Highway Hypnosis


I sat in the diner eating my late breakfast of over easy eggs and slightly burnt wheat toast. Just the way Sarah used to make. Between bites I took sips of black coffee and cursed myself for waking up late. I needed to be on the road or I’d never make my meeting in Chicago for my grant proposal. I signaled the waitress for the check as an older gentleman sat down in the booth. His hand flicked the crumbs off his table with a delicate and nonchalant wave. I raised an eyebrow as he met my gaze.

“Do you ever wish you could do it all different?” he asked.

“Um…I’m sorry I don’t know you.” I answered unsure of myself.

“It is a simple question Ryan. Do you ever wish you could do things differently?”

He knew my name. How the hell did he know my name? I looked around the diner searching for the waitress. I didn’t want to be here anymore.

“Just answer the question young man. Do you wish you could do it all differently?” he repeated as the waitress strolled up to the table.

“Oh hey Nick, when did you get in?” she asked with familiarity as she placed my check down.

“Only just a moment ago Maggie. Didn’t know you were working today too,” he replied warmly as he picked up my check. “Let me take care of this for our friend here.” He placed a hundred dollar bill and the check in Maggie’s apron pocket and told her to keep the change.

“You are just the best Nick!” She gushed, and then pranced away.

“Hey thanks, but I don’t really know what you mean. I um…should really be going. I’m already going to have to make up some time on the road. I really appreciate it…Nick was it? Anyway, I will make sure to pay it forward or whatever.” I said hurriedly while grabbing up my coat.

The old man stood up rather quickly and blocked my exit. He placed his hands firmly on the table and top of the booth and leaned in close.

“You still need to answer me Ryan. Do you ever wish you could do it all differently?”

“Jesus, man! Yes! I do I really do. Is that what you want to hear? I do. Now can I go?!” I snapped.

“Have a nice drive.” He smiled and casually walked away.

I composed myself as he walked out the door. Nobody in the place seemed to have noticed our strange interaction. I made my way to my car as I looked around the lot for the old man. I found no sign of him. Getting into my word down old compact car I had to tell myself to shake it off. I needed to be focusing on my proposal. I tried to but that old Nick guy kept creeping into my thoughts. I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole thing as I passed the sign that said I had 50 miles until I reached Chicago. My mind drifted again as I turned on the radio.

I came to as I passed a sign informing me that I was leaving the Chicago city limits. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes as I tried to clear some of the fog. As the focus came back I realized the steering wheel was different. What the hell was a fancy logo like that doing on my old piece of…..wait the whole car was different. Stained cloth seats were replaced with rich leather. The instrument panel and radio were now impressive looking touch screen displays. I then noticed that my wrinkled second hand suit had turned into a fine three piece with cuff links and a silk tie. My left wrist was weighted down by a fancy looking watch. In the passenger seat was a bag overflowing with hundred dollar bills. What the hell? I don’t own anything remotely nice. Where did I get a bag of money? I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and swerved to the side of the road and stopped. My hair was back. A full, thick head of black hair had grown in from where it once had been receding. My eyes were no longer baggy and I had youthful smooth skin that was devoid of the five o’clock shadow that resulted from waking up too late to shave that morning.

I opened the bag of money and realized it was stack upon stack of hundred dollar bills. There had to be almost a million dollars in there. I closed the bag and set it back in the seat. I realized there was a newspaper on the floor board in front of the seat and reached down to pick it up. The date read November 16th.  Wait that was two days from now. The cover story was a picture of police standing around a car that was identical to mine. Yellow tape partitioned it off from a crowd. The head line read “Mystery Man Found Dead in Diner Parking Lot”.  What is going on? As I kept reading the article revealed that an older man had been found dead in the trunk of the car. Police were reviewing camera footage for a person of interest.  So far no leads have developed.

I dropped the paper. This was all too weird. Glancing back at the radio display I saw that it said the date was November 17th. Had I truly lost three whole days? Suddenly a ringing sound came out of the speakers and startled me out of my thoughts. The center display said incoming call from unknown. Maybe I shouldn’t answer it, but I really want some answers. I push the phone button on the steering wheel. I don’t say anything, but just listen.

“I’d say this is different. Wouldn’t you Ryan?” the old man’s voice asked from the speakers. “No doubt, you have some questions. I’m sure you’d like me to answer them. Well my boy, you’re going to have to earn that.”

“What did,” I began before being promptly cut off.

“No. No I will not answer any questions now. As I said you will have to earn your answers. Now I have set the navigation in the car for you. There are several points. You may wish to carefully consider the order in which you visit them. At the very end of your journey you will meet me, and if by then you still have questions I will certainly answer them. I have provided you all the tools necessary for your task, everything from money to something a little more direct in the glove box. I look forward to seeing you soon. Have a nice drive.” The phone hung up.

Curiously I opened the glove box. Inside were a pistol and a box of bullets. Fine, let’s see where this goes. I shut the glove compartment and pulled up the navigation screen. Several points showed up and I randomly clicked on one and began the drive. I was ready for my answers.


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