Dry desert air blew through Vince’s hair and evaporated the sweat on his forehead at once. Despite the shadow of the partially intact canopy of the abandoned rest stop the relentless morning sun warmed up the remote region quickly.
The blistering heat of the day didn’t worry him, at least not more than usual. It was the rusty red cloud of the sand storm racing towards him that did.
When he parked his road train the evening before there had only been a prediction of strong winds, this morning he woke up with a storm warning.
The storm which could topple his truck and trailers seemed to be on a straight course and he hoped it would stay that way as he walked back to his truck on the area of barren hard ground that used to be a parking lot. He climbed up the steps of the extra long cabin of his truck and took one more look around the open space. Humming in dissatisfaction at the need to park the truck straight across the road to line it up with the direction of the storm, he sat down behind the wheel and started the engine. The lot was more than long enough to accommodate the nearly seventy metres of his truck with the four fifteen metre trailers but neither side was wide enough.
Hoping no one was stupid enough to drive through the storm he steered towards the far side of the lot, then turned to cross the road and halted the combination when it stood in a straight line with the back of the last trailer facing the storm.
The wind had already increased a lot as he secured his side mirrors against the doors and looked away from the wind to prevent stinging dust getting into his eyes. This was all he could do on such short notice but it wasn’t the first time he had to endure these violent storms. Relieved to roll up and close the window and shut out the dirt and wind, he slumped back into his driver seat and switched through the side and rear camera views of the trailers and left it on the side view of the last trailer so he could watch the storm approach and dissipate in the end.
Despite the fifty-eight tyres gripping the ground with the nearly maximum load of a hundred and sixty-five tonnes on the twenty-nine axles, the whole rig shook at the powerful gusts of the storm slamming against it. Vince was glad he had gotten the opportunity to turn the trailers, otherwise they would have surely toppled from the force.
The cloud of dust left no other sight than lighter and darker streams of brown outside. The camera view was no different but because Vince wasn’t in the mood to read he watched it anyway, thinking it had something hypnotic together with the howl of the wind.
After some time Vince saw lighter spots appearing in the camera view of the last trailer and expected the storm would end soon. The view became slowly clear enough for him to see several metres in the distance and he checked every camera view to see if there was any damage. The worst seemed tyres almost buried in sand but it didn’t worry him, his four axle all wheel drive truck could easily pull the trailers out of a little sand.
A muffled bang and sudden shudder from the truck startled him. Quickly he switched views to see what had struck the combination and where. The camera on the second trailer showed a blurry wreck of a car against the rear axles. He peered as something moved and the driver door of the car opened. A figure in dark clothes leaned out, tried to take a step, and stumbled onto the ground.
‘Shit!’ Vince grumbled. He couldn’t leave whoever it was that was stupid enough to drive through the storm lying there to get buried under the sand. Waiting for the storm to end would take too long.
He went into the back of the cabin, pulled safety goggles out of a toolbox, tied a hand towel around his face, and opened the emergency hatch at the rear. The wind pulled at the towel but he could breath without inhaling much dust. He climbed through the hatch and peered out from the space between the cabin rear and the front of the first trailer. He needed to hold on to something to steady himself against gusts of wind but it was possible to move hunched over towards the car.
The distance was more than enough to make him pant when he reached the figure in a dark suit lying next to the car. He was glad to see the face lay away from the wind and hadn’t been covered in sand yet, and sat down to pull up the upper body.
A moan and the hair blowing clear from the face revealed a young woman. He wondered what could have driven her to travel through this storm while he put another pair of goggles on her head and tied another towel around her face when he noticed the briefcase she clutched in her hand.
She coughed and barely blinked her eyes as she looked up at him. ‘…case…can’t let them…safe…’