Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | August 22, 2008

The End of the Road

A road in New England. May 24, 2003.

Roads don’t end or begin. Like rivers they branch, feeding into rolling freeways, or dwindling to winding threads past stagnant parking lot pools. But this road had an end that wasn’t a descent into ragged asphalt neglect. The pavement just… stopped. I slammed on the brakes, adding my tire prints to a collection of black streak marks along the end of the perfectly groomed road to nowhere.

A sign off to the side, shaded by overhanging maple branches proclaimed: Seek Alternate Route.

Well, then. Didn’t those kinds of signs belong at the beginning of a road like this? At an intersection, maybe? The last sign I’d seen said 13 North. All was well. The radio was blasting, fresh air slapped through my open window, I was going home.

Not anymore. I must have taken a wrong turn.

Seems impossible, doesn’t it? There weren’t any turns to make. But here it was, the end, and the story hadn’t yet begun.

I stepped out of the car, leaving the door slightly open, and walked up along the dotted yellow line to the place where the asphalt shelved off into a little field of grass, weeds, and young trees. There was no sign the road had ever continued. The scene was exactly what you would expect to see along the edge of any highway. In fact, it’s what I had been seeing out my open window the whole drive.

I touched the toe of one sandal out into that grassy place where the road should have been, as if something might grab my foot and pull me in. Before letting the other foot follow, I looked back at my car. The others who had braked here must have turned around. Mine was the only car, and no traffic was coming, or going. I thought back. Hadn’t I passed a gigantic tractor trailer going the other direction recently?  It could have come off a side street, but I didn’t remember seeing any. Odd.

I walked back to close my door, and noticed the toy lizard I always keep on the dashboard. “Come on, we’re going exploring,” I told him, and stuck the little guy in my pocket.

to be continued…

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