By Bill Hudgins, columnist
My friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe hates to be out on the road on Halloween. I asked him why once, and here's what he told me.
It was late and Rufus was driving through empty countryside, nearly out of hours. Boy, I'd give anything for a place to stop, he thought. Suddenly, he saw a sign "Dangling Flap Truck Stop – 13 miles" and below it, a crudely lettered sign added, "Visit the Trailers of Terror, open at midnite."
Rufus hadn't been this way for a while, and he didn't recall a truck stop here. "Must be new," he muttered, as wisps of fog crept across the road and clouds obscured the dying old moon.
So he was surprised when he finally saw the glow of lights and pulled into a rundown truck stop. He didn't see any other rigs parked on the cracked asphalt, but there were several trailers carefully lined up, their rear doors connected by covered catwalks. A battered plywood sign screaming "Trailers of Terror!!!!" in foot-tall ragged letters leaned against the nearest unit.
He parked and looked toward the fogged, dimly lit windows of the solitary building. Vague shapes moved inside. "Think I'll just eat a snack in the sleeper later," he said as he zipped his jacket against the October chill and strolled over to the trailers.
A shriveled, cold-looking little man hunched against the catwalk steps and whispered, "Lookin' will cost you a dollar … and maybe your mind, heheheh." Rufus fished out a bill. "What kinda things you got in there?" he asked. "Things that haunt truckers," whispered the gatekeeper as he let Rufus pass.
Rufus stopped at the door to let his eyes adjust to the gloom, then pushed aside a heavy curtain and stepped in. Immediately, a hideous creature wearing strips of tire tread and dripping what looked like oil reached for him.
"What're you?" Rufus gulped, surprised. "I'm the Postponed Maintenance demon," it hissed like a leaky drive tire. "I get you when you least expect it!" it snarled, its claws raking toward Rufus.
My friend backpedaled and stumbled outside. After a couple of minutes, he felt embarrassed. "It just surprised me is all," he said and moved on to the next trailer.
Inside, he didn't see anything for a moment, then felt something touch his cap. Startled, he looked up into the glowing green eyes of a bat-like creature hanging from the roof and clutching some kind of government form in one claw.
"What are you?" Rufus asked. "I'm a curse on bad truckers – I'm the data FMCSA tracks – and I'm going to hang over them for the next three years!" the thing shrilled like metal scraping. "Let's talk about that speeding ticket you got in 2008!"
Rufus backed up again. He'd almost forgotten that ticket, so how did this thing know…? "I'm sure getting my buck's worth," he grunted.
Inside Trailer No. 3, a stoutish man in evening clothes said in a baritone voice, "Goot evahning. Let me introduce myself. I am Count Brokerla! Allow me to giff you a load. … HaHa! I can assure you, I am giffing you a BIG load …"
The Count held out a sheet of paper and pen, indicating Rufus should sign it. Rufus grabbed them, drew a big X and held it up to the Count, who screamed and backed away.
Trailer No. 4 smelled like a swamp, complete with a murky pool. Suddenly, a squid-like creature with sucker-covered tentacles rose and lunged at my pal. "I'm the Regupus," it burbled, "and once I get a tentacle on you, I'll land seven more!"
A slimy sucker pulled at his sleeve, and he turned slightly, so the light shone on the OOIDA patch on his jacket. "EEEEEEEE!" the fiend squealed and pulled away.
"I've had enough," Rufus said as he stalked back to his truck, fired it up and drove out. As he looked back in his mirror, a wave of fog rose and covered the truck stop, and it vanished.LL