I left Wichita earlier than usual on Wednesday night. The weather was still hot and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. It made me a little edgy. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but something strange was lurking.
The wind had picked up speed throughout the day and as I hit HWY 54, there were full force bursts that challenged my ability to stay upright. The setting sun felt forced into submission. There was something above that did not want a shadow cast on its presence.
About an hour into the ride, darkness had taken over. Patches of lightning sparked all around me. The only safe spot was where I was. I felt like I was traveling with a pie-shaped shaped shield that only covered the sliver of road I was part of.
The further I progressed, the smaller that shield became. Soon or later the weather would win out. Sooner came quickly and almost as fast, the rain began to pelt the road and take vengeance for being cast away for so long. The rain fell with anger. Its intent was to do damage, not to saturate the earth that had neglected it.
The rain was soon accompanied by a massive, lingering blast of wind that had me leaning hard to my right to stay upright. A flash of light exposed an overpass three quarters of a mile up the road. I managed to get there without any major damage. No sooner did I arrive, did the skies pull back their fury.
The rain continued to fall, but the pace had slackened. I pulled the bike up against one of the cement columns supporting the road overhead and took a seat on the incline that formed the final piece of my triangulated shelter.
The Watch Post
I sat there alone, between Wichita, Kansas and another town that I had forgotten, yet had never even met. At this point in the journey, the names were blurring and I was having trouble remembering where I had been, where I was, and where I had yet to go. This was the lowest point of the journey so far.
I sat there on an incline so steep, I struggled to stay in place. I dug in with my toes and felt them spread within my shoes as I wrapped my arms around my knees and pulled them tight against my chest.
I stared to the west and the darkness instantly swallowed me. The only warmth resonated up from the concrete of the underpass that was still hoarding the sun’s pounding from the hours of the day before I arrived. Even that warmth was cold as I knew I was the only one there to benefit from it.
Pockets of lightning began springing up to the west again. They started as distant orbs of light that made the landscape under them visible enough for me to realize that there was a contour to the space I was peering into.
Sometimes the orbs occurred in one spot. Sometimes multiple orbs would occur at the same time, causing me to look around, trying to predict where the next would spring up. Chances of catching one perfectly are as slim as winning the lottery. My camera’s lens tells the tale much better than I.
I felt like a child sitting on the embankment, a victim of a war I thought I was witnessing in front of me, but not knowing why it was happening or why I was so far removed. Sound was vacant from the orbs that became more and more violent.
Had my hearing been damaged as a result of the attacks? I could not recall.
Discernible strikes began to carve paths through the vacuous orbs. Some of the attacks on the ground below were straight and calculated. Others zig-zagged as if they were being second guessed before the final impact. Some of the strikes were aborted all together. They formed semi-circles in the sky, as they were returned to sender to be re-delivered with the precision that was originally intended.
Comrades in Arms?
My focus on the war in front of me was interrupted by a solid beam of light quickly approaching from up the road. The light separated as it came closer. Two eyes from the headlights of a tractor trailer showed a face of desperation as the vehicle screamed away from the madness.
As the vehicle passed under the road and shot out the other side of the underpass, it mimicked a bed sheet being pulled off a clothes line and snapped in the summer air. The water that flew off the trailer hung in the air like smoke from damage incurred in the war zone that it fled.
My eyes followed the vehicle east as it may have been transporting casualties out of harms way. The lights from the city to the east hung over it with a musty, yellow color. The same color on the nicotine stained hands of a veteran of such affairs.
Another vehicle raced from the east and through the tunnel. Its intention was different. It appeared to be in a hurry to get more munitions to the front line. As it ripped through the night’s air, it busted through the tunnel. The speed echoed under the tunnel like a pane glass window after a fatal impact as the individual pieces gathered on the asphalt in acceptance of their fate.
The war waged for hours. My eyes were jerked open with each convoy that passed under the overpass and with each violent strike on the towns below to the west. When the fighting stopped, darkness took over once again.
There is a saying that silence is golden. That night, between somewhere and another, in the middle of Kansas, the silence was darkness. Black is a color that shows itself on the surface it covers. Darkness takes everything it covers and hides it deep within. Chances of finding something after darkness takes hold, is infinitesimal.
I sat there alone, hoping I wouldn’t be swallowed by the darkness. There were times it took a part of me and my only salvation came as the cars moved back and forth, under the overpass and on to accomplish their mission. Their focus kept me from fading away. They kept me aware.
When the storm faded, so did my consciousness. The weight of what I had witnessed pushed my head against the pavement and caused my eyes to close.
When the war was over, the cars resumed their normal occupations and annoyed me just enough to cause lapses to my visit to the dreamland I so desperately had hoped to reach.
The morning came as it always does and so did the need to move on. Getting on the bike almost took more effort than I was able to produce. The ride would be an interesting one. I was nervous to see what it had in store. I was hoping it would be something as different as the night before.