“You lost, friend?” Comes a loud voice, which sounds oddly familiar. I wipe the sleep from my eyes, put on my glasses, and look out the window. It is the cop from last night. Did he follow me here?
I roll down the window of my car. “What do you mean? I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to stay here; I’m leaving now.”
“You best do that. And go back where you came from, remember?”
When he says ‘remember’ his voice changes. It gets lower, sadder, and even louder. Immediately, without trying or even thinking, the image of the boy hanging from the highway sign by snakes comes back to mind. I shutter.
“I’m leaving,” I say in a rush, starting my car.
I leave the lot feeling just as bad as I did last night. The location where I am supposed to drop off the letter is just about ten miles outside of town. I reach the small community by 10 a.m. There is no one in sight. The road is made of dirt, and I see a few houses every now and then on the left and right side of the road.
I wonder what the hell was up with that kid, and with that cop. Was this all some sort of backwoods joke on passers by? I begin to feel sleepy. Almost like I am going to fall asleep at the wheel, just out of no where. I stop to calm down and have a cigarette at a small park I find. There’s not much here, just some rusty swings, some gravel, a chain-link fence missing the gate, dead trees in the middle of summer, and some matching cigarette butts. I glare at the envelope I am to deliver. What could be inside this? I hold the envelope to the light to try and read through it. I think I can see the word “Human” somewhere, but I’m not even entirely sure.
“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS came on my CD player. It’s a good song. I forgot about making this CD, there’s a lot of good songs on it.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division came on next.
Odd pairing, I thought, but also sort of funny. I started another cigarette.
“Never Tear Us Apart” started again. Followed by “Love Will Tear Us Apart” again. Tired of hearing the same two songs twice, I pulled the key from the ignition. The radio didn’t stop, though. I pressed the power button and it still didn’t stop. I pressed the eject button; the CD didn’t come out, but the music had stopped. Something didn’t feel right; I lit another cigarette.
Just as I did, “Never…” started playing again, at full volume. About thirty seconds in, “Love…” began playing. I ran to the car, and pressed the power button again, to no avail. I looked at the radio.
That’s all that was on the radio. The music kept playing and I opened the trunk for a wrench to disconnect the battery. Just as I opened the trunk, the music stopped.
What could I do, really? The car went back to normal. I was a bit freaked out, but I needed to make my delivery. I kept driving on back roads, and the streets seemed to get worse: more potholes, more rocks. The houses also went down drastically in quality. That is, until I got to a golden gate, with a drive-up box to talk to the owners of the house up the hill. The house was the one I was to make the delivery at. I drove to the box and pressed the call button. “Who is it?” responded an elderly-sounding woman’s voice.
“I have a package,” I said.
“And you’re sure it’s for me? For this address?”
I repeated the address to her.
“Well, who are you with?”
“Ma’am, I’m just trying to make a delivery for my landlady. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I am not with a corporation or anything. Can I please just come drop this off to you?”
She let me in. As I drove up the winded road to her house, I realized it wasn’t much of a house at all — it was a mansion.
“I’m sorry I was so annoying at the gate,” she told me over the tea she eventually made us.
Her mansion seemed to go on forever. We were sitting near a large fireplace, in elegant red couches.
“It’s just,” she continued, “you saw all of those shacks on the way up. They’ve got me beginning to think this was all a bad idea.”
“What was a bad idea?” I asked.
She sighed. “You have something for me?”
I handed her the envelope. All it said on it was For Sasha. “Can you tell me what it’s about? I don’t want to pry, but I drove a long way and my landlady is really making a big deal out of these deliveries…”
“You’re right, you shouldn’t pry. I think maybe you should go now.” Her tone was completely different, like she had snapped.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry if I asked something offensive…”
She didn’t even look at me as I left out the long, stone hallway. Along the way, I saw something move into the room next to the front door along the floor. I peaked my head in before I left, to see a snake slithering through the room.
I found it a bit unsettling when the people who lived in the cheapest housed gave me sad, almost scared faces as I drove passed. They were gone so quickly and out of view, so my mind moved on to other questions faster than it probably should have.
I ended up back in town quicker this time — strange how not having my car radio become possessed during a smoke break will make that happen. I had to get gas at the gas station which was now open. As I went inside and b-lined for the snack isle, I got a message on my phone from an unknown number.
“New delivery boy, huh? I think there’s something you should see,” it read.
I responded with a “who is this,” only to get no response. I paid for my gas and chips and went to start my car. It started, but didn’t sound okay. I pulled over in the still closed “Atlas of Humanity” parking lot since it was still abandoned, and looked at the engine. Everything seemed fine, but when I went to start the car to leave, nothing happened. The engine didn’t turn, the lights didn’t come on, nothing.
I had just made a long, stressful drive out to a place I didn’t really want to go, where I didn’t really feel comfortable, to do something I didn’t really want to do. And now my car had died. To make the best of my situation, I decided to cut my losses and make a day of things. I stopped by the local liquor store, grabbed some more snacks, and went on a hike in the northern Kansas nothingness to take my mind of of things, or at least to organize the thoughts inside my head from the last day.
The day-hike quickly turned into a night hike. I got lost. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, as I followed the map I had previously downloaded onto my phone. The whole time, it said I was only a couple miles away from where I had started at most, but when I turned back to go to my car it took me hours. I am back at my car now, and it still will not start. Something is wrong, though. Someone has done something to my car and is keeping me here. It’s too late to do anything about it now, though. I have no choice but to camp out in my car again, in the same lot I was in before. I hope that cop isn’t watching me.
I eventually fell asleep for a little while. But I woke up to a loud pop.
I looked up at the lot, and at the “Atlas of Humanity” place — it wasn’t empty anymore.