You think a road trip is going to be a continuous rush of adrenaline and activity.
For starters, you imagine picking up a hot, horny hitchhiker. She’s in her late teens. She also tells you she just finished school and is on her way to an acting job in the city. You know she’s a liar but you play along. You don’t want to ruin your chances of getting it on with her so you must be impressed.
Then you come across the car wreck in the middle of nowhere. How someone manages to roll a car on a stretch of straight desert road confounds you. As do the bullet holes and a suitcase that is still full of cash. Loads of cash. You tell her that dead men can’t buy fancy things, but that you can buy her fancy things in the city. Of course, you have no intention of doing so, but the fact she’s suddenly sweltry out in the desert and needs a change of clothing into the shortest skirt you’ve ever seen confirms that it’s a lie worth telling.
At the next filling station you feel good about yourself. You wink at your reflection in the bathroom mirror. You can’t remember the last time you did that.
When you approach your car, you notice the suitcase is missing from the back seat. And she is too. The attendant could kiss his shoes, he laughs so hard at you while pointing in the direction you just drove in from. You kick him onto his ass, hop in your car and drive off. He coughs and splutters to his feet, hurling expletives into the dust cloud you leave him in.
Ten miles on you realise he lied. She was headed in the opposite direction. Into the mountains. You turn around to follow them.
The old geezer at the filling station nearly blows your head off with a shotgun as you whizz past him. There is a dull thud. By the time he appears in your rear-view mirror, he is motionless. Too bad, so sad, shouldn’t play chicken out on the highway.
Their car is a blue jalopy that couldn’t make it all the way up the mountain pass. You know it because her heeled shoes are discarded on the floor of the passenger side. That’s worth smiling about.
His shoeprints have disturbed the gravel. You follow them up a ravine. There are many narrow bends. The heat is suffocating. When you reach the top you look about. Nobody in sight. You walk to a ledge and peer over it. The road snakes below. Movement catches your eyes. The two of them push your car over the edge of the road where you parked. You roar. Seconds later they look up at you. They gesture rudely with their fingers.
There is a sound behind you. You turn to see a young skinhead right there. You are surprised. You didn’t expect three of them. He shoves you off the mountain.
The desert’s dark belly sliced by the twin beams of light. It is a yellow Cadillac roaring in pain; afraid. Behind its wheel, Paul. Bespectacled, thinning hair, hunched over the large steering wheel. He whacks the heating controls again. The radio comes alive to the sound of Beethoven. Paul draws a sharp, icy breath that burns his lungs and nearly chokes him. He coughs clouds of condensation. Beads of sweat break out on his forehead. His foot feels cramps tease in protest to the violence with which he presses down on the car’s accelerator. Light flashes. The Cadillac lurches; empty.
Shaun stopped walking. He slung his backpack off and put it on the ground covered by billions of stones the size of rock salt bought in fancy containers in health shops. Crunch. Shaun looked. And saw nothing but the plain of stones race to the horizon in every direction. He checked his watch. It was 4pm. He checked the angle of the sun. It was at around thirty degrees. He decided he would sleep here tonight. But before he settled in, he walked a little way from where his backpack lay and started to examine the ground. Satisfied that there was no evidence of their approach from the east, he examined the west side and found no evidence of their departure. He again looked at the horizon all around him. He saw nothing, no matter how hard he tried. There was not even a lone tree breaking the flatness anywhere. Shaun sat next to his backpack and unzipped the main compartment. He pulled his sleeping sheet out. It was as thin and shiny as foil. He lay it down next to him. Next, he took out a plastic container with tablets in. He popped the lid and swallowed a tablet. That was dinner taken care of. Finally, he took out another plastic container that looked like a cream jar. He unscrewed the lid and popped the teaspoon attached underneath, then scraped a spoonful of a honey substance and placed it in his mouth. He let go of the spoon and sucked the substance off it with closed eyes. Liquid gold. Where each spoonful would be transformed into two litres of ‘water’ inside of his body. Suddenly, a shadow flashed across his closed eyes. He snapped them open. He had forgotten to examine the air properly.