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My car’s interface warned me about the hitchhiker when I was still a mile away.
I could visualise it right then: some young student dressed in flashy clothes who had wandered just a little too far from the city in a drunken stupor, maybe stepped into a stranger’s car and was offloaded here on the road.
But as the car slowed to handle a sharp turn, I caught a glimpse of an old man sporting a head full of wild curly grey hair, carrying a huge, bulging backpack on his back. I told the car to stop. It pulled off into the shoulder and slowed to a crawl, then stopped altogether, putting itself in park. The man’s face flushed red with excitement – or perhaps just exertion – as he ran up to the passenger window. I asked the car to roll the window down.
“I need to get to the hospital,” the man panted, his eyes wide with panic.
I glanced out at the skyline, noting how low the sun was. It would be quite a journey back to the city, and Trevor already had dinner waiting. Besides, the man didn’t seem injured.
The hitchhiker pulled his pack off his shoulders and unzipped the biggest pocket. A beaker clinked around inside among other objects I couldn’t put a name to. What kind of man was this?
“It’s my experiment,” the man continued, pulling out a flat black gadget with buttons and dials covering its surface. “It means life or death. One zap of this energy to the patient’s mattress, and I believe she’ll be cured.”
I entertained the thought of deferring his request to emergency services, or maybe an insane asylum, but part of me was curious. A big part of me.
I opened the passenger door.
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