Stories from the Midnight Escape Ramp
Cannery Row meets the Twilight Zone: A Medium-exclusive series of short stories, flash pieces, and various oddities set in the mystical Midnight Escape Ramp truck stop…located somewhere between here and there
How to describe the Midnight Escape Ramp?
Well, I guess I can start by saying it’s a truck stop, because that is in fact what it is. That hardly does the thing justice, though. Not by a highway mile.
See, things happen at the Midnight that just don’t happen anywhere else. It’s sort of a rest stop between worlds, I guess, but even saying that doesn’t fully do the place right.
“Escape ramp,” by the way, is what they call those steeply inclined gravel pullouts you see on the side of the highway. They’re also called runaway truck ramps, sometimes. They’re there in case a trucker loses his brakes and needs to bail off the road. You’ve seen them at least once or twice in your life, I’m sure.
No one’s exactly sure who named the place the Midnight Escape Ramp. No one remembers it being built at all, and no one’s ever talked to an owner. The place was always just sort of there, it seems…waiting.
You’ve got to have a certain sort of eyes to see the Midnight. The vast majority of people, truckers and non-truckers alike, drive past it their whole lives without ever noticing.
It’s a special group of folks who stop here to fill up their tanks or their bellies. They’re those castaway types. You know, the natural-born orphans who never fit quite right in the regular world.
They usually spend their whole lives looking for the Midnight, but never knowing quite exactly what they’re looking for. It comes to them on some dark night of the soul, when they’re drifting through their tumbleweed lives and they look up on the highway side and they see it…glittering like broken beer bottle glass glitters in the sun.
For those who do see the Midnight, it usually ends up being the last pull-off they ever make from the regular world. For them, the Midnight’s like an entrance ramp into another dimension. After it, they can’t ever go back to their old lives again.
Hell, their old lives aren’t there, anyway. From the first moment you set eyes on the Midnight, your old life blows apart like leaves in a hurricane.
You know this, though, or else you wouldn’t be sitting here listening. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t belong. That’s not how the Midnight works. You saw it because it saw you, and if it saw you, well, then you’re welcome.
I’ve been serving coffee here for a solid ten years, I guess. Time doesn’t work quite the same at the Midnight but ten years feels about right.
Oh, I’ve got stories, friend. I’ve got stories enough to fill a night that never ends.
So, let me pour you a cup. Sugar and creamer’s over to the right, if you take it that way. I prefer mine black, but that’s just me.
Pull up that chair and get it while it’s hot. I’ve got some stories, alright.
Welcome to the Midnight.
(The Midnight is a running series of stories from the most mysterious truck stop in the world. More tales forthcoming.)