I had made up my mind somewhere in the snow covered mountains of the Grapevine path. My mysterious and strange hitchhiker would be ditched right after the five split off from the ninety-nine somewhere near Arvin, and I would continue traveling north to Bakersfield. I was worried about how this would actually happen. She could easily have a weapon on her person and keep me hostage until I dropped her off in Oregon, or could find some way to track me down since she went through my purse, and I realized that this ditching maneuver could be my last.
We traveled through the rest of the snowcapped mountains letting other passing motorist speed dangerously along the way, and eventually emerged from the frigid temperatures in the elevated altitude. I quietly took my foot off of the gas pedal and let my car glide down the steep hill winding out of the mountains and down into the San Joaquin Valley.
The two of us were greeted with the flat valley floor populated with farmland and animals gallivanting about. I made a quick turn off into the exit for the city of Arvin and slyly crossed my fingers so that my hitchhiking passenger wouldn’t notice.
“The F%ck are you doing?” Cindy said now staring at me.
“I didn’t think you were serious when you wanted me to take you all the way to Oregon,” I tried preparing myself for a swift stab wound to my side. “I can drop you off in the Valley since this was my original destination in the first place, and you can hitch a ride with someone else.”
Cindy turned her attention out of the window and sighed. “You know that girl in the story ended up being taken to a psychiatrist that day instead.”
I took a quick glance over at Cindy. “I thought her husband took her to the hospital after she found her walking out of the woods with no memory?”
“No, they never made it to a hospital,” Cindy turned her soft gaze to face the moving images approaching alongside of the front windshield. “And no one ever explained to her how she woke up in the middle of the woods without shoes either.”
“Why couldn’t they tell her what happened?” I looked to Cindy for an answer but she didn’t reply. “Why was she in the woods and why wasn’t she taken to see a medical doctor at a hospital?”
“Do me a favor and turn back onto the main road here,” Cindy said motioning her finger to further direct my driving.
Cindy didn’t have any money, she never told me where she came from or even her last name, but she was armed with a story, and she held my attention with a string of mysterious stories all somehow connected together. I was incredibly curious about Cindy and her strange tale—I just hoped it didn’t last one thousand and one nights.
Read the story, “Shock Wave,” every Wednesday.