From the Wendy’s parking lot on Lancaster you get a good view of the 24hr self-service car wash to the west. You could, hypothetically, get yourself a double cheeseburger, fries, a frosty, and a supplemental bowl of chili, park, and then wait for other people who, incapable of sleep, have ventured into the muggy Floridian summer night to clean their car. You’d curse your insomnia, and your love of fast-food, and then you’d calm your anxieties with said fast-food. Head spinning, you’d seek a distraction from your internal dialog, and looking to the 24hr carwash to the west, you’d set about distracting yourself. And then you might start to wonder: why does a 24hr carwash exist? Who is cleaning their car in the middle of the night? And then you’d get answers. One particular answer might arrive in the form of Barry Sunset, driving a certified used Honda Accord, and looking a bit worse for wear.
And on a sweaty night in the middle of July, under a half-moon, Barry Sunset pulled into the 24hr Self-Service carwash on Lancaster, the one by the Wendy’s. He emerged from his car visibly agitated, dressed in his work polo and khakis. Barry, assuming he was operating unobserved, wasn't exactly trying to keep his cool. In a flutter of activity, he appeared to be attempting several tasks at once - swiping his card at the self-service kiosk, leaving the kiosk to pull the floor mats from his back seat, missing the prompt to enter his pin number, re-swiping his card, popping and then quickly closing the trunk, entering his pin, and at last beginning the cleaning of the Accord in earnest.
Now, it isn’t against the law to be nervous, to be up at 2:15 am, or to be cleaning your car, but the combination of those things made an impression on the fellow watching Barry from the Wendy’s parking lot. He watched, supplemental chili in hand, as Barry furiously scrubbed the exterior of his car for the full 15 minute session he’d paid for, and then purchased another session which he then took full advantage of. Barry took more care in cleaning this Accord than perhaps any Accord owner, ever. No disrespect to Accord owners intended. Finally satisfied, at around 2:45 am, Barry got in his car and drove off. Possessed by an intense curiosity and a general desire to remain distracted from his own troubles, the fellow in the Wendy’s parking lot, having finished his early morning meal, started his car and started tailing Barry at what he assumed was a sensible distance.
He followed Barry out past the highway and into less developed parts of the county. The interstate formed the city’s western border and served as both a physical and perhaps metaphorical line of demarcation. Beyond the highway, things were more spread out. Older Oaks cast longer shadows. You could get yourself shot by jumping the wrong fence, or parking on the shoulder of the wrong private drive. As he started to see fewer and fewer houses, as the street lights disappeared, the man from the Wendy’s parking lot got a bit nervous himself. With no other cars on the road, certainly Barry had spotted him, certainly Barry knew he was being followed.
Barry did not know he was being followed. In a puddle of his own sweat, Barry sped into the night further and further from civilization, seeking desperately to return to the scene of his crime.
“Dammit, dammit” Barry said under his breath, white knuckles wrapped around his steering wheel at ten and two.
At around 3:10 am Barry made a sudden right turn down a dirt road at which point the man from the Wendy’s parking lot slowed down and stopped on the shoulder of the main road.
“Shit, there’s no way I can follow him down there, what am I doing?” said the man.
This is the point most reasonable people would let go of whatever thread they’d picked up: why potentially risk life and limb pursuing a distraction, and on a lark? But, on in the dead of this particularly night, under this particular half-moon, the man from the Wendy’s parking lot was being acted upon by powerful forces just beyond his control. He felt compelled to respond to call of adventure, to have a story for once. And so after turning off his headlights, he turned down the dirt road in pursuit of Barry Sunset, and of answers.
The man from the Wendy’s parking lot drove carefully down the dirt path for what seemed like an eternity, growing increasingly wary every hundred or so feet, and then finally came upon Barry’s Honda, abandoned beside an impossibly large lake.
“The fuck?” whispered the man.
Emerging from his own car, he surveyed the lake. A glass-smooth surface reflecting a drowsy half-moon. A light fog clung to the ground in clumps like thinned hair on around a bathtub drain. In the moonlight he could see a small island some distance away near what must have been the middle of the lake.