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[Intro music fades.]

Howdy and good evening, folks. You're tunin' in to the Clint Maddox show, live on the I-95. Welcome to America's first—and last—frontier. I'm your host, Clint Maddox.

This broadcast is dedicated to Hubert "Mad Dog" Hansen, who tragically passed away two nights ago. Hubert was a regular listener of the show, I'm told. He was a loving husband and father to two beautiful girls, who miss him dearly.

I have a message that a good friend of Hubert's left on the show's line late last night. I'll be playing it on air, tonight, out of respect for Hubert. This one'll be a bit personal, if you couldn't tell.

Hey, Clint. This is… [Pauses.] I guess it don't matter. My best friend, Mad Dog Hansen, you'll, uh, read about him in the papers, I'm sure. His 18-wheeler went right off the Lake Marion bridge durin' his long haul to Savannah. Coroner said he had a massive stroke behind the wheel, that he was dead as a doornail before he even hit the water.

I found out about Hube's death yesterday, when my pal Walt, a sheriff's deputy, let me know that he bit the dust. Said they couldn't recover the entire body, it was so mangled up in the cab. So they just sent the whole thing down to a lot in Black Creek where they take old busted semis and leave them to rust, with—with li'l bits of Hube still somewhere in there.

We—[Shaky breath.]—'scuse me.

We used to sit out on his porch, sippin' Pabst and listenin' to your show. That's the kind of thing we'd do. We didn't talk much, just listened, drank together. And it was a better friendship than any I've had. We didn't need to talk, fact is. It was like we knew what the other was gonna say before we said it, so we didn't need to say a word.

That's the whole reason I'm callin'. Uh, we were both fans of the show, I mean.

When Walt broke the news to me, it was like all the grief in the world hit me in that split second, years of it all at once. And then it was gone. Left me empty.

I asked Walt for the lot's address. I wanted to… pay respects, you know? I brought a pair of beers with me to have one last drink with him. I know it sounds gay, but it felt like the right thing to do.

[Coughs.] Black Creek is a dinky li'l unincorporated town some miles from where Hube wrecked. All it has goin' for it is an arms manufacturer and a lot of open space. I showed up just after sunset, ridin' down empty intersection after empty intersection, until I found the lot: Wallace & Son Impound, I think it was.

I parked out front and walked up to the booth. Big fat colored feller was in there, readin' a magazine. Didn't respond to me till I knocked on the glass. The guy didn't say a word, just pressed a button to open the gate and went back to his magazine.

There were rusted carcasses of 18-wheelers in lines down the gravel lot, stretchin' on as far as the eye could see. It was like a damned elephant graveyard. It was dark, now, and those. uh, sodium-vapor lamps put a weird orange glow over the place. I didn't know where to find Hube's rig, so I just walked down the rows, an unopened can of Pabst in each hand.

Took maybe a half hour of walkin' before I found the thing. Its cherry-red paint job was cracked and scraped all over, and the cab was crumpled up like a wad of paper. One of the axles stuck out to one side, bent all sharply to the back.

Driver's seat was still—it still had a washed-out red-brown stain across the middle. The hurt I felt when Walt told me what happened came back for a second, but I pushed it back down. I took a deep breath and cracked open one of the beers, and I chugged the can in one go. Crushed it down like we used to and dropped it.

I stood there for a while, I don't know how long.

Then I cracked open the other Pabst. I said, "Here's to Hubert Hansen, the Mad Dog of the I-95." I clinked the can against one of the busted headlights.

Somethin' happened when I did that. I was gone from the impound, and… [Pauses.] This is gonna sound like I'm nuts. Shit, maybe I am. Grief can do some weird things.

I think I went to Hell.

I was in a big city, all the sudden, knee-deep in standing water. It was barely light out. Shattered glass from broken windows littered every surface.

There were bodies everywhere—piled stories high, driftin' face-down in the water, crushed under rubble. Smeared with this black dust, with burlap bags over their heads—every single one of them.

I heaved until nothin' came up, feeling stabs of panic wrack my body. I ran away. I don't remember what happened for a while, but I came to on the escalator of a flooded clothes retailer, lungs burning like they'd been scrubbed with sandpaper.

I felt calm, after that, but not some graceful serenity. It was a layer of numbness over everything, kept me from screaming myself hoarse every time I stumbled into another pile of the dead.

I left the store and walked aimlessly. I found myself on Wall Street—I was in some twisted Manhattan, I guess. There were men in neckties hangin' from every window, sacks hidin' their faces. Some were lynched from the bumpers of cars, barely-recognizable hunks of meat that had their outer layers scraped away by asphalt. More were crucified to the billboards, arms spread wide over Coca-Cola logos.

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