A Trucker Named Bertrand
Somewhere In Northern France
Against the backdrop of a starry landscape of infinite darkness on lonely rural road, Tam Linn can almost pretend that this isn’t the modern age. That mighty towers of steel and glass hasn’t replaced towers of stone and brick. That he is a man, not this half-fae creature. That they- no, he tells himself. He won’t go there. Some memories are better left forgotten, untouched, unremembered.
He glances with his supernatural sight three-hundred sixty degrees around himself, and on spotting a car he raises a hand. The driver ignores him.
“Rude”, he mutters, glancing down at Yowl, who is bigger, yet tiring at the pace he has set. He scops her up and places inside his sweater, close to the warmth of his skin. She gives him a meow, as if to say that she doesn’t need to be carried, but its weak, not like her usual protests. He thinks of her little mother, and that last look she gave him. Yes, Tam Linn too knows the burdens of parenthood.
A second vehicle, a truck, snakes up on him. He raises a hand, and this time the truck halts. “Where you going?” The speaker’s French is oddly cultured for a trucker, but there are all kinds, Linn reasons. “North”, he responds. The trucker, an old man with grey sideburns and blue eyes smiles at him, kindly. It is noticeable that the trucker’s eyes doesn’t look at the red handprint on Tam Linn’s face– most mortals, even some immortals, tend to stare.
Taking that smile as his cue, Tam jumps in. “Bertrand”, the man says, while starting the truck once more. “My name is Tam”, Tam responds. If Bertrand is surprised by the lack of a surname, he doesn’t show it. Tam turns his head around, and peers through the metal, spotting the merchandise that Bertrand is transporting; steel beams. “What are you transporting”, he asks, despite knowing the answer. It wouldn’t do to raise suspicion, and a hitchhiker would ask.
“Steel beams for a Belgian company that I have never heard the name of”, Bertrand retorts, his eyes never leaving the road. Tam nods politely. “I take it then that you travel much?” Bertrand laughs out loud at Tam’s question. ” That’s putting it mildly. I have got an old container in a Paris suburb that I have renovated, but the road takes me all across Europe, and well, I rarely get to see home”, Bertrand offers in a self-deprecating voice.
“Ever been to Sweden?”Bertrand nods in the affirmative. “Nice country. Cold in the winter, but the women are atleast pretty. Good roads, very good roads- long and straight with extremly few holes. The language is a bit strange though; to my ears it sounds like they’re always singing. Of course, most of them can speak passable English…”
Tam listens closely as Betrand tells him a story of one of his last trips to a coastal city called Gothenburg, and he compares it with an older trip.
Four hours later, as the sun starts its journey across the celestial vault, Bertrand parks the truck at a small inn. Or do they still call them that? Maybe ‘reststop’ is more modern word, Tam wonders.
“I’ll be right back”, Bertrand says in a sleepy voice,” just going to grab some coffee.” Tam nods and leans back. He too is tired. His eyes- A car playing loud hip-hop music parks at the entrance to the inn. He watches as two young men exits the car and enters the inn. Tam Linn closes his eyes with the indifference of immortality and his eyelids close.
He opens his eyes, startled. Yowl decides this is the moment when she is going to wake up, and she announces this by scratching his chest. “Ow”, he roars, placing her on the seat left vacant by Bertrand. “Stay here”, he says firmly, ignoring her cries of dismay. “I am going to see what has happened with Bertrand..”
The moment he enters the inn, Tam Linn knows something is wrong. Its the scent. Unlike a werewolf or a vampire, he doesn’t have a augmented sense of smell, but that rich, coppery scent is unmistakeable. He strains his eyes, and gazes through the walls. Bertrand lies on the floor, a large gaping hole in his head, and an older woman sits slumped against a wall, her eyes staring at nothing. The two men he saw entering the inn?
They’re cleaning out the register, filling a bag with money. One of the would be thiefs crouches on the floor and removes a wedding band from Bertrand’s hand. Something about that theft, the theft of the dignity a nice old man who helped a random hitchhiker angers Tam Linn.
Jean’s head whips around at the sound of Sebastien’s scream. A hobo holds Sebastien by the throat, a dagger impaling his hand against the wall. The hobo turns to look at him, and he has got to be wearing lenses, because his eyes are like fucking disco-balls!
The thought galvanizes him and he raises the gun the two of them bought. The hobo gestures at him, and there is a burning flash of light. Jean flops around on the floor, screaming; his entire left arm is charred black!
He looks up in time to see the hobo with the red-tattoo on his face rip out Sebastien’s eyes. “Why…”, he begins. “Why are you doing this to us?!”
The hobo kneels next to him. Up front, those eyes seem otherworldy, alien, arcane. “Because there is no discussing with people like you”, the hobo says in a tired voice. “Death alone will cure you.”
The last thing Jean sees is the end of dagger inching closer. The nothing.
Tam Linn takes a few steps out of the inn. Following his actions is a large noise; the walls of the inn crumple, flames flicker out of windows and the ceiling caves on itself. Nobody is listening, but had someone been listening, they would have heard his soliloquoy for a trucker namned Bertrand.