PART 1: TWILIGHT
The sign read EYRIE.
I remember that night as we both stood there for way too long, just staring through the fog at that sign. We went back to the car and checked the road map, just to be sure. But there was no “Eyrie” to be found anywhere.
Mark whipped his flashlight back at the road sign.
“Maybe we made a wrong turn somewhere,” he suggested. But I could tell from the sound of his voice that he didn’t believe that any more than I did. He scanned the map himself in the dim glow of the overhead light. “Weird… There’s no Eyrie anywhere?”
“You can’t find it either?” I asked, not liking the feel of this. The swirling mist that obscured much of the surrounding desert just didn’t belong in this climate.
“Hmm… You know, I was reading a while ago that New Mexico decided to change the road maps. Maybe Eyrie didn’t make the cut. It sounds pretty small.”
“Yeah, that must be it.” That sounded like a plausible explanation, so I agreed with him. I wanted to agree; this fog, and now this sign, had started me thinking about the sorts of tales you could easily spook yourself with out in the middle of nowhere late at night like this.
We jumped back into Mark’s beat-up station wagon, a sixteenth-birthday present from his father. We jokingly called it the Woody, and a few of our friends’ parents were appalled by the name— which we, amazingly enough, hadn’t even thought of— until we pointed out the phony wood paneling on the sides. Like in one of those old Beach Boys songs.
The headlights were on the whole time, but neither of us cared; this road trip had been a disaster from the first stop. The Woody had managed to break down every 500 miles on the mile. The air conditioning refused to work once we reached the desert. We had run out of gas once, and had to push the car almost six miles to the nearest town.
And now we were lost.
Looking back, I knew there was something wrong with this whole scene, but I didn’t want to say anything because I was sure Mark would think I was nuts. Odd, given that we’ve been friends since grade school, and I was also equally certain that he could sense it, too. It felt strange at that moment to remember our graduation only days before.
We drove on in silence, keeping our growing disquiet to ourselves. I still remember the time we went camping last summer, telling spooky stories until we were both too scared to go out of the tent, even to take a leak.
I doubt either of us was sure if we should be embarrassed or afraid. I mean, we had been on a couple road trips before, but nothing quite this ambitious. Still, I know I at least thought we were accomplished enough to handle a three-day drive without too many problems. It bothered me that a simple wrong turn could steer us this far off course.
The sign said 86 miles to Eyrie, and 111 to Cove— yet another town that we couldn’t find on our map— and over much of that distance, I almost suggested several times that we go back to the last town and continue in the morning. To this day, I wish we had, though I’m not sure it would have made much difference. I think we were already in over our heads, but I didn’t think so then, and neither did my friend, since he drove on anyway.
Asleep at the wheel… that’s the best way I can come up with to explain it. We grabbed dinner in a town called Moriarty— which at least was actually on our map— and ate as we cruised down the highway, listening to our favorite mix tapes. Mark’s stereo had been our faithful companion on this journey, in spite of the rest of the Woody trying to fall apart under our asses. I have no clue when I first noticed the fog that had increasingly thickened after twilight, but now I felt lost, more so than the word itself can express. Now there was only the road, and we crept along with seemingly nothing beyond the headlights’ beams.
It really seemed that night that we could have driven right off the face of the earth, and I believe we did, in a way.
Story notes: Though this is a stand-alone story, it does contain references to places and things that might sound familiar to anyone who's read Tradewinds 5.
Chapter notes: strange weather