Four hundred miles is a long drive inside a car. We'd been
barreling down the freeways and back streets for too long now.
The landscape blurred, like everything else, into a million
colors, indistinguishable from one another. Countryside faded
into prairie, and then into a wasteland of brown-red rocks. There
was nothing definite outside. Nothing clear cut. No endings, no
beginnings. Everything was just a Pollock splatter on the
landscape's canvas. Night and day were interchangeable. The sky
was blue in the tiny fits of day I was awake for, but mostly it
was the same flat gray, or black. It rained every now and then.
Sometimes in sheets, and others in that kind of light drizzle
that teases you with the promise of clear skies, only to pick up,
almost randomly, in intensity and then flounder again. Once it
hailed and left the hood and roof in a state akin to the moon.
We pulled out of Jim's driveway too long ago, but his jalopy had
somehow made it this far. The engine popped and sputtered every
second of the trip. The trunk no longer closed, and the hood was
gone. Pockmarked doors lined the sides. We lost the back bumper
sometime around mile one hundred and fifty, and the muffler
departed at some point as well. The inside was no better.
Everything was falling apart. The dashboard was melted, the seats
were ripped, and all the windows on the passenger side were
busted out, but we still had the radio. Thank God we had the
radio. Sometimes when we were sick of hearing each other or
ourselves talk it was all that kept us from each other's throats.
The car rumbled, and rattled, and lost little parts to the
pavement here and there. It was shedding paint, leaving a trail
on the road like some mechanical Hansel and Grettle dropping car
crumbs to show us the way back home.
Road lines passed, and passed, and passed. Trees blurred into
green-brown clouds along the roadsides, accompanied by fog formed
of speed-skewed grass. Occasional pebble peaks pierced through
the two-inch green canopy. Every few minutes (It could have just
as easily been seconds; we hadn't been able to tell time since
the clock stopped working.) a brownish puff of animal would
appear only to fall out of view almost instantly. Every roadside
attraction seemed to be smeared as soon as we hit it. Particles
rearranged every time we went hurdling past a new highway lawn
ornament. We created instantaneous, split second visual nebulas
of seemingly unending sea of highway shoulder decorations. We
vaporized rows of trees, families of animals, dirt patches among
green fields and grass tufts, stranded in rocky wastelands, rocks
piles, and miniature boulders waiting to fall on free climbing
ants. There were so many people that seemed to disassemble
themselves upon crossing paths, and reform the second we passed.
It was something like mile one hundred thirty-four when the car
finally died. The car broke down at the back edge of some podunk
town. The sun was setting, and it was that time of day where
everything looked like life was shot in sepia tone; the kind of
atmosphere that can make you miss growing up in places you've
never even been. The town had the feeling of a memory from some
old summer day. The town was centered around a park, which in
turn, was centered around a large bronze fountain in the shape of
an obelisk jutting out of a circle of grated metal that was just
beginning to rust. For all its phallic resemblance, it did not
move any of its viewers to let out the usual comic musings that
would go along with a giant, bronze shaft spewing water up,
making a liquid parasol. It was grand; as if someone had driven a
stake into the middle of town the anchor it, striking clear gold
as an unforeseen consequence.
Standing there, in front of the centerpiece of town, Jim turned
to me, ragged looking, and said in a single breath, half sighing
"Why don't we stay?"
"We can't. This isn't where we're supposed to end up."
"But… But this town is nice. We don't have to go back home. We
don't have to worry about any of that anymore. We can start over
here. Look that this place! It's ideal."
"No, it's not right. It won't be right until we get there."
"Think of what we could miss if we don't go! We've talked about
this for years!"
"Yeah, but I never thought it would actually happen. It was just
one of those stupid promises you make to yourself when you're a
kid. You mean it, but you don't think you'll ever have to make
good on it."
"But here we are, almost there, and you want to go back on it?"
"We're next to broke, we don't have a car, and… and… and there's
"There's no point? Jim, don't talk like that. You're just tired.
We can't rest though. If we rest we won't make it, and this will
all've been a waste."
"It's already a waste. We both flunked out of school for this
thing! I'm starving and exhausted, and all I was to do is pass
out. Stop pushing and just forget it, man!"
"Listen, we're friends right? That's why I can't let you miss out
on this. Now, it's really only about fifteen more miles. I figure
we can cover a good six or seven of that tonight alone, and
probably 9 or ten tomorrow and get there in time, but we have to
"… Okay, okay. I'm sorry, I'm just so tired. But okay, I'll go."
So we began walking. It was probably six or seven in the evening
when we left town, and we didn't stop until late. The wind was
soft, and there was almost no traffic along the highway, so
travel was as easy as it was going to get. We watched the clouds
most of the time, talking to help pass the time. The sun set, and
we couldn't watch the clouds anymore. After that, travel became
more difficult, and we had to stop. There was an empty field with
scattered bushes, so we decided to spend the night there, behind
We were shaken awake around dawn by a middle aged man in blue
flannel with bifocals and a comb-over that was held in place by
far too much hair spray, or gel.
"What're you boys doing sleeping out here? Ya look like hell!"
I looked up, still half asleep "We're just travelling. Going to
The Welcoming Party."
"Hey, me too. How 'bout I give you two a lift?"
"Sure, that'd be great!"
We piled in the back of the man's station wagon, next to his two
children and were, again on our way. His wife was an overweight,
jolly woman with slightly too much make up, and the worst red dye
job I'd ever seen. Their son and daughter couldn't have been more
than fourteen and twelve, respectively. The boy was skinny, a
blonde bowl cut, and one of the ugliest faces I've ever had the
misfortune to see. Looking at the girl was like looking at a
slightly less mature version of her mother. So, we rode with this
bizarro-Rockwellian family for the next few hours.
There was so much conversation, and for the first eon of the
drive, I tried to continue, but eventually it donned on me that
their "conversation" didn't need a second side. With that
realization, I let my head drift off to the side, and my eyes
redirected toward the road. In what seemed like an instant I was
back in Jim's car, watching the landscape ripple and melt into
itself behind a curtain of frothing, amorphous darkness. The road
started to blur, reform, and become blurry once again. Slowly the
rest of the outside world joined the road in its visual waffling.
Gradually the shaking of the world outside the family's station
wagon was replaced by nebulas of blues, purples, greens, and reds
that signify the beginnings of sleep.
Squealing brakes woke me up as it became apparent from the clamor
of the family and Jim that we'd finally made it to The Welcoming
Party. We stepped out onto the grassy field about a half mile
from the actual destination, and began walking. The wind whipped
at us, and around, causing waves in the grass. No one spoke as we
navigated through the field of abandoned transportation.No
meaningful looks were exchanged or even notice taken of each
others' presence. All attention was paid skyward.
Occasionally bumping into a car or an SUV, we made our way to the
site. None of us moved our views from the dancing lights above.
The lights were dynamic. They flowed from spot to spot in the
sky, changing seamlessly from turquoises and maroons to amber and
olive. Slowly, the chameleon globes circled down until they were
just above our level, and began floating. It wasn't until then
that we noticed we were still several sloppy rows of
transportation away from them.
A crowd had gathered at our destination. While we were making our
way there, the area surrounded by the lights began to ripple. It
was barely noticeable at first, a tiny wave that anyone could
have written off as an optical illusion caused by the combination
of the darkness, wind, and distance. The ripple grew
exponentially, until it looked like giants had been skipping
boulders across the air. After reaching their apex, the ripples
faded away, revealing a ruddy, metal gyroscope. The construct was
roughly forty feet high, and wide, and was spinning in seemingly
unpredictable directions while gradually slowing down.
After what could've been ten seconds, or ten hours (None of us
could tell.), the machination halted its movement. For several
seconds it floated, suspended somewhere in the neighborhood of
two feet off the ground. Following the odd pause, it began to
glow. Light poured out from it, eventually putting the
surrounding area in a sepia tone dome.
The dome encased us, restraining the movement of each person
there. After some more time passed, a bit more light shines, this
time in the shape of a rectangle. Once it took shape, four
silhouettes, of various shapes, in a constant state of flux filed
out of the rectangle. They glided towards us, flowing from
appearance to appearance as they moved. Then I blacked out.