The bride drew the carriage to a stop on a treelined road.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s get to it.” She stripped her veil off and threw it onto the road and reached behind her wedding dress, trying to undo it. “Do you mind helping?” she asked.
“With what?” I said. I was a little dazed. My mind was still trying to catch up with everything that was happening.
“Taking this damn dress off. We’re going to have sex.”
“I don’t think I’m up for it,” I said.
“You came all the way out here with me and now you’re not up for it?”
“Pretty much. What about your husband? Didn’t you just get married?”
“Well, sure, but... hey, you’re not at all familiar with the way things work in our town, are you?”
“I think I have a pretty good idea.”
“You just don’t understand. The pressure of living there. The pressure of always being expected to do what you’re not expected to do. That’s why my husband ran off with the carriage driver. He’s not even gay. That’s why the lights are on all night and everyone sleeps during the day.”
“But you should do what you want to do. If you want to be with your husband then you should go back.”
“And what about you?”
“I’ll be okay,” I said.
“Maybe you’re right,” she said.
“Anyway,” I said. “I think I’ll just be going. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said. “I guess it’s for the best but everyone back in town is going to be very disappointed.”
“Tell them it was my fault.”
“The stranger. They’ll have to believe that.”
I hopped down off the carriage. She whipped the horses into action, turning the carriage around, and headed back for town.
I walked along the narrow dirt road, wondering where I would come to next, expecting it to be just as strange as the places I had been. I wondered where I was. Wrench still had the map and I didn’t think asking anyone for directions would do any good. Currently, there wasn’t even anyone to ask. Walking along the road I began humming discordant tunes that weren’t really tunes at all. It was only a matter of time before I became too tired to walk. Then I would need a nap but I didn’t see anywhere suitable for a nap. I guess I could have ventured out into the woods but I didn’t see why I’d want to do that. Taking a nap on a soft bed of chemically purified lawn was one thing. To take a nap on a bunch of moldy leaves surrounded by snakes and bugs and countless other evils was something different altogether. I would just have to walk and wait. Wait to find Wrench and the imposter or wait to come upon the next town or the next city.
“Yeee-ha!” I heard from behind me. A beer can hit me on the head and I looked up to see the black van speeding away. Perhaps Wrench noticed me. The brake lights lit up and the van backed up. I went to hop in the passenger seat but was met with the dour face of my imposter. He reeked of beer but didn’t seem nearly as happy as only a few moments before. Rather, he now seemed like a child caught doing something he knew very well he was not supposed to be doing.
“You,” I said.
The imposter continued to stare at me. Wrench was in the driver’s seat, trying to look around the imposter.
“David? That you?” he said. “Why are there two of you?”
“The imposter!” I shouted.
“I’ve been driving around an imposter?”
I swung the door open and said, “Get out.”
The imposter slid off the seat, clutching the flame in his arms.
“No,” I said. “You’ll have to leave this.”
We both tugged at it. The imposter began making wild hand gestures. I took the opportunity to snatch the flame away before leaping into the van. “Let’s go!” I said, placing the flame back on the floorboard.
Wrench hit the accelerator and the van lurched away.
The imposter stood in the middle of the road, hopping up and down.
“Where did you come from?” Wrench asked.
“You left me behind,” I said.
“Left you behind?”
“Yeah. At the lake.”
“No. That’s where I picked you up.”
“That’s where you picked the imposter up. Really, I don’t understand how you fell for that. He’s the worst imposter in the world.”
“He looked just like you. He had a beard and everything.”
“That was the worst fake beard in the world.”
“You’re just being critical.”
“Where to now?”
“Not sure. I’ve just been driving.”
“Let me see the map.”
He handed the map over and I looked at it.
“Do you know where we are?” I asked.
“I think we’re in Kansas.”
I looked at the map but couldn’t find Kansas on it.
“How much longer do you think this is going to take?”
“I don’t really have any idea. Do you?”
“No. That’s why I asked.”
“Probably a couple of days, I’d say. If we can find it at all.”
“We should probably stop off in the next town and get some rest.”
“I agree. I’m exhausted.”