I stared out the dirty window of the bottle-green Plymouth, watching trees and coast slide by. We were still on Highway 1, nearing where it merged with 101, not far from the Oregon border.
I hadn’t been on that stretch of road since I was a kid. What took minutes on Highway 5, or even 101 from San Francisco to Eureka, took hours along Highway 1, making the twisting two-lane road hugging the rocky coastline feel endless. But Revik wanted us off the main highway, at least until we crossed state lines. Even within seaside towns, he took side streets, avoiding the main “strips,” if they could be called that in towns that maybe had four bars, a salt-eaten motel, a greasy spoon, a church, a head shop and one drive-through coffee stand.
Somewhere near Fort Bragg, he uncuffed me from the door. I suppose I should’ve been grateful for that, but as my hands and ankles remained bound, my gratitude was limited. I watched the sun slink into the Pacific as pelicans skimmed by, beating long wingspans.
I felt him looking at me. When he didn’t stop after a few minutes, I exhaled sharply, facing him.
He turned the wheel of the Plymouth, sliding behind the main street of another seaside village whose name I didn’t know. We passed a few bars and an auto shop. His pale eyes shone in the neon signs.
“We are low on gas. Can I trust you?”
“Dehgo...whatever your name is...”
“Right. Are you going to tell me? What that guy meant about me ending the world?”
He exhaled. “Terian was trying to unbalance you. But it is true that they...” He amended, “...We believe you to be someone important.”
“Allie, can I trust you, if I—”
“Revik, important how?”
Clicking to himself, he pulled into a nearby Arco station. Stopping in front of a pump, he turned off the ignition. When an attendant walked right up to the window, I realized with some surprise that we must be in Oregon. Revik rolled down the window, which stuck a few times. He gave me a last warning glance.
“Hey! Cool car, man! What can she do on the freeway...?”
The boy’s words trailed, just before his eyes filmed over.
Revik sat up to tug the clip from his back pocket, handing through a few bills of paper money. I noticed the attendant’s eyes didn’t look at me as he took the folded paper. They also didn’t glance at the rust-colored stains on Revik’s shirt, or the slash of the same on his pale neck.
Frowning, he glanced at me, then at the rearview mirror. I watched as he licked his fingers, rubbing at the dark stain on his neck. Then he leaned over my lap and pulled open the glove box. Taking out an oil rag, he poured some water in it from a plastic bottle and rubbed it over his neck, erasing the mark completely.
“Revik, I’m hungry. I’m thirsty, too.”
Instead of answering, he handed me the half-full bottle.
I tilted it over my mouth, drinking.
His tone remained neutral. “Like I told you...historical periods have beginnings, middles and ends,” he said. “At the end, the dominant species has an opportunity to evolve...in several possible directions. We seers call these opportunities Displacements.” In the mirrors, he watched the boy hook the pump to the tank. His fingers gripped the wheel, green in the florescent light.
“…In some human mythology, this is called ‘Apocalypse.’ Do you know this word?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. I might have heard it on one or two heavy metal albums.” I watched the blond kid in the dingy overalls enter the convenience store. He walked to one of the coolers in the back, pulled out a large bottle of water.
“...So you understand,” Revik said. “This will, of necessity, affect all of the species, not just humans. The elders have seen signs of the human displacement approaching. Some of these signs relate to developments in the natural world. Others have to do with—”
“Okay,” I said, still watching the boy. “...So you’re paranoid. What does any of that have to do with me?” I watched the blond kid pull two plastic-sealed sandwiches out of a cooler, two apples, a bag of chips...
“Burrito,” I blurted. “Get me a frozen burrito...he can throw it in the microwave, right?”
A hint of revulsion grew visible in the set of Revik’s mouth, but when I looked back at the store, the blond kid was stuffing a plastic-covered burrito into a industrial microwave and twisting the grease-covered dial. When I glanced over, Revik was watching me again, his eyes narrow.
He said, “The Bridge ushers in the Displacement. They are the catalyst. They are also what we call an intermediary being...one of the first. Historically, they gather three friends—”
“Let me guess...the four of us, we all ride horses, right?” I propped my cuffed hands on the armrest. “I do read, you know.”
I leaned my head on the glass. Glancing in the side mirror, I winced. I looked like I’d escaped from a mental hospital, then got beaten up and thrown in a dumpster.
I saw him watching me, eyes narrow.
“Trust me to attract crazies even among the seers,” I said. “...Jon will love this.”
Revik rolled down his window, accepting the receipt from the blond in the dirty coveralls. The blue and white patch on his breast labeled him “Jerry.” Jerry handed a paper bag through the window that Revik placed on my lap, where its warmth soaked through my waitressing uniform skirt.
“The Bridge is the catalyst,” Revik repeated, like I hadn’t spoken. “They have their place, like any of the intermediary beings.” He turned the key, and the GTX’s engine rumbled to life. “You need to understand your importance. Not in terms of ego, but of role. It is a responsibility, Allie.”
I looked up from the bag. “So, just to be clear. You're saying I am going to end the world...at least as we know it. And that this is a job that I should take seriously...and do really, really well.” I tilted my head at him. “Did I get that right?”
I watched him think. “Yes,” he said. “That is right. Simplistic, but ultimately correct.” Before I could speak, or even laugh, I saw his eyes click back into focus. “You will meet Vash. Then you will understand.”
“Did you just read my mind?” I said.
“Is that absolutely fucking necessary?” I said.
He thought about this also, glancing at me.
“Yes,” he said.