The red lights blinked overhead as the open topped car sped along the abandoned highway. The car, too, was red but it looked almost black in the darkness between streetlamps.
I blinked along like the blip of an old style radar, my left arm hanging halfway over the top of the door while my other gripped the small leather steering wheel.
The radio played music that I could not place from a station that I did not know. Overhead a sign whooshed by, the reflective letters painted across it momentarily burning into my eyes.
I had no ideas what it meant, “turnpike” was a word I’d heard from American movies but I didn’t associate it with anything in particular. It was a road of sorts and I guessed that’s why it was here.
I’d left the Cerebellum Café sometime earlier and decided to go for a mind-drive. It had taken moments to reach the overpass that fed the slip road to the highway and before I knew it I was further away from my coffee haven than I had ever been before.
Mind-Highways weren’t like real-world highways. They did not travel between places but instead bridged the distance between ideas and so when I drove (incidentally I only drove in this world, I did not know how to in the real one) the world around the highway itself changed.
In the darkness in the few minutes after midnight (it’s always just after midnight in my mind, remember?) things shifted and changed in the dimness outside of the streetlights influence. Fields turned to towers and shrank back down into crevasses in the earth. Animals roamed and unicorns reared but amongst all of it no human form stirred.
The land of the mind is rather a desolate one, few people roam it; few footfalls break its silence apart from the feet of its maker.
And the people the maker brings along on the travels.
“It was like that.”
I turned to the source of the voice; it was a young man in his early twenties. He was unshaven and his hair had grown out of an expensive “bed-head” heir-cut. On his lap was a bedroll and this instantly IDed him as a mind-highway hitch-hiker.
“Yeah?” I answered, my tone raised slightly at the end in a question.
“Yeah.” He answered me emphatically.
“Guess it was like that then.” I said and nodded to myself as I watched the broken white lines in the road ahead.
The man (who I named Jim in my head) was called Jim in my reality and I knew he would answer to it. His name wasn’t important, what he looked like wasn’t important; why was he here? That was important.
“Have you ever read Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House?” He asked.
I nodded, I’d read it many times and each time I’d wished I was a millionth of the writer she was.
“Ever considered that a person is only the sum of those they meet?”
“How ’bout genetics?”
“Genetics has a say, sure; but most of what you are is what those around you make you.”
“Not sure I believe that.”
“Then why am I here..?” He asked.
I was stumped; I had no idea.
“I’m stumped,” I said, “I have no idea.”
“Ha… He’ll love you for that.” Jim laughed and threw his bedroll into the backseat of the convertible. The rush of air over the top of the windscreen caught his hair and tossed it around his face dramatically. When Jim sat back in the front seat he had become a she and her name was Jane.
“Okay… Dunno where that came from.” I muttered under my breath, but inside I thought I did.
Jane looked over to me and her resemblance to Jim was astounding.
“Only natural really,” she said, “not that much difference underneath it all.”
In the periphery of my vision I saw things move through the wastelands on the edge of the highway. Big things roamed there, things that could swallow me without taking a bite, where I would dissolve slowly in their bowels choking on their gastric juices.
I looked at the road ahead. Was there something to fear here? Could there be something to fear here; in my own mind?
Perhaps especially in my own mind?
“Is this all a code?” I asked the woman sat next to me.
“It is if you think it is.” She replied and I had to laugh despite my fear (and yes, I was afraid. What was it in me that scared me so?).
“You sounded like Akira from The Simpson’s.” I laughed as inside me my stomach churned.
“We are all who we think we are, we have to be. The truth is too terrifying to contemplate.”
With these last words she was gone, an empty seat in her place. I glanced in the rear seat and the bedroll lay there on the red vinyl, the only evidence that anyone was there.
If imaginary evidence was any kind of evidence at all.