A. Portland, Oregon
1. Grand adventure is calling!
2. Slide your ass out of bed.
3. Drink a Stumptown or three.
4. Clear IPAs from your head.
5. Gas up the Subie wagon!
6. Put on your old Birks!
7. You’re in Oregon camo.
8. (In the city that works.)
9. Avoid roads with bored cops.
10. (You don’t want to go down.)
11. Stash the weed! Crank some indie!
12. Head straight south out of town.
637 miles later (about 10 hours, 2 minutes):
B. San Francisco, California
1. Cross your choice of big bridges.
2. Pick one – pay the damn toll!
3. Go up and go down.
4. Don’t stop at stop signs – just roll!
5. Go up and go down.
6. Get lost and then again!
7. Do E with a homeless dude.
8. He’ll become your best friend!
9. Good luck finding parking.
10. (Though it helps some to pray.)
11. Kick the homeless dude out.
12. And head south to L.A.
381 miles later (about 6 hours, 26 minutes – up to 7 hours, 50 minutes in traffic):
C. Los Angeles, California
1. Oh! The freeways and cloverleafs!
2. Lots of lights! Lots of cars!
3. Oh! The silicone breast implants!
4. Lots of strip clubs and stars!
5. Don’t turn down the wrong roads.
6. Never trust a valet.
7. Careful snorting while driving.
8. Buy a hands-free coke tray!
9. Party at clubs with ridiculous covers.
10. Drive like you’ve got the heart of a beast!
11. Avoid being on a reality show.
12. Onward, the desert awaits to the east.
792 miles later (about 12 hours, 19 minutes):
D. Albuquerque, New Mexico
1. Take that left turn.
2. (You know that you want to!)
3. Make fun of the town’s name.
4. Just where no one can hear you.
5. It’s a good place for business.
6. And for jobs (Forbes says so).
7. But they drive like they have
8. Nowhere special to go.
9. So just drink some peyote.
10. View the great color fountain!
11. See hot air balloon fiestas.
12. Then head on up the mountain!
449 miles (about 7 hours, 11 minutes):
E. Denver, Colorado
1. Celebrate that you’re here!
2. Your adventure is done.
3. Drink beer and get stoned.
4. Pretend you’re in Oregon!
5. It’s the Mile High City.
6. Snow’s a beautiful scene!
7. Reflect on your adventure.
8. All the places you’ve been!
9. You’ve had traffic and parking.
10. Yes, at times you were vexed.
11. But it’s your destination!
12. Where will you go next?
A cold wind blew in off the desert. The walls of the bunker vibrated in sympathy, producing a low moaning at the limit of audibility. The wind never varied. Chalmers played the radio constantly to drown out the ghostly sound, but he could feel the vibration every time he touched anything that was anchored to the floor or walls.
Easy money, he’d thought, when he saw the job listing. Staff the outpost for a year. If anything needed to be replaced, like a battery or a memory block, replace it. There would be plenty of consumables and an almost infinite library of films and videos. He had never particularly needed company anyway. Discharged from the Guard and having no other prospects, he couldn’t say no.
Chalmers made coffee as hot as he could stand. He stood by the small circular window and stared at the blowing sand. The wind seemed to be whipping the sand past the window faster and faster, but the instruments consistently reported no change in wind velocity, no change in temperature. Chalmers shivered. He reheated the coffee and took a cautious sip. The trembling walls formed words. “We will blow you away, you cannot stay,” repeated again and again.
Chalmers woke with a start. He was at the hatch, fumbling with the controls. He had undone two of the 12 latches. And he had been, still was, whispering. “We will blow you away, you cannot stay.”
Chalmers put the table and chairs in front of the hatch and returned to bed, huddling under the blankets. It was hours until dawn, but he didn’t sleep at all.
One month. Chalmers had been in the outpost one month.. Under the relentless pressure of the wind the entire station was moaning. He had woken up again fumbling with the hatch, and had since rigged metal cables to seal it shut. There was no way he could undo them in his sleep.
The outpost was abandoned. The hatch was open and a meter of sand covered the floor of the facility. Chalmers had missed his weekly checkin and had not responded to queries over the radio, so a team had been sent.
They finally shoveled enough sand out to close and seal the hatch. Tegmen pulled off her helmet and rubbed her scalp vigorously.
“Oh God, that feels good!” She looked around. “This place is cozy. Killer video system. It would be a nice gig.”
Lambert cocked his head, listening. “The walls are shaking. Almost sounds like words.”
Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.
Dr. Sarah Meckham knew how she felt by what she did. She knew she must feel nervous, because she kept dropping crumbs on the rug.
Companies fought over her for her neatness. No jet engine she designed, no part she machined, ever failed.
“Don’t worry,” said Lady Stirling. “These are crumbly scones. I have people to worry about the crumbs.”
“I don’t normally drop them,” said Dr. Meckham. The crumbs marred the pattern of the Turkish carpet, scattered across its blue and red hexagons. She’d even spilled some tea. She never spilled her tea!
“May I refill your cup?” asked Lady Stirling. Dr. Meckham wasn’t sure.
“So you’ve come to have your fortune told,” Lady Stirling said, giving up. “Doesn’t sound very engineer-like.”
“Yes, I know,” Dr. Meckham said, and thought, ‘and that is how I know I’m afraid.’ “I believe that you may help me understand the odds.”
“Of surviving. Some people want to be the only ones who know how to make some of the machines I have designed. And other people would like me to stop making machines that make their military buildup difficult, or meaningless. You see.”
“That explains the gentleman and the car waiting outside,” said Lady Stirling.
Lady Stirling watched more crumbs fall.
“And the men on the ridge and in the gazebo?”
“They prefer it if I pretend not to know.”
“I see. So you are interested in probabilities, not tall dark handsome men.”
“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham.
“That’s wise. Well,” said Lady Stirling, slapping her hands on her tweed skirt, “I think you’ll do for the next decade, particularly if you remain vigilant. After that, you must hire a different driver, because your enemies will blackmail this one. That’s about all the detail I can get at the moment. I should be delighted to have you to tea in nine years’ time, if you can manage it, so we can look a bit further ahead. Does that help?”
“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham. “That was very quick. I expected…”
Lady Stirling smiled. “Palm reading? At least a pack of cards? No. I don’t normally explain my mechanism, but to a mind like yours I will offer a hint: even perfectly neat eaters drop crumbs on this carpet.”
All the way out the door, Dr. Meckham treaded carefully, staring at the patterns. Lady Stirling smiled gently again, amused.