The first Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge for July is called There Is No Exit. The assignment was to interpret that phrase however we wanted to in 1,000 words or less. I did it in exactly 1,000 words and took it on the road. Please to enjoy “E”.
LAST GAS FOR 34 MILES
I turned in my seat to look back, sure I had read it wrong. I couldn’t see the words, though; the sign was facing the way we had come. Besides, it was getting dark. I looked at Griffin. “Did that sign say, ‘Last gas for 34 miles’?”
He just sat there a moment, lost in thought, then his eyes cleared. “What?”
“That sign back there. Last gas, it said. 34 miles.”
He shrugged. “So?”
“So? The gas light’s on. You should have stopped. Turn around so we can fill up before we go through the forest.”
“Turn around how, scrub? It’s a highway. There’s a concrete wall right there. We’ll just have to keep going and get off at the next exit.”
“Which is apparently 34 miles away. How long has it been since the light came on?”
“It’s not really 34 miles,” he said. “That’s just advertising, trying to get clueless noobs like us to stop. They probably jack the prices up. Next exit’s probably just over the hill and a quarter a gallon less.”
He was avoiding the question. “How long has the light been on?”
He shrugged again. “Dunno.”
I shook my head. “I swear to God, Griffin, if we run out of gas, I’m going to kick your ass.”
“Ooh! That rhymed!” He laughed. “Can you give me a haiku as well?”
I counted my syllables carefully. “Griffin is an asshole. Guess what? The gas light is on. 32 more miles!” He lifted one middle finger off the wheel and rotated it ever-so-delicately in my direction.
“I have to pee.”
Griffin glanced at me, then back at the road. “Seriously? You’re saying that to me now?”
I laughed, a high, nervous giggle.
“Sorry, dude, but I do. I’ve been holding it for a while and it’s starting to get insistent. How far?”
He did the math. 23 miles to go. The engine sounded strong.
A few minutes later we were winding through Red Mountain National Forest on a twisty four-lane road. There was still a concrete wall separating our lanes from the ones on the other side. I kept hoping it would disappear so we could turn around and go back to the gas station. It was dark and I could see the brightest stars above us if I pressed my face to the window and looked up. Night had truly fallen.
I could tell Griffin was worried by the way he kept stealing little glimpses at the gauges. His hands tightened on the wheel.
“How’s it look?” I asked.
“It’s on E,” he said. “I’ve taken it past E before, but I don’t know how far past it can go before we run out of gas.”
“Isn’t Red Mountain ahead?”
He nodded. “We’ve already started going up.”
“Once we get over the top can you put it in neutral and coast down the other side, save some gas?”
“Maybe. I’ve never tried that. I guess I could.”
I looked over at the dash. The gauges glowed blue. The amber light shaped like a gas pump shone brightly in the dark. I checked out the odometer. 16 miles to go. I really needed to pee.
I tried not to, but I squirmed on the front seat. I was really, really, uncomfortable. We were still 9 miles away from the promise of gas. Had it really only been an hour or so since we were singing along to Flock of Seagulls at the tops of our lungs? Seemed like days.
“Just hang it out the window and let go, dude,” said Griffin. “It’s dark. Who’s gonna see?”
“I’m saving it,” I said through gritted teeth, “so that if we run out of gas I can piss myself all over your damn front seat.”
We finally came over the top of Red Mountain and hit the downhill part of the road. Griffin cut the motor, pushed the clutch in, and put us in neutral. The car kept going downhill, and braking didn’t seem to make us lose too much momentum. The odometer kept turning, so we were able to keep an eye on the mileage. He grinned at me triumphantly as the miles rolled by.
“Looks like we might make it,” said Griffin.
“Don’t talk to me. Just get me to a bathroom.”
We were still going down the mountain when we passed the 34 mile mark. There was no exit, and no gas station in sight. “What the hell?” I said.
“It’s probably at the bottom of the hill,” said Griffin. “The sign just had the mileage wrong.” Sure enough, when we reached the point where the road leveled off, there was no exit, but there was a gas station.
And it was closed.
We rolled to a stop next to one of the pumps. The lights under the shed were still on but the pumps were turned off. Grifffin sighed. “Maybe it’s not too far to the next station.” He turned the key. The engine sputtered and died. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered. He tried again. Nothing. He looked at me pleadingly. “Please don’t pee in my car, dude.”
I gave him my most withering glare. “Since I’ll be sleeping in it, I’ll go somewhere else. This time.” I opened the door and my bladder howled. It was at critical mass.
As I trotted—okay, as I ran—across the parking lot, Griffin called out, “At least we’re beside a pump. We can fill up as soon as they open in the morning.”
I tried the bathroom just in case, but it was locked. I shrugged, and peed on some bushes growing beside the building. I sighed and smiled. That was the greatest piss of my life. It was almost sexual, how good it felt.
As I walked back to the car, I could see the other side of the highway in the moonlight. There was a sign there, for cars going the other way.
LAST GAS FOR 34 MILES