Headlights bounced off another green sign, another discarded path on the journey of your life, momentarily brightening the predawn darkness before the weight of the black morning came crushing down upon you again. You acknowledged the exit, as you had the rest, noticed it, confirmed the words weren’t the ones you were looking for, and then your eyes switched back to the road and your thoughts moved to more pressing matters. Where was your exit? Would you recognize it? Would you miss it and slip into the night forever?
The edge of your soft headlights caught the dull yellow line running down the certain of the freeway. It was the only constant in your life. And then it broke out into dashes and your realized there was nothing constant in your life. Your heart skipped a beat. Your eyes flew wide with fear and joy. And then the solid was back and your norm returned.
The miles slipped beneath your tires and the hum of their passage was a lullaby calling you back to sleep. It was inviting, but your bed was too far in your past to return to, and the dreams that had accompanied your sleep recently were the kind you could do without. Names shouted in anger and pain. The red of gore splashed against white walls. The dangerous crossings of what had been and what could have been.
No, shaking your head to ward of the partial memories, to not let your thoughts dwell on discerning the truth, you focus again on the pavement coming into view just ahead of those two tiny beams of light. Your future is out there in the darkness, waiting to be found, just beyond the arc of your headlights. Another green sign comes into view…
You tried to read the sign, but the car is now passing you. You hear a squeal of tires and for a brief moment are blinded by the headlights. A moment passes and you can see again. Checking your rear view there is nothing in sight. Odd. Realizing you completely have missed the sign you continue driving, doubting it was your exit. After sometime a winding river meets your road and you cross over a long bridge. Once you are over the bridge you note that the landscape has mellowed out some. Then a yellow caution sign crosses your path. It warns you to be on the look out for a pack of animals. Odd, signs usually only print one silhouette of an animal, not three, and there had distinctly been three heads on that outline. Shaking your head you continue to drive.
Time passes but the gray light of predawn doesn’t move at all. Finally you find another green exit sign. You read it several times, unable to comprehend the words. Asphodel. That hadn’t been on any of your maps. Glancing ahead you notice what appear to be toll booths. They hadn’t been on your maps either. Moments tick by, your confusion freezing you until you’ve missed the exit, again. Rolling to a stop at one of the many booths you roll down your window. The attendant appears to be sick, deathly skinny, his skin clings to his bones. On second inspection you realize there is no skin, the person manning the booth is a skeleton.
“Destination?” The skeleton rasps.
You choke out, “Excuse me?”
“I…I’m headed to Troy.”
“Ha ha, good one. Destination?”
“No, really, I’m headed to Troy, Missouri.”
The skeleton, without benefit of skin and eyes, manages to glare at you with sockets alone. You start to feel the chill emanating from the countryside. It had been 105 when you had started the ride. You know something is definitely off, but can’t quite place it.”
“Fine. I’ll let the judges deal with you. Take the second road from the right and drive until you hit the lot. Welcome to the Underworld, have a nice afterlife.”
“Second road from the right, move along.”
You look around, utterly confused. As you creep forward, you can’t help checking the rear view mirror. The skeleton is already raising the gate for the car behind you. It looks like it’s been in a nasty accident recently. As your eyes start to flick back to the road you catch your reflection. Slamming on the breaks you drop the visor. There is a gash across your head. No longer bleeding but obviously a serious injury. Then you look at the rest of yourself. Your entire body is ghostly white. Touching your skin it’s colder than ice. The cold hadn’t been coming from outside after all. The truth sinks in. Unsure how it happened, you are dead.