paving pattern


The roads were here long before the people, slinking low alongside rivers and spiraling high through mountain passes, gently nosing aside grass and tree trunks as they paved themselves into patterns comprehensible only to themselves and their gods. The cities came after, once an arrangement had been worked out, and the roads had time to get used to the sensation of tires riding up their spines. Things mostly exist in harmony between us now, though every so often someone who’s refused to pay the proper tolls will find the road opening beneath them, a pothole reaching down into eternity, darkness broken only by the lingering red streaks of endlessly falling taillights.

It is difficult to talk to a road–the best translators tend to burn out after only a few years, heads still trembling from the vibrations of hours spent with ears pressed to the pavement–but there is a general understanding that the roads are here on pilgrimage, part of a long quest to properly venerate their gods. The gods manifest themselves at certain fortuitous junction points, dangling from wires or perching on poles or occasionally rising straight up out of the pavement, and a popular theory among leading theologians is that this is why the roads spend so much time crossing over one another, in order to draw the gods out. The other theory, one that tends to be spoken more often in secret whispers, is that it’s not really about worship at all: it’s a ritual, millions of unwitting supplicants pausing to venerate the triple-eyed gods a dozen times a day, building and building to some fateful moment when it’s all finally been enough. The heretics who believe these stories don’t say what will happen when the ritual is complete. They can only give uneasy accounts of troubled dreams: ribbons of darkness disappearing over cliff-like horizons. Highways skittering and twitching like snakes. A million watchful eyes, their light spilling down onto the asphalt, all suddenly switching to the deepest glowing red.