Nick cringed at the loud wrenching of the engine as Dot hummed to life around him. He glanced back at the bunks, but no movement came from either of them. He smirked, just wait 'til they find out where we are when they wake up...
The bus traveled along Interstate 40 from Gallup, headed into Albuquerque. He kept glancing nervously at the clock on the dash as the lime green digital numbers flipped silently. They had to be there and on site before 7:00, and it was already 5:45.
At 6:15, Brian woke up and was surprised to feel the bus moving. He pushed the window shade open on his bunk and watched the scenery slipping past for a couple minutes. Laying there in bed, it was easy to imagine they'd never cancelled the tour and that it was really Chris up front driving. Or at least that was easy until Nick cut off a Lexus in the bus, and that's when Brian decided he didn't wanna watch the road from this angle anymore, and he closed the shade, rolling himself out of bed.
"Good morning," he greeted Nick, dropping himself into the passenger seat beside him.
"Morning!" Nick was back to being his cheerful self, the fight of the night before evidently ancient history already. Brian was glad for Nick's lack of attention span and memory.
He looked around, "So... this is Albuquerque, huh?" he said. The city looked differently than he had expected. He'd expected giant statues of Bugs Bunny around every corner, fresh out of his rabbit hole, having finally taken that correct turn there.
"Yup, this is it," Nick smiled.
"And where exactly are we going again?" Brian asked tentatively.
Nick's grin was huge, contagious, and excited all at once. "You're going to hate it at first," he said, "But you're going to love it deep down."
"You aren't making me go sky diving or something, right?" Brian asked, nervous.
"Not yet," Nick replied. Brian paled and Nick laughed. "Hey you're the one that said every experience to see beauty. I'm just doing my job as travel agent slash tour guide slash best friend."
"You forgot a slash," Amanda said, coming up behind him and planting a kiss on his head. She pulled up the folding chair between the two of them.
"Slash boyfriend," Nick added, winking.
Brian smiled at the affectionate moment passed between them, and felt a pang of desire to see Leighanne. Marietta seemed forever away, and yet he didn't really want the trip to speed up any, either.
"So.. now do we get to know what we're doing today?" Amanda demanded pleadingly.
"Not quite yet," Nick answered, turning down a road that looked like it went into the middle of no where. "But we're almost there."
Finally, Nick turned a corner and they were in a large, unpaved parking lot, surrounded by tall, thick trees that afforded no view of anything beyond it. There were no signs of where the hell they were, other than long, squat, grey storage unit that took up the length of one whole side of the lot. Nick pulled up to that and cut the engine as a guy came around the corner of some trees, waving and smiling.
“The next stop is getting us all murdered in the woods, right?” Brian joked.
Nick laughed, “C’mon. I bet this is Zach.”
“Oh good, you know the killer’s name,” Brian muttered as Nick leaped out of the driver’s seat and past Amanda, who shrugged at Brian.
They piled off the bus and into the dry Albuquerque air. Nick’s excitement was growing, and it was contagious, so pretty soon Amanda was pumped and she didn’t even know why. Brian hovered behind as they approached the guy Nick was pretty sure was Zach.
“Hey,” Nick called, “You Zach?”
“And you’re Nick,” answered Zach, shaking Nick’s hand. “Did you find it all right?”
“Your directions were perfect, even for directionally-challenged me,” he replied, grinning. “No problems at all finding the place.”
A loud, strange “kooooshhhhh” sound came from over the trees and Amanda jumped. Brian’s eyebrows knit together as he looked in the direction of the noise. “What the hell was that?” Amanda gasped.
“They’re just prepping,” Zach answered, evidently under the impression they all knew what they were here for. He turned back to Nick, “So I’ll be the one driving your rig around to the other side. I’ll be there before you will, and I’ll get the barbeque set up.”
The sound repeated itself. Amanda stared into the trees. She knew she’d heard the noise before, but she couldn’t quite place where. Brian’s face was pale. She had a feeling he’d figured it out.
Nick handed Zach the bus’ keys. “Thanks man!”
Zach grinned, “No problem. So you’re gonna head right over that way,” he pointed through the trees, “Into the clearing there. They’ll give you the option of helping out like you’re in the crew or just watching. If it’s your first time, I’d opt for the watching bit. It’s really interesting to see how it all goes together. See you in six hours!”
“Six hours?” Brian stammered as Zach climbed onto the bus.
Nick beamed, “Usually they only do this by the hour, but I scored us an epic all day thing.” He waved them to follow him, “C’mon. This is gonna be great.”
Amanda and Brian followed along as Nick led them into the trees that Zach had indicated. The little path was worn from many travelers and led into a huge field on the other side. As she stepped into the clear and looked around the field, Amanda felt her heart leap in her chest and a sharp gasp burn her lungs.
“Oh my God,” Brian muttered.
Nick was beaming, “Isn’t this great?!” he cried, practically jumping in the air like a little kid. “Can you believe it?”
“I cannot believe it,” Brian stammered. He was pretty certain he was going to die before the day was over.