Every once in a while, a conscious thought -- usually one based in fear or questioning -- arose. As Laurie continued to keep an eye up the far left side, looking up to see that the paved road and its signs were all still right there, the shanty appeared in her mind; but she had never seen it, and looking on down the arroyo, it was nowhere. In fact -- well, there were no facts for Laurie right now, only her instincts leading her. However, the missing landmark introduced doubt and more fear, and she began to yell again. She yelled out until her voice broke; and the whole time, she still sensed it was a rather stupid and wasteful, as well as unnecessary, expenditure of precious energy. Driving the guilt and fear were dual possibilities: First, that the others themselves had had a problem, an injury, were lost, or any number of eventualities. Second, she was sure that no one, specifically Nate, though, would ever speak to her again -- or at least for the rest of the trip.
These thoughts -- ideas and fears and doubts and on and on, along with the now-hoarse voice, made Laurie supremely angry. Where is freedom from all of this???, she barked to herself. During this same time, she yet felt so clear and so fine, and bounding, even beginning to run, down the now-expansive arroyo, laughing and fantasizing that she ought to sign up for the Badwater run in Death Valley. So everything was happening at once for Laurie, and she was high as a kite. Shaking a bit, way too hot, and observing that she might just possibly be experiencing some delirium, suddenly there stood the O.J. Simpson white Bronco up ahead on the edge of the paved road. No need to look too closely, obviously no one was there. More fear and guilt and other draining feelings tortured and deleted the ecstasy of the moment. Just seeing the car shut down Laurie's rapture, bringing her crashing to the ground.
She walked up to the empty, locked vehicle to be absolutely sure it was the one. Looking up the paved road, it was silent. Buzzards flew overhead. Once again, she began yelling out the others' names, cupping her hands around her mouth, until at last the throat shut down and refused to comply. The only thing to do was begin jogging up the mountain road, parallel to the arroyo. The heat from the asphalt seemed to increase the temperature by at least 10 degrees (Fahrenheit).
Shortly, a tourist van full of air-conditioned visitors came down and simply drove right by her, not even slowing down. This was not acceptable; but without using her "hate gene," for which she had no energy right now, Laurie merely called out and waved them down. It was a short but tough bit of output, as the vehicle was moving somewhat fast. They stopped abruptly. A back passenger side window opened, and Laurie saw about six Caucasian people in the van, two of whom in the back seat stared straight ahead. Laurie also ignored this, but took it in just the same.
She was the first to speak, asking, "Have you guys seen anyone, three people, walking up or down this road, anywhere??"
They said, "No, no one is up there, not all the way up." Then, for whatever reason, the passengers looked over at her, checked her out closely up and down, then began to address her as an actual human being. They asked,
"Are you okay?"
"I really don't feel well enough to know whether I'm okay or not," she blurted out. "I just need to find these people, it's just so weird, I have no idea where they went...we got separated." She was rambling a little; and one dark-haired, good-looking woman who had been staring straight ahead offered up a bottle of cold, unopened water for the lone traveler. Laurie accepted it immediately, expressing gratitude, and opened it without another word. There wasn't much to say, she needed to get up the road and sensed that they wanted to get down the road; so she offered the water back to the passengers, expressing further gratitude (and secret amazement). The passengers responded in seeming unison,
"No, no, you keep it. I hope you find your friends!" The automatic window went right back up, and both parties went their opposite ways. Laurie drank and spilled water over her head. The effect was immediate and very clearing. She continued to run and walk up the road, spying down the hill to the left.