Mike decided that their adventure would begin on Tuesday and that he and Patience would spend three or four days on the road—depending on how much fun he was having. Monday therefore was spent getting their things ready. Patience did most of the work, packing and loading, and even reprogramming the sentry system to account for their absence. Mike called Harriet to let her know that he was going to be out of town and to check on how she felt. Neither mentioned the unpleasantness of the previous day. Secure in the knowledge that everything had been taken care of, that night he played a long session of Age of Destruction before watching Celebrity Rat Race.
Mike planned on spending the first day and night in Carlsbad, which was only a three hour drive away, so he didn’t bother getting up early. They left the house just after nine and pulled off of I5 and onto Carlsbad Village Drive just after noon. Relatively few cars were on the streets of the village, in marked contrast to the last time that Mike had visited, five years before. He tried to remember if that had been a weekday or the weekend, but he couldn’t recall. Patience had been quiet for the past several minutes, but suddenly spoke up.
“That’s where I bought your swimsuit the last time we were here.”
“Is it? Yes, I guess it is. Did you bring the suits?”
“I recycled those suits 567 days ago. I purchased new suits on the Infinet.”
“Five hundred sixty seven days? That’s an odd way of saying it? Why not say one year and this many months and this many days?”
“I was trying to make it simple,” said Patience. “If you prefer, I can describe the time passage as one year, six months, nineteen days, four hours, nineteen minutes, and thirty two seconds.”
“And what good would that do me?”
“None, which is precisely my point. Besides, we’re not going into the water, at least not here. You could get your genitals bit off by a very large squid.”
“I don’t think that happens very often,” said Mike.
“It’s happened more than once, so it’s something to be worried about. And no sunbathing either. If we go out on the sand, you wear the required SPF 210 sunblock.”
Carlsbad was not a very large town and so Mike was able to reach the location of the hotel in which he had previously stayed, driving the narrow and winding streets at thirty miles per hour, in less than twenty minutes. He stopped the car and climbed out, his mouth open wide in surprise. The little inn on Ocean Street that had been his accommodations every time he had visited, since the early days of his marriage to Tiffany was gone. The little hotel had leaned against the side of the hill so that its landward side had only one story, while its seaward side had three stories, the bottom one resting right on the beach. In its place was a tall black tower.
“Shit. When did that get here?”
Mike looked left and right. Though this was the only such tower, the lots to either side were now construction sites, the small inns and condos for rent all gone. He leaned his head back and looked up.
“I don’t know if I want to stay here.”