Happy Labor Day, everybody! To celebrate, I’m posting part III of a short story I’m including in an upcoming collection. If you haven’t already played along, check out parts I & II from the last two weeks. The person who sends in the most helpful suggestion or correction wins a free copy of the e-book of the story collection itself, and a free PDF of Brothers’ Hand, Jana, or Miles of Files! Here’s part III of Rides from Strangers:
“Hell, yes. Jesus. What in the Hell is … oh, man, I don’t feel good.”
He sits up. “Here, let me drive. Sit back and relax.” He gets up and walks around to my side while I slide over.
“This isn’t right,” I say to myself, even though I’m still talking out loud. “It can’t be. But that rock … I know we’re at the right spot.”
He mashes down on the accelerator and we pull away in a cloud of dust. “No problema, chico,” he says. “We’ll see more interesting sights down the road.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s the car, man. It’s got cojones, eh?”
“That it does. Jesus, how fast are you going?”
“Only about seventy, bro. This is nothing. With the five-o-two in it you can push this baby up around one thirty, maybe one forty.”
I’m nodding, still shell-shocked. My ears are ringing suddenly, as if someone had just thrown a mortar near us. Then I see it: Amarillo.
I almost pass out at the sight. No skyscrapers, no towers. No big antennae. Nothing. It’s like a movie set from the nineteen forties. Like from the year this car was made, maybe, nineteen forty-two.
“Oh my God.”
“That’s Amarillo, man.”
“What the f— who the Hell are you?”
He laughs. “You like that word, eh? Hell. You like the car, too, eh? Tell you what, you want it?”
“Want? I want my life. I want it to be today again. What the Hell have you done?”
“It’s the car, my friend. It’s a goddamn time machine. You jump in this car, it’s nineteen forty-two. Just like you thought.”
“Who are you.”
He laughs. “I told you before, amigo, I’m a fucking buyer.” I realize I can’t move: like when your foot falls asleep, only it’s my whole body. And then he laughs again, louder, and the sound is like a door creaking open in an empty tomb. The sky above is red, the city awash in crimson light. On the radio Billie Holiday is singing Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.
“What do you want from me?”
“You like this music huh?”
“Yes, I do,” I say.
“You like the car?”
“You’d like to be able to drive it any time, wouldn’t you?”
I try to stop myself but I can’t. “Yes.”
“You want things to be like they were before eh?”
“Like when you were little eh?”
“Like maybe even before you were born eh?”
I look at him and his eyes are red as the sky. Clouds crash into each other above the city and I swear I see lightning flash in the corner of my eye. I can feel myself slipping away and I try to hold on but I can’t manage it. I ask the question in spite of knowing the answer in advance.
“What do you want me to do?”