Getting to Maylee’s going-away party at all was a thing. My cousin Jaxson and I took a state highway into the country and turned onto a small road, then a smaller road, then one that rattled my teeth and wasn’t even paved. I didn’t complain. Jaxson was a nice guy, but he’d just call me a city girl again.
Just past a farmhouse and a dark cluster of outbuildings, we turned onto a trail around the edge of a field. We were eight miles from town, he said. It felt like fifty.
The bumps on the trail were bigger but fewer than on the road. Jaxson drove cautiously, except where a leaking irrigation line had flooded the trail. We sailed through that swamp at reckless speed, so we wouldn’t get stuck.
“I love doing that,” he said.
I considered prying my white-knuckled hands from the center armrest and the handle above my door. Maybe not yet.
The trail cut away from the field, and the headlights probed an unearthly scene – broken, jagged, black lava, with scattered, stunted brush and forlorn tufts of grass that wasn’t green.
Jackrabbits scampered across our path, then a fatter, lumbering thing. A groundhog, maybe. I didn’t ask.
Miles later, or maybe a hundred yards, another field opened before us, nestled among the lava. It looked like grass – green, this time – but he guessed it was wheat or barley. The headlights didn’t reach across it.
We parked with other muddy vehicles in a sort of grassy cove, with no lava but no grain planted either. We’d walk along the edge of the field, he said, to another cove with a fire and some old logs for seating. He’d been here before.
Thick clouds hid the stars, and there was no moon. Darkness was never this black in the city.