Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Rip cleared everything off the dining room table, piling books on top of placements on the sideboard, and his discarded sweater over the back of one of the chairs.

“Doris, give me a map of the continent.”

He’d been dreaming of making the trip from his home on the shores of Hudson Bay to Southern California for as long as he could remember. A roadtrip to end all roadtrips.

“Continental map. Topographical, weather, street…”

Rip cut off the disembodied voice mid-sentence.

“Street maps. Local destinations, points of interest”

The surface of the table was bathed in monochromatic light, a surface map of the continent in three dimensions, with a softly strobing green light at the point at the edge of the bay where they lived.

“Plot me a route to Baja.”

A point at the southwestern point of the map glowed blue, and a spider web of light traces crawled across the map, highlighting highways and city streets as Doris carefully routed multiple possible ways of making the journey.

“No extreme right-wing towns or cities, I don’t want to deal with any crazies on the way.”

Doris dutifully dimmed large segments of the map, the light paths through those areas rerouting around them or winking out completely.

“Plot appropriate fuel stops, give us twenty percent margin for extenuating circumstances.”

Red lights peppered the routes at intervals, Doris adjusting routes as necessary so as not to leave segments too long for the range of the Land Cruiser.

“Steer clear of any super religious communities. You know how I get into trouble with those book thumpers.”

More large pockets of the map dimmed, more routes were moved, and still more winked out of existence.

“No rest stops or overnights in vegan territory. I mean, I don’t begrudge them their diet, but it’s not for me.”

Large portions of the western edge of the map were lost in gloom, the number of paths now easily countable.

“No guns. I don’t want to see them. No concealed carry states either.”

Most of the rest of the map dimmed out of focus.

“No forest fire zones, no drought zones.”

Small pockets and a handful of wildly snaking paths remained.

“And make sure there’s healthcare, just in case anything happens.”

The map all but disappeared, leaving only a green and blue point of light glowing in the darkness at opposite corners of the table, worlds apart.

Doris locked the door, and her disembodied voice asked gently “Shall I just order some Thai food and find a nice movie to watch.”

Rip stared at the darkened table glumly before nodding and wandering off to the living room without another word.