The road crossed in front of him twenty feet above the desert floor.  Jacob slammed the pickup into the embankment, wheels churning through sand, pebbles and bits of cactus, sliding and scrambling for traction.  Weaving back and forth, he almost rolled the truck back down into the desert.  Finally, with a terrible crunch of stone and steel,  one wheel, two, then all four gained the gravelly road, fishtailing twice on the loose surface.(100)

He looked at his watch.  Ten to two.  It was ten minutes until two o’ clock.(18)

The  diesel engine roared as he accelerated, shifting rapidly up  through the gears.  Behind him a  plume of dust rose into a cloudless sky.  Rocks snapped and crackled against the undercarriage. Before him, the road stretched out to the horizon. It wasn’t made for this kind of speed.  At seventy miles an hours a bump became a launch ramp and a hole could rip off a wheel.  Jacob neither slowed nor turned.(98)

He looked at his watch. Five to two.  five minutes ’til two o’clock.(15)

He topped the rise at ninety with the sensation of flying. He swerved right just before the bridge that had been hiding behind the hill, swiping the rock wall on his way.(40)

He looked at his watch.  Three to two.  three minutes ’til two o’clock.(15)

Bumping over bare rock he passed the switchback and sailed over the embankment into the dry river bed.  Shrubs and mud scattered as he raced back toward the bridge.(39)

One minute.(3)

A woman in a white dress stood under the bridge.  He slammed to a stop beside her.(20)

Two o’clock.(3)

“Get in!” he said and opened the car door. Startled she climbed into the truck and sat down.(20)

Jacob put the engine in park, the truck odometer read 14621.(15)


Mary stared at the desert flashing by.(10)

The girls in the back had cracked the second vodka. Mary felt left out; ten minutes into this desert trip she  realized she and these women had nothing in common.(40)

That dorm they shared seemed so long ago. She had changed. They had not. Not at all. And now here she was celebrating the “fiancailles” of Susan despite never having met the “man”.  Thinking about it, she honestly couldn’t even remember his name.(60)

A bizarre sense of loss filled her. She  felt like someone had died.  But the big question…(20)

“Why did I put on this goddamned white dress?”(10)

The girls must think she was an idiot.(10)

She had flown in for the occasion and met the five girls for an alcohol-fueled excursion to Red Rocks on a “short bus” with a big red “PARTY!” scrawled on the side.

She couldn’t remember why she had come.  Susan had been a friend at school, but she couldn’t think why or how they had met.  They all seemed so unreal, like characters from a book – not a good book.  Mary shook her head and put her hat down next to her.

In her mind, she floated above the seats watching the girls shoot vodka in the back.

Why were they talking with nothing to say?

The driver stopped and took out an old map.

He looked left at the gas station and the busy highway that headed straight like a black arrow through the desert and then right, at the bumpy red track.  He consulted the map.

Mary sat up straight. A dust devil hovered nearby, as the driver made up his mind.  Suddenly Mary wanted to get off.  The realization came across her in cold waves; she didn’t know this driver.  She didn’t know where they were going.

Before she could, the bus started, lurched across the highway, and bumped down the dusty track.

What would she find  down this deserted road?

She couldn’t remember drinking vodka.

She couldn’t remember eating anything either, but she could feel herself dissociating.  “It feels like a mushroom high.” she thought. “But  I’ve never had mushrooms.”

Smooth and soft, the road stretched out on the desert turning languidly on its side while bright music played on the edge of the window.  In front of her an insect traversed the endless seat back on its journey from left to right, from death to death.

Mary felt calm, aware of body and mind.  This was no trip, this was real.

What on earth was going on with this bus?

The bridge above threw shade all around her.

The heat was still stifling, rising from the dry river bed, making the walls of the gorge shimmy in the harsh light.  The scene was still and yet everything moved.

She shook her head.  She couldn’t remember how she came to be standing here under this bridge in the middle of the sand and the cacti and the heat. She couldn’t remember where she had been last or where she was going.  She couldn’t remember her own name.

An engine roared; a truck appeared, speeding toward her along the path.

The date today was May 5, 2:21 pm.


Jacob pulled the truck back onto the road and onto the bridge.  The wooden ties thumped beneath the wheels.

“Who are you?” said Mary for the fifth time almost to herself.  “How did you know I was here?”

“I can’t explain it.” said Jacob.  “I’ll just have to show you.”

“Show me what?  Where did you come from?” she said.

Jacob stared at her meaningfully. “How did you get under that bridge?”

Mary paused.  “I don’t know.” she said finally.  “I don’t know.”

“Neither do I.  I just knew you were going to be there.  I’ve been driving for days.”

“Days?  Am I lost?” said Mary.  “Are people looking for me?  Are you part of a search party?”

Jacob shook his head. “Nobody’s looking for you Mary.”

“How do you know?”  She covered her face.  “Did I hit my head?  What day is it?”

“I don’t know.  It might be Thursday?”

“Thursday’s the day I was on the bus.  What’s the date?  What month is it?”

“I don’t know.” said Jacob.

“You don’t know?  How can you not know the date?  What year is it?”

“I don’t know.” said Jacob.

Mary frowned and then laughed.  “Did you hit your head?”


“Never mind.”  Mary waved off the question. “You don’t know.  I get it.  Where are we going?”

“First into town to get some things and then up into the mountains.” said Jacob. “I know a place there.”

Mary laughed beautifully.  “You don’t know the date, but you know there’s a place in the mountains… ok never mind.  We’ll sort it out in town.”

“No we won’t.”  Jacob said it with an air of resignation.

They drove on in silence, the passenger side mirror banging loosely against the door.

Finally Mary said,  “Why were you looking for me Jacob?”

“I just knew you would be there.” he replied.  At a fork in the road they came to a gas station.  The first sign of civilization.

“Stop here.”  said Mary.  “Let me make a phone call.”

“It’s deserted Mary.”  Jacob drove on.

“How do you know?” she said plaintively.  But staring back over her shoulder she could see that it was empty and barren.  The windows were broken and sand had drifted in.

“I don’t remember that on the way down.” she said sitting back.  “We came this way I think?”

“Do you remember anything?”

“Well yes.  I’m from…” she trailed off.  “We were going…”  She turned to him.  “I must have hit my head.  I can’t remember how I got here.”

“Neither can I.” said Jacob grimly.

“Then how did you know I would be there?” asked Mary.

They were coming to the outskirts of a town.  There was another gas station and a few houses, then more and more.  All of them deserted.  Mary stared.  “Where is everyone?”

“I don’t know.” said Jacob.  “They’re gone.”

“Gone?  Gone where?”  Mary turned and stared back over her shoulder.  Jacob blew through a stop sign.  There were no cars on the road.  There were no cars anywhere.

“Where are we going?” she said.

“We’re going to stop and get food and… supplies….” He trailed off and then began again..  “Some of these stores are still stocked.  Others are empty.”

“Still stocked?”  Mary said with shock.  “Where is everyone?  Where have they all gone?”

“I. Don’t. Know.” said Jacob.  “I’ve been driving for three days and I haven’t seen anyone in big cities or small.  I thought you would know.”

“Me?  Why me?”  They stopped in the center of the town in front of a small general store that was also the post office.  The doors were open and Jacob led them inside.

Mary stopped on the threshold. “We have to find a phone or a radio.” she said.

“They don’t work.” said Jacob.  “I’ve tried them all.”

“How can you have tried them all?  That’s silly.  Have you tried the police?”

“There aren’t any police.”  Jacob began putting tins of beans in a box.  For some reason he felt nervous, like there was something in the back of the shop.

“Don’t be silly.” said Mary. “I mean the police have radios.”

“I’ve tried everything.” replied Jacob.  “I’ve been through two big cities.  I tried police, fire, radio stations… Nothing works.  Nobody’s there.”

“Well we’ll just have to try some more.  Maybe on the coast.”  Mary looked behind the counter. “What about San Francisco?”

“No we have to keep moving. We have to get to the mountains.”

“What’s in the mountains, Jacob.”  Mary looked at him suspiciously.  “What’s wrong with you?”

“There’s something coming.”  Jacob turned toward her.  He suddenly felt cold and his palms were sweating.  “Something’s going to happen.”

“Like what?  There’s nobody.”  Mary felt more and more calm as she looked at him.  The right thing to do was to stay here.  There was nothing in the mountains – at least not for her.  This is where she needed to be.

Jacob put his hands up to his face and stared at her, wild-eyed and trembling.

“Jacob.” she said.  “Calm down.  Go get gas in the truck and I’ll meet you back here.”  She said it to buy time.  There was no way she was leaving this place.  “I have to go to the bathroom, anyway.”

Jacob shook his head, picked up his box of cans and left the store.  Mary walked to the restroom never looking back.

***** Part five Everybody’s back *****

Inside the restroom, she turned on the light and looked at herself in the mirror.  She didn’t really need to go, she had just said it as an excuse.  The face that looked back at her was calm and unworried though a little bit lined and framed in greying hair.  She felt  odd.  “I wonder where my hat got to.” she thought to herself.

After a moment she decided she’d have to tell Jacob she was staying, so she turned out the light and left the bathroom.

Sally was waiting for her in the candy aisle next to the bathroom.  Mary did a double-take.

“There you are!” she cried.  .

“Well of course you idiot.” said Sally.  “Who did you expect?”

“Oh right!  I forgot.” Mary put her hand to her forehead.  “I must have gotten some sun.  It’s been the weirdest day.”

“Sun!?” snorted Sally.  “If by sun you mean margaritas then sure.  I thought we’d lost you at that bridge.  What were you doing down there anyway.”

“I don’t know.” said Mary.  “Too much to drink I guess.”

“Well it’s your party.  It’s a shame about the bus driver getting us so lost.”  Sally fixed her with a stare.  “You better get your money back at least.  We didn’t get anywhere near Red Rocks.”

Mary laughed.  “Oh well.  It all turned out okay.  Hey did you see a guy…” she trailed off.

Three other women came up to them in the store holding bottles of wine and giggling.  “We’re out of margarita mix on the bus.” one of them said.  “So unless you want to drink vodka shots, we’re going to get the wine.”

Mary shook her head.  “Where’s Julie?”

“She’s round the side, being sick.” said Sally and sniffed. “Some people can’t hold their liquor.”

“How many margaritas did I have?” thought Mary.  “I don’t feel the least bit drunk.”

Slowly they made their way to the front of the store.  The clerk didn’t smile and only grudgingly sold them the wine, as if it came from his personal supply.  Outside the bus was waiting with a worried-looking driver pouring over a map.  “It didn’t matter. The girls were having fun.” thought Mary.  “So what if we didn’t get to Red Rock.”

She went round the side of the bus and there was the pickup.  It was parked haphazardly across two spaces, battered and scratched and the passenger side mirror was broken and hanging by a cable.  In the dust on the back window somebody had scrawled “TOW ME’.  Mary stared.  For a moment two worlds scraped together and she could hear Jacob’s worried voice talking about the mountains.

Sally stopped beside her.  “Mary, seriously, you’re doing it again. What are you looking at?  Are you alright.”

Mary didn’t answer but stepped up to the passenger side door and looked in.  There on the seat was her hat, white with a wide brim.  Reaching in, she took it out and put it firmly on her head.

Then she got on the bus.