Contemporary Speculative Fiction

   So here they were barreling down the highway in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m sure that those who lived here would take exception to being called nowhere, but from their car window all that could be seen for miles and miles were grass, soil, and hills as far as the horizon. It had been this way for the last two hours. Wyoming was like that.

 “Sure glad we filled up the tank back at that last stop,” Jack said, turning a sideways glance at his daughter in the passenger seat. “Me too,” she agreed. “According to Google, there should be a gas station coming up in about forty miles. I hope they have a bathroom.” Lisa was a big coffee drinker which meant a lot of pitstops to empty her tank.  

 They had decided to do this road trip only a few days ago, after realizing they each had the same vacation week off from work. Lisa knew that none of her friends had time off so she would just drive. . .somewhere. It would be nice to leave her computer screens behind, the stock market was a lot of sitting, staring and waiting. “Road trip, fly by the seat of my pants,” she said. “Stop where I want, when I want.”  

 “Hey, would you be opposed to your old man tagging along for the ride?” Jack asked.

 “That’d be great Dad, sure. Kinda a father daughter bonding thing, cool.” Lisa smiled and her large blue eyes crinkled at the edges. Lisa had only recently celebrated her thirtieth birthday and Jack was still in wonder of her. How had he helped produce such a mature, intelligent and beautiful woman? He thought of himself as rather pedestrian, nothing overtly special, just a nice guy with ordinary gifts. She, on the other hand was something special, a caring and humane human. Must be her mother’s genes, he thought to himself and smiled.

 “Potty break please,” she said, as they passed a blue sign showing a rest stop coming up ahead. 

 “Okay, I could use to stretch my legs,” Jack said, signaling for the exit and easing into the right lane. 

 He pulled the black Subaru into the parking area and saw that there was a Visitor Center to the left and wooden picnic tables on the grass to the right. There were no other cars. A plumpish older woman was relining a garbage can after having removed and tied a large black plastic bag. She wore some kind of official looking khaki vest over her dirty blue jeans. Jack nodded to her as he and Lisa headed for the Center where the bathrooms would be. She did not nod back, just kept working, head down. The Visitor Center was empty. Brochures and maps siting in discolored acrylic holders lined one wall. A layer of fine dust covered the abandoned desk. The bathrooms were, surprisingly, clean and stocked. I guess that’s the priority, he thought, gratefully. Lisa came out of the Women’s bathroom and they walked back to the car together. 

 They were still the only car there. Quiet summer day, midweek in the middle of Wyoming. Not surprising. The woman that had been on garbage patrol was gone. Finished up early and got a lift from a friend, he figured, while they were inside. “Ready? Back on the road,” Jack said. “Ready Roody, and it’s time we switched, you’ve been driving for hours,”Lisa said. “Okay, all you,” he said, giving the rest stop one final guarded survey. Empty.

 They settled in, adjusted their seats and Lisa her mirrors. She was shorter than her father and he liked his seat way back and high. “Take the helm Mr Sulu,” Jack said, and they were off.

 The sun was glaring as it lowered in the sky. They were, after all, driving west. Squinting, Jack opened the glove compartment and got his sunglasses. Lisa always kept hers at the ready, perched atop her head. It was then that he focused on the sideview mirror. The passenger sideview always said, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear,” it’s mandated, but instead it said, “Objects in the mirror portend what will appear.” Huh?

He blinked, removed his sunglasses and put on his reading glasses for a clearer view. The same warning. “Hey Leese, have you seen this?”


 “This warning on the mirror. I never realized it said this before.”

 “Says what?” She snapped a bit too quickly. Must be time for coffee, he thought.

 “It says, “Objects in the mirror portend what will appear.”

 “Portend? Really? Who uses that word?”

 “Dunno, just reading it to you,” he said,“Isn’t it supposed to be something like closer than they appear, or something?”

 “I think so, yeah.”

 “Pull over for a minute, I want to check something,” Jack asked.

 “Here? It’s a highway Dad.”

 “There’s no one on the road, in either direction, pull off on the grass.”

 “Ohh kayy,” she said, signaling and then putting on her emergency blinkers.

 Jack opened his door to a heat blast, jumped out and opened the trunk. Nothing, except their luggage. He checked the back seat. Nothing but empty water bottles, tissue boxes, hiking boots and rain slickers. It made no sense, but he had been creeped out by that woman back at the rest stop and he needed to make sure she hadn’t stowed away in the car. Too many thrillers on Netflix, he thought. He crouched a little and examined the mirror, his fingers tracing the lettering and wiping the surface which now should reflect his face looking into it. It did not. What it did reflect was a bison, slowly meandering right by the car. He stood and quickly turned, sure he would be face to face with the animal, but the only bison he saw was quite a distance away.  

 “Well?” Lisa said, after having seen her father’s reaction.

 “Not sure, it’s weird,” he said, checking the mirror a second time. He took out his phone and began searching the Web for the Subaru’s owners manual.  

 Lisa got out, circled around the car, bent by the mirror and stared. “What the fuck, what the hell is this?” The image of the bison filled the mirror, but it was only a side view as if it were passing the car and was partly beyond the mirror. She turned and saw the bison several hundred feet away from the car, but approaching. She looked back at the mirror and watched as the bison slowly moved forward out of view. It wouldn’t even reach the car for at least another ten minutes at the rate it was walking. “Is this a joke?” She cupped the mirror with her hands, feeling for anything odd, a camera maybe, a plug, something. She scratched the lettering with a red fingernail checking if the words where a decal or sticker, but they were not.  

 “There’s nothing in the manual about haunted mirrors,” Jack said, trying to sound calm. “Maybe I should call customer support, maybe it’s a software update or something.”   

 “Oh sure. Hi, customer support? Yeah, I’d like to know if you guys are installing mirrors that look a few minutes into the future? Hello, hello. . . ? cause that’s what this looks like to me, Dad. Wait, I have a better idea.” She took her phone out of her back jeans pocket, checked the time and then held it up to the mirror. It was 1:35, but the reflection showed a phone with a time of 1:50. That did it. “Look, I don’t know what’s happening or how, but this,” and she motioned towards the mirror, “this is the dream. Lisa was visibly agitated, adrenaline rushing through her. No coffee needed now. “If I can get a fifteen minute glimpse into the future, just think of the trades I can make. I could buy and sell with one hundred percent certainty, clarity, I can make a fortune. I don’t need any charts, I don’t need any research, no guess work, no gut instinct, nothing, just this,” again pointing to the mirror. “Wow!”  

 Jack was watching his daughter literally vibrate as her excitement mounted. Her large eyes wide and moving as she mentally followed an inner roadmap to riches. “Lisa, Leese? Calm down honey, let’s not jump to conclusions here, okay, maybe there’s another explanation.”

 “No, no, it’s got to be, you saw the phone didn’t you? Didn’t you?”

 He had and he had no other logical answer. Not that this one was logical by any means.  

 “Crap, it’s Saturday, the market doesn’t open till Monday at 9:30, well 9:15 for me,” and she laughed. Let’s turn around and head home, Dad, I’m way too excited.”  

 “Okay,” Jack said, “but I’ll drive until you can chill a little, you are way too excited.”

 They strapped themselves in and began the long trip back to New York, Jack driving and Lisa staring out her window at the side view mirror, watching the green plains roll by.  

 “Did you get any weird vibes from that woman at the rest stop back there when we stopped?” Jack asked.  

 “What woman?” Lisa said.

 “The woman that was emptying the garbage cans.”

 “Didn’t see anyone.”

 Jack side eyed her, “you didn’t see her? The older lady with the vest, changing the plastic bags?”

 “Nope, sorry, you did? Where?”

 “When we stopped to use the bathrooms,” Jack said, sounding a little irritable even to himself. I even tried to catch her eye, you know, to acknowledge her. Tough job out there in the sun today.”  

 “Still didn’t see her.”  

 “She wasn’t there when we got back in the car and I did wonder how she’d left, we were the only car at the stop. That’s why I jumped out and checked the trunk and backseat. I had this goosebumpy feeling that she was in the car.”

 “Well, that’s not creepy, is it?”

 “Suppose it is, I guess. But then we discover this, this. . . I don’t even know what to call it, this time-mirror? Coincidence?”

 “No answer, sorry. I just know that I’m gonna make bank using this thing,” Lisa said. “In fact, come to think of it,” she fumbled with her phone, “I can trade crypto right now,” and she opened her Robinhood app. “Damn, I only have two hundred dollars available for trading, everything else is tied up in equities and it’s Saturday so I can’t transfer any funds. “Well, let’s test my theory.” She checked the price of Bitcoin, $32,152.94 and then opened her window to better hold the phone up to the mirror. The image read $32,312.17. Lisa retracted her arm, closed the window and waited fifteen minutes. Sure enough, $32,312.17 just as she had seen. Boom! I am golden, she thought, as she showed the phone to Jack.  

 “Boom!” he said, offering his fist for a bump.

 They drove on, knowing it would be a few days until they reached home. A few evenings staying in Airbnbs, always wary of leaving the car unattended, cut into their sleep. It wouldn’t do to have it stolen so one night the car itself became their Airbnb.  

 Both Lisa and Jack’s eyes kept drifting over to the shiny black, plastic encased mirror as if waiting for it to morph into an alien creature.  

 “Okay, so is this something we should really be telling the government about?” Jack said, keeping his gaze on the road ahead.

 “Oh, sure, so they can use it, somehow, as a weapon? I don’t think so.” Lisa answered. “No, no, no, this thing is ours and we can use it as we see fit. We can start by making a lot of money and maybe then we can channel some of that money into causes that we think are important. We can start a foundation. Eat shit Bill Gates!”

 Rain began to splatter the windshield. Large droplets increasing in intensity along with wind gusts that buffeted the car, Jack gripped the wheel a bit tighter, fighting to steady the car. It had been sunny a few miles back but driving east, they had seen dark clouds forming and knew they would be driving into this bad weather shortly. The sound of the pounding rain drowned out the podcast playing thru the speakers and they needed to raise the volume to hear it over the noise. Wipers at full speed, like an out of control metronome. Jack leaning forward and squinting into the water obscured window.  

 It was then that Lisa leaned over and looked at the side mirror. She had to look closely, the rain making visibility hard but what she saw in that moment made her yell out to Jack to pull over, “Dad, pull over, pull over now!” What she had seen was her own face, blood splattered, gashes cut into her scalp, blood running down onto her white shirt, eyes glazed and fixed open, head slumped against the broken window. She saw all this in a single heartbeat, taking it all in, in a fit of terror and shock. “Now!”she screamed. “Now, please!” Jack looked at Lisa’s panicky face staring out the window and tapped the brake, downshifted and slowed the car off the road onto the grassy shoulder.  

 “What, what happened?” he yelled over the pounding rain, throwing the gearbox into park and instinctively reaching for the emergency flashers.  

 “Accident, we were going to have an accident,” she said, still looking out at the mirror. “I saw myself bleeding, out, unconscious or dead, don’t know.” She was breathing hard, voice trembling. The image in the mirror had now changed and was showing the fields around them, a glint of sunshine showing. Outside it was still raining. They sat there in silence each momentarily lost in themselves then looking into each others eyes. Lisa leaned over and hugged her father, tears now streaming down her cheeks. “Oh my God, we almost died,” she wheezed through heaving breathes.  

 “We’re okay, we’re okay, it’s okay,” Jack comforted her, hugging her tightly back and stroking her hair. “Nothing’s happened . . .yet.”

 It was then that they heard a loud metallic screeching fast approaching from behind, a red eighteen wheeler carrying a dozen cars latched onto its frame for transport, slamming on its breaks and hydroplaning on the flooded highway. Loud grinding noises like some kind of large tortured beast filled the air. It’s cargo shaking and partially dislodging, sending tons of sleek shiny metal and glass exploding onto the blacktop. The truck came to a stop, twisted sculptures of fenders, wheels, and engines littering the highway. It was fifteen minutes since Lisa had screamed at the image in the mirror.  

 They sat in the black Subaru, watching in surreal amazement, the thundering reverberations dwindling to a squeak and random bang as pieces settled.  

 “We were almost part of that,” Jack said.  

 “Yeah, that was way too close,” Lisa agreed. “I can’t believe that just happened.”

 “Well, we have our little mirror there to thank,” he said.

 The rain was abating and a glint of sunshine could be seen, reflecting off the tangled mass of metal strewn across the highway on their left. They heard sirens fast approaching. Lisa lowered her window with the intent of giving the mirror a pat, like a good dog that had performed a trick, but her hand stopped short, instead hovering there as she read the embossed warning, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Gone was the altered phrase that had saved their lives and held promises of endless riches. Lisa got out of the car, squatted a little to be level with the mirror and saw her reflection. She took out her phone, noted the time as 5:20 and held it up in front of her. The mirror reflected the phone and it’s 5:20 reading. “Shit,” she said.  

 Jack walked up to her, took her in his arms and quietly said, “I guess it did its job, honey.” 

 “Yup, guess it did. Let’s get home, this road trip just got real old.”

 “Reflecting on it, yes, yes it has.”

July 21, 2021 21:10

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NK Hatendi
01:51 Jul 29, 2021

A gripping story right to the end! An observation- is there a clever play on words- rearview mirror and rare view? If so, well done!


Andrew Fruchtman
17:47 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you so much. Yes, the title IS a play on words. 👍


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