Day One: Saturday, November 1st
Chapter One – The Zig Zag of Light up the Dark Mountain
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“Cute, Eddie, but did you get the job?” her mother said with mild sardonism.
Edna Estelle Buck smirked slightly. Charlie Dickens had such a way with words. There was a lot of truth to it, though, especially considering her current situation.
She no longer had to go to the onerous job that was wearing down her spirit and causing her emotional grief that was threatening her physical health.
“I think things went very well, Mom,” Edna said.
"It's getting dark," her mother said. "I don't like you driving, especially since the fog is coming in."
"It's not too bad here, Mom," Edna reported.
"Well, if it gets worse, just pull in and get a room somewhere."
"Okay," Edna responded.
"No, better yet, just pull in and get a room," her mother decided. "I don't want to sit around wondering if you're going to get home in time for dinner, or wondering if I should wait up for you. I'll feel better if you just get a room."
"Okay, Mom," Eddie sighed. "I'll get a room as soon as I get out of the mountains, or as soon as I spot a Motel Six. Whichever comes first."
"Good," her mother said.
Eddie smirked a little. "I'm not betting on which will come first," she said. "There are Motel Sixes everywhere. In fact, I bet that Neil Armstrong stayed in one on the moon."
There was no response. Frowning, Eddie looked at the cell phone that she was illegally using while she drove. There were no bars, obviously the mountains had cut her off.
Just as well, she decided. She shut the phone off and tossed on the seat next to her traveling companions, a potted spider plant and a stuffed, three headed dog named Fluffy.
She could get a room. It wasn't like she had anywhere that she had to be tomorrow. That was one of the advantages of being unemployed.
On the other hand, being laid off meant that she had no income, so she was reluctant to pay for a room.
She had savings accounts, of course. In fact, by her calculations, she had at least nine months of savings. But it wasn't going to support her forever. She contemplated ways of getting more income.
There was always unemployment, but she couldn't depend on it for long. Not to mention the fact that she had to save up for retirement. Plus she had bills to pay and insurance premiums to keep up And she wanted a new pair of Ugg boots. Her unemployment benefits were nice, but not that nice.
“My needs are few, it's my wants that get expensive,” she explained to the potted plant that had once lived on her desk in her cubicle at work.
The potted spider plant, naturally, had no comeback for this bon mot, originally spoken by Dorothy Parker.
She hated job hunting. Unfortunately, nobody was going to up and offer her a new job out of the blue.
Her latest job interview had actually been rather promising, as it had lasted longer than the thirty minutes that she'd planned for it.
The unfortunate side effect of this was that she now had to drive home after sunset, on a dark and foggy Halloween night. She sighed and turned K-Mozart on the radio. She used to like this drive, back when she was a kid and didn't actually have to do the driving.
She'd especially liked it at night, when the road snaked through the foothills and she could look out the windows of her mother's station wagon and look at the house lights on the mountain tops and make up stories about the people (or mythical beings) that lived so far above the river of light that was the freeway.
There was one road in particular that she'd always wondered about. It snaked up the black hillside, the only light for miles around. A mysterious zig zag of light leading to nowhere that her younger self could discern.
It had fired her girlish imagination, giving her daydreams about roads to the Land of Oz or Cloud Cuckoo Land.
When she got older, she speculated that there was some sort of power plant or television signal booster antenna.
However, she never looked it up. In fact, she never even figured out how a person could get to the road. As far as she could tell, there was no off ramp that lead to it. She supposed that it was accessible via the surface roads, but she never saw any signs of any roads except the zig zag of light.
Edna had always dreamed about exploring that road, but she'd never done anything about it.
Of course, she never saw the road in the daylight, when she might have the time and nerve to go looking for it. In fact, she really only thought about the zig zag of light when she passed it at night, like now. She knew this freeway well and estimated that she'd be coming up on the sharply angled road at any moment.
No sooner had the word 'sharp' entered her mind than her idle speculation was interrupted by the distressing feel of a tire going flat. 'Oh, great,' she thought. 'It's dark, it's foggy, I have a flat tire and no cell phone reception.'
She had an image of herself in her nice powder blue pantsuit and high heeled shoes trying to wrestle off the flat tire and put that stupid excuse of a spare on. She hoped there was a call box around here.
She glanced in her side view mirror and attempted to pull to the side of the road.
Just then, the driver behind her got tired of doing the speed limit and honked. Then she pulled to the right and illegally passed Edna.
Edna jerked back into her own lane, which apparently didn't do her tire any good. The limping Maverick weaved alarmingly. Then Edna tried again. This time the car to her right and behind her honked and pulled past on her left.
The man flipped her off, either not knowing or caring that Edna was having car problems. Edna would have responded, except she had her hands full of twitching metal and rubber.
In spite of the other drivers' reluctance to allow her passage to the shoulder, Edna managed to wrestle the Maverick over three lanes to the area where she hoped there was a call box. Another car idiotically chose to dodge around her to the right instead of the left.
Eddie jerked the wheel left, and then jerked the wheel right. She managed to get out of the flow of traffic.
The next thing she knew, she was off the freeway entirely and bumping down an exit ramp that had loomed up suddenly from the fog.
Eddie drove down the ramp as fast as she thought the car could stand. Her heart was pounding and she kept checking her rear view mirror to see if somebody was coming up behind her.
Not that she'd be able to do anything except brace for impact if somebody did.
She kept an eye out for a place to pull off, but before she did, she found herself going uphill. The road she was on now zigged to the right, then it zigged to the left.
Eddie looked out the passenger window, but could see nothing but darkness and fog. A look out her window showed her more darkness and fog.
She rolled down her window and the fog rolled in. So did the sounds of the distant freeway. She should have been able to see the freeway, but the fog cut her off as effectively as a brick wall.
She could barely see the road. If it hadn't been for the street lamps that had so beckoned to her from the freeway, she was certain that she would have plunged over the side.
It was that fear that kept her from trying to pull over to the side. She didn't remember seeing a shoulder to the road when she'd dreamed her childish daydreams about them.
Eddie didn't dare stop on the road as she still had visions of being rear ended. Considering that this road didn't appear to lead to a residential area, she calculated that she was more likely to be struck by a truck rather than a vehicle.
Eddie didn't try to calculate her chances of surviving that. She clutched the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white and her hands ached. She alternated between stiffening her arms until her shoulders hurt and forcing her to relax so she could keep control of the Maverick.
She kept to her limping pace, all the while keeping an eye on her rear view mirror. If she spotted headlights coming up behind her, she'd have to try veering towards the mountain and hope there was a shoulder there.
If she tried to veer into the other lane, she could hit oncoming traffic or worse, go over the side and land on the freeway.
She'd always scoffed at stories where somebody's heart pounded like a jackhammer, but now hers was doing just that.
She could FEEL her blood pressure rising and the blood buzzing through her veins like a mob of angry hornets.
Every turn she made she half expected to be smashed off the road by an on coming tractor trailer. She lowered the windows in an attempt to hear anything through the muffling fog. Her eyes were as wide as possible to catch any trace of movement in the fog.
She cautiously negotiated yet another jog when a sudden blare almost made her leap out of her skin.
It was her cell phone.
She glared at it, wondering when she'd put that annoying ring tone on it and what could it possibly signify.
Then Eddie forced herself to drag her eyes away from the phone and focus on the road. She didn't care who was calling, this wasn't the time to interrupt her.
One more jog in the road and she saw something loom dead ahead of her.
Slamming on the brakes was out of the question, much as she longed to do so. She eased up on the accelerator and babied the Maverick to a halt just yards in front of...
A locked gate.