Kage Baker loved the idea of time warps. Actually, the possibility of any flaw, divot, passage or facet in the space-time continuum fascinated her. She believed they were an essential part of the fabric of the universe – maybe not a part we are naturally equipped to see; but then, we don’t see oxygen, either, and that is undeniably real and vital. The experiments and games being played with particle accelerators right now surely indicate that subatomic particles get up to all kinds of Morris dancing when we aren’t watching them closely.
Kage also adored the idea of apports – those things that appear without explanation, out of the everywhere into the here.* Rains of fishes, chunks of weird ice, odd bits of jewelry and household china – they all fascinated her. She especially liked the sort of thing that was reputed to appear, move about under its own power, and then vanish again: phantom coaches and ships. Kaspar Hauser and his ilk. Briefly glimpsed prehistoric beasts.
Clearly, most time warps have to be small; this accounts for the preponderance of wine glasses, dancing shoes and single frogs one hears about. But some must be huge, allowing whole storms’ worth of pilchard to be dumped on Kansas. (In outer space, they appear to uniformly be big enough to swallow the Enterprise.) Some let carriages and people through: Kage figured the width of a freeway lane was probably about right. It would explain why there were so many cars in strange circumstances.
Her all-time favourites were the cars. Kage lived beside California Highway 101 – El Camino Real, The King’s Road – all her life. Most of that time, she could literally look out a window at it, 24/7. She also spent most of her life living in in tourist destinations and holiday towns, like Hollywood and Pismo Beach. Between these two, she spent the majority of her time perforce observing vehicular traffic. And she noticed that there are places where the cars you tend to see are … odd.
Odd as in old. Odd as in really, really good shape. Odd as in having license plates – when they had them at all – that had not been produced in her own lifetime. Pismo Beach is itself one of those places; an astonishing number of cars from the last two centuries can be seen in its streets any week of the year. It’s true that there are one or two car shows there each year; but it doesn’t explain why one can see a Model A or a Merc sedan or a Nomad in the factory-original tomato soup red paint cruising through town so frequently. People who “do” car shows move around, a different show each weekend – like the people who “do” Faires.
But there are always old, perfect, beautiful cars suddenly driving down two or three blocks of Pismo Beach. You see them, you gape and point, they’re gone – totally gone, in a town that is all of a mile wide and where most of the garages were built too small to accommodate anything larger than a scooter and are already full of someone’s bass boat anyway. Where’d they come from? Where’d they go?
There is a stretch of 101 near Los Alamos where you can often see flocks of them, 5 or 6 together, rolling along – rarely all the same kind, usually lone examples of their breeds travelling briefly together. Another such stretch appears further North, near the beautifully named exit for Camphoria. On the paved goat track that leads to Muir Beach. In the orchard-lined See Canyon off Highway 101, where we were sometimes passed by a dozen or more exquisite beauties at a time; their drivers, under caps and behind black glasses, never even looked at us – though Kage was usually wailing as if the Wild Hunt were passing by.
And maybe it was. One of Kage’s theories is that some of these perfectly maintained cars are what the Fey drive in these modern times. Another was that there are just freaking holes on Highway 101, and things come through. Mostly cars. Maybe not mostly old ones, but those are the ones that caught our eyes of course – if a Corolla took an unexpected West Coast detour between Lansing MI and Columbus OH, who the heck would notice?
Besides Kage Baker, that is.
*George MacDonald, “Baby”, 1824-1905