Shannon knew that noon was rapidly approaching and that she would have to check out then. She looked around the messy motel room, scanning all the items she needed to gather and pack up once again. She sighed and exhaled the last drag of her cigarette before putting it out in the glass ash tray on the table next to where her elbow rested. She put her hands on her knees as she sat in that uncomfortable chair, as if she were trying to actually push herself up into a standing position. She was tired of this routine. It was getting old fast. Struggling to find motivation, she sluggishly stood up and began to pack up her clothes that were strewn about the floor and bed. She didn't have many belongings other than her clothes. Just a bag and a suitcase with lots of clothes to fill each of them, plus a few personal items. These included a hair and tooth brush, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and some cosmetics. She hated the motel's bar soap and avoided using it at all costs. It dried her skin out and smelled gross. She had the TV turned on, but the volume was always kept low. She hated TV programs, honestly. She was just worried that without that picture and faint sound running in the background, she might very well lose her mind while sitting up awake and alone in this little room.As usual, she had only used the room to see one client the night before. She never seemed able to coordinate things better or make efficient use of her time spent working. It seemed like such a circus every time she made plans and she was lucky to get one job done each day. That's all she really needed to keep renting a cheap motel room like the one she was about to leave now.Her daily goal for the past several months was to come up with enough to rent a room for another night, buy a bag of dope and feed herself when she was hungry. Fairly simple, you would think. Yet each day it was the same old struggle. Since she had no photo identification, her clients would rent the room in their name and then leave her there alone after they had spent their time together. It never lasted much longer than an hour, and most of her jobs were considerably shorter than that.Lots of guys bother to ask if they can get off more than once, but almost none of them have enough stamina to actually do it twice within an hour's time. She always chucked when they would admit defeat, especially the ones who made a point of asking in advance.The truth is, she didn't mind either way. The sooner they left, the more time she would spend by herself in the room. Waiting for the clock to reach checkout time and set the same cycle into motion again. She couldn't rent an apartment. She had no proof of income and no rental history, which made renting a place damn near impossible. It would be much cheaper to rent an apartment than to pay daily for a motel room, but what could she do? As the clock neared twelve, she dragged her full suitcase across the room and sat it up next to the door. Next, she slung her big bag over her right shoulder and glanced once more around the room to be sure she wasn't forgetting anything. She always forgot something. A razor in the shower. A bra hidden just beneath the comforter. A tube of make up that fell behind the TV stand. Little things she would have to replace over and over again, after only using or wearing them once.Of course, none of that mattered. She could make money quickly and easily. In fact, doing laundry had become such an inconvenience while she was motel hopping that for several weeks her bag of dirty clothes continued to grow as she made a daily habit of buying new outfits to wear that were clean. She wasn't sure what she was going to do now that her car was gone. The night before, she had been pulled over for having expired tags and the cops had towed it away. She couldn't afford to get it out, and she didn't have the license to obtain the release anyway. Proof of insurance? Yeah, right.This was going to complicate things. The last thing she grabbed before opening the door of the motel room was her cell phone, which had been sitting on the table next to the ash tray. She flipped it open and glanced down at it for a moment. No new messages. She sighed again.No messages yet. No jobs yet. No clue where to go next.She hadn't realized how heavy the bag had grown with all the new clothes she'd been buying each day. Luckily the suitcase had wheels and she could easily drag it behind her on the pavement, which wasn't too bad. She dropped the room key off in the front office, smiled and waved to the woman sitting behind the desk, then returned to her suitcase sitting outside the office and began to walk out of the parking lot.Once she reached the end of the lot, she looked out in front of her at the road. Which way should she start walking?To the right, there was a truck stop that had both a restaurant and its own motel. It was slightly more expensive than the one she had just checked out of. Neither of them were nice, by any stretch. To the left, a couple fast food joints and an entrance to the freeway. This area wasn't especially pedestrian friendly, to say the least. She started to walk towards the freeway, struggling to bear the weight of the bag with one arm while pulling the suitcase along with the other. She was only half way to the entrance when she felt the first couple drops of sweat break and drip from her forehead.Just after she had reached the freeway, a truck pulled off to the side of the road just before where she was sitting atop her suitcase, taking a little break to catch her breath. She was pretty sure he had stopped to approach her. Sure enough, a moment later, a man with dark hair emerged from the truck. He was probably just under six feet tall, medium build and had an attractive face. She guessed he was probably in his mid thirties, just a bit younger than most of her clients usually were.He walked up to her with an odd sort of smile on his face. She couldn't quite read it. Did it seem insincere or was he simply not sure of himself as he drew closer to her. He didn't speak until he was only a few feet away from her, there on the side of the road. “You need a lift?” he asked in a somewhat flat tone of voice.Shannon wasn't sure about this character yet. She was usually pretty trusting, but this guy wasn't giving off the most friendly vibe. Squinting in the sunlight, she looked up at him and didn't say anything for a moment while she checked him out.As if he had picked up on her hesitation, his face nearly melted into a warm, inviting smile immediately. “C'mon...” he said, “It's a hot day! That bag looks heavy too...let me give you a lift. Where you headed?”Feeling much more at ease about the guy at this point, Shannon smiled with semi-confidence and replied, “Don't really know...”She could have just said she needed a ride up to the nearest gas station, but she wanted to hear how he would respond to the answer she gave him instead. A bit of a test. “I hear ya...” he said back, “Well listen, how about we run up to the diner about two miles from here? I'll buy you lunch and we can figure out where you're headed. What do you say?”The strangest thing about this man so far was his lack of attraction or interest in having sex with Shannon. She wasn't a vain person, but she was quite young and beautiful and men adored her. It was a rare thing for a man to lay eyes on her without at least a tinge of lust in his expression. But she could detect no such lust in this man’s expression. Nor his attitude, body language, or his tone of voice. Not a sign of it at. A little strange. But she was starting to get hungry and lunch sounded like a great idea at that moment. So did getting out of the sun, which she wasn't too fond of. “Yeah....okay. I guess we can do that,” she finally replied.He reached out to take her bag, which she slowly slid down her arm and offered up to him. She grabbed the suitcase handle and began to pull it behind her as she walked towards his truck. Once they had loaded her stuff into the back, she opened the squeaky door, and pushed off with one leg to hop inside. He flipped on the radio and began to hum and whistle to the tunes it played. Shannon was feeling pretty good about things at the moment. She was content watching the world pass by in a blur outside of her window as the truck sped along the road.After what had seemed like more than a couple mile's worth of driving, she perked up and looked around to see where they were. She didn't recognize anything. “Where's that diner, anyway?” she asked, a little confused.He didn't look away from the road in front of him when he spoke to her.“We're actually just about there,” he said. His voice now had the same flat sounding tone from the first words he spoke to her before they got into the truck.Shannon frowned slightly, feeling just the slightest bit apprehensive about what was going on. Her eyes darted back and forth between the windows, trying to figure out where they might be and if she could identify any sort of landmark. When she realized that everything she saw was unfamiliar, she experienced a brief moment of panic.Suddenly, the truck veered off the road as the man behind the wheel made a sharp turn without slowing down at all. Shannon wasn't strapped in, and she was tossed against her door and window, though not hard enough to knock her out. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled at him. “Are you trying to get in a wreck, or what?”He still didn't look in her direction, but she saw a half smile form on his face and she could have sworn he almost chuckled at the question. Shannon was not amused, however.Then, before she had a chance to do anything else, he quickly pushed his door open and stepped out of the truck and into the grass, slamming the door shut behind him immediately. Shannon barely had a chance to process what was happening before he was already on her side of the truck, pulling her door open in the same way he had his own a moment before.Things were happening in slow motion in Shannon's mind. It had only seemed like enough time to blink once before he was right there, swinging her door open wide and standing there above her. He had no expression on his face. It was frightening. He was as blank as a human could possibly appear, and Shannon had never seen anything quite like it before. It was wholly unsettling.All it took was the first quick movement he made towards her to make her scream louder than she ever had before. The shrill sound probably could have broken the windshield had she kept screaming. Surely if he hadn't reached down and wrapped his large hand completely around her neck, the glass would have shattered after a moment of enduring that horrible pitch.It didn’t even sound like a noise that humans could make. And it wasn't. It was pure, animal terror. It sounded like an instinct rather than an intentional sound.He gripped her by the neck firmly, smothering the scream that was stuck within her throat and struggling to escape from beneath his fingers. Shannon was terrified. She had never felt this way before, never experienced this level of raw horror.A moment after he grabbed her, the thought naturally occurred to her: “You are going to die today.”It was almost as if a voice inside her head had spoken it so that only she could hear it. She wanted to cry, but couldn't take in the deep breath that was needed to let out a sob. It's possible that a tear or two may have started to gather in the corners of her eyes. Just the smallest amount of moisture on either side, beginning to pool before they would spill down the sides of her face.Some people say that when you are about to die, your life flashes before your eyes in a series of flashbacks. It wasn't quite like that for Shannon. Instead, she thought of the people she had known and wondered where they were and what they were doing, right at this exact moment. What would she say to them? How horrible that they would never know. She would never have a chance to say goodbye to any of them. For an awful moment, she wished he would hurry and get it over with immediately so she didn't have to suffer these thoughts even for another minute. Time slows down when you find yourself in the middle of a panic inducing crisis. His grip was tightening around her neck, now there was no air left. Her body jolted and convulsed desperately, as she tried to free herself to get another breath. But he was much larger than she was and it took almost no effort to keep her right there, where he wanted her. The way she was moving reminded him of a fish flopping around on the carpet after its fishbowl had shattered. She looked like she was flopping around just like one of those.Shannon's last thought was that she wished a God existed right at that moment. Not because she expected he would save her, but because she wanted someone to talk to from within herself in the last minute before everything was over.She wished that someone could hear her silent thoughts. Anyone. She was running out of energy now. Her flailing limbs began to slow down gradually, until her entire body finally went limp.Two hundred miles away from where the truck was pulled off the road, Shannon's mother was just about to leave work and head home for the day. As she grabbed her coat and purse on her way out of the office, she wondered how long it would be until Shannon would show up at home again like she would every so often. When things got bad enough, she would make an appearance. She'd sleep in her old room and maybe eat with her mother and father once before disappearing again. They didn't know exactly what she did when she was gone, but they knew it wasn't anything good. Drugs and trouble, they would say to one another.But obviously Shannon was never going to show up there again. In fact, it took months before they could even file a missing person report. By then, part of her body had sunk to the bottom of a lake near the spot where he had choked the life out of her.Other parts of it were in the walls and under the floors of an old basement in a house far away from there. The echo of her sadness and panic lingered and hung in the air, and there was nothing anyone could do to get rid of it. It was a stain in the very atmosphere. It would be nearly two full decades later that any trace of her body was discovered. By then, too much time had passed and they still couldn't even identify who she had been. Her parents were already passed away, and she had no sisters or brothers to survive her either. All that was left was the memory that she left etched into that grassy spot where the truck had swerved into that afternoon. Almost twenty years after he strangled her in that very spot, there stood two young boys who were chasing after a ball across the field. They laughed and jumped and finally caught up with the ball, which happened to stop rolling right about where the truck had been parked all those years ago.Perhaps no God existed to hear those last thoughts that Shannon silently screamed into nowhere. But both of these boys could hear the loudest and most ear-piercing scream as they both stood completely still in the silence along that patch of grass.Nothing stirred. The wind stood still. The only sound was the faint inhaling and exhaling of each boy. And the terrible screaming silence. They covered their ears to keep them from bursting, turning around and abandoning the ball to escape the sound that no one else could hear.