The Ghost Fleet

I used to write a whole lot.  Today, I was going through some of my writings and came back across Ghost Fleet.  I think it actually came out pretty well, so I’m going to post “Chapter 1” of it below. It starts just a little slow, but it picks up the pace pretty quickly. Enjoy!
Ghost Fleet


On January 9, 2001, the International Freight Transportation Corporation, operated by the United States Navy, lost  Trailer #957, a unit of the infamous Ghost Fleet.

The driver, John Sandthorne, had reported to Waynesboro, GA where he picked up his load and proceeded to a research facility in Scarlet, GA. It was upon entrance into the township of Blackwater, GA that Sandthorne and Trailer #957 completely disappeared. Records indicate that the GPS unit simply stopped working and the feeds from the onboard cameras show the truck approaching a “Welcome to Blackwater” sign. Then they simply fade to static.

It would be two days later before the systems at IFTC pick up the faint signal of #957 and 8 more hours before they realize the top secret project John Sandthorne was transporting had, unfortunately, started operating by itself.

Chapter 1

At exactly 9:30 pm he the city limits sign of Blackwater, GA blurred passed the passenger side window. He had visited the city many times as a kid growing up in northern Georgia.  It was a small town where everybody seemed to know everybody else.

Occasionally, he’d stop at the Crowe’s Nest on the way through. They didn’t have the best food, but it was hot and greasy and they never held back on the servings. It was also the one place where a hamburger wasn’t just a hamburger.  A Crowe Burger was a monster that literally took two hands to eat.

Tonight he was really looking forward to it. He hadn’t been through Blackwater in years and besides filling up his stomach, he was interested to see how it had changed. It would probably be one of the few chances he would get, given how his routes are usually never the same. Plus, this was the last one before he would go on vacation. After he made tonight’s load, he would haul ass back home, pack a couple of suitcases, and runoff with the wife in tow to Miami.

Down there he would sit on the beach, get served cold beer while watching the waves lap the coast. He hadn’t actually gone on a vacation in years. Mostly because of the demands the Fleet required. He was constantly on the road, one day he would be on the west coast, the next he would be driving through Canada, heading toward some undisclosed location in Alaska.

He couldn’t complain though, it was a great job. No other would let him see as much of the world as he had. But, it wasn’t just the places he saw, which included many military bases that are quite literally, off the map, it was all the things he got to see: military vehicles, exotic materials and parts, and often weapons ( of both the conventional and nuclear kind).

Fortunately, his wife was understanding. She didn’t get annoyed because he was gone all the time. But, she was very adamant that he actually take the vacation time he was given and use it for once.  At first, he had been reluctant, but, as usual, she got her way. It was a small concession though, he had also been looking forward to some time off. Being on the road so long was starting to get to him. He was told once that when it starts to get to you, you either take some time off to let things cool down or you find another job. He thought that was probably some particularly good advice. The Ghost Fleet expected….demanded the best from all of its drivers. If a driver’s performance began to affect the secrecy of the fleet, the driver was reassigned to some other menial job.

As he cruised down highway 411, a mile or two ahead he could just barely make out the Blackwater welcome sign hidden by a tangle of kudzu that had overgrown most of the area. As he strained to see it, his eyes crossed sharply as he began to feel extremely light headed. He quickly closed his eyes and rattled his head back and forth, a cheap trick he learned from years of truck driving to help keep himself awake. Why he chose to do that now, he wasn’t sure, but it was the only thing he could think of. When he reopened his eyes everything was now uncrossed, but he felt his stomach lurching and suddenly the Crowe Burger he had been lusting for seemed as appealing as a maggot sandwich.

He leaned over and fumbled around the glove box, searching for a used roll of tums or an old Pepto Bismol bottle, fighting to keep his vision straight. In the back of his throat he could feel the acid rising, could even taste it. He let out a raunchy burp that smelled of varnish and whiskey mixed together, before finally finding a Pepto bottle. He tipped it up and let the pink goo slide down his throat. That’s when he noticed the soft sound of rushing static mixed with a growling hum that he could only imagine belonging to some kind of generator. He picked up his mic to report to base, per standard procedure when anything out of the ordinary occurs, but found the CB was completely dead.

“Ah, shit” he muttered and tossed the mic back towards the floor.  He remembered several years ago his truck had blown an entire fuse panel once. Fortunately, a military base had been nearby at the time and had been able to take care of it. They weren’t allowed to call on Joe Public for any assistance, even if their trailers were empty. But, he was pretty sure there wasn’t a military base anywhere around for at least 40 miles.

As his rig passed the “Welcome to Blackwater, GA – Home of the Timberwolves – 1987 Divisional Champs” sign, the sound of a roaring jet engine blasted through the cabin. Glancing first out the side mirrors, then at the gauges mounted along the top of the dashboard, he noticed a flashing red light indicating that his rig was now redlining. Before he could shift down and pull to the side of the road, the large diesel kicked and sputtered for a few seconds before shutting off. As his rig pulled to a halt, the headlights flickered twice, grew bright and then shut off for good.

Sitting in the dark, on the side of the road, he couldn’t help but realize that he could still hear the sound of rushing static and the deadening hum of some sort of generator. Only now it seemed more relaxed.

Of course it’s relaxed, it killed your rig, now it’s gonna kill you.

He shook his head at that last thought and wiped his eyes. True, he had transported some weird stuff, but never had it done anything to him or his rig.

It’s leaking radioactive waste, pretty soon you’ll be covered in boils and oozing puss.

His heart raced for a moment. What if it was radioactive? Could it be causing the lightheadedness, nausea, and that awful sound? Maybe whatever is leaking is causing that sound. Some kind of electro-chemical reaction that is slowly building up in the back of his trailer. But if it’s just radioactive, then that couldn’t shut down his rig, especially not a diesel. Although, he was no expert, he remembered something from TV about how electromagnetic pulses can’t knock out diesel engines. At least not the old ones, but he wasn’t sure if that immunity was also true of the new diesels.

Either way, he had to get some fresh air before he passed out. Before jumping down, he grabbed a couple of road flares and wiped his hand across the window to remove the frost that had built up and to check for oncoming traffic. The numbing sting made its way through his hand and up his arm before he realized just how cold the window was. Without the heater on, the windows were quickly freezing over, but he hadn’t expected it to be that cold.

Jumping down and walking along the side of the trailer, he noticed steam easing out of a couple of holes in the trailer. At least he hoped it was steam. For all he knew it could be some new deadly gas. He quickened his pace and realized then that he was holding his breath, but he didn’t let it out until he got to the back of the trailer.

Looking down highway 411 and seeing nothing but darkness, he took the cap off one of the flares and struck the igniter. As he did so he felt his whole body pull backwards for a second. The low relaxing hum quickly picked up speed and reminded him of a top spinning so fast that it would surely explode from its own sheer energy. As he turned to face the rig again he felt three successive shockwaves rip through him before being blinded in a sea of light. It continued to stream from every open hole in the trailer, and it was surely making a few of its own new holes as well.

Then as the world closed in on him the only thing he could hear was the soft hiss of static, like that of an old glowing radio, before the darkness closed around him.

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