The Road Less Traveled

In late 2019, the year before the world as we knew it ended, my wife and I took a driving trip to Maine for a few days, the highlight of which (for me, at least) was to take the tour of Derry, offered by SK Tours (which I’d HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting Maine). The day before we took that tour, we drove north to visit Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. The story you’re about to read is almost exactly what happened that day, with a minimum of “artistic license” applied.


The Road Less Traveled

by

G.A. Miller

Bob twisted as he settled into the passenger seat of the small sedan, grunting at the sharp pain in his knees and right hip.

“I am so sorry,” Anita said, “Next time we take a road trip, we’re renting a bigger car.”

They’d just explored Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park on the Maine coast, walking the trails at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, exploring a number of scenic lookouts, and all the walking, along with the cold ocean wind, was taking its toll on Bob’s joints.

“Fuck you, Arthur,” he grumbled as he locked his seat belt in place.

“Arthur?”

“Yeah. Arthur Itis, that miserable bastard.”

Anita made a sympathetic sound as she backed out of their spot and began driving slowly toward the road that would bring them down from the summit to the loop road in the park. Her phone was connected to the car and the map was up on the display panel, but the automated female voice advised them that the GPS signal had been lost.

“Coverage is terrible up here,” Bob muttered, “That thing drops the GPS constantly now.”

“I think all the carriers have trouble up here, not just ours.”

“Well, at least we know we just have to get onto Route One and head south, so we can use the road signs instead of the phone. Old school, no sweat.”

Bob realized that as crowded as both the mountain and the harbor trails had been, he’d seen many people using their phones to take pictures, but didn’t recall seeing anyone actually talking on them.

They finally reached the loop road and saw that the park rangers had closed the road heading up, which didn’t surprise them after passing the long line of cars waiting to get to the parking lot as they headed down. Anita took a right and followed the loop road to the park exit, where they saw a sign pointing to Route One.

The GPS had regained signal and had them turn right again, and everything seemed to be in place. The GPS showed them heading back toward the motel, the compass in the dash had them heading due south, even the late afternoon sun was shining brightly in from the passenger side.

As they passed a route sign on the road, Anita shook her head.

“Did that sign say North?”

“I didn’t catch it. What is the compass showing?”

“Compass says south… and so does the GPS.”

“Sun’s on the right, which is west, so everything says we’re heading south. I’ll watch for the next road sign anyway.”

“Are those crows over there?” Anita pointed to her left, and Bob looked past her to the left side where a flock of large black birds were standing, all facing the road.

“They’re pretty big… I think they might be ravens. I believe ravens are bigger than crows, but I’m no expert.”

“They’re all watching… oh damn, we just passed another sign and I didn’t see it.”

“Neither did I. I was checking out those birds, and you’re right. It looked like they were all watching the car as we passed them.”

The bright autumn colors of the trees were beginning to soften as the sun lowered, causing Bob to swing the sun visor over to the side window so he could continue watching for the next road sign. As he did, he caught sight of something moving through the woods, not far from the road.

“Damn, whatever that was, it was big. I’m thinking moose?”

“I don’t know hon; I didn’t see it.”

“If that was a deer, they sure as hell grow them big up here.”

“Look, I see a sign coming.”

“Got it… says North Coastal One? What the hell? GPS still shows us heading south, about eighteen miles to the motel now.”

“Compass says southeast too, but does any of this look familiar to you? Shouldn’t we have reached that town with the shopping plaza by now?”

“Yeah, I’d have thought so. I don’t get it. I can see the electronics being off, especially with all the signal drops, but the sun setting to our right means we have to be heading south unless Maine is in the friggin’ Twilight Zone.”

They drove in nervous silence for a while, passing more signs advising them they were northbound, despite all the other indicators showing south. As they looked around, the GPS said they were less than two miles from the motel, but they were now the only car in either direction on the darkening road, surrounded by deep woods on both sides.

And there were more things moving in those woods now. Large things.

“OK, I vote we turn around and head back… what do you think?” Anita’s voice was strained, her nerves showing. She’d either seen or sensed something being very wrong here.

“I’m with you. I’m positive we’d have at least seen that restaurant from last night by now.”

Anita pulled to the side of the now empty road and checked all around. Not another vehicle in sight, so she began making a U turn and stopped abruptly.

“What the hell?” she exclaimed.

The road behind them was now littered with ravens, all watching their car. It seemed like they didn’t want them to turn around. Bob looked out the window to his right and spoke very calmly, hiding the tension in his voice as best he could.

“Honey, go on ahead and turn back now, right now. If those damned birds don’t move out of the way, just run them over. We need to get the hell out of here.”

As she gunned the gas and steered back the way they’d come, the ravens took to the air squawking angrily. Bob kept tilting his head to look behind them through the side mirror on his door.

“What are you looking for? Did I hit any of the birds?”

“No, not that. Remember that big thing I saw in the woods a little while ago?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Well, I saw it up ahead when you pulled over, like it was waiting for us.”

“Honey, I’ve been doing over seventy miles an hour. It can’t move that fast.”

“I know that. And I also know a moose can’t stand upright on its rear legs either, but that son of a bitch was, whatever the hell it is. We seriously need to get away from this fucking place NOW!”

Anita’s face tightened into a grimace as she pushed the car up over eighty on the straight road, the setting sun now on her side. Her knuckles were white where she gripped the wheel, guiding them smoothly back and away from those woods.

The signs now said South, but they didn’t relax until they began seeing places they remembered passing on the way up in the morning. They eventually passed their motel and headed into town to have dinner. They parked in a small lot next to the restaurant and walked to the entrance where Bob opened the door for Anita and glanced back at the car as she stepped inside.

The single raven standing behind their car watched them silently, the breeze from the shore ruffling its feathers.

THE END

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