274 - The Neutral Zone


After several minutes at the corner, you tire of waiting for the WALK signal.

“Fuck the police!” you shout as your run in front of traffic. You come within inches of becoming human tire shine for a semi truck, but you make it to the median safely.

The flow of cars is too thick on the opposite side to cross; it looks like you’ll be waiting just a bit longer. The sky seems to darken just a bit. As you watch the vehicles speed past, the gaps in between them appear to grow smaller and smaller, until all you see in front of you is a steady multi-colored blur of painted steel. You begin to wonder if you’re having another LSD flashback when you’re startled by a voice to your left.

“Are…are you from..the outside?” asks a bearded man in dingy brown clothing seated just a few yards away from you. You’re not sure how you didn’t notice him before.

“What?” you ask in your confusion.

“The outside! You came from side of the road, didn’t you? Not the median, but the side! The out side!”

You force yourself to stifle a chuckle. How drunk is this guy? “Umm…if you’re asking if I’m crossing the street, then the answer is yes.”

It’s now the hobo’s turn to hide his amusement, but he makes no effort to do so. His laughter is deep and haunting. The bellows come at slow, regular intervals, like a child’s laughter slowed down to one tenth speed.

You can’t help but feel you’ve missed the joke. “Something funny?” you ask, trying not at all to mask the pissiness in your voice.

“There’s no crossing, boy! I’ve been here for two years.

“What…what did you say?”

“Sure, you heard me right. Me and Jim came here in ’14.”


The man points to a small pile of bones on the pavement next to him. A chill runs down your spine.

“That’s what’s left of old Jim. They say there’s no nutrition in the bones, but once your grind ‘em down they keep you going for a while.”

“Oh god.” You have to get out. You begin waving your arms wildly, shouting desperately at the passing parade of trucks and coupes. “Help! Stop! Help! Please!”

No one stops. No one helps.

“Oh, you’ll find that quite useless, my boy. The cars don’t stop. The lights don’t change. You’re stuck in the middle…with me.”