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Breakdown by Stephen Shinn
SUMMARY: A tale of what happens when you have a less than reliable car on a dark road.
BY STEPHEN SHINN
Darkness. All encompassing darkness. The moon is absent and not one star stains the sky's ebon shroud. It's the night a late model Ford Festiva refuses to continue its exodus to the safety of its home. It's the night that the little car's life passes from this realm to automotive Valhalla on a long, dark stretch of desolate road. The driver curses violently as the lifeless automobile coasts to its final resting place onto what he hopes is the shoulder of the road. It's difficult for him to tell in the absolute pitch darkness. Hesitantly, he turns the ignition, praying that the engine had merely stalled. His hopes are shattered as there is no response from under the hood. He tries the key again more urgency, and yet still no signs of life. "It's dead Jim." He mutters to himself in a Dr. McCoy-ish tone.
The driver, Derrick Clancy, strikes the steering wheel one final time in disgust. Derrick, a former high school football star turned film student, lets out a string of expletives before exiting his four wheeled prison. "That's the last time I volunteer for anything." He growls remembering his offer to fill in for a co-worker whose wife was very pregnant at an out of town branch of the video rental chain that Derrick is employed by. "Midnight in the middle of freaking nowhere..." kicking the Festiva as he surveys his surroundings, running a hand through his sandy brown hair.
Misshapen, leafless trees cast impossibly deeper shadows against the starless night sky. The twisted branches stab madly in all directions as if to flee some unseen terror lurking within the mist. An eerie silence hangs about the area, save for a few metallic pings from the cooling engine of the non functional Festiva. "A perfect backdrop for any horror movie." Derrick muses as he leans into the car to retrieve a flashlight. After a brief struggle to open the glove compartment, he pulls forth the flashlight as King Arthur would Excalibur. After a swift check of the batteries, Derrick musters his courage and sets off in search of civilization.
As he walks, Derrick averts his gaze from the woods surrounding him. He silently chastises himself for falling prey to paranoia. "Next thing you know some creep in a hockey mask is going to jump out at me." He chuckles. Time itself seems to have stilled in the primeval darkness. From nowhere a blood curdling screech pierces the silence as a huge, dark shape whizzes by Derrick's ear. Immediately Derrick drops to the ground, his heart pounding like a jackhammer. He clicks on his flashlight and scans in all directions, but nothing is to be found. After several moments of labored breathing, Derrick rises to his feet convincing himself that it was a large owl or other nocturnal avian. Yet, the feeling of something unnatural permeates his senses. Realizing that he needs a distraction, he does the only natural thing he can think of to push back his fears. He begins to sing to himself.
Starting appropriately enough with the entire Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album, Derrick starts to cover the distance at a comfortable pace, time seeming to pass at a much steadier rate.