For fun, you walk down Main Street of Old Placerville. You see a candy shop. You go in. “Don’t go to the other candy shop,” says the man at the counter. You exit and see, across the street, another candy shop. You cross the street. You go in. “Don’t go to the other candy shop,” says the man at the counter. You exit. You don’t go to either candy shop anymore. You keep walking. You step into the used books shop. Where did the entrance go? There is a mannequin in the window. It blinks.
You take the highway east of Sacramento. On the way to your destination, there are cows. So many cows. You roll up the windows. You take the highway west of Sacramento. On the way to your destination, there are still cows. So many cows. You keep the windows rolled up. You take the highway south of Sacramento. On the way to
your destination, there are more cows. So many cows. You turn off the A/C. You take the highway north of Sacramento. You don’t come back.
“It’s raining,"someone says. "Is it?” You look outside. You get dressed. You open the door. It is no longer raining. When was the last time you have felt water on your skin?
Tired of cows, you take the back roads to the college. On the way, you pass a dilapidated farmhouse, stark against the bright green grass surrounding it. You think it is beautiful. On another trip, you go a different way, to a different town. You pass a dilapidated farmhouse on the side of the road. You think it is eerie. For the next few weeks, every day you will pass and notice an increasing number of dilapidated farmhouses. Eventually you cease to notice.
It is snowing in the foothills. The news travels quickly, like a hyena pack. It is snowing in the foothills! School administrators are ruffled, wondering what to do. Children and teenagers flock outside and reach to drag their fingers along the frosty white grass. There is no snow.
Folsom Lake is dry. Families and explorers travel from miles around. They take their cameras and their hiking boots. “Excavate Mormon Island,” they say. The lakebed is parched. “Find treasure.” You murmur a question of concern. Isn’t the water running out? Should we be worried? No one hears you.
In Gold Country, you used to pan the rivers for gold. Now, you scan the golden hills for water.
In your white, conservative town, you see a sign advertising a Tea Party. You show up to the meeting. There is no tea. It is not a party. Everyone stares at you.
In Old Sacramento, you enter Evangeline’s Costume Mansion. The walls tell the stories of the criminals who have lived and died here. You get in the elevator. You pass the mannequins. You pass the displays of swords. You pass the corsets and headdresses. You have hit the third floor. The elevator keeps going. You are not sure where.
The road up north leads through a hundred boasted charming small towns. They offer home-baked pie. They offer fresh apple cider. They offer postcards that advertise the right to bear arms. A chill runs down your spine. The mutton-chopped baker smiles at you.
Facebook statuses ring like pealing church bells. ‘Did you feel the earthquake?’ 'How about that earthquake!’ Reports of Richter scale ratings blur on your screen. You check the news. The earthquake was in your town. You didn’t notice.
On the coast, you travel north to Humboldt County. The trees smell strange. The people smell strange. There are stairs everywhere. It is cold, and the pupils of everyone you meet are dilated. “We have a street fair,” they say. “Support local craftsmanship.”
Fog skims the streets of Stockton. The fog clouds here do not hang in the air. They move, like snakes. They slither onto the soccer field at night. They arrange a buffer around your vehicle. You cannot see. Are those children playing in the silvery darkness there? Shapes are moving, but you do not hear a sound. You crawl slowly down the road and hope those glowing eyes are headlights.
Your friends suggest you meet in William Lands Park. You show up to William Lands Park. Your friends are not there. Children run, screaming, to a tiny theme park in the middle of the grass. You are not allowed in. You are too old for magic, they tell you. Where are your friends? Where in William Lands Park? Where did the zoo go? Where did you go?
You take a day trip to San Francisco. Your GPS leads you to a street full of pastel Victorian homes. The navigation leads straight up. You drive alongside a cable car. You keep going up. The road gets steeper. You keep going up. A truck rig hangs heavily in front of you, looming, threatening to tick backwards. You keep going up. The water bottle at your feet rolls under you. You cannot see the top of the hill for the fog. The navigation presses you forward. You keep going up. Your grip on the steering wheel tightens. You keep going up. You keep going up. You keep going up.
There is a strawberry stand at the side of the road. You pull over and purchase a basket for two dollars. You take it home. The strawberries are juicy. The television warns of a drought. You lick your lips absentmindedly, unaware that they are growing redder. You recall your neighbor’s strawberry garden. You take another bite. Your teeth are stained like blood.