The clerk at the gas station a mile back had told him to go straight at the intersection. He eased his foot off the pedal as he approached the cross section before finally being forced to bring it down on the brake. The car lurched to a stop as he sat and stared in outraged disbelief at the intersection before him. The road stretched out to the right and the left. And before him, nothing but a dead end.

He backed up, hand flung over the passenger headrest and neck craned over his shoulder, and edged the car over to the side of the road. Frustration growing, he threw the old vehicle into park and got out, letting his anger funnel through the hard slam of the door. He jogged up and stood at the intersection. Looked left, empty road and fields stretched out to the horizon; then right, a harsh bend of concrete disappearing into thick woods. Then glanced straight ahead again at the gravel pull-off that ended not one hundred feet ahead of him.

He muttered a curse at the idiot he talked to and began to walk to the right, hoping to see if the highway around the curve held any more promise to carry him to his destination. He reached the edge of the crossroads, took one step onto the newer looking concrete, and sunk up to his ankle in hot asphalt.

He screamed, both in pain and surprise, and folded over on himself to clutch at his leg. Pulling and tugging, he couldn't free himself, and his leg burned. He clawed at his pants, but the leg was stuck. Then his foot suddenly sank further and shifted his balance, pitching him forward. On instinct, he threw his hands out in front of him and could not even cry when the dark, tarry road swallowed them. Fire exploded in his palms, and he could feel the heat everywhere. Eyes shut, he wailed out again, praying for someone to be nearby. He forced his eyes back open when no one answered and found himself inches from the coal-black street.

The road ahead and behind remained empty, and he continued to sink.