Gary Campbell weighed his options. He could stay on the course he’d started at fourteen or now, at twenty-four, shift gears and go in another direction. The problem was, what else could he do?
He was on his second career at twelve and moving ahead at fourteen. At twenty-four he seemed to be at a dead end.
Would a third be the charm? He doubted it, but he figured it was worth a try.
He was always popular in high school. Girls loved him, but he didn’t know why – he just accepted it as having something about him they liked. He’d tried to figure it out at the time, but couldn’t. He wasn’t a jock or a hero of any sort. Looking at himself in the mirror he actually called himself a nerd. He even won awards at science fairs and was on the debating and chess teams.
But whatever the singular attraction had been it seemed to fade quickly after high school and disappeared completely in college so, by his junior year, he found himself creating crossword puzzles which he never submitted anywhere.
He looked around the room as if the shelves of books would give him the answer. He looked, but all he saw were the spines of the books, not even a clue.
He already had two strikes, or so he thought. If he started in a new direction and failed it would be strike three. Would he be out? He wondered.
He wondered what would happen if he actually reached strike three. And how would he know? Would there be a sign? A flashing light like a neon sign at a lonely railroad station advertising Cold Beer, only half the letters were already extinguished making the words almost unreadable.
Or would everything simply stop? And then what?
He’d been sitting in his apartment for three days; watching old movies and eating ham sandwiches, but, now, even the ham was gone. If he continued sitting there long enough he’d die. Or would he? He didn’t know.
He didn’t seem to know anything and certainly had no answers.
Hunger can be an incentive to action and he found himself in a state of automatic pilot as he prepared to leave.
Where should he go? A restaurant? A grocery store? It didn’t seem to matter.
He was aware that he’d taken the elevator to the garage level and started his car. He was aware that he was driving and had turned onto I-95 heading north. But he had no idea of his destination and suddenly felt the need to keep driving north despite the hunger which was growing more intense as the miles clicked on his odometer.
Hours had gone by and he continued driving. Traffic kept thinning out as it got later and he moved from the city into suburbia and then rural farmland.
Was this a dream? A fantasy he’d concocted during some semi-conscious period when he’d still been sitting in his apartment? He didn’t even have an answer for that.
The only thing he did seem to have were more questions.
And still he drove.
Another hour passed and the few cars he’d seen going in the opposite direction disappeared and he felt only the darkness of the empty road.
Now there were only questions which he tried to answer as hunger and tiredness began to overtake him. Then it seemed like the single light, which appeared to be miles away, was signaling.
Signaling what? The exit to get off? The answers?
He kept driving toward the light and it seemed to be moving toward him. Coming in his direction. Was it a car heading south? A town where he could eat and sleep?
Now he suddenly felt that he had to find out. He suddenly had a need. It was as if he was awakening and he’d have all the answers to all the questions.
And then it was there. A sudden flash. As if two cars had crashed head on and there were no more answers necessary.
Gary Campbell shut down his computer which had illuminated the giant screen in the conference room. The applause of his co-workers as he turned to face them assured him that his virtual reality game would be a success.