Headlights bounced off another green sign, another discarded path on the journey of your life, momentarily brightening the predawn darkness before the weight of the black morning came crushing down upon you again.  You acknowledged the exit, as you had the rest, noticed it, confirmed the words weren’t the ones you were looking for, and then your eyes switched back to the road and your thoughts moved to more pressing matters.  Where was your exit?  Would you recognize it?  Would you miss it and slip into the night forever?

The edge of your soft headlights caught the dull yellow line running down the certain of the freeway.  It was the only constant in your life.  And then it broke out into dashes and your realized there was nothing constant in your life.  Your heart skipped a beat.  Your eyes flew wide with fear and joy.  And then the solid was back and your norm returned.

The miles slipped beneath your tires and the hum of their passage was a lullaby calling you back to sleep.  It was inviting, but your bed was too far in your past to return to, and the dreams that had accompanied your sleep recently were the kind you could do without.  Names shouted in anger and pain.  The red of gore splashed against white walls.  The dangerous crossings of what had been and what could have been.

No, shaking your head to ward of the partial memories, to not let your thoughts dwell on discerning the truth, you focus again on the pavement coming into view just ahead of those two tiny beams of light.  Your future is out there in the darkness, waiting to be found, just beyond the arc of your headlights.  Another green sign comes into view…

Your eyes scan it quickly, hopeful, but it still isn’t the one you are looking for.  The flash of green disappears from your periphery and you are swallowed by the darkness again.  The muted colors of the night are your only companions.  You half expect to catch glimpses of coyote eyes marking your progress through their territory.  Are you predator or prey?  Are you worth noting?

Probably not.  You are just like the other humans in their metal machines hurtling down the asphalt at all hours of the day and night.  Sure, each has a story to tell, and some might even be worth listening too, and some might be best left unheard, but, in the end you are just searching for something.  More than you need.  More than you deserve.  The wild things, hidden in their shadows, adapted to camouflage with their surroundings, know what it truly means to search.  As they search for the food that gives them life and the shelter that will preserve it.

Somehow pulling into a grocery store parking lot doesn’t have the same value or meaning.  Perhaps the coyotes laugh while the rest of the world is sleeping.  Perhaps the owls join them.  And the desert rats too.  Then the sun comes up and they scamper across the burning brown sand to find the respite they can, while the silly humans still dart about searching, always searching.

For meaning?  For purpose?  For the next new gadget?  For a new life?  For a better life?  For an escape?  For a thousand reasons and none?

Another blinding burst of green alerts you to an approaching exit sign.  Your eyes read the words painted in white and your heart sighs for another path that isn’t yours to take.  You look ahead, with hope firmly entrenched somewhere near your stomach, your guts, but your mind, your thoughts have already begun to accept that you will never find what you are looking for, and that despair is the same color as the darkness that continues to swallow your journey.


This is my response to the current Finish the Story prompt.  Have you responded yet?  What are you waiting for?

24 thoughts on “searching

  1. This reminds me of the days when I was driving from LA to Phoenix and back every weekend. I do NOT miss those days. The stretch of highway between Quartzite and Avondale was long and lonely, and the sense of all those desert creatures out there in the darkness was palpable. Or maybe that was just my desire for company on those drives.

    • I did the San Diego to Phoenix (and Prescott) drive several times throughout college and shortly thereafter to visit my brother. And, yes, those long empty stretches of desert always seem to have eyes… and the cacti, with their arms, in the darkness are creatures reaching out for you.
      It’s no wonder the speed limit is higher in AZ… everyone is speeding through there as quickly as they can anyway.

  2. Driving in the desert at night. Agoraphobia and claustrophobia both at the same time. Fear of the vast open spaces just beyond the headlights and fear of the crushing darkness that no light seems able to penetrate. Very well done!

  3. I love the analogy.

    When I drive back to Michigan, I can identify with the lights bouncing off the green signs. Sometimes mine is the only car on the road and it makes for a peaceful journey, creatures and all.

    • The whole road to yourself? That’s unheard of! I’d be terrified. Around here (southern California) you are never alone – 2AM on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and you are surrounded by cars.

      • It’s awesome. The traffic around me bothers me more in the middle of the day. Somerimes I want to get out of my car and bask in the peace. The only downside is that you can’t really speed. Your car is the only one on the road so you can’t say, “It wasn’t me officer.” Umm..yeah it was.

      • Hahaha, yeah, and those open stretches beg for a little bit of speeding. The lanes seem wider. The road seems straighter, and you just want to go, go, go.

  4. I think anyone who has ever been on a road trip can relate to this. The never ending road to nowhere.

    That line “humans in their metal machines” was great. Would make a awesome title for a story.

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