I left Boise early on a Monday morning, taking I-84 to Twin Falls, then headed south on US-93 which bisects Nevada’s Great Basin. The two-lane blacktop snakes through the desolate scrub brush and wild rye, rising deceptively to the cold high desert.
There was little traffic and the isolation was eerie. To the west were the mountains of the Jarbridge Wilderness, Shoshone land in the Humboldt National Forest with its Wild Horse Park. That was the area where Embry Hamilton supposedly had been killed and buried.
After three hours I stopped at Wells, Nevada pulling into a Love’s truck stop that hosted a McDonald's. According to the psychic this was where two men and a woman had abducted Embry. I got a cup of steaming coffee and huddled outside in the late September chill as gray clouds scudded across the sky.
I sensed the young woman before I saw her. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw her studying me. She was slender, tallish with shoulder-length blond hair, and high cheekbones, possibly Scandinavian. But her hard, dark eyes gave me pause. Perhaps she was something else.
“I need a ride.” She said with a thin smile.
We chatted and she told me her name was Vika, that she was on her way to Highway 375, the extraterrestrial highway, almost three hundred miles south. Letting down my guard, I agreed to take her. I knew the map and could take Nevada 318 south from Ely and drop her where the road intersected 375. She assured me she was to meet friends coming north from Vegas.
Vika asked about my trip and I told her about my case, that seven years ago a man had driven from Boise, Idaho to Las Vegas for a weekend with friends. He never arrived. Before the family declared him legally dead, they wanted me to retrace his steps for their peace of mind. Take a last look.
“Do you think you’ll find him?” She asked.
I shrugged and then to my surprise Vika launched into a lecture on missing persons, noting that last year 700,000 persons were lost in the States. Eventually most of those were found, either dead or alive. But a cumulative 85,158 persons were unaccounted for and she said the person I was looking for was one of those.
We chatted about the missing, how some folks vanished to start a new life. Others were killed and their bodies secreted away. Then there were those untoward accidents yet to be found: a car down an embankment, or in a lake. Many would eventually be located. Others would go undiscovered.
“Of course, there are those who pass over, the travelers.” Vika commented.
I looked at her and she explained that some people find a portal and slip into a parallel universe. “Do you know there is a fissure on 375, just beyond the extraterrestrial highway sign? Perhaps your missing man found a portal.”
I glanced over, but she wasn’t joking. Before I could comment Vika treated me to a summary of the quantum mechanics theory of parallel universes. I nodded as we pulled into Ely, Nevada, once a thriving silver mining town now down at the heel. She asked me to stop and I pulled into a Shell station and fueled the car as she went to freshen up.
I filled my SUV and was tempted to get in and drive away. As I hesitated, Vika reappeared with a smile and some snacks she had purchased in the station store. We left Ely munching and drinking sodas, taking Route 6 to Nevada 318, which then would take us down to Nevada 375 and Area 51.
Two hours later we reached the intersection and Vika motioned for me to pull over as she pointed at a highway sign identifying Route 375 as the extraterrestrial highway. It was a small area set with picnic tables. Vika got out and looked at me through the open window. I started to protest that I did not want to leave her alone in the high desert. Before she could reply we heard the screech of brakes and a crunch. To the left two cars turning off of US 93 had collided at the 375 intersection. The drivers got out and the collision looked like a fender bender with no one injured.
I turned back but could not see Vika. Getting out, I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the sun that was touching the faraway White Mountains to the west, casting a golden haze. I was worried about leaving her alone and I wanted to offer to sit awhile. I walked past the highway sign and scanned the desolate area. I then went slowly down 375, but the two-lane blacktop running west was empty. My hitchhiker was gone.
Vika was a traveler.