It had been about three and a half hours since I first got into the car back in Los Angeles County. Three of those hours had been spent driving up into the Central Valley with a strange hitchhiker, on a secret agenda, that was in the middle of telling me this disturbing story. I had no clue why this story was being told, how this random hitchhiker was involved, and why I was nearly being held hostage and driving north toward the state of Oregon. But like the girl in the story, I felt my future lied in the answers I would uncover about my captor’s past.
“Cindy,” I firmly called out interrupting my passenger’s story. “If you can’t tell me why Oregon or how this story relates to your own, can you tell me where in Oregon I’m taking you too?”
“There are two people who used to live where this girl I’m talking to you about used to live,” Cindy explained. “They’ve since moved to Ashland, Oregon and I need their help to finish the story, but I want to catch you up on what I know before we get there.”
I immediately thought about the sheer length of this insane trip. “That’s like over seven hours without stopping, and this trip was totally unplanned!”
“Let’s just say someone’s life hangs in the balance.”
“Is it this girl’s life?”
“—Okay,” I said. I started to notice that Cindy didn’t do a very good job of explaining anything.
“I can only explain by telling you the story. I mean I have plenty of time to tell you the story, and you’re on winter break anyway.”
I suddenly feared for my safety. “How did you even know that?”
“I read your text messages on your phone when I looked through your purse at the gas station.”
I couldn’t respond to her sneaky spy tactics.
“I had to make sure I was safe before continuing on this trip with you,” she said. “You have enough money to get there, and I can pay you back when we get to Ashland. I can even pitch in half for gas and lodging right now.”
“You have money?”
“Yeah, who do you think I am?”
I suppose you really can’t judge a book by it’ cover, or even by its first chapter really. Sometimes the story can quickly turn into something unexpected. “I thought you were homeless or something.”
“I mean, I sort of am. More of a wanderer than anything right now. I choose to travel with very little.”
Cindy smiled. “I find it so incredibly liberating. I’m free from all worries and the everyday drudgeries of ordinary life. I can end up anywhere, and everywhere, and nowhere at all, all because I choose to step away from the norm—something that the girl in the story wanted to do.”
“Did she ever get to become a freed wanderer?”
“You’ll find out at the end of my story.”
I suppose I walked right into that trick again.
Read the story, “Shock Wave,” every Wednesday.