A Non-Fiction Trip Down Route 222 Turned Me Right Into “Not So Human”
I know I’ve touched on the power of basing fiction off of non-fiction several times before. But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about how much fun it can be!
Take last week, when I got to drive along Route 222, a landmark that plays a brief but pivotal role in Faerietales 1: Not So Human. It’s on that road between the Ephrata and Route 30 exits that Sabrina gets the first piece of her life-changing wake-up call.
Driving back from another uninspiring day at work, she checks her rearview mirror, only to notice an ominous black Cadillac following her. It’s hardly a hearse, but as she finds out soon enough, it could just as easily turn into one if she doesn’t watch out.
As such, whenever I drive that stretch of road, I have a habit of checking to make sure the evil Human Preservation and Advancement Committee isn’t following me. No matter that I’m not their typical kind of victim (or that they’re completely made up).
They’re still on my authorial radar.
I happened to mention that to my mom while we were driving back down Route 222 after dropping her car off at the garage. She immediately asked if there were any black Cadillacs around, and I assured her there weren’t.
I had already checked.
But then, the very next day, it happened! Bringing Mom to pick up her car meant that I was all alone on the way home... when I looked in my rearview mirror, only to see a very particular vehicle right behind me.
It was a Cadillac!
Admittedly, it wasn’t black. But who knows? Maybe the HPAC finally got a clue about how conspicuous they look always driving the same exact kind of car.
If you’re on the edge of your seat right now, don’t worry. I got home just fine. The Cadillac disappeared at some point, leaving me happily believing myself to be human and all-around delighted with the sighting.
So to celebrate this auspicious occasion, I figure I’d take you for a drive down Route 222, just with Sabrina in the driver’s seat this time…
After living in Lancaster for as long as she had, Sabrina knew most of the places cops liked to hide along the highway. She kept her eyes on the road and her fellow drivers for the most part; but every so often, when she was passing particular ramps, she would take particular notice of her surroundings. Such precautions were necessary when she was hitting eighty-five miles per hour in a sixty-five zone.
That’s why she first noticed the swanky sedan behind her. For one small but disconcerting instant, she thought it was a police vehicle.
Shiny black, its silver trim was clean enough to bounce the sun right at her when she glanced in the rearview mirror. After determining she wasn’t in any immediate risk of getting a ticket, Sabrina wouldn’t have thought twice about the car if it had just continued on its merry course. Cadillacs weren’t something she often did a double-take for.
Yet there was something off about it. It didn’t tail her, but when she switched lanes to get around the law-abiding semi up ahead, it followed.
No big deal really, or at least it wasn’t that first time. It was a popular enough road during peak hours. So while she took some note of the car’s movements, she didn’t find it over-the-top suspicious right away. Nonetheless, Sabrina noticed how it matched her speed when she revved up to ninety miles per hour. And it copied her again when she turned back into the right lane to head toward Route 30. Nor could she disregard the way it didn’t take any of the next three heavily traveled courses it could have, staying right behind her instead.
That’s when Sabrina felt the first pangs of real uncertainty. With the traffic packed much more closely, she snuck a suspicious glance in her rearview mirror. Tilting it to get a better perspective, she took in the details of the driver’s face and instantly didn’t like what she saw.
The man looked like he had just stepped out of some bad Mafia movie with his short, light brown hair, darker sunglasses, and black suit jacket and tie. The color stood out in stark detail against his crisp white oxford, and his expressionless mouth didn’t make him look any less foreboding. From what she could see, he looked a lot like the man she had seen the other night at the grocery store.
Shifting the mirror’s angle with a growing amount of concern, she could see his passengers, two of whom were wearing carbon-copy clothing. There was a fourth occupant as well, but what he looked like, she had no clue since he was largely out of her sight. All she could make out was one shoulder, and that was covered in what looked like a black jacket too.
Sabrina told herself she was being paranoid. That the driver couldn’t be the man from the other day, and even if he was, so what? But she couldn’t fight off the strange little shiver that ran down her spine twice in rapid succession, and she started really hoping the Cadillac would take any of the upcoming exits.
When it didn’t and the roadway cleared up in front of her, she hit the gas pedal. Hard.
The other vehicle matched her speed perfectly, never getting too close but never allowing too much space between them either. So by the time Sabrina reached her off-ramp, she was on high alert.
As far as she could tell, there was no good reason for a car like that to be in her particular neighborhood. She didn’t live in the slums by any means, but her apartment was very close to one of the area’s larger universities. That meant the surrounding communities were mostly populated by college students with their Mustangs and assorted parental hand-me-downs. Not Mafia cars.
Sabrina told herself the men behind her were just visiting someone. That she was being ridiculous freaking out.
They were rational words that did nothing for her nerves…