We had been driving for at least an hour when I asked Wrench, “Have you noticed the back of the van is filled with corpses?”
“No, haven’t noticed that.”
“Well, it’s not exactly filled with corpses but there are a number of corpses back there. Five or six, I’d say.”
“That was probably your imposter’s doing.”
“You think he’s a murderer, too?”
“No. I think he’s just a corpse thief. We were at the scene of a crime. He kept trying to get me to go into a store and leave him alone for a few minutes. I guess this is what happens. Leave him alone and come back to find the van filled with corpses.”
“It’s odd though. They seem to be mostly odorless.”
“Maybe he was working on something scientific.”
“I guess we should probably try and get rid of them, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. I’ll pull over when I find someplace good to dump them.”
“Give me the map again.”
He tossed the map over onto my lap. I opened it up but this time it wasn’t anything resembling a territory. It was just a drawing of a dog. A very childish drawing, as all drawings in my life seemed to be, very one dimensional. It was, however, the prototypical drawing of a dog. I guess that made us something like a traveling flea.
“Huh,” I said.
“What’s that?” Wrench asked.
“Nothing to worry yourself about,” I said.
“Up here,” he motioned. “The Flats.”
“That sounds like an excellent place to dump a body.”
I wondered how Wrench knew we were entering The Flats but, as I looked up from the strange map, I noticed a sign that said, ‘The Flats.’ The sign was plywood with black spraypaint dripping down the front of it. It was like we had entered a whole other world. Before, I was accustomed to a somewhat normal world filled with people doing outrageous things. Now the world and the people seemed to be equally outrageous. Everything had an odd, homemade look to it, like we were living in some child’s dream. Or maybe just some not very intelligent adult. Either way, when I looked around the old world, it was easy to convince myself that millions of uninteresting, boring people had gotten together and taken a general consensus that that was how they wanted the world to be. Sort of dull and easily accessible. This new world didn’t seem to have any sort of group thought involved in it at all. In fact, it seemed to be filled with things most people would not want in their world.
The Flats seemed to be several acres of hardpacked, desertlike dirt. Nothing grew there. The road became broken up and, in some places, completely gone.
“We just going to leave them here?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Wrench said. “I don’t think anyone will find them. Besides, we didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t be expected to take these corpses back where we found them. In fact, I’m not even certain where we found them. Your imposter’s a drunk, by the way. He forced me to drink copious amounts of beer and then he made me drive.”
“Did he talk at all?”
“Not that I remember. He made a lot of crazy hand motions. Hops up and down a lot. Grunts a little bit.”
“The only time I’ve ever heard him speak was on the bus but, I think, by that time, it was really the hallucinogenic sandwich doing most of the talking.”
“Maybe he’s mute or something.”
“I think maybe his voice is even farther from mine than his physical appearance. Maybe you can convince yourself he looks like me but maybe his voice is very high pitched or maybe he has like a French accent or something. Who knows?”
“Who knows. Let’s get rid of these corpses.”
Wrench braked the van into a screeching halt. We each climbed out our respective sides and walked to the back of the van. Wrench opened the back doors and we looked in at the corpses. Wrench took the first corpse by the ankles and pulled it out. I took it by the shoulders and walked backwards away from the van. I looked down at the corpse and was startled.
“Jesus,” I said. “It’s Mom.”
“I noticed that,” Wrench said.
“We can’t just leave her out here in the Flats.”
The sun beat down on my shoulders. I imagined her body out here, rotting, getting pecked by vultures and other predatory creatures.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to,” Wrench said.
“How can you be so cold?”
“I’m not being cold... Look, do you want to drive for however much longer we have to drive with a decaying corpse in the back? Maybe we can come back for her or something. I hate leaving her here every bit as much as you do.”
“But she was just your employer. This is my mother.”
“I don’t see that we have much of a choice. Remember, all this stuff is just here to sidetrack us. We have to think about the journey. We can’t get waylaid by all this stuff. If we do then we’ll never make it.”
We laid the corpse of my mother down on the baking ground and went back to the van to retrieve the next corpse. This time it was my grandfather. He no longer looked like the skinny Ernest Hemingway I remembered. His beard was gone and he had some sort of black tribal tattoo on his face but I knew it was him.
“This is my grandfather!” I said, now indignant toward whatever cruel fate had played this trick on me.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Wrench said.
“How can you be so blasé about all this?”
“How else can I be? Like I said, we can either stop here and you can be overcome by grief over people you knew were dead anyway, or we can continue onwards and maybe do something about it. For all we know, the Nefarions will have the power to resurrect people.”
“That doesn’t sound very likely.” We dropped the corpse of my grandfather next to my mother. “Where did you guys pick these corpses up, anyway?”
“I told you, I have no idea. Your imposter sent me into just about every store we passed for beer. I didn’t even notice the corpses until you pointed them out.”
We pulled out the next corpse.
“Dad!” I said.
“I’m afraid you’re wrong about that one,” Wrench said.
At first, I didn’t know what he meant. I studied the corpse. It looked like Dad. No. It didn’t look like Dad. It looked like Gary Wrench. Strange, I had come to think of him as my father.
“This is you,” I said.
“This is my imposter,” he said.
“So, you were my father’s imposter and you had your own imposter?”
“Oh, everyone has an imposter.”
“No. A doppelganger would be someone who resembles you on a natural level. A doppelganger is usually the cause of meeting people for the first time and having that person think they’ve met you somewhere before. An imposter is one who intentionally tries to look like someone else in order to fool or trick people. I don’t really know why anyone would want to pose as me but I guess a lot of questions just don’t make sense anymore.”
We put the corpse down next to my grandfather.
“Funny,” Wrench said. “I hadn’t seen him in a while. I didn’t know he was dead, though.”
“Are you sad?”
“Well, it has often been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Now I don’t have anyone out there imitating me.”
We went back to the van and I wondered who we would pull out next. This was the final corpse. We slid him out and, after studying the face, I was relieved to discover that I had no idea who it was.
“Do you know who this is?” I asked.
“No,” Wrench said. “I feel kind of relieved, don’t you?”
We hurried over to the dumping spot and lay this one down.
“That was exhausting work,” Wrench said, wiping his hands on his shirt. “I think we might just have to take a nap in the van.”
“I could definitely go for a nap.”
We entered the van and reclined our seats.
“Do you ever get the feeling you’re napping your life away?” Wrench asked.
“If you ask me,” I said. “There are few things in life as perfect as a nap. Sleep is such an overlooked part of modern society. Most people fit their sleep around their hectic schedules and I, for one, think it should be the other way around. We should go to sleep when we get tired and wake up when all the sleeping is done. I think that would make for a much healthier society.”
But Wrench was already asleep, his snores filling the cab of the van. A few minutes later, I joined him.