The motorcycle purred to a stop outside the rickety-looking diner and motel, wheels crunching on the car park gravel. Something about the road beyond made Hank, the rider, stop, unwilling to go on, at least for a while. He couldn't put his finger on it, though. It even looked like a good road - smooth and well-maintained, varied scenery and enough dips, hills and turns to be interesting. But somehow it felt like a one-way trip.
He headed into the old diner instead, carrying his helmet with him. The waitress looked him over, then said with a smile, "You're taking the road, aren't you?"
"I don't think I've decided yet," replied Hank.
"You will," returned the waitress, and presented him with a plate of steak and a cup of coffee. Hank didn't even wonder about how he hadn't ordered. He just tucked in, hungry from his journey.
"How long you been travelling?" asked the waitress.
Hank opened his mouth to speak, then drew a complete blank. How long had it been? He couldn't remember when he started, couldn't remember how far he'd travelled. It's not just that it was a long way, a long time, but that there was literally no beginning to the journey in his mind.
"Take your time, hon, it'll come to you," she said, topping up his coffee.
Pushing back from the old dining counter, Hank considered a while. Was it days? Weeks? Months or years? Maybe he'd been on the road for a century or more. Who could say?
Then suddenly an image flashed in his mind. A whole life he had nearly forgotten. His wife, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, endless hours of riding familiar roads and days filled with watching sports on that old recliner.
And with that, he knew now where he was, and why the road ahead felt like a one-way trip. He'd crossed a border between lives, and that was the one he had lived, but now had to leave behind. They would remember him, and he them, but he couldn't go back. He was headed on, along that clear road, toward the white mountain on the horizon.
The waitress smiled and nodded at the door, and Hank knew it was time for him to go. He turned and left with a "thankyou", swung his leg over his bike and took off down the road. The waitress, still smiling, picked up the helmet he had left on the stool behind him, and placed it reverently on a shelf next to other remembrances of other travellers who had passed through. Hank wouldn't need it again. Not on that road to the mountain.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - I lost my uncle this week.
PPS - This story is dedicated to him.