My friend had a housewarming party for his new place. It was huge, beautiful, in the middle of a nice neighborhood. And he got it for pennies on the dollar. He kept insisting there was no catch, and then I saw the address on the invitation. His new house was in a suburb over 40 miles from the heart of the city.
There was no direct route between our houses; I live on a different edge of the city. My choices were to drive into the city and take the freeway back out, or find an alternate route.
Between us were citrus groves, cotton fields, desert wasteland, and mountains. Google showed one little, winding road that would take me most of the way until Duncan, which connected the last 5 miles. It seemed like a fun drive.
In the bright sun, a vista of sand and swirling dust devils before me, I felt like I was driving through Tatooine. I saw one other car the entire drive until I passed an old filling station. Dan’s Gas and Burgers. The burgers probably sucked, but I logged the location into my memory for later and made the turn onto Duncan Road.
It looked like a town had once sat on Duncan. Little houses with sagging rooves and rotting doors crowded the asphalt. Broken windows offered glimpses of the still-furnished interiors.
The sky seemed to darken as I drove, the vibrant, almost turquoise blue turning a muddy purple. I felt uneasy. Afraid, maybe. But more like I was heading toward a test I hadn’t studied for.
The houses grew closer together, the brick chimney of one pressing against the deck of another. Patios and porches intertwined in a violently perverted dance, wood splintering. Through the jagged shards of glass, I could see people sitting in chairs, playing cards. Their skin hung from their faces like molten cheese sliding from an upturned pizza.
I jabbed my foot into the accelerator, but the houses wouldn’t stop. I drove for 5, 10, 30 miles. Duncan Road seemed to stretch into infinity.
I knew I couldn’t get out of the car. I could feel them waiting for me.
Instead, I turned in a sharp U and raced back down the road. In seconds, the sky brightened and I was back at Dan’s Gas and Burgers. A little flag flapped in the wind.
I asked Dan for direction to my friend’s town and he told me Duncan used to go through, but a flood washed it away a few months ago and the county hadn’t repaved. When I got back in my car, I could clearly see the bright orange ROAD CLOSED signs that hadn’t been there before.
I went to the party and made myself forget.
And then I noticed streets called Duncan where they shouldn’t be. I avoided them, stopped driving altogether.
Last night, someone broke the windows of the house across from me. The roof had sagged by morning. I can see them inside.