A boy, tall and thin, emerged from the woods. His feet shifted from the pine needles to the tall grass with long, confidant strides. His heavier-set friend lags at the treeline. They are wearing drab pants with stained white undershirts. Centered in the clearing is an odd vision.
A road, well-maintained, went in a perfect circle in the field. Two lanes, with yellow dashes dividing them. Not quite on the opposite end there was a single street sign, again, perfectly maintained. It read: “Mobius Dr.”
“Niko!” Boris yelled a whisper.
The tall one turned around with an indignant huff.
“We shouldn’t be here!” Boris whiningly protested, the boy wrung his hands.
“I just wanted to see it,” Niko calmly spoke, “Do we know who built it?”
“No one does!” Boris’ hands found the back of his neck, swatting away a mosquito.
“So it just appeared?” He scoffed.
“I don’t know! I just…”
“Oh c’mon! This isn’t a god damned ghost story, Boris. It’s one of those avant gard art things.”
Niko started towards the road, bending the pricker bushes till they broke under the soles of his hiking boots with careful grace.
“Avant gard? What the hell is that?” Boris winced, his bare leg scraping a bush he did not see.
Niko laughed, “I don’t really know. I just heard my mom say it about some weird art thing she did not understand.”
Boris stopped. Niko turned rolling his eyes.
“Do you think it means demonic?” Boris said in a hushed tone.
Niko stared at him a bit, raising his eyebrows. His friend was more nervous than he had realized. Boris’ fingers were interlacing and unlacing while his eyes darted around at the trees.
“It’s not demonic,” he said.
His hands went up to his head and he mimed horns with his fingers.
“Stop! My mom said this place isn’t right!”
“Well, you’re mom’s religious,” Niko shrugged.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Boris’ brow furrowed as he grew angry.
“I’m not making at jab at your mom. It’s just, religious people say that things are like, cursed and stuff if they don’t understand them.”
Boris simply stared, his face contorting with unconfident anger.
“It’s a road, Boris. It’s someone’s art thing that doesn’t make sense. That’s all.”
“Then how did that car get there?” Boris stopped and pointed.
The two of them turned to look at an older model station wagon waiting at the stop sign. The wooden panels on the sides clashed miserably with the vomit-green paint. The style was nearing antique status but it looked fresh off the production line.
“What a terrible color,” Niko’s face scrunched up.
“Where did it come from, Niko!? We didn’t see it before!” Boris’ arms flailed.
He grabbed Niko’s shoulders.
“The car came out of nowhere! And you’re commenting on the color?”
“We just didn’t notice it I guess,” Niko forced a patronizing heir as he whispered to his friend.
Boris unlatched himself and stepped back, his arms falling to his sides.
“Let’s go see if the keys are in it, shall we?” Niko smiled with raised eyebrows.
“No,” Boris shoved his hands into his pockets with force, “I’m not going any farther. That car appeared from nowhere. We would have noticed it first.”
Niko thought for a moment, looking back at the car, “Well it’s there now,” he protested.
“No. I’m not going,” Boris shook his head. He looked away, taking steps backwards with rigid legs.
“Alright, fine,” Niko waved his hand dismissively as his feet brushed their way through the grass towards the car.
When he neared it he observed the road. It looked about how he expected it to. It looked new. He could smell it, like it had been laid down only a short time ago.
He flicked at the hard blacktop with the toe end of his boot.
Tap, tap, tap.
His head turned back to his friend.
“It seems fine to me,” He said loudly, “No demons here!”
“I’m not going over there. No matter what,” Boris crossed his arms.
Niko shrugged with a smile, walking around the car to the driver’s door. He cupped his hands and peaked inside. The inside was leather, the same terrible green and white. Everything was clean, with no clutter at all. As if it had been purchased and brought here yesterday. On the other side of the steering wheel from his gaze, three bronze colored keys hung from the ignition.
He straightened up, excited.
“The keys are in it!” Niko shouted over the roof of the car with glee.
Boris stood staring into the forest, thinking.
“We have a car now, Boris!”
“How would we get it back to the road, Niko? How? We went through the forest to get here! There were cliffs and streams. And if we can’t think of a way to get it back then how did it get here!?”
Niko paused, looking away.
“We’ll find a way,” he said with a defiant pointed finger, “I’m going to see if it will start!”
He pulled the front door open with ease and seated himself in the car. The smell was of molded plastic and fake leather. And although the mosquitos swam in the hanging, moist air outside, the interior was cooler. It beckoned with comfort.
“Let’s just-” Boris began to call out. But it was cut off by the closing of the door.
Niko’s hand went to the keys. The feeling of power went into his hands when he touched them. He looked around at the interior of the car surverying his winings, smiling. His right hand turned the key and the car started without so much as a hiccup. His smile grew, and he shot out of the car.
He leaned his head on the roof of the car, his lungs just began pushing air to yell to his friend, and his mouth was formed in the word he was going to say. But his friend was not there.
His eye caught something in his peripheral vision and he shot his glance to the left.
The road was straight.
It went into the horizon, the trees perfectly spaced on either side with a clearing in between. The stop sign was in the same spot, as if the road had unfurled itself into infinity from there.
Niko slid from his relaxed stance on the car and backed away. His heart was thumping in his chest, his eyes darted as leaves moved in the trees with a light breeze. The station wagon hummed away.
After building up courage enough to speak, he forced out a plea.
“Boris?” it came out as a whisper.
He pushed himself to yell.
“Boris!?” his voice fell flatly into the air.
He looked around at the green and brown. His legs started going before he was thinking about it. Towards the tree line he went, at almost a run. The loud hum of the car getting farther away. He pushed on, blinked, and the sound of the engine burst into his ears again. The tree line was no closer than before.
Niko stared, his breath taken away. Slowly he turned and the endless road peeked into his vision. It was as if he had been teleported back towards the road. He slammed his eyes shut. Not knowing what to do he froze, remembered to breathe, and he began to walk blindly towards the forest.
He prepared his face to collide with a tree, or to feel the crunchy softness of the pine needles. None came, even with the sound of the engine getting fainter and fainter behind him.
His breathing teetered on hyperventilation. His boot fell on the familiar bed of pine needles. A sigh escaped him, and instantaneously his eyes opened.
The engine sound exploded in his ears. There was the tree line again, 50 yards away.
Niko whipped around and the car sat there running, only a few longs strides away. His hands went to his face without a thought. They pressed his numbed cheeks. A long, slow, gradually louder scream came oozing and rattling its way out of Niko’s mouth. He shrunk to the ground, pulling his knees into his chest, clinging to his legs tightly. Tears began, and he furiously wiped them away while rushing towards the car.
With shaking, clumsy hands he placed himself in the driver’s seat, and turned the car off. Making sure to look at the floor when the transition happened. His head rose slowly. Over the dashboard the road came into view. Straight, into the horizon.
Niko laughed, thrashing rhythmically in the driver’s seat. Tears swept down his face. He turned the car on again. Still the same. Back on. Still the same. --
-- Boris would later tell this story to his children, on one evening where he had too much wine. The tale of when he saw his childhood friend Niko duck into the car on Mobius Dr. and disappear.