say. In all honesty, I had gotten through my career with only pleases, thank yous, and food orders. I lived through head nods and gestures, life is simpler that way. He responded, “She's not at home. She jumped off this cliff a year ago today.” “oh… I'm so sorry,” I responded. The man just turned and hugged me, and I just stood there. I had barely spoken in years, not touched in even longer. The man let go and just walked away. I guess I did something right. Honestly? I'm confused, I sat down on the dirt, immediately my polyester pants absorbed water from the soil. I didn't care. I was just staring off over the lip of the cliff. Was that the last time I'll ever be hugged? Was that the last real conversation I'll have? Not even a good one at that. Am I doomed to drive around the US for the rest of my life alone? I stood back up and walked closer to the edge of the cliff looking down. If that's all I'll be, is there a point in waiting to die? I wouldn’t call whatever my life is living but is there even a point in living it? I don’t think there is. Maybe the other guy felt the same way, he met the love of his life. What else is there after his love is gone? Would there be no point in living if that was it? I turned to the corner of the road and started counting down from thirty. If a truck comes by I'll stay and if it doesn’t I'll go. I took one last breath and felt the cool air flow down into my lungs. 30… 29… 28… 27…