Going for a Ride.
It was always quiet in the company truck. The clunky rattling keeps one humble, acting as a constant reminder that at any moment, everything could fall apart. Yet, we remain held together by rusted bolts and greasy, interlocking framework. That delicate balance has been interrupted ever since we got this truck in. There's something behind me each time I slip into the driver's seat, silently looming with unseen hands and breath brushing across the back of my neck. No matter how many times I confront that nagging feeling and glance in the mirror, the only thing reflected is the interior of the truck and my own overstrung eyes.
I'm not sure if it's a lack of sleep, general carelessness for my health or something else, but my skin has become pale and sickly. I feel increasingly tired and fatigued as the days pass by. Not even the countless amounts of caffeinated beverages or medical stimulants seem to help. I'm hardly old, but my hair is growing gray and wispy. It's become so thin that it lightly wafts even without the breeze - only in the truck, though. I've seen the doctor for countless other reasons. Shortness of breath, mostly. I was sure I'd developed something like bronchitis, perhaps from the different products and their chemical smells that pervade the truck. It causes me to abruptly choke on occasion. The doctor did seem worried about some red markings around my throat, but I assured them that it was likely from the truck's seatbelt being rustled against my skin. Surely there was a logical explanation. Surely the dark shadows in the corners of my peripherals are simple visual hallucinations. That can be a symptom of sleep deprivation, right? It has to be. Every time I whip my head around to ensure I'm only imagining things, I'm met with the same old truck. Same old supplies, same old buckets nestled in the back.
I keep seeing it. It's behind me but I can never catch it. It doesn't dare leave the truck, but the effect it has on me persists.
I've asked not to have the night shift anymore as a result of my declining health. It's impossible to drive, even if I kept the bright lights on the whole time. It's as if the hallucinations progress to vision loss at night. I can't see anything in my peripherals; shadows fill the corners of my eyes in long, sprawling, pointed shapes creeping into the center of my vision. It would be irresponsible of me to continue driving in such a condition. It goes away in the morning. It must be some sort of condition associated with low light environments. Surely.
I've always been a good driver, but I seem to swerve and lose focus more often these days. Too many times I've had close calls, almost scraping against a passing vehicle before veering away from the angry civilian giving me an incredulous look. Too many times I've had to pull into the nearest parking lot to step out and recollect myself.
I never seem to have issues when a coworker joins me in the truck. I feel light, calm, even less anxious. The burning warmth against my neck disappears and I can breathe freely as if I weren't in the truck at all. Yet, as soon as they leave that suffocating feeling returns.
The company refuses to give me a replacement vehicle, or even just take the truck back. I've offered to buy my own and use it instead. They've had multiple mechanics check the truck for damage, faulty parts, anything that could explain why I would constantly pester and insist on having a new, or rather any condition, vehicle. It's gotten to the point where they've blocked me from submitting requests.
I should leave the company, but I find myself hesitating. Perhaps the burning heat that clasps my throat in the truck has become comfortable. My cold-by-comparison home, devoid of companionship or any life aside from my trundling form, has almost left me desiring the stifling atmosphere of the truck.
Sometimes when I'm off of work, I wander outside late at night, ending up in that driver seat with no plans to drive. I just sit. I sit and try to breathe no matter how challenging it has gotten. It's become a prickly feeling. The long shadows slowly move towards the center of my vision, as they tend to when I spend a night in the truck, but it's almost like I'm passing out and my vision becomes darker and darker as I struggle to remain conscious. My eyes float around the truck and land on the rearview, only to be met with eyes. They seem unfamiliar. Inhuman.