I was driving down the Number 1 highway, heading southwest. At first, all I saw was a dark speck at the side of the road... and then it resolved itself into a blue speck, a person speck, a young girl in a blue sweater speck. She sat on a large backpack, and her thumb hung patiently over the shoulder.

The highway was empty that morning. I stopped.

I didn't intend to give her a ride. I intended to roll down my window and say, "You know, you shouldn't be doing that. It's really dangerous. You could get mixed up with some creep, and then where would you be? Trapped in his car. Or her car. Seriously, go home! Buy a Greyhound ticket. This is too dangerous."

I rolled down the window. "You know, you shouldn't be doing that. It's really danger --"

"-- dangerous, I know. I don't mind, though." She smiled.

She smiled. God, did she ever smile.

"So, you gonna give me a ride or what?"

I couldn't speak. I must have sat there for a few moments with my mouth hanging open. Then, finally, I opened the door. I didn't know what else to do. She got in, and my tongue returned.

"Er, where are you going?"

"Oh, you know. Away. Probably further than you. Where are you going?"

"Swift Current."

"Maybe I'll go there. Swift Current. Stop and drift down the river..."

I laughed. "Good luck. There aren't any rivers big enough to drift down in Swift Current." It didn't seem to throw her off.

"I'm sure I'll find one. There are rivers everywhere, if you know how to look."

What do you say to something like that? I'm not a philosophical person. I wondered if she was crazy.

"So, what's your name?"

"My name?" I don't know why the question surprised me. It's a normal enough question. I don't know why I didn't answer.

"If you don't want to tell me, that's alright. I'm Cassandra."


She didn't say anything more, so I didn't, either. The next time I looked at her, she was asleep. About half an hour later, in Herbert, I stopped for gas. I ran around the parking lot of the gas station a couple of times, stretching my legs while the car filled. She was out like a light. Didn't move. I took the keys with me when I went in to pay, though. Better safe than sorry, right?

Inside, I paid for the gas and a couple of sodas. She'd be thirsty when she woke up, I figured. But when I left the store, she wasn't in the car anymore. Neither was her pack. She was just gone.

I looked for her on the road for the next few clicks, but all I saw was the sky. The same blue as her sweater.

This is the first half. Next, you should read March 24, 2004 by bewilderbeast.