The Ghost of Texas by Tyler Durrett

Early that morning, our excitement was neutralized by an oppressive weight. My wife and I began loading the last remaining items we were too tired to load the night before into the moving truck. The move to Colorado was one of the biggest decisions we had ever made. Staying in Texas was not an option anymore. The lone star state had done its damage and left its scars. I, barely operable on any acceptable level had been paralyzed by fear from what seemed to be a presence that has long been a part of the Texas zeitgeist. It was not going to let me leave without a fight.

Years prior, I grew up on top of the curve. A star athlete at thirteen, and a straight A student, Texas seemed to be the center of the universe. Religion was at my core and the busting economy of the metroplex inspired visions of future success. This was all about to change. Whispers from elsewhere diverted my attention. The calling to be outside or beneath the curve was too overwhelming to ignore. Never humoring the thought of drugs, I soon had a needle in me. Never doubting God, I found myself cursing him and his perverted institution held so high by the community. I was destined to see it as it was; an indoctrinated, co-dependent, prideful monster bent on self -preservation.

The days lingered on; I looked forward only to going to sleep: the father you never had. Everything is O.K. in the comfort of blankets and pillows, but reality sets in and then, bright colors preasent themselves on the thermal imager: you are not alone. Disembodied voices grow louder and louder and can eventually be heard by the deaf. Not in a familiar tongue, but in a distinct one. One that pre-dates eons. They say you are not worth it, that you have failed all task and cannot succeed at future ones. That you might as well make the buck stop… make the buck stop here, in Texas.

Never have I encountered a presence in such opposition to my enduring than in that blasphemous state! Tentacles spreading out, and fading in and out of recognizable dimensions swoop down and deliver me into evil rapture. “I own you and all you perceive to be good and just” is all I can incite cognitively. Malevolence is my color, and I squirm in its shadow. The bags were packed.

After only a brief tenure on Craig’s list, I secured for us a cabin at the base of three mountains. There, the air would be sweeter and the life, more livable. I have always romanticized the state of Colorado. Not sure whether or not it was the severed connection it had with the American standard, or whether it was the wild, untamed heart of all that inhabits its borders, but the 'reason' made more sense to me and attempted to answer the riddle of my existence. Colorado is where I belonged.

So, fat and ill tempered I pressed on. Nothing would inhibit my determination. Everything came together it seemed, at the last moment. No more depressing routines that stunt my being and no more endless hours of mimicry and ridicule that plague my inner dialogue. No more short cuts that end in alleyways of drug abuse and torture. The path was in clear view and I, in clear disposition.

Our rental truck was packed to the gills, which is appropriate given that we were under such tremendous pressure to breath. Everything we ever knew and accumulated rode on those wheels. The truck, bulky and long, presented a challenge at first. We had never driven anything so large. The fangs of self-doubt sank deep: were we just being over-dramatic? I flagged my middle finger at the old apartment, and set off.

We had decided earlier that we would share the duty of driving and my wife Nikki, having her driver’s license took the wheel first. Clumsily we merged onto the main drag leading to the highway, white knuckled and panicked. “Oh shit!” She shouted as cars speed up determined to get in front. “I don’t think I can do this.” Not even out of the city limits, Texas gripped us with doubt and loomed large above like an ominous cloud. I, determined to press on, reminded her how proud I was of her for taking the initiative and attempted to calm her down, not revealing to her that I was too frightened at the current moment to drive myself. She somehow pulled herself together and led us straight out of familiar area. The city limit of Decatur flashed before us and we both sank into our seats as we exhaled for the first time.

After what seemed to be hours, we were just arriving at Wichita Falls. It was time for a pit stop, as our legs cramping, we stretched out our arms toward the sky and felt the sting of the Texas sun on our skin. This place was relentless! Not only was the heat above any record I was familiar with, but we knew we still had hours ahead within the state’s borders. The thought was overwhelming and not wanting to admit it, I was of the mind to turn around. “Goddamn! Texas is just not willing to let us go.” I cried to my wife in distress. She patted me on the back and for the first time, lent me strength and validated our reason for leaving. It was time to get back in the truck and back on the road. But a ghost had presented itself a ways back. Years even. And I was aware of its presence for the first time. This seemed to only irritate it.

Cruising along, we barely noticed that we were in the middle of Childress, the town near west Texas were the chainsaw massacre allegedly took place. The thought of an unknown presence added with the fucked up geographical location of where we were was unsettling to say the least. While lost in my head with my trusty companion paranoia, a loud noise amplified in the cabin of the moving truck. To my bewilderment and dismay, a glance in the side view mirror revealed that my car had come loose from the tow behind the truck. This was not possible. It had been secured and gone over again and again. The lens from the passenger side fog light bounced off the moving highway while my car teetered to the right side of the road. Other vehicles swerved to avoid the catastrophe unfolding before there eyes. Slamming the breaks would bring disaster for sure. So I gently eased the breaks while everything slowed down to a musical pace. By just merely thinking about the ghost, I was breathing life into it. We narrowly just avoided the worst conceivable outcome.

After readjusting and getting back on the road, I told my wife what I thought was behind the pressure and mishaps we were experiencing. Not believing me, we managed to laugh it off and push through Amarillo. Surely we were almost at the New Mexico border. But we were mistaken. Texas and its heat and formless landscape spread on into oblivion. I was being swallowed whole.

After spending more than two hours on a road so narrow it could’ve been a bike lane, we had to pull over and get gas. It was also time to relinquish driving duties. I was done, at least for a little while. We loaded up on energy drinks and filled the tank, then drunkenly we made our way to the counter to pay.

It was almost dark. All of Texas was visible in the daylight. I looked over at my wife and said it wouldn’t be long now 'til we were there and got no response. I shook her. She was asleep. “Wake up! What the hell is wrong with you?” The last thing she remembered was seeing pin points of light and then nothing: was this another attempt at sabotage from our unseen passenger? Who knows. Who cares. We were well over halfway there. “Shake it off and pull over. I need an energy drink, and then I’ll take over from here.”

I surveyed the drink rack for one that would deliver a punch. And there it was. Spike energy. Available only in Colorado. We were here? This stuff had warning labels all over it along with a strong dose of anhydrous caffeine. I was bound and determined to get us to the cabin and this shit was going to get us there. Not long after downing it, when I was supposed to only drink half, I could feel my hair growing; my palms were sweaty and my head was spinning; the road stretched out before me and I was aware of every detail, even in the dark. I rolled down the window and felt the cool Colorado air. It even smelled sweet. The excitement was mounting and we were navigating through small county roads that wound around rocky bases that I could only assume where mountains. We were twenty miles out.

I could hear the Arkansas river roaring through the half cracked window and deer were darting out in front of the moving truck. Only the Spike I had earlier consumed left pulsing waves of tension in me. Slowing down to a crawl, I saw the mailbox with our address number. “Welcome home” I said to Nikki. We cried and laughed and little; we had made it. I stepped out of the truck and looked to the sky: the stars were brilliant and alive; they were literally breathing; galaxies and nebulas spanning the dome above me. I could feel it welcoming me; I had never been so happy. To finally be away from the paranoia. It was time to rest easy, so my wife and I entered our cabin and made a pallet of blankets and pillows on the floor. We were exhausted. There seemed to be no transition into falling asleep. The entire day was a dream.

I heard outside of the arms of sleep disgruntled voices and the loud banging of objects; I could smell the locker room, a high school gym class. Not wanting to open my eyes, I made out the blurry figure of a jailer standing above me and my mat on the floor. “On your feet if you're gonna eat.” After I shook off the itchy jail-issued blanket I was under, I read the insignia on my jumper.

Tyler stayed, was jailed and addicted back in Texas. He now resides in Colorado and you can find him hiding behind locked doors or in plain sight.