Road Warriors #1
Stranger on the Road
by Josh Waters
A bright red van raced along a bumpy, yet straight, road. It hit a large dip and its front tires reared into the air, almost like a horse. Its rider cheered again, yelling to on one but himself. The rider swung the wheel hard to the left to hit another dip. The scratchy radio blared loud rock music as the van flew over the road, sometimes literally.
In fact, scratchy would define the van as a whole. The red paint had been chipped and scraped from top to bottom. The bumpers and hubcaps were the same, showing just how many miles this van had seen. The driver had seen several of those miles with it, and it was almost like a best friend for him, as far as inanimate objects go.
“C'mon, Jik! Go, go, gooooooooooo!”
Jik, the only person in the van, was an unusual character. He had wild orange hair, a gray shirt that went to his wrists, a blue hoody with short sleeves, and a pair of khaki shorts. His sandals pounded the gas pedal, nearly wrapping his bare toes around it.
The driver himself was a mix of things. While he did have a wild side, as he jumped the van over a massive pot hole, his face also seemed to carry a serene, sentimental side that would have been in complete contrast to the moment. However, his most notable feature was his eyes. Not the fact that they were a light blue, but that they had a light that's unbelievably filled with life and vigor, as if trying to live harder than anyone or anything else.
Soon enough, the road smoothed out, leaving Jik disappointed. He vocally groaned, but still smiled as he turned the stereo off and just let the wind blast in his face. The peaceful meadow apparently required a more respectful and quiet atmosphere. While Jik's smile was just as wide, the energy just as vibrant, the attitude had switch to that more sentimental side as took in his surroundings.
He mind began to drift, almost driving in his sleep, as he enjoyed the country side, when his eyes popped back open to see a bald man dressed in strange white robes that stood out against the natural background. He was walking in the same direction Jik was driving with a bag slung over his shoulder. Jik casually drove up and slowed to match the stranger's pace.
“Hi!” Jike greeted cheerfully.
The walker jumped, startled by the sudden attention. He looked at Jik from the corner of his eyes and simply kept walking.
“Where you headed?” Jik asked.
The stranger gave no response.
“Would you like a ride?”
Jik thought for a moment, wondering why he couldn't get a word out of this guy. “Can't you talk at all?”
At this, the man stopped dead in his tracks. Jik hit the brakes, then reversed the van back to where the stranger stopped.
“You can't talk?” Jik asked, slightly puzzled.
After a long pause, the stranger nodded.
“Well, geez, I'll still give you a ride.”
This surprised the robed man, and his face lightened up. Instantly, he raced around to the other side and opened the passenger door. He sat down and began rubbing the bottoms of his bare feet, looking very relieved. He must have walked for miles! Jik thought. He put the van in gear again and continued to drive.
“So, uh, you can't talk.”
No. The stranger shook his head.
“Were you born that way?”
“So you could speak before! What happened?”
The stranger averted his eyes, looking out at the meadows. Clearly a taboo topic.
They drove for a bit in silence. Not even as the road grew slightly bumpy again affected them. Jik struggled to find more yes-or-no questions that he liked. Suddenly, he thought of something, and he jumped into the back of the van. Panicking, the stranger grabbed his arm and pointed at the road.
“Don't worry. It's going straight,” Jik stated as he tried to go into the back.
The stranger grabbed and pointed again.
“The van's in cruise control! It'll be fine!”
The stranger finally let go but remained nervous, eying the horizon for road-blocks. He kept glancing at the steering wheel, as if wondering if he should try to grab it, but Jik quickly returned, a pad of paper and a pen in his hand, which he gave to his passenger before he plunked back into the driver's seat and regained control.
“This'll be better. You can understand what I'm saying, so I figure you can write, too, right?”
The stranger smiled brightly and began scribbling immediately. Soon, he showed what he had written to Jik.
“ 'I am Tooga, son of Turakunei,' “ Jik read aloud. “I'm Jik.”
Tooga bowed respectfully in response.
“Are you a monk?”
“Of what order?”
Tooga's face fell again, his eyes lowering to the van's carpet.
Scribble, scribble, scribble.
“ 'Where are you going?' “ Jik read. “Nowhere!” The monk gave him a confused look, so Jik continued: “I'm an adventurer! I go where I choose, follow my own path, and take whatever comes my way. I do the best that I can where I am and try to make an impact everywhere I go. I make the most out of the journey itself. I just don't have a destination right now. Where are you going?”
“ 'Nowhere' ?!” Jik read, startled. “Well! You're . . . you're . . .” Words seemed to have left him until he helplessly blurted, “Well, you're heading in the right direction!” and then he shrugged.
“ 'Where are we now?' Look in the glove compartment. There should be a map.”
After some confusion out of the unfamiliarity of a vehicle, Tooga guessed that was the latch in front of him. He was able to pop it open and find the map, which he spread out on the dashboard. Jik studied it a moment, his eyes bouncing between it and the road.
“I think that we're here. Yeah. I left Luaye yesterday and turned left at this Ribbon Junction. We're now headed, uh, North-East, so it looks like we're gonna run into Tailsnake Junction. It's either Silvanri City or Takston. We can decide when we get there. Shouldn't be more than an hour.”
Tooga nodded, then tried to fold the map back together. After struggling for a while, he just crumpled it up and tossed it into the middle seat. Jik just laughed.
“Yeah, that's what I would have done, too!” he said.
[Welcome to my new blog. Here's the short version: once a week, I'm going to add to this story. Yes, it's fiction, but I feel this story really has no ending (nor a beginning for that matter), and I feel that posting this in a blog would be a neat way to introduce this story to everyone. Please leave comments, either of what you liked or what criticisms you have to offer.]