I Work at an Autobahn Service Area. Last Night I Saw Something That Still Scares Me.

There’s something special about places frequented by vast amounts of people. I work at one such place, an Autobahn service area.

It’s not exactly a nice job, but it isn’t so different from retail. We double as a gas station and a restaurant. So I mostly sit behind the counter, stack shelves and give the place the old once over.

The worst part by far is the working hours. We’re open around the clock and as the only bachelor in our workforce, I’m perpetually stuck with handling the graveyard shift.

Still, the job has its perks, at least if you’re interested in people. You can see the strangest and most interesting characters.

While most people stop to refill their car, go to the toilet, or grab something to eat, certain customers are just… off. I guess it’s because so many people stop here. Amongst hundreds if not thousands of daily customers, you’re bound to encounter the occasional weirdo.

One is a certain man who shows up every once in a while. He comes in, finds himself a spot in our station and just stands there, sometimes for more than an hour. He buys nothing, never goes to the toilet, and never interacts or even makes eye contact with anyone. No, he just stands there, doing nothing. It’s the weirdest thing.

I once asked one of my older co-workers about him. All he said was that the guy’s been showing up for years. I eyed him curiously, expecting a tale, but he just shrugged, told me the guy wasn’t dangerous and to leave him be. I did just that, but he still gives me the creeps whenever he shows up.

Another day, a sweaty man entered the station and rushed straight for the toilets. Once he was done with his business, he went to the freezer and got himself a bottle of mineral water before he entered his car and drove off.

Nothing special about that. Things got strange ten minutes later. Another car arrived and parked in the same exact spot. A moment later, a sweaty guy entered. He looked exactly the same, wore the same blue shirt and the same cargo pants. He rushed straight for the toilets before he got himself a bottle of mineral water and drove off once again.

Needless to say, I was unnerved and didn’t understand what had just happened. I blinked, watched the time, and after another ten minutes, I half-expected him to show up again. He never did.

In the end, I told myself my eyes must’ve played tricks on me. It had been a hot day, an extremely hot day, and he hadn’t been the only one who was sweaty and thirsty, far from it. Hell, maybe it was just two people who looked similar. Yet, even now, I can’t help but be unnerved whenever I think about it.

What happened last night, however, was different, and can’t be written off as a Déjà vu or my eyes playing tricks on me.

Like all other service areas, ours has a parking lot, a huge one. Most of it is parking space reserved for trucks, since many truck drivers chose service areas to rest for or to stay the night. While there are the occasional assholes amongst them, most are good, friendly people.

Now that winter’s over and it’s getting warmer, I can often see them sitting together in the evening.

Sometimes, you can even see them barbequing. It’s not as fancy as it sounds, just a couple of guys putting down one of those small, disposable grills, roasting a few sausages and sharing a beer or two. I guess, after sitting in your truck all day, every day, you’re in need of some company.

Whenever I was on the graveyard shift, I watched their interactions. There really wasn’t anything else to do. Our busiest hours were during the early morning, the later afternoon and the early evening. The rest of the day, the place was half-empty.

Last night was the same. I came to work in the early evening, handled the last big surge of customers and prepared myself for a lazy night.

As so often, a handful of truck drivers had stopped here for the night and around nine in the evening, one of them entered the station to stock up on provisions. He got a disposable grill, a few packs of sausages, and two six-packs of beer.

I watched him as he made his way back to the rest of the small group and watched as the men promptly shared a beer together.

As my eyes wandered from them over the rest of the parking lot, I saw another truck had stopped at the other end of the parking lot. The first thing I noticed was the state the truck was in. It looked old, dirty, and as if it had been on the road for decades. Whatever ads or name had once been painted on its side had long since faded into obscurity.

While I wondered why this thing was even allowed on the road, given the state it was in, the cabin doors opened and two men exited.

When I saw them, a cold shower went down my spine. Even from afar, from in here, I could tell something was wrong with them.

They seemed as old and dirty as their truck. Both were lanky, emaciated even, and their ragged clothes dangled from their bodies. It gave them an almost skeletal appearance, as if they were only half-alive.

Their faces, too, looked exhausted, hollow, as if their skin was perpetually sagging, their expression all but empty.

For a moment, their eyes wandered around and I instinctively focused on the counter in front of me, afraid the strange pair would notice me staring. Then they set out and made their way across the parking lot.

The way they walked and carried their bodies was as strange as their appearance. They were hunched over, as if they could barely carry their own weight. At the same time, however, each step they took seemed too wide, giving their movements a strangely jerky look and making their arms and legs appear longer than they were.

The more I watched them, the more they reminded me of trudging beasts, predators on the prowl for unsuspecting prey. My eyes were glued to them, and I thought about going outside to warn the other truck drivers of the strange newcomers. Just in that moment, however, they’d noticed them.

My mind conjured up scenarios from late night horror movies. I imagined them going down on all fours, transforming into the wild beasts I thought they were before they’d throw themselves at the men.

Yet, they only gave the other group a side-way glance before they continued on their stroll.

While I handled two late evening customers, the two men made it back to their truck. Even then, they still gave me the creeps, and I hoped they’d just drive off or go to sleep for the night.

Instead, they made their way to the back of their truck, to check on their cargo, I assumed, whatever it may be. From where I was, however, I couldn’t see much. I only saw how they busied themselves with the doors, their bodies straining under the effort of pulling them open. Their clothes bulged as muscles tensed, and eventually they cracked the doors open.

At that moment, a gush of thick, greyish-white smoke escaped from the inside, coiling around the doors. The two of them just stood there, staring inside intently. I told myself they were just making sure everything was all right, but why were they just standing there like that? What was up with that strange smoke? I’d seen my share of cooling trucks over the years, and this looked nothing like cold air.

They stood there for what must’ve been minutes, not moving. All the while, the strange smoke kept streaming from the truck, curling around the rusty metal as if holding onto it.

Suddenly, with a loud bang that made me jerk up, they threw the doors shut again. When they stepped away from the truck, however, I noticed something had changed. Before, their face hadn’t shown a hint of emotion. Now, they both seemed euphoric, grinning widely, their faces frozen in an expression of perpetual glee.

Once more, I shivered, averted my gaze, and began haphazardly sorting through the shelf behind the counter.

Yet, I couldn’t fight my curiosity for long. Soon enough, I watched the parking lot again. By now, the two of them had begun another stroll. This time, however, I could tell where they were going and a few moments later, they approached the group of barbecuing truck drivers.

For a second, all was quiet, and once more, I saw the situation escalate in front of my mind’s eye, but then they were invited to sit down. Before long, they were happily chatting with the rest of the group.

As I watched, everything seemed normal enough, and I couldn’t help but call myself superstitious. The two newcomers had even brought a bottle of booze of their own, had probably grabbed it from the back of their truck. Who knows, maybe they were just a pair of weirdos, two guys who’d been on the road for as long as their truck? Who was I to judge them?

As much as I tried to relax, I couldn’t. While taking care of the usual late night chores, my eyes constantly wandered back to the group of truckers. All was normal. Just another night at the service area.

Still, those two guys, they just felt… off. Even as they sat there, there was this aura around them. Somehow, they didn’t belong, and were of a different breed than the rest.

It was half past midnight when something else happened. Suddenly, the entire group got to their feet, and I watched as the two newcomers led the rest to their truck.

I don’t know what I expected, but my eyes grew wide when they all approached the back of the truck. Once more, the two strange men busied themselves pulling the back open before they stepped aside.

Instantly, the other four men froze. For minutes, they just stood there, as if in a trance, staring into the back of the truck. Once more, I cursed at myself because I couldn’t see what the hell was going on. All I could see was the same strange smoke streaming outside.

Then the first of the four truckers leaned forward, as if trying to get a better look, before he approached the doors and vanished inside.

After only a minute, only the two strange newcomers remained, but at that moment, I saw something.

It was dark by now and the only light was that of a few lonely street lamps. Yet, for a second, I could’ve sworn I saw a bunch of hands hidden below that smoke.

My eyes grew wide, and I felt myself leaning forward over the counter. What the hell was going on over there? Did those guys have… people in there?

The idea of human traffic came to my mind, but if so, why’d no one tried to run away, and why’d the other four guys entered the truck? Then another, more twisted idea came to my mind. What if this was some weird sex-thing? A brothel on wheels, maybe? Are there… things like that?

I didn’t get to think about it any further because right then, the two strange guys threw the back of the truck shut. Then, still grinning and still in the same state of euphoric glee, they made their way to the front of the truck and got in.

I just stood there, still behind the counter, staring outside. Had they just locked those other men in? Were they kidnapping them?

I was prepared for them to start their truck and drive off, but nothing happened. Minute by minute passed, and I grew more and more antsy.

My phone was in my hand, ready to call the cops had been for minutes, but somehow I wasn’t able to do anything. I was too confused. This entire situation was too surreal.

And then, after a good ten minutes, the two strange guys left their truck again. They cracked open the back and once more the heavy smoke wafted outside. This time, however, I concentrated on nothing but this smoke. I saw it again, something slithering, twitching, moving below it, almost as if the smoke itself was alive.

A moment later, the other four truck drivers made their way outside. To my surprise, they all seemed to be okay, neither angry nor hurt. Instead, they were… grinning, in exactly the same way the other two were.

Even stranger yet, each one of them was holding some sort of package in their hands.

At that moment, however, I realized not only how long I’d been staring but also that they’d noticed me. The two strange men were staring over at me, their eyes digging into me.

I instantly looked away, but when I took a single, side-way glance, I found them still staring at me.

I felt hot, and sweat broke out all over my body when the two of them took a few well-measured steps in my direction.

“Oh god, no,” I muttered to myself.

Then they stopped again, but their eyes were still focused on me, staring me down. By now, however, their euphoric grins were gone, replaced by cold, hard stares.

And then, one of them jerked forward, almost as if he was about to dash across the parking lot to get me. In sudden shock, I cringed back, stumbling against the shelf behind me. Yet, he didn’t come for me. No, all he’d done was pretend to, but it had been enough.

I understood instantly. This was a threat, and when one of them raised a finger to his lips, all I could do was nod.

For a few more seconds, they stared me down before they turned around, entered their truck, and drove off.

Once they were gone, I slid down and slumped to the floor, panting and shaking.

Who the fuck were those guys!?

When I’d calmed down, I remembered the other truck drivers and when I stared outside, they were all on their way to their own trucks. When I saw them move, however, I began shaking once more.

Before, they’d been normal guys, but now they moved exactly the same way those others had. The same hunched over gait, the same jerky movements. It wasn’t just that, however; they all seemed thinner, and their clothes were dangling from their bodies, as if they’d lost substantial weight in a matter of minutes.

I couldn’t help but watch the surreal spectacle, and I couldn’t help but watch as they all approached the backs of their truck.

Thankfully, one of them was closer to the station than the rest. All I could see, however, was that he put down the package before fastening it with a pair of tension straps. Yet for a moment, I could’ve sworn I saw the same strange smoke coming from it.

Eventually, the man closed the back, and just like the rest, got in his truck, most likely to sleep until morning.

I just stood there, staring from truck to truck, not understanding what I’d just witnessed.

For the next couple of hours, I thought about calling the cops, almost did so multiple times. Then I remembered those guys, their threat, the warning they’d given me, and began freaking out again. Who knows, maybe they were still nearby, just waiting for me to slip up, or maybe the other truck drivers were now like… them and would come for me. I couldn’t think straight.

When my co-worker arrived in the early morning, I thought about telling him what had happened, but I knew there was no way he’d believe me. Hell, even I wasn’t sure what I’d witnessed.

So, I did what those guys had wanted me to do. I stayed quiet.

Yet once my shift was over and I made my way over the parking lot, I noticed that one of the four truckers was already up. He’d cracked open the back of his truck, most likely to check on the package. Carefully, not to be noticed, I inched closer.

The small package was still there, but by now, it was torn open and the same greyish-white smoke wafted through the back of the truck.

Then, I ran to my car and drove off as fast as I could.

This time, I’d seen it. This time I’d seen what was inside that package and what must’ve been inside that other, strange truck.

What was coiling out from that package wasn’t merely smoke. No, it was some sort of thing comprising nothing, but long, twitching grey hands, and a single wide eye, an eye that had instantly focused on me, and me alone.

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