Hazy night swallowed the beams of light thrown from the passing cars with a hungry gnashing of its teeth, leaving red and blue trails across his vision. The cool tinted glass cast a purple glow over the world, a gauzy sheen that only made the night seem more real and cold. The barrier flowed beside him, a comforting companion on his singular journey, a journey of 'self-awareness' and 'relaxation' if you could believe his well-meaning campaign director, which you couldn't, not entirely. It was made of solid concrete studded with metal bars and chopped up by the occasional guardrail, and its presence calmed his thudding heartbeat somewhat.
"What do you think, barrier?" he thought, and pressed his forehead against the nice purple glass that kept him a reasonable distance away from his friend. Separate worlds, it was safer that way. "Do you think he really wants to help me?" The barrier flowed on, offering nothing but its steady gaze through the night. His head bounced on the glass as the town car jumped over an uneven section of midnight pavement, and each crack of his forehead on the glass sent a dull firework off in his mind, an explosion of ashy gray and yellow. Even the fireworks in his mind were dirty.
All of a sudden the barrier was swallowed up by the ground, which was coated in a crystalline dusting of sparkling snow, though the cool green grass poked its spiny fingers through where it was able. James's eyes widened, endless spans of glistening black from his dilated pupils, and he pressed one hand against the glass. Dark hair sprouted on his fingers, which were splayed wide apart on the window. His surprised stare locked on to the stretch of grass where barrier had only recently run alongside their car, and his heart ached for his fallen friend.
Then, as quickly as it had dived underneath the terrain, barrier leapt forth victoriously from the earth and resumed its sprint. A ghostly smile split on James's face, and the window reflected his tombstone teeth with an ethereal glow. As he watched the barrier, so strong and steady, was replaced by a guardrail, which scurried on its spindly legs, only to be overtaken once again by the concrete wall, and the two played a game of cat and mouse alongside the black town car as it sped down the parkway.
A violent buzzing tore his gaze away from the wonders of the nighttime world, and James swiveled on the smooth black leather seat to locate the source. Dave reached into the inside pocket of his expensive charcoal suit to grasp the vibrating phone.
"Hello?" Static burst forth and buzzed busily around the interior of the car, and James shut his eyes briefly against the invasive noise.
"Davey boy!" said a jovial man on the other end, his voice bursting through the static. The silence in the car allowed James to hear their conversation without meaning to.
"Harry, how are you?" replied Dave briskly, his tone clipped.
"Listen, Davey," continued Harry, ignoring Dave entirely, "I was telling Mickey earlier--" Laughter filled the car, though both Dave and James bore stoic expressions. Dave held the phone a couple of inches away from his ear as he waited for the mirth to subside.
"Shut-shut up! Shut up, I said!" shouted Harry to his friends, and after a couple of seconds the car was quiet again. "Anyway, Davey boy, like I was saying, I was telling Mickey earlier that after you've finished with this- this 'vacation'--" Jeers could be heard through the phone's tinny speakers, and James cringed and returned his gaze to the window, though he continued to listen. "When you've finished with that, you need, you have to come back here and BUY US A ROUND!"
Laughter and catcalls erupted once again and Harry chortled in Dave's ear. Dave could imagine Harry's considerable girth shaking as he went red in the face, the result of too many drinks and faith in his humor. He was suddenly thankful for the quiet car trip, though James was certainly not delightful company.
"Yeah, like you need more alcohol," he returned, and Harry chuckled good-naturedly.
"That may be true, Davey boy, but at least I know how to live! How's the trip going, anyway?"
"We've been driving for the last three hours or so," said Dave with a touch of exasperation, "and we're probably about two hours away. It's peaceful."
"I bet it's peaceful. I bet! You'll be getting all the peace you could ever want, am I right, Dave?" To Dave's great annoyance Harry began another round of laughter.
"Yeah, Harry, yeah. Listen though, I've got to be going now, I've got to go."
"Oh of course. Got business to attend to in that town car of yours, eh?" said Harry, and Dave heard the jest in his voice and the sparkle in his brown eyes. "You do that, then. You work. I'll just stay here, if that's all right with everyone," and in the background Dave heard shouts of consent firing like gunshot. "Just remember Davey boy. You finish up with your work, your important vacation and image-saving, and then you haul ass back here and you BUY US ALL A ROUND!"
Dave sighed and hung up, not bothering to say goodbye, and glanced over at James, who was sitting in his characteristic-as of late- silence, staring moodily out at the upstate New York nighttime plateau. As usual, Dave couldn't fathom what was whirring around in that overactive brain of his, but he hoped it wasn't anything that was going to make his job any more difficult than it already was. Thoughts of work began a parade of worries and stress in his mind, and he rested his head on the side of the car, letting his ruminations swirl.