Signs on the Road by Michael Barrineau

"30 minutes ‘til we're there right?" It’s a sign that really says, "Well I guess this is the end of the night right?"

Her house, Middle of Nowhere, thirty minutes away from Somewhere. Where she’s from doesn't matter, but I'm fond of the girls from Anywhere, they always make me laugh. All girls make me laugh. I make all girls annoyed.

"Yeah, I don't have to be in for another hour though."

Curfew is a funny thing. We cannot wait until we're adults to be rid of it, then when we hit eighteen, it stays out of convenience. This is a sign on the road that says, "I think I can tolerate you for another hour."

Its dark on the road, and the only thing to catch my eye is the cherry of a freshly lit cigarette; I don't normally let anyone smoke in the car, but I make exceptions for girls from Nowhere, because where else would they smoke? Where does she even buy those in Nowhere? Where does anyone get anything around here?

"So how do you want to kill the other half hour?" The sign on her side of the road that really means, "I am dumb, I don't know what you meant by that."

I wish we could kill it with silence. I wish that were a possibility. It isn't one though.

She shrugs. My foot never leaves the gas, and ten minutes slide by over the pop-music on the stereo. I don't listen to pop, she does. Where she is from though, I guess they don't get much else, I am going Nowhere but I haven't gotten there yet and I don't know what it is like there. I make exceptions for girls from Nowhere.

A sign up ahead says Somewhere. I change lanes. I take a chance. She looks at me with confusion. "Where are we going?" "Somewhere" two signs appear. On my side it says, "Why are you doing this?" and on her side the sign reads "This night isn't over, and I'm not who you think I am, I still have 40 minutes to prove that to you."

We stop on an abandoned trail. It looks exactly like Nowhere, but this is Somewhere, this is Here. "Where are we?" she says as I start to get out. I look at her with a smile. "We're Here, who cares where this is!"

I scrounge up some scattered paper in the back seat, I put it in a folder. I pick apart some branches off the nearby trees. I throw them in a pile, douse it with some extra gasoline from the trunk and ask her for a lighter. She picks through her purse for one of the three red lighters that she always carries with her. I light one of the pages and throw it on the pile. The fire ignites instantly almost consuming us, and in a way, it did. "What was that page anyway?" "It was Sam, and her obsession with stuffed dolls, so much that she couldn't communicate with real people, her parents were murdered at home while she was scared and locked in the closet. When she came out and found their corpses, she sewed them up, hugged them tightly and finally started talking to them." I burn another. "And that was?" "Hank, who fell in love with a girl who could play the piano. She sang and played beautifully, and only he ever heard it before and knew how amazing she was. When she started playing clubs and open mic nights, he supported her fully, then she got signed, became famous and left him. He found her ten years later and she didn't even know who he was, so he killed her, saying her art wasn't worth the rest of the world if it was nothing to him."

One by one, I threw the pages into the fire, and told her who they were. All People That Don't Exist. When it was over each piece of paper burned through leaving no trace of the parts of me I had just torn out. She held my hand as we watched it all burn and when the fire was out one hour later, she turned to me and asked, "Why?"

"They're all People That Don't Exist, but they're still people, and they should be returned the soil just as we all are in the end."

I threw sand on the embers and we went back to the car, she didn't say a word about being late getting in, she didn't have to be in anyway. When we got back to her place, she glared at me. "What now?" I took a breath. "Tonight, we played God; we took away the lives of people, even if they didn't exist. Tomorrow though, we'll play the other half and start the lives of People Who Do Exist, we'll start our lives." She kissed me on the cheek and told me she'd wait for my call.

On the ride home a sign in the road said, "Do you feel accomplished?" I do.

The manuscript for the book People That Don't Exist is already about to go into publication, burning the rough drafts meant nothing in the long run.

I'm Mike, I've been writing since as long as I can remember, but I have nothing to show for it. Writing does keep me going, a dream, an idea, and an outlet.