The car is old. That’s what draws me to it as much as anything else. At least seventy years, the Plymouth Fury pulling over to the side of the road and looking as though it stepped out of a magazine ad in the 1960s. I am drawn to old things, part of something old despite being too young by far. I appear male; early teens, soft. Not the dangerous kind. Sometimes I am mistaken for female, and it pleases me. But it has been two hours with one stopping and I enter the car without paying attention as much as I should.
It is not normally a bad thing. I can be dangerous when I have to be, but I would prefer not to.
There is a boy driving the car. He is eleven and his grin of friendship almost pins me in place. No one is this kind to a hitchhiker. No one is this kind at all. No one can afford to be as kind as his smile is.
“Hi! I’m Jay and you needed a ride and I have one,” he says proudly.
“Ah. You are eleven.”
“Uh-huh. And I’m driving a Plymouth Fury because! she really wanted to be driven and fixed up and was having all kinds of rust so I fixified her up with bindings and we’re on a trip now!”
I have had anger directed at me, hatred, religion: no one has ever assaulted me with happiness before. I look about. The seats, the wheel, the floor. Everything looks impossibly new. I would think it somehow a god of cars, but it is not. Or at least isn’t one yet. “And you picked me up?”
“Well, you were all kinds of anxious bindings and that makes for a neat change from the car because she is a Fury and wants to do terrible and mean things and I keep having to say nope and it’s taking a lot of work.”
I pause. “The car is homicidal, and I am a distraction from that.” I have ridden with a magician once, years before. I thought nothing could be stranger, but it seems the universe loves nothing else than to prove to people that they are wrong.
“Well, sometimes people like to take names all literally.” And he pulls the car onto the road, and jams his foot onto the gas pedal. I’m not quite sure how he reaches it, and silent as he drives down the highway and weaves in and out of other vehicles with reflexes not human at all. Then he turns toward me, barely watching the road.
“Oh, I see all those! I’m really jaysome at driving and I was – ooh, right! Names get taken all kinds of literally, but I know that because I’m a Jay. And you’re you.”
“Well, being a god of hitchhikers means you have to hitchhike a lot I bet or you don’t exist anymore? I’m friends with Charlie so I kinda know about gods.”
I don’t open the door and leap out. Mostly because we’re going faster than I suspect the car should go. And I am as certain I can hear laughter coming from the engine. But even I have heard of the god-eater named Charlie, perhaps the only form of police the gods have now. And this boy knows her. I am not certain what it is; only certain that I do not wish to know. “It is rather more complicated than that.”
“I know a lot about being complexicated,” he says. “Which is sometimes even more complicated and you have lots of sad bindings and also! you’re always lost and gods normally are in one place so sometimes you kinda do things that aren’t jaysome. When youn have a hook for a hand and kill people, sometimes cuz you need to but mostly because people are meany to hitchhikers but each time takes some of you away.”
“A god is formed from places as much as people. The road and what goes down it.”
“Ooh, like a genius loci? Because a god is a really smart thing like how elementals are spirits for places and magicians protect cities and everything I bet!”
“Yes. Yes, I imagine so. Could you slow down and pull over? I think I need another right.”
“Okay!” And the tires somehow don’t squeal as the car drops down a hundred miles in under ten seconds and he pulls it over not long after that.
I get out slowly. The car tries nothing. The boy looks only innocent and honest. “Why did you pick me up?”
“Because lost gods are the worst hitchhikers since you’re trying too hard not to be real. Being Hitch could help, I bet!”
And in that moment I have a name. I gasp. Stare.
“And you won’t need to be all urban legend murdery either i bet – ooh, I know!” And he throws me the keys to the car. “You could drive and pick up and help other hitchhiking gods and hitchhikers and be jaysome to them!”
And with that the boy moves. Jay vanished into directions I have no name for. I am left with a car, a name, a responsibility. I wonder if he was sent to help me, but I have no way of knowing. I get into the car. It starts up on the first try and I pull onto the road. I am scared and elated all at once, and I hope this is as close as I come to jaysome. I had been given the chance to change the fate of all hitchhiking gods, and I hope I will not waste it.