I’m on the clock before I get to work because it’s Wednesday, and traffic is worst on Wednesdays. Rather than dressing up, I dress down. I wear the shirt I slept in and put my jeans on. Fundamentally, I quit caring a month ago.

There are two kinds of drivers on the road, those who drive too slowly and those who drive too fast. The worst are the slow ones because they know you’re in a hurry, but they follow the laws just to spite you. I have no problem with those who break the rules because they are being honest. Their rage comes out in how they drive, and who can blame them? The job isn’t any different, except for one thing, it’s not socially acceptable to be unprofessional, and that’s where the rage comes from. You have to say and do the right things, and then the powers that be expect you to be civilized on the roads. It’s a recipe for crazy.

My work is in a school near the suburbs. It’s a farming community that became overpopulated by people who wanted to escape the city, and now nobody can escape. It’s gridlock. So, I’m always weaving in and out of neighborhoods, trying to beat red lights and traffic. I’m obsessed with saving time.

I’ve been studying the maps in the Maple Valley library to see if I can improve my commute. I can see how the city has changed, trees were cut down, the ground was releveled, and the old logging roads are mostly gone. I’m looking for ways to get to work faster. Maybe a road that is no longer in use, that I can use.

Then I stumble upon an unusual map. It’s unlike the city maps, and there is a great black spot in the center. I ask the librarian, “Why?”

“Oh, that’s one of those mining maps,” she said. “That blacked out region must be where the mines were. That’s why the roads reconnect on the other side.”

Later that week, I kept getting stuck in traffic, and I was late to work every day. It was a nightmare…

“Would you come into my office?” My boss said. I complied—what choice did I have? She was wearing black nylons that ran up her legs and attached somewhere I couldn’t see. It was the same red lipstick and red hair that said yes to me while always saying no. “I don’t know if you think you’re special, but you’re replaceable. If you can’t get to work on time, I’ll find someone who can.”

“But the traffic is unbeatable,” I complained.

“I don’t have any trouble getting to work.”

“That’s because you get here at 5 AM. I don’t want to spend my entire day here.”

“Why not? Don’t you like it here?”

“Well… I don’t hate it, but I want a life outside of work.”

“What possible life can you have, more trash TV?”

“I don’t know.”

She looked at me, like she owned me. “Just get to work on time.”

That weekend, I decided to test out the map. Most of the city had changed, since the logging roads were used, but there were still a few places that were impossible to build. They were hills that rose high above the city and sure enough, off the main highway, there was a big yellow gate that blocked off a gravel road. It was one of those ridges that divides part of the city in half. I pulled off the road, next to a Starbucks, and got three shots in my latte. There was a cute blonde waiting in line who opened the door for me, but I didn’t talk to her. I worried that she would be my excuse for not traveling the road. The coffee gave me nerves, and saying no to a woman, built up repressed sexual energy. I got out of there quickly and walked directly to the gate with my bolt cutters. I snapped the lock and entered the point of no return. The road was one lane, that hadn’t been maintained in over 50 years. So, I didn’t know where it went to or if it was washed out. If I encountered any potholes, getting stuck was a definite possibility, and up I went, watching the city grow smaller. Then it started to rain.

The ground was getting muddy and my wheels started to slip. The road was so slick, if I stopped moving, I would slide backwards, and I didn’t want gravity to take over. Then the sun came out and I descended into a green valley in farming country. The sky broke wide-open, turning blue, and I almost forgot why I climbed up the mountain in the first place. There were sheep herding in the fields down below and beautiful young girls tending them.

I drove to a crossroads where there were four signs for four different roads. The sign where I came from read: The Future. The sign where I was going read: The Past. I was more interested in the signs to the East and West. To the West was a sign that read: The Village, and to the East was a sign that read: Luther’s Castle. If this had been a sightseeing trip, I would’ve enjoyed visiting the castle, especially because it was a magical place that I wasn’t sure I could get back to again, but for some reason, it was more important that I get back to Maple Valley, at that particular moment, so I kept driving into the Past.

Soon the trees started to do strange things. It was like they were reaching out to grab me, or they were folding around my pickup, and the forest became blurry. It was like driving down a drain at lightning speed as I pushed through a vortex and was reborn on the other side. My pickup jumped through the woods onto a gravel drive that merged with the roadway half-a-mile from my school. I checked the time, and rather than losing it, I had gained 30 minutes. I had beaten the game, and nothing felt better. Then something began to dawn on me, all the time I spent traveling from the future to the past was free time. What if I just lived in the shortcut between work and home? There were beautiful women there and a castle. What if I could be their king? I spent the rest of that weekend thinking about what to do. It was possible that I could get stuck and never get out.

On Monday, I followed my routine with perfect commitment. I even left my apartment early, so that I would be on-time for work. But when I got halfway, there was an accident. The police walked by my truck and I overheard their conversation.

“We’ve got another crazy on our hands. It’s one of those arrow murders—some freak that hunts women—pulled her right out of the car after he shot her boyfriend in the chest.”

“Is it a compact bow?”

“A crossbow is more like it. The bolt is shorter, the only problem is, it looks as if it’s homemade. We’ve got a killer who puts love into his killing.”

“How do you know?”

“Look, you’ve been socialized to believe that men and women are the same, but that’s simply not true. Man is 99% animal and 1% human. He wants to hunt. He does not want to be cooped up in an office all day, surrounded by beautiful women who tell him what to do.”

“Well… I guess I know how you feel about female authority and paperwork.”

“Listen Kathy, it’s difficult for you to understand. The modern man is completely suppressed.”

“I don’t think I want to hear it.”

“Suit yourself.”

It was strange… that traffic cop described exactly how I was feeling. Fifty yards ahead, I noticed the big yellow gate, along the shoulder. If I was going to make it to work, I would have to take the shortcut. I gunned my engine and hoped no police would see. I pushed through the gate without getting out of my truck and soon I was climbing up the ridge again. This time, rather than driving into the Past, I took a left and drove West to the Village.

The scenery began to change. Now, there were sand dunes. I drove until I reached a beach where a seaside town stretched along the shore. Women were tanning themselves and when I got closer, I realized they were naked. They were all young and beautiful and when I walked closer, their eyes dilated with desire. Some of them were speaking foreign tongues; it was difficult to understand them at first, until I heard English, but it was not the English that I knew, it was much older than that.

“If you value your life, you will drive to the Past or the Future, but don’t stay here. When the master of the house returns, he will do horrible things. He has spent a lifetime collecting girls and no man who trespasses ever lives. Even if you leave, he will hunt you.”

Then a girl grabbed my hand and smiled. And another girl grabbed my other hand and smiled. They giggled as they led me upstairs. Ten or twelve other girls followed. It was impossible to resist and in two hours I was drained of my life force. I barely had the energy to make it back to my truck.

“Wait, what are you going to do about Luther? He will kill you.”

“How will he know?”

“Girls talk.”

“Well… what should I do about it?”

“The only thing you can do is kill him first.”

To think, all I wanted to do was save time on my way to work and now I had to kill a master assassin. I didn’t even own a gun. Driving back to the Past was not as exciting as it was yesterday. And when I got to work, the last thing I wanted to do was listen to my boss describe the new way to fill-out paperwork.

My mind was ricocheting against my skull. Where would I get a gun? I didn’t know the first thing about hunting. So, after work, I went to the gun shop. I was still dressed in my professional clothes and I must’ve had an agitated look on my face because the seller looked worried.

“Did you come from work?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“And what kind of gun are you looking for?”

“I don’t know much about guns, so I need something that can shoot itself.”

“And what are you planning to use it for?”

“Hunting.”

“What do you plan to hunt?”

“Deer, I’m hunting deer,” I said. I could tell he didn’t believe me, but he continued…

“You want the Bushman; it’s what the DC Sniper used, and the shooter wasn’t a great shot; scared the city though.” I paid the man and left with the modern weapon and 200 rounds of ammunition. Hopefully, it would give me an edge on a crossbow.

The problem was, I didn’t know what Luther looked like, but he would know what I looked like, if he talked to any of his women. I thought about taking a hunter safety course, but I realized that time was not on my side and Luther had access to all points in time. If he found out, he wouldn’t kill me today, but he might kill my mother or some other distant relative so that I would never be born. No, the only way was to kill Luther before he found out, so I entered the big yellow gate again with the resolve to kill him.

When I got to the crossroads, I turned East, towards Luther’s castle. The trees grew smaller there, until they were shriveled. The rocks were volcanic, and the air was difficult to breathe. From afar, I could see the castle, high up on a cliff with a perfect view of the road. I had two choices. One: I could drive as fast as possible to the front door, or I could spend hours climbing over the sharp rocks until I was cut to pieces. I opted to drive like a maniac. My pickup reached 60 miles per hour in 7 seconds and threatened to die, but I kept my foot pressed to the floor anyway.

I screeched to a halt and switched my safety off, then knocked. The door was solid oak, several inches thick, and would’ve been impenetrable except that it was open. The massive door swung lightly on its hinges and I entered an enormous room, marbled, with a vaulted ceiling. A piano was tucked in the corner, near a door that led into a greater room. On the walls were animal tusks from the prehistoric era, dinosaur bones, and trophies that made the soul sink. If a man had consistently killed during a hundred lifetimes, he could not have filled the walls with so much death.

I heard screaming coming from upstairs. So, I ran up the spiral staircase and into a bedroom where a nude woman was tied to a satin bed. When she saw me, her eye got twice as big and she started moaning. Then I undid her bonds. And that’s when I heard a peculiar sound. Was that a siren? I rushed to the window to look out onto the volcanic fields where I noticed a motorcycle cop racing up the road.

“That’s strange, I guess the police figured out how to get into the shortcut. Maybe they followed me?”

“That’s him,” the girl hissed. “The man who kidnapped me.”

And then everything clicked. I had to kill the policeman. He was riding without a helmet and when he got closer, there was something familiar about him. He was the cop that I overheard on the road. I took careful aim out the window and almost squeezed off a round when he drew his revolver and fired a handful of shots at me. One hit my gun and knocked it from my hands. The other went into my shoulder and right out again.

I aimed at the door and waited, but nobody walked through. Hours went by like this, until nightfall.

Then I saw a shadow, and then something was choking me from behind. My eyes were bulging out of my skull, and a voice whispered… “You tried to take something that’s mine.” Then there was a woosh and another whoosh. It came from the bed and Luther fell dead on the floor. I looked at the smoking barrel and the smoking hot naked woman who pulled the trigger.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. And she nodded. She got on his motorcycle and I got in my truck and we drove into the Past. When I got to work, my boss was there to greet me.  “Congratulations, you’re not late today.”

I almost said something, but then I realized I didn’t need to. I could be King of the shortcut between work and home, and rather than fighting traffic, I would live where life was perfect, with hundreds of women who wanted me, in my castle on the hill. So, I left, never to go back to work again and I lived happily in the shortcut between worlds.

THE END

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