It was late.
I’d been driving for over 10 hours, trying to make it home to Allentown. I’ve crisscrossed New Hampshire most of my adult life as a professional trucker, hauling logs and timber. On most nights I can easily handle the long hauls from Allentown, to Penn State, and up to the White Mountains, but bad weather can slow you down, and in trucking, time is literally money.
Typically when inclement weather approaches, I’ll find a short cut down some of the shorter, narrower roads that 18-wheelers probably shouldn’t, nor are probably allowed to, venture down.
That was exactly the case when I decided to take a turn on Clear Creek Road.
I’d probably taken Clear Creek Road road plenty of times in the past, and not even thought twice about it. But on this particular night, the weather had caused a major delay, and I’d been on the road so long that I needed to find a place to stop for the night.
As I ambled through winding, rural roads, I saw a neon sign shining in the darkness.
Mel’s Meals: Open 23 hours a day
Is this a rest stop? Out Here? I mused to myself. I had never seen a rest stop on this road before.
There was another truck already parked, and I could almost smell the food from the diner. The GPS told me it was another twenty minutes before my next turn and had no mention of Mel’s Meals. I knew something didn’t feel right, but I was so tired, I felt stopping was the safest option.
I activated my air brakes, gently gliding the truck to a stop. I grabbed my refillable 72 Oz cup and checked the time — 7:13 pm.
It felt much later than the time shown. I’d been driving nonstop for hours, and the sky was completely dark. Unnerved, I walked towards the diner and suspiciously saw the other truck that had already pulled in.
I didn’t recognize the logo on the side of the truck, which was extremely rare given my years on the road. The truck itself was in disrepair, an ancient heap of junk.
A sudden boom shook the trailer, causing me to jump back. A loud screeching noise, like massive claws against metal, echoed from the back of the truck.
A man wearing a full-body suit jumped from the cab and moved toward the trailer with something glistening in his right palm. It looked like he was holding an electric cow prod, but it was much longer, and much more menacing.
Without hesitation, despite the ominous sounds, the man unlatched the trailer and climbed inside. A tussle, followed by a chorus of screams followed, ending with the distinct sound of electrical discharge… over and over.
The man then nonchalantly exited the trailer and firmly closed it shut. He didn’t seem to notice me at all, placing the weapon back in his cab before climbing in once more. I continued walking, knowing I wasn’t about to approach him and ask what that was all about.
In fact, if I had any sense of self-worth I would have left right there, but due to company regulations, I’d have to stay put for several hours at least. Our trucks were monitored remotely by the company, and any sort of violation would have led to termination without question. Let’s just say I couldn’t have afforded that.
Taking a deep breath, I mustered up an ounce, probably less, of courage, and walked inside the diner.
The dining area was sparsely decorated, entirely empty except for one waitress and a cook I caught a glimpse of through a small window to the rear.
A bell jingled softly as I carefully through the door frame, the spunky blonde waitress smiled cheerfully toward me, “Evening hoss! Welcome to Mel’s Meals! I’m Cindy!” she proclaimed excitedly as she trotted off to get a menu.
A scratchy version of Little Less Conversation played on the jukebox as I followed her to an open booth. She passed me a menu, and a befuddled look slowly crossed my face.
“Somethin’ wrong hun?” Cindy smacked her gum against her teeth.
“There’s only one item on the menu, the House Special” I pointed out.
She didn’t respond, just shaking her head silently as if I was an idiot. My stomach was grumbling angrily, so I ordered the House Special and a cup of tea.
The bell jingled joyfully as another man walked into the diner. It wasn’t the trucker, before, this was a new face. The man wore cowboy boots that clinked softly against the tile floor, a biker jacket, and an outback hat.
He took a look at me and I smiled halfway. “With a get-up like that, you sure stand out like a sore thumb,” I cracked a friendly joke.
He responded with silence, shimming over to the bar, taking off his hat, and then asking for coffee in a gruff, baritone voice.
I glanced out toward the parking lot but didn’t notice another vehicle. Looking at the clock on the wall, I was surprised again to see the same time from when I’d arrived — 7:13 pm.
“Enjoy some hash browns while we cook up your order hun, they’re on the house,” Cindy said, placing a steaming plate in front of me.
They had rearranged the food to look like a smiley face. Appreciating the effort and service, I chuckled slightly and started to eat.
The food was good, but the music was a tad off. Still, I had just begun to relax when the cook came out carrying a large silver platter with servings of cooked meat.
As he placed the tray on my table, the meat was still sizzling so loud that it made it hard to hear the cook as he spoke, “First time here?”
I looked at the tattoo on his arm and remarked, “Mel was your wife?”
“My sister. Ran this diner for years before she gave me keys to the kingdom,” he replied as he wiped grease from his face.
“Do you… get a lot of business?” I inquired, looking around at the almost empty restaurant.
“Nah. You know how rumors spread in a place like this,” he said with a chuckle. He was really friendly, but, I had no idea what he meant.
Turning back towards the kitchen, the chef left me with those parting words. I looked at the delicious meal in front of me and began to greedily chow down.
As I was eating, I felt a forceful grip on my shoulder. The cowboy was looming over me, glaring with knowing eyes.
“You don’t want to be here,” he whispered, squinting his eyes.
“I’m… sorry?” I answered perplexed.
“Put down your silverware, pick up your keys and leave this place,” the man glanced nervously towards the clock.
“Sorry friend, I’m sure you mean well, but I’m not going anywhere tonight. More accurately, I can’t,” I replied curtly, reaching for another bite.
The bell jingled again.
The man in the bodysuit had entered the diner, and he didn’t look happy — not one bit. He was pacing the doorway as Cindy walked up to him.
“Don’t let them fool you,” the cowboy growled, shuffling back to his seat.
The waitress and the newcomer were engaged in a heated discussion, but it was difficult to make out over the poorly recorded country music.
“…this came too early…”
….shipment… supply and demand…”
Then, louder than before, the other truck’s trailer began to thrash violently about. The truck’s suspension groaned as it swayed side to side, steel screeching like famished bats.
Taken aback, I dropped my fork, and it noisily clattered to the floor. Cindy slowly turned her head, giving me a half-smile.
“Sorry, I hope we aren’t disturbing you,” she said before going back to berating the man in the skin-tight suit.
Putting down my utensil, too distressed to eat any more, I reclined uncomfortably in my booth. The man in the skin-tight suit walked away from Cindy, midstream, and went back to his truck in a huff. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as several workers emerged from the darkness, meeting the man in front of his vehicle.
The workers held heavy chains and long prods, just like he had used earlier. Whatever was inside the truck, they were readying to load it into the diner’s storage area.
Pretending to stretch my legs, I slyly meandered next to the cowboy, keeping my voice at a whisper. “What is going on here?” My lips trembled.
“Leave now, please…” he was begging.
The clawing and shrieking sounds that had come from the trailer now boomed from the diner’s kitchen. The whole restaurant shook, sending dust and flecks of plaster tumbling down from the ceiling
A saw, grinding what something sturdy and wet, cut through the noise — everything else went silent. Dropping my glass, hands shaking uncontrollably, I locked eyes with the cowboy.
The doors to the kitchen flew open and the cook stumbled out, covered in blood splatters. He looked dazed, and then, fell to a heap on the floor, blood pooling around him.
I sprinted out of Mel’s Place like an Olympic athlete, despite my chubby frame. Running to the side of the stranger’s cab, I cautiously peered around the parking lot. My truck was less than thirty feet away, but it might as well have been a hundred miles.
Looking behind me, I made a horrifying realization; the doors to the trailer were wide open.
I froze, paralyzed with terror, as agitated growls echoed from inside.
Instinct taking over, I took off, scampering wildly towards my truck. I could hear snaps, snarls, and yelps just behind me, right on my heels. Slamming into the door, gashing my nose, I bolted into the cab and slammed the door closed.
When my yellow headlights flooded the parking lot, I was finally able to see what the other trucker had been hauling.
There was a pack of them, with grey scaly skin and long wretched tail with bones protruding like daggers, but above the waist, they looked just like the cowboy.
Tires screeching as I pulled onto the street, I peeled out of the parking lot, driving as far away from the diner as I could, regardless of the direction.
I didn’t stop once, that was, until this morning.
I haven’t slept a wink. My hands are still shaking even as I try to type this. I know pretty soon I’ll have to call my boss and explain why I broke DOT regulations. I’m not sure what I will say, honestly, but one thing is certain.
I won’t be going down Clear Creek Road again.