Kosmicki: Final dash to the mussels

Smoke rises from the fire seen from Cienega Road in 2015.

This is the final column in a three-part series. In the previous two, set in post-apocalyptic Hollister, a mad dash ensues for the last plentiful water and food source on earth. To reach San Justo Reservoir, home of world ruler Mollusk Face, I must cross Hollister’s ravaged roads and outrun its maniacal drivers. To this point, heading east on Hillcrest Road toward the bypass, I’ve survived toxins from the city’s poisoned Dump Lake; a wading pool-deep, pothole-induced rollover; crazed van and pickup drivers; condors picking at my lifeless body; and a wild pig attack.
Fade In.
Despite a miraculous run through Hollister to this point, my hopes for survival and a showdown with Mollusk Face remain slim.
Racing eastbound on Hillcrest Road toward the pristinely paved Highway 25 bypass, I veer my armored hatchback to avoid yet another series of tire-clawing potholes and rotting road kill. Inspired by my own praiseworthy driving moves, and possible doom, I push in a CD ready for such a moment: Heavy classical string runs guided by pounding drumbeats.
Then, bad guys attack from every angle, starting from above. Mollusk Face must have sent his two best high-flying motocross jumpers from Hollister Hills to drop explosives over my head.
Fireballs rip through the car’s roof, one hitting the passenger seat and another bouncing onto my lap. Crackling fire streaks burn my stonewashed jeans—picked up at the local Goodwill years earlier—yet don’t faze me. It confuses the motocross flyers, how I can take such immense pain, but they continue making drops.
“You should know one thing,” I proclaim, chuckling as they continue their assault, violin sounds blaring, wind blowing at my bald head. “I lost three limbs eight weeks ago in a water raid. These are robot legs, geniuses. And my Blue Cross insurance covers really nice upgrades, so thanks!”
The angered flyers regroup and approach for another jump.
“There’s one more thing!” I yell over their blustering engines. “I meant to poll you on something!”
It’s just a clever play on words. I abruptly slide up my car’s American flag pole like one of those plastic, elongating swords from a dollar store and divert their mid-air paths—enough to cause separate crash-landings in nearby fields.
It is a momentary victory, though, as the dust cloud of chasing Water Boys gains ground in the distance, with its outline of people and vehicles starting to show through the foggy, dirty air. Hooting toward their prey, me, they are about a quarter-mile from ending my delusional romp for good if anything goes wrong.
Accelerating, I realize if I can just pass through a gauntlet of unneeded stoplights on the so-called “Highway to Everywhere”—the bypass—it’s possible to outrun the death squad on the way to a now lightly secured Union Road and then San Justo.
When a single driver in the opposite direction pulls into the turn lane at East Park Street, however, my shred of hope dissolves into pure dread. Stuck at the intersection—running a light in a town run by Mollusk Face would trigger a massive, block-wide explosion—sweat pours across every square inch of my body. My heart pounds like it might take off through my chest, without me, before the war party arrives in seconds.
The light turns green. A final chase is on.
It lasts for just a few blocks, though, because the next light turns red, too.
My head falls to the wheel, bobbing against it out of frustration, certain death in my immediate future.
Then I hear a familiar voice through my window.
“Are you ready to take back our water and mussels?”
Astounded, completely flabbergasted, I lift my head and look over. It’s Keith Snow, the outspoken, perennial challenger for the mayor’s job. Not only that, he’s in a sidecar attached to Mayor Ignacio Velazquez’s converted Harley. The two, for the good of Hollister and humanity, apparently became crime-fighting partners in the cause to take back San Justo.
Wearing a camouflaged helmet, Velazquez pulls down matching goggles. It’s the same combination worn by Snow.
“Thanks for clearing the path as our decoy,” the mayor says. “Oh, and you might want to look in your rearview mirror because we brought backup—the finest local law enforcers, firefighters, veterans, cowboys, hunters, angered fishermen, former star Baler athletes and race-car drivers we could find.”
I peer into the mass of enraged, thirsty militants.
“That’s a lot of supremely fit former Balers,” I observe. “I guess all those sports programs were worth it, after all.”
The mayor interjects while preparing to drive off.
“One other thing,” he says, “We brought the U.S. military with us, too.”
A jet zips by overhead toward San Justo Reservoir.
Fade to black.

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