Just one

Just one

A Story by Cassie Meno

How hard can you resist who you've been brought up to be?


My mouth feels about as dry as the barren desert flying by outside my window. I look down at the plastic cup sitting in the holder. I picked it up about a hundred miles back at a truck stop and haven’t been able to take more than a sip of it. I’ve still got that taste in the back of my mouth. The taste of blood. I get it every time, and anything I put into my mouth just makes it worse. Just makes me crave more. So the cup just sits there, sweating.

A mile marker flies past on the left side of my truck, but I’m driving too fast to catch what number it says. Not that it matters; I’m not going anywhere specific. I just want to get as far away as possible. I’ll drive west until I get to the pacific, and then, when nothing but the water is in front of me, I’ll keep driving, because I know that if they ever find me, they’ll drag me back, and everything will go back to how it was. Dying is the only thing that will keep me from going home.

But I’m just one person. My whole family is back at the house, and they won’t stop just because I’m gone.

I swallow hard, my throat burning. Maybe it really isn’t worth it. Maybe I should just turn around and suck it up. I can’t change the world. And I can’t stand the hunger for much longer.

I reach for the cup and take a small sip. The metallic taste in the back of my throat gets stronger, as if the flat, watered down soda, is actually some poor little girl’s remains. Thinking that makes my stomach growl. I roll down my window and throw the cup out.

Up ahead, the sun catches on a silver car pulled to a stop on the shoulder. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel. I’m sure there’s nobody there; they probably went to find help. But I can’t help slowing down as I get closer, just to check.

My stomach drops when I see the girl sitting on the hood of the car, because I don’t want to stop. She puts her hand up to shield the light and looks at me as I get closer. Maybe she’s hopeful; maybe she thinks I’m going to stop and help her.

Maybe I can do it. I just ate about four hours ago. Maybe I can stop and give her a jump. I’ll stay as far away as possible so that I don’t smell her too much. I’ll prove to myself that I’m not a complete barbarian.

I pull up behind her and put my hazards on. She hops off of the hood where she had been sitting, her knees scrunched to her chest. She keeps her distance"worried I might be some kind of serial rapist. If only she knew.

“Can I give you a jump?” I ask. That’s all I’ll do for her. It’s all I can do. There’s no way she can get in the truck with me.

She must be comforted by the fact that I haven’t moved away from my truck. She takes a step toward me. I can smell her now; the wind is starting to pick up and I can smell her shampoo. It’s enough to make my mouth start watering. I reach into my pocket and feel around for the pocket knife, find it, and push my hand against it. I need something to distract me from the way she smells, from the aching hunger that’s ravaging my stomach.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. It just sort of stopped.” She’s a mess. Probably not even old enough to drink and stuck alone in the middle of the desert. And now she’s caught my attention. Poor girl. She’s cute too. Maybe running into me isn’t the worst thing that could happen. I make it quick. I can make it so that she doesn’t feel anything I do to her.

“Well, I don’t know much about cars.” It’s a lie. I know enough about them to build an engine from scratch with my eyes closed.

“Do you have cell service? Mine is dead.”

I push my hand harder into the side of the blade. It would be so easy! “Sorry, I don’t have a cell phone.”

She takes a few steps closer and I hold my breath. “Could you just give me a ride to the nearest truck stop then?” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a clip filled with twenties. “You can have all of it. I just want to get home.” She’s tearing up, staring at me with her brown eyes, begging me to help her.

Maybe, just maybe I can resist for a few minutes. The closest truck stop is only about twenty miles back the way I came. It won’t take long to get there. If I can stop thinking about it, everything will be fine.

“Oh, I don’t need your money. Come on, get in. I just passed one not too far back.” I get back in and roll down both of the windows before she makes it over to the passenger’s side.

“I really appreciate this. It’s my first road trip. I was going to see my boyfriend, and"“ She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. “Figures.”

I lean as close to the window as possible, trying to breathe the air from outside.

I start the car and pull back onto the road. “Are you alright? You look a bit sick.”

This poor girl seems so nice. And I do feel sick. I feel like I haven’t eaten in days. I don’t think I can actually make it to the truck stop. But I can’t really pull over and tell her to get out, right?

“Maybe if we turn the air on you’ll feel better.”

I shake my head. “Don’t have air. Sorry, I’m fine; been driving for a while.”

“Well then you should at least let me buy you some lunch when we get to the stop.”

Food. I wish she hadn’t mentioned it. I look to the empty cup holder and wish I hadn’t thrown my drink out. Even the taste would be better than this.

“That won’t be necessary. It’s really no problem.”

“You’re going back the way you came to get me to a telephone. I insist.”

The argument will have to wait until she’s out of the car. I can’t keep talking. My left hand is still in my pocket, pressing up against the blade, but the pain isn’t making much difference.

Finally, the truck stop comes into view. I press down harder on the gas pedal, pushing my speed up to ninety, and turn into the empty parking lot.

We both stare at the building for a moment. My stomach is growling so bad that it seems to be all I can hear. All I want is for her to get out of my car, but it’s obvious now that I’m here. This truck stop is empty. The windows are all broken or boarded up. There’s a single gas pump off to the right, but the hose has been pulled off and lies a couple feet away in the dirt. I must have been driving too fast to notice on my way past it the first time.

The girl looks over at me, her mouth open a bit. “I’m so sorry. I’ll just get out here.”

I shake my head. She can’t wait in this heat for long. It was supposed to tip off at a hundred twenty today, and it’s only two o’clock. She has no water. No food. No cell phone. Either way, she’s going to die.

Dehydration would suck, I think. It would be cruel to leave her out here.

I start backing out of the parking lot.

“Sir, you really don’t have to.”

I look at her. Her skin is a bit pink from the sun. There’s a small layer of sweat coating her arms, making them shine.

            “Yes,” I say softly. I turn off of the road and start into the desert. “I’m sorry, but I really do.”

© 2011 Cassie Meno

My Review

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the outline of the story is simple, but there is enough dialogue and imagery to move it along and develop everything, despite nameless characters or actual detailed backgrounds. it's the focus of one situation without having to define background stories to help the reader along. nothing more than this, and a good suspenseful ending.

Posted 12 Years Ago

That was so interesting. I love that none of the characters have names or clear backgrounds. It works so well that you let them ride on their personalities. The dialogue is simple and realistic, while the meat of the story is happening in the main character's mind. It's very cool that the actions are unimportant, while the important moments are psychological. Very well done.

Posted 12 Years Ago

I like the main guy's internal conflict; I've always been a sucker for stories about monsters that don't like being monsters. But thanks a lot for the cliffhanger ending. I hate that sort of thing, because I love it so much. My problem, and this is more just an aesthetic thing for me, and doesn't really matter, is all the apostrophes and contractions. Like I said, it's not problem with the story; I just personally don't like the way they look, because I'm a weird kid. All in all, great.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Very cool. It kept my interest throughout. I really liked the ending, in particular. It's sudden and kind of drops off with no real explanation as to what's going to happen next, other than what's implied. Very solid work.

Posted 12 Years Ago

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4 Reviews
Added on January 11, 2011
Last Updated on January 12, 2011
Tags: Cannible, desert, hitchhiking


Cassie Meno
Cassie Meno


Hey, everyone, my name is Cassie Meno. I'm eighteen and I've been writing pretty much since before I could spell. I prefer longer pieces--novels and novellas mainly. I have a hard time getting a poin.. more..