I think the most strange thing here is the lack of human influence. We go hours sometimes without seeing another car, a road sign, a building, another road, even evidence of logging. There is only the Road, and sometimes it seems outside human or natural influence, a thing that meanders beneath lonely moonlight and answers only to itself.
Around a sharp terrace cut from the stone of the mountain, the road is scored by the tracks of a mangled blue jeep that appears to have bounced off a truck into a ditch. The truck driver has a face that could have been sun-bleached leather, with laugh lines and a huge pale yellow scar across one cheek, and a voice like wood creaking in a breeze. He asks if we're doctors. We're not, but we have a first-aid kit and emergency training, so we pull over and jog back. I wonder how long they've been there, and whether we're the only passerby they've seen.
He's curled into fetal position beneath a course shapeless grey blanket, and all that's really visible is wild dark curly hair and one bloody hand. The red stands out, draws the eye, even dulled by the ever-present dust. His hand is held by a plain quiet girl, brown hair, simple clothing, who blends into the firs and dust and lichens and whose eyes reflect a sunrise that only she can see. Her knuckles are white, and there is a long thin winding smear of blood high on one cheek. The last occupant of the car hovers over them nervously, and every time he twitches, his scruffy white-boy dreadlocks splay out in different directions. A gangly kid runs back and forth from a nearby truck stop, bearing medical supplies and messages.
He's already stabilized and someone has already radioed for an emergency chopper, so there's not much we can do. We turn and head back to the car. For hours afterwards, even when the bulk of the mountain blocks my view, I look over my shoulder to see if I can spot their chopper, and when I close my eyes I see the afterimage of their bloody clasped hands.
Augh, I'm not writing this well, and there's no pat conclusion to this post nor time to polish it. I dreamt last night of bone and flesh and sinew, and blood and dust. I do wonder, though, if I didn't see something of the Road in that gesture, whether human sentiment is a thing that answers only to itself beneath an empty sky.