Off the beaten path

Here I sit, in the driver’s seat, headed down this highway. All the signs I’ve passed, I’ve ignored. I’ve only stopped for fuel on my journey – both for my car, and myself. I have no idea where I’m headed. The satnav on my dashboard serves only to prevent myself from getting permanently lost in this wilderness. But I’m not concerned with such nonsense. I’m on paved ground – for now. If I get uneasy, I can always retrace my steps back to whence I came. I’m more worried about the portions where I must venture far away from the road: those places where I must forge my own path.

That’s the moment I’m faced with. In but a hundred miles (a bit over an hour at the speed I’m travelling), I’ll have reached the last mile of pavement on my journey. I will venture, first onto gravel, then on to dirt. After all that, though, I will need to find my way around the jungle, where even my satnav can’t rescue me. All I have to rely on is my wit.

Do I stop now? Do I venture forth? I have but 50 clicks. If I am to turn back, I must do so now. I remember a fork in the road that I had passed earlier. I don’t remember exactly, but I remember the sign reading the name of a big city. Should I instead go for that? Somewhere safe? Somewhere I know exists?

I’ve only heard of this place in rumors. And even then, only a handful of people knew anything of this place. The most, in depth detail I’ve ever come across about this place was in some book. And even then, the book was so archaic that it was about to disintegrate as I flipped the pages. Perhaps I was on a wild goose chase. Perhaps, I feared, it was all futile.

But I had already made it this far. I looked down at the satnav. Only 20 clicks to the end of the road. Perhaps I should slow down. I need some time to think this over. I dabbed on the brakes. But in my worrisome state, I had slammed on it instead.

The car came screeching to a halt. Tire smoke filled the air. I took the time to get a feel for my surroundings. It was the first time I was aware that I was anywhere at all. It was dark. The only sources of light were that of the moon and my two headlamps. The shadows of the trees danced in the wind, as if to scare me into going back. Or, perhaps, it was a beckoning me to forge on. I couldn’t decipher the message. Were the gods trying to tell me something? Or maybe it was just a superstitious feeling. I am, after all, a modern man of science.

The night air felt like a relief. Like ibuprofen, it eased my headache, and made my head clearer. Or, perhaps, I was getting high instead. I wasn’t sure of anything anymore. I heard something from the trees. Was it friendly or hostile? Thoughts started to run through my head. I went back into the driver’s seat. This was for the best. I needed to get going anyways.

I set off for the road again, stopping at, what seemed like, the final gas station on the pavement. I stocked up on fuel here, and even filled a couple of jimmy tanks for emergencies. I stocked up on food as well. It was going to be a long journey. I had made up my mind. I would make it there, or die trying. Hopefully I wasn’t delusional. Hopefully the gods were shining down on me.

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