Things to Do Before You Die

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Silver
Michelle Orabona


Mystic Carhenge
Photo Credit: Kevin Saff

When Kaylee was diagnosed with cancer she decided she couldn’t die without seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. She knew she was never going to get married or have kids or do any of the other grownup things that we all talk about doing someday. But she had enough time to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

“It’s not really all that much ball-shaped is it?” Kaylee tilted her head as if looking at it from another angle might somehow remove some of the flatness. “I mean, the top is rather ball-like but something seems to have gone wrong with the bottom.”

We all tilted our heads like Kaylee, squinted our eyes, and moved around to look at it from a fresh perspective.

“Unless, maybe, the cancer’s already starting to mess with me. Is that a ball?”

“No, Kaylee, that is decidedly not a ball. Cylinder maybe? Sorry.”

“No, it’s all right. I haven’t really had any major disappointments in my life. Now I can check that off my list. All that’s missing now is life-shattering heartbreak and I can die happy.”

Four pairs of eyes turned to stare at her.

“What? Too soon?”

We got trashed in our hotel room on Boone’s Farm and passed out in the middle of a rerun of The Facts of Life on some nostalgia network. Jo and Blair were fighting about something and then Kaylee was shaking me awake. “Josh, Josh, oh my god, look what I found.” She was whispering with an intensity usually reserved for escaping from Nazis. “We have to go right now.” She shoved her laptop in front of me and pointed at the screen. “There, look at that. Look! Let’s go. Let’s leave a note for the others and just go.”

“They’re our friends, Kaylee, we can’t just leave them in Kansas. How are they going to get home?”

“They’ll figure something out.”

“They’ll be pissed.”

“I’m dying; they’ll forgive me.”

She wasn’t going to change her mind. She had nothing left to lose. And she was right. They’d all feel too guilty to stay mad for long.

“Fine. Leave a note.”

I drove for six hours, Kaylee snoring in the passenger seat. When we got there I pulled off onto the grass and woke Kaylee. The sun hadn’t even risen yet but there was light up ahead. Looked like a bonfire.

“Kaylee. Babe, we’re here.” She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and stretched and twisted herself awake.

“We’re here?” Kaylee pulled herself up and looked around. There wasn’t much to see. Field. Field. Field. Field. And, off in the distance, the reason we had driven 380 miles in the middle of the night. She gasped when she saw it. “Come on! Let’s go see!”

As we walked closer, the bizarre landmark seemed to be moving. There was a large circle of cars dug into the earth and balancing on top of each other in an homage to Stonehenge, just as promised to us by Wikipedia, but inside that mammoth circle there was another circle of smaller, white stones, which seemed to be going round and round. It wasn’t until we were right up next to Carhenge that we realized the odd moving stones were actually people. We could see the white robed figures clearly now. They broke their circle and someone started singing while others moved about to the music on their own.

“Maybe we should go.”

Kaylee just shook her head and stared. “Oh my god, it comes with druids,” Kaylee whispered reverently.

As I tried to pull Kaylee back to the car a girl about our age came skipping over to us, smiling.

“Welcome! Oh, you’re just in time for the ritual! Blessed be!” She had long bright ginger-colored hair littered with wildflowers and blades of grass. “Come, join us!” She held out her hands to us. Kaylee immediately grabbed one but I wasn’t quite as eager.

“Um, yeah, we’re not um… druids. We’d just mess up your ritual. We should probably go.” I could feel Kaylee glaring at me.

“Nonsense. The solstice is for everyone. It’s about connecting with nature and the ancestors and communing with your dreams, listening to the great spirit of the goddess and letting her lead you to where you need to be. This morning the goddess led you here. It doesn’t matter what you believe. We don’t discriminate; we welcome all who long to fulfill their purpose.”

“Don’t you want to fulfill your purpose, Josh?” Kaylee and the ginger girl were both staring at me now, and two more druids were approaching.

“But, well, I mean, this isn’t an ancient and mysterious monument; it’s a bunch of cars arranged to look like one. What’s sacred about that?”

Kaylee was glaring again but the ginger girl was still smiling.

“This is America. What’s more entrenched in our collective psyche, more necessary in our lives than the automobile? That’s what brought you here today,” she continued, gesturing back at my mom’s Tahoe. “It’s what carries us through life; it’s what marks our transition from child to adult. What could possibly be more sacred in America today than our cars?”

“Avon, I see you’ve made some friends.” These druids were men, maybe in their twenties. Both had brown hair and the taller one had a goatee. “Has she been preaching about the sacred car again?”

“I think it’s beautiful.” Kaylee interjected.

“Severn, Trent, this is— oh! I didn’t ask your names!”

“I’m Kaylee and this bundle of sunshine is Josh.”

“Welcome Kaylee, Sunshine, if you’d like to join us we’re just about to welcome the sun,” the taller one, Severn, said, smiling. They were all smiling. They didn’t seem to stop.

I hadn’t smiled since Kaylee told me she had cancer. There just wasn’t anything happy or funny enough to compete with the fact that my girlfriend had an inoperable brain tumor.

“Yes, we’d love to.” Kaylee grabbed Avon and Severn’s hands and pulled them toward Carhenge. Trent waited with me, politely.

“I know it’s not for everyone but give it a try. If it’s not your thing at least you get to walk away with a story about celebrating the solstice with druids and car sculpture.”

“Better than sitting in my car I guess.”

We joined Kaylee and the other druids who were sitting in a loose circle. One druid had a guitar on his lap and was softly strumming a song I’d never heard before. A few of the druids were singing along, though they all seemed to be singing different songs and I think each was making the words up as they went along. The rest were sitting with their eyes closed silently meditating or mumbling to themselves. I sat down between Kaylee and a druid I had not yet met.

Kaylee was sitting with her legs folded up under her, smiling and swaying to the music. The sun began to rise above Carhenge and I have to admit, it was beautiful. It was probably the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen, the light prisming through the car windows and falling on us in so many colors. I was starting to get it. I was starting to feel at one with nature and whatever spirit it was that filled this place and guided us here. It was peaceful and beautiful. And then the ground began to shake and everything around us filled up with a light stronger than the sun should have been.

The wind stirred up around us violently and the druids stood up, stopped their singing and praying. Then there was a beeping sound like a large truck going in reverse. But it wasn’t a truck; it was a spaceship landing next to Carhenge.

A large set of doors opened and a group of people walked towards us. They looked human except their skin wasn’t really skin but scales. Iridescent purple scales.

“Here you have Stonehenge, the first of Moxly the Great’s pranks on undeveloped worlds. His workers arranged the stones here in under an hour and the people of this world are still trying to figure out how they got here.” The small group laughed and the tour guide smiled.

“Holy shit, are those aliens or is this cancer brain syndrome?”

“Those are aliens. Unless I caught your tumor.”

Kaylee grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to the ship and the group of intergalactic tourists. “How come we can understand them?”

“That’s just one of many questions I don’t have an answer for.” We crept closer, whispering, listening to the tour guide.

“Stonehenge has been adopted by some of the people of this planet for use in religious ceremonies and—”

“Excuse me!” Kaylee called out to the tour guide and I almost peed my pants. The entire congregation of alien visitors turned to look at us.

“I’m sorry, but this isn’t Stonehenge, it’s Carhenge. See, cars, not stones. You’re on the wrong continent.”

“I—” The tour guide started to argue and then got a good look at her surroundings. “Oh, for the love of Bob, back on the ship everyone. Go! Go!” She shooed them like sheep and they all left without a second look. The spaceship was once again hovering in the air above us and then it was gone.

The druids scattered, running to cars that were not buried in the ground.

“Did that just happen?”

Kaylee and I looked up in the empty sky and back at the field of fleeing druids. We looked at each other and started to laugh. We laughed until our lungs burned and our cheeks ached. We fell to the ground and it was a long time before we got up again.

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Michelle is a cubicle drone who dreams of one day inciting rebellion and leading the other drones to freedom. Until then she writes stories and bakes cupcakes. Email: michelleorabona[at]gmail.com

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