copyright 2015 Kyra Halland
"Turn left from Route 9W in six hundred feet," the fembot voice of the GPS said.
Left? Sandra thought. She didn't think that was what the directions had said. But going 65 miles an hour down the highway with a cement mixer crawling up her back end was no time to fumble for the sheet of paper with the directions on it. She had programmed the address into the GPS, so she would just follow that and if it didn't seem right, she would check the directions when she found a place to stop.
The turn came up quickly. She veered into the turn lane without having time to slow down, and the cement truck blasted past her. She waited while the traffic coming the other way passed, then made her turn.
Woods lay between where she had turned and where the business park she was looking for was presumably located. Sandra drove into the shelter of the trees --
Then, in what seemed an eyeblink, she found herself not in the driveway of a large industrial business park but on a winding suburban street. Maybe the business park was beyond this neighborhood, if she kept driving straight through.
The street she was on curved and met a second street that branched off, also at a curve. She slowed down and looked at the street signs, hoping to see Commerce Street. No such luck; she was at the intersection of Mars Court and Mercury Terrace. She braked for a moment and considered; she thought she wanted to go north. Mars Court, the street -- excuse me, court -- she was on continued curving around to the east, but Mercury Terrace seemed to go north.
She turned and followed Mercury Terrace north, then it angled west-northwest. It turned into Venus Lane, Uranus Place -- the kids probably had fun with that one -- and Pluto Circle, then turned into Mars Court again and met another street at a sharp T angle. Jupiter Landing, the new street was. She turned right, hoping to get going straight north again, but Jupiter Landing made a hairpin curve. She followed it all the way around to get back to Mars Court, but right about where she thought Mars Court should be, Jupiter Landing met with Jupiter Court at about a thirty degree angle.
She was lost. Sandra stopped the car and looked around. The streets all looked the same. And so did the houses -- miles and miles of off-white stuccoed suburban sameness. Except the flock of pink flamingos in front of the house at the corner of the Landing and the Court added a nice individual touch. The compass on the GPS unit said she was facing south. Which seemed odd; if it was still morning, shouldn't the sun be on the other side of the sky from where it was? Either she was really turned around, or the GPS was messed up. Or both.
One thing was clear, she wasn't going to be able to just drive straight through the subdivision to the office park. The only thing to do was to backtrack to the highway and find the right exit this time. And ignore the GPS.
Sandra reached over to the passenger seat for the directions she'd scrawled on the back of the envelope while she was talking to the HR person on the phone. As she thought, she should have taken a right turn off the highway. But there hadn't been a right turn where she'd turned; it was a T-intersection. The turn must be farther up. Oh well; she'd left the house in plenty of time, anticipating trouble finding her destination. With any luck, she should still make it to the interview on time. Fortunately, she had the phone number of the woman she'd talked to in her cell phone. She pushed call; the chipper, cheery voice of the HR assistant answered.
"Hi," Sandra said. "It's Sandra Benson. I have an interview at 11:30; I'm having a little trouble finding your office, but I should be there on time. I just wanted to let you know, in case I am a few minutes late."
"Benson..." the HR woman said. "Let me see, I'll put a note on your file, just in case... I'm so sorry, Ms. Benson, there seems to be some sort of mistake. We don't have you scheduled for an interview today... Or any day this week."
Sandra huffed out an exasperated sigh, holding the phone away so that the HR person wouldn't hear her impatience. "It's right here on my calendar," she said, looking at the envelope where she'd scribbled down the information. "Tuesday, October 7, Mega-Lite Industries, interview with Ms. Valance."
"Well, then, I do apologize," the HR woman said. "It must have fallen through the cracks. I'll go ahead and put you on her schedule, and she'll work you in today, since you've already gone to all the trouble of driving all the way out here."
"Thank you," Sandra said. "I should be there soon."
She hung up, turned the car, and began backtracking. Now that she had noticed the pink flamingos in the yard of the house she had stopped in front of, other yard ornaments came to her attention. A Virgin Mary in a half-buried bathtub shrine, a basketball hoop, a garden gnome, a birdbath, a politcal sign for last year's election, an army of garden gnomes, a Camaro up on blocks, a flock of pink flamingos...
Darn. She was back at the intersection of Jupiter Court and Jupiter Landing. How had she gotten here? She could have sworn she had turned the other way, back onto Mercury Terrace. She called up the map app on her phone and had the GPS find her location; it showed her in the middle of an expanse of emptiness. Apparently this subdivision had been built since the last time the street maps were updated.
There were no signs of life on the streets; probably everyone was at work. Only one thing left to do. She Googled on her phone for a taxi company, and called the first number that came up on the results.
"Galaxy Transportation Company, how may I help you?"
"Hi, I'm at --" She checked for a house number on the pink flamingos house "-- 709 Jupiter Landing. I've got my car and it's working fine, but I can't find my way out of this neighborhood and I'm going to be late for a job interview. If one of your drivers knows his way around here and can lead me back out to 9W, I'd really appreciate it. I'll pay double whatever the fare would be."
"Certainly, ma'am," the cheery voice on the other end said. The connection was funny, from way out here in the boondocks; the sound was slightly metallic. It was lucky she could get a cell signal at all, Sandra thought. "You aren't the first person to get lost in that neighborhood. We'll send someone right out."
"Thank you so much." The rush of relief and gratitude was more than Sandra had expected. She hadn't realized it until now, but she had a really strange feeling about this neighborhood. It was too empty, too new, too weird. Going to a job interview actually sounded like fun in comparison to being stuck here.
She looked at her watch, hoping it wouldn't take the taxi too long to get out there. She got out of the car to stretch; the neighborhood might be empty, but it didn't look dangerous, and it was broad daylight, so it should be okay if she walked around a bit while she waited. The day was bright and held some summer heat that just wouldn't let go.
Then, somehow, the light seemed brighter. She squinted; the brightness hurt her eyes. A chill rushed over her, weird considering the heat and how strong the sun was. She turned to go back to her car, saw at the heart of the bright light something shiny and metallic hanging in the sky, far too large to be floating... Right before the light enveloped her completely and the world fell away, she saw the lettering on the ship, Galaxy Transportation.
At least she wasn't lost in suburban hell any more, was her last thought.