2009-12-27: The Hitchhiker's Guide to a Very Cold Hell



Date: December 27th, 2009


Fate intervenes in two lives so that Tracy may teach Kasey an important lesson: never hitchhike. Kasey teaches Tracy an important lesson: never pick up hitchhikers.

"The Hitchiker's Guide to a Very Cold Hell"


New York

The day is grey but blindingly bright thanks to the snow covering the ground on the side of the highway as Tracy barrels down it at the wheel of a rental car, heading north (ish) back to the city of New York. Firmly upon her face are squared cat eye sunglasses in a solid form of black that blocks out any and all offending light. Unlike the great, wintry outdoors, it's warm inside the car, and as such, a cream-coloured tank top is worn, its matching sweater is in the backseat. The only jewellery she wears is a pair of pearl earrings and a rather slender and expensive leather wristwatch. She faces the road with a dull expression, both car and woman on cruise control. Where is she coming back from? It's a mystery. Lots of people leave the city for the holidays, right?

Large duffel bag…backpack…Kasey didn't mean to be standing on the side of the highway, sticking out a hand with a thumb up. The young mechanic wears a dark green t-shirt under a thick coat and paired with a pair of converse sneakers, dark jeans and dark green truckers cap worn to the side. There were plans! Really! Going home is so easy but…no. Oh look, a car. He just takes a deep breath and holds that thumb out, shifting weight from foot to foot.

The next car to barrel down the road toward Kasey…

…passes right on by without a second glance.

So does the second.

However, that second car to pass — a sleek, dark sapphire blue four-door rental with a HOTSPUR sticker on the rear to indicate the rental company — starts to slow down after the fact. Inside, Tracy glances through her shades to the rearview mirror and has a drawn out inner debate; all the while, her car inches further away in indecision. On another day — on most days — she would pass the hitchhiker right by, but today … she just so happens to be having something of a crisis of conscience. Lucky Kasey. That said, it's with an annoyed sigh that she reverses, rolling back beside the figure, who is eyed through the driver's side window before she lowers the glass separating her from this random person who could be a homeless person or an axe murderer or worse, an annoying frat boy. Although most of her criticism is hidden behind her sunglasses, what can be seen of the recently red-haired woman's visage isn't the most friendly. "Hi." Pop quiz! "Why d'you need a ride?"

Kasey flips the cars off as they pass by and then turns in side to see the nice car slowing to a stop. Eyebrows raise a fraction as he gives a small tip of his hat, catching his bottom lip between his teeth. "Hey…" He returns the greeting softly , leaning over a bit to peer into the car. Then at the question he can only chuckle softly, rolling his eyes a bit. "I totaled my car, got hooked up with some assholes who decided to take a detour somewhere I don't need to go ma'am…just tryna get back to the city. Scouts honor."

Tracy's silence is indicative of the fact that she's eyeing Kasey further, skeptical. She does eventually answer, although she seems awfully put upon and exhausted by agreeing. "Fine, get in." She can take care of herself if he turns out to be a problem anyway. "But I'm only taking you as far as the city limits." Extra manoeuvring around the NYC streets for the sake of a stranger? No thanks. The window is electronically rolled up and the doors unlocked. It's quiet in the car — she's alone and isn't in a mood that any form of music can fix.

Kasey is quiet, taking a deep breath of relief at the 'fine'. He slips into the car, shrugging out of his backpack and tossing the duffel bag in the backseat before slouching comfortably in the passenger seat. He glances over to the woman before double-taking and sitting back up straight again. Eyes a bit wide and expression a bit shocked. "…city limits. O-Okay."

The car is spurred back into motion with no trouble, a sharp twist back onto the road proper and a serious use of the gas pedal making it happen particularly fast. This driver evidently has no patience for the whole easing out slowly thing. Besides, the highway empty for this span of road for the time being. It's only once they're on their way that Tracy slides her sunglasses up on top of her head, pushing back her hair. Naturally, blue eyes are revealed. She glances at her passenger. What's his problem? "What's your name?"

Kasey straps himself in all safe and legal like. "Hunh?" He tilts his head to the side, adjusting his hat and shrugs a shoulder. "Uh. Kasey. Kasey Leverman? I mean if you watched sports and stuff you would err, maybe know that but if you don't then it is okay, honestly. You look like um." He sighs and rubs a hand over his face. "You look kinda familiar."

Kasey's name goes as unrecognized as his face, evidenced by Tracy's complete lack of a spark of familiarity (and her general disinterest, which she makes no attempt to hide). Blandly, she turns back to the road and pushes straighter against her seat, shoulders back, bare arms nearly outstretched as she grips both hands on the wheel. "Do I," she says flatly. Pause. "Do I wanna know why?"

Kasey worries his bottom lip and shrugs once more, idly fidgeting and turning to peer out the window. "Probably not. It is perverted and ya know, weird and twisted and strange and involving bras and panties and other creepy gyrating business." He waves a hand vaguely. "I'm sorry. It is inappropriate. Thanks for the ride ma'am."

The day is starting to dim outside, the glare on the snow less than it was. Tracy squints slightly through the windshield, but it's due to Kasey more than it is the fact that her sunglasses are on her head. Eyes narrowed incredulously, she swings her head around to Kasey once, quickly, looks away, and promptly turns to stare at him again, gaping in obvious defiant offense. "Perfect," she mumbles with a sarcastic bite. "You know I never pick up hitchhikers," she states. "It figures that the one time I do, he thinks I'm a stripper." A lift of brows that were once blonde attempts to prompt a confirmation out of Kasey. Isn't that right? She's had enough conversations start with 'you look familiar' or similar to know where this is going, given her new enlightenment about her sister's career choices.

Kasey scratches his cheek and looks sheepish, ducking his head and tugging his hat down a bit to hide half of his face as he clears his throat. "Dude…I said sorry. I don't think you're like a stripper. I was wrong. Besides…she wasn't a stripper, she was a web cam entertainer." BlinkBLINK. "Well, here's a first for us both, I never take rides from hot chicks in nice cars while I'm hitch hiking and you never pick up hitchhikers…it is like uh, fate."

Deep breaths. Calm. "A— what?" Tracy forces what is rapidly becoming a horrified death glare away from Kasey, because while she can't kill someone just by looking at someone, she can kill someone just by wanting them to shut up. Deep breaths. Her grip on the steering wheel becomes particularly steely. "I don't think I'd go so far as to say fate."

Kasey groans and closes his eyes. "You have any shoes I can shove in my mouth or holes I can bury myself in before I go as far as to say I used to have an entire folder dedicated to that ancient history?" He tilts his head to the side and hesitates for a moment. "If not fate, then what? There aren't any accidents and stuff I've learned."

"Like on the internet? Where?" Tracy is catching up, and she does not like what she's hearing. Folders means there's evidence. Of someone who looks like her. On the internet. Naked. This is far from ideal. What's more, it's doing nothing to appeal her any more to the passenger's ideas about fate. "If that talk about fate is a pick-up line, you'll have to try harder." The woman's jaw tenses as she leans ahead, glancing skyward as they grey clouds gradually give way to an icy, messy winter rain.

"…no, like on my laptop." Kasey offers slowly and carefully before snorting and rolling his eyes. "Nah, not a pick-up line ma'am, don't worry. You're not my type. Hot as hell yes but frigid as a penguin's hoohah. I mean I love slushies and big gulps which are cold but they at least come in bright unnatural colors." A pause as he presses closer to the door, sighing again and peering out of the window. "Shut up Kasey." A pause. "Okay." A small squint as he watches the rain with some concern.

Yes, shut up, Kasey. If only he knew how right he was … in … some regards. His comments earn him an unamused and downright hostile glance sideways (frigid, one might say). "Well— ! You should delete it." Tracy slows the car down ever-so-slightly in light of the weather and flicks the windshield wipers on. "The woman you saw on your computer…" Wasn't her, they've been over that; however, she turns a softer, hesitant, if reluctant look to the young mechanic to say, "Her name was Niki. Right? If that's what she went by."

"Hah!" Kasey looks vaguely amused at the prospect of deleting his specialsuperslinkyfiles, but the amusement is tempered with fear from that glance. The car door is his friend, he shall love the car door, pressing against it and eyeing the woman warily from time to time. "Yeah. Something like that. Nice woman really, even with her clothing on."

The look Tracy gives the hitchhiker is … almost sad. In a way, it's wistful. Regretful. She looks away, back out the window in front of her, where the wipers are fighting to fend off the icy rain that pelts down and creates slush on the glass. "She seemed nice." Her eyes are on the road but her focus is elsewhere for several silent moments. "But you shouldn't talk about her like that. Regardless of … her… career… choices…" Unnerved just thinking about it, Tracy nevertheless goes on quietly. "Niki— was my sister." The faux redhead that is Tracy looks again to Kasey, this time to gauge his reaction. "She's dead though…" And that makes having a folder of her pictures even more creepy.

She doesn't realize, at first, that some emotion, some little trigger has been set off. It doesn't take much. Tracy is on very thin ice. Hands that grip the steering wheel so tightly start to chill, the leather casing of the wheel snapping as it freezes. Frost sneaks up the dashboard, bringing with it a cold that battles the car's heating, suddenly making it cold enough inside to see one's breath. By then, Tracy realizes what she's doing, but her widening eyes and rising anger at being unable to control don't help to … well, control it.

"I met her once. Offered her some of my drink. Like I said, she was really nice…" Kasey offers with a small frown as he listens and he blinks several times. "Dead?" He shudders and sighs, rubs hand over his face when he notices it is starting to get…colder. Inside the car. A slow blink as he sloooooowly turns to stare at Tracy for a few moments and then the dashboard and he just clears his throat and points a tad uncertainly. "I think the heating broke? Ha…haha…eh…"

"This was a bad idea," Tracy says of her case of impetuous generosity. She should be avoiding people, not picking them up off the side of the road. Look at what happens. She tries to pull closer to the shoulder of the road, to perhaps let Kasey out despite the dreadful weather. It can't be colder outside than it is in the car. Her own breath emerges like soft clouds of smoke. Her efforts aren't rewarded by the car: the steering wheel barely moves. After all, it's frozen. In fact, Tracy's attempt to turn is punished by a crack that can only mean something that shouldn't break has broken, and it's not just the heater. So she brakes. In the middle of the highway.

"Damnit," she breathes. Tracy isn't used to being the helpless one in any situation, though she's experienced it more than once in the recent past. It doesn't get any more comfortable. Her expression reveals that she doesn't know what to do, slightly panicked. "I— I'm sorry— Kasey, right? — I can't— " It should be more than obvious now that the freezing car is her doing: her hands steam like dry ice, frigid blue. She lets go of the wheel, but the freezing spreads to the windshield, hazing it over with frost as the glass starts to freeze, obscuring the road save for a faint looming glow up ahead. It's not the city.

Was that a crack? Did something crack?! Kasey adjusts his hat and frowns as he stares at the steering wheel and then the windshield and then back to Tracy and then back to the windshield. "Oh my damn." Ever eloquent as he swallows and squirms around a bit, taking off his seatbelt and pressing back in his seat as things are FREEZING around him. "…o-okay, so. Is this you? If this is you? Could you please stop, I promise I won't ever picture you naked again."

"I don't think I can!" It's not that Tracy has zero faith in herself, but she knows from experience that her power can go out of control — has been, for some time — and the damage is done. The window's froze. It cracks too, a jagged zigzag that explodes like lightning. At the very least, that's what the noise sounds like. CRACKKKK. The glass shatters and falls harmlessly; it's the sleet that whips inside the now open car like needles on the wind.

The windshield shattered just in time for those in the car to see the headlights of a grey car hurtling toward them on the increasingly dim, blustery and grey highway. It passes, but blows its horn wildly. With a whiplike motion of her hair, Tracy swings around to watch it drive past in time to see the reason for the warning: the vague shape of a larger vehicle behind them that doesn't seem to be stopping. Great! Tracy hurriedly tries the gas. Nothing happens. Maybe the freezing got to the wiring.

"You're Jane Frost and you can't control your hypothermis powers?!" Kasey flails a bit and then closes his eyes for a few moments and then eyes snap open as there is sleet hitting him in the face and he has to make spitty noises and wave in front of his face with a sigh. "Did the window jus-the window just broke!?" Then he flails against and works on forcing the door open. "Pop the hood, POP the mothereffin' hood!" He scrambles out of the car, half-blinded by cold weather and groping the car as he makes his way around to the front. A pause as he looks behind the car at the on coming car and just throws himself back into the car, slamming the door shut. "DRIVE frosty, drive."

"WELL I'M SORRY! IT DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK THAT WAY, ALRIGHT!" Tracy yells into the blaring face of the weather. The hood definitely goes flying up in time — at least that worked. Tracy has no qualms about doing what Kasey says, but the car does, and as soon as the kid is back inside, her high-heeled boot slams on the gas. Repeatedly. It makes some weak noises. Uninspiring. "It's no use!"

As Tracy grimaces against the freezing rain with no time to do anything else, she can't help the shriek that escapes as the abused rental car is rocked from behind. The car — in fact, a large white delivery van — behind them has swerved at the last minute, but it hits the rental's back bumper hard, spinning behind them. The roads are slippery, causing the car Tracy and Kasey are in to veer as well — and fast. It spins off the highway and into the turnoff sign they were meant to take, trapping one side — Kasey's — against the metal pole.

But it could've been a lot worse.

"Don't make excuses!" Kasey isn't crying, no. He's just a tad scared. Really. "Aha…no use. Right. Lovely. The time I choose to take a ride from a hot chick and I'm going to-" That's when the car goes spinning/veering and Kasey has to give a tiny 'ahhhh' and squeeze his eyes shut, taking deep breaths and then another deep breath. "…do you like this car?" He asks carefully, slowly even as he eyes the door trapped against the sign.

Tracy needs second before responding. Understandably jarred, she breathes heavily and tries not to make a bad situation worse by her ability escaping again. She slowly reaches across her body to unbuckle her seatbelt, sending it flying back. The airbags didn't even go off, probably thanks to being too frozen inside to do so, but she looks relatively unhurt. Just jolted. "Uhm." Icy lashes blink at Kasey. "It's a rental." Code for: I don't care what happens to it, at this point. "Are … you okay?" She eyes her own door, which, naturally, doesn't budge as she tries to force it open. Her side isn't even trapped against anything. The world just hates her.

Kasey mmhms softly and takes a deep breath starting to puuuuush against that door. "I hope you took some insurance or something and are good at lying." Puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuush. He struggles against the door. "Y-yeah, I'm fine. I play football, I've been hurt worse." Puuuuuuuuuuuush. And he's not even having a baby.

"I'll think of something." Tracy does have insurance on the car — rather, "Linda" does — and she's good at lying. As she watches Kasey struggle against the car door, she swipes her hand against her forehead, wet and cold from the freezing rain. Her hair is wet by now, darker. "Do you think can actually…" Wincing, she trails off and looks to her own door, considering. If he can get out, by some feat, maybe she shouldn't test her skills by freezing her window to escape. She could, but who's to say she wouldn't freeze the whole thing with them inside it in the process? It's one of those days.

Kasey looks a bit uncertain before shoving against the door hard to start forcing it open with a deep breath and then another deep breath. "I'm from Cali, I don't do cold good." He closes his eyes and works on forcing the crack open a bit wider to try to shove a leg through it with a grunt. "I think maybe you need to learn how to control the whole freeze ray thing…"

"I'm from Beverly Hills," Tracy is quick to reply in irony that is, at this moment, bitter. "Tell me about it." She she climbs closer to Kasey to lend her much less significant pushing against the door. "I shouldn't've picked you up. I thought— maybe I could do my second nice thing of the day. I'm— " Push. "Sorry. You don't seem too— " Push. "—shocked though… that I can do something like that. That is … all things considered." Of course, there's no saying that he won't go screaming from the car as soon as he gets out, a thought that prompts the woman to give Kasey a faintly wary, apologetic look.

Kasey has to laugh softly. "In this day and age, you don't know who can do what, when or how. It is best not to be surprised. I mean, you could spontaneously sprout 4 extra boobies and I'd just cover my eyes and jump out the car into moving traffic." He finally gets half-way out of the car though, shivering a bit and giving a tiny nod. "Okay, do you have any numbers to like triple A or anything." Tremble Tremble Tremble.

… Tracy just kind of stares speechlessly at Kasey before curling into the seat he's half-vacated from. "Yeah. 'M on it." She pulls her purse to her from between the seats and is on her phone in no time, relieved to discover that it works. Before she can complete the phone call, however, flashing lights gleam in the distance with their friends, the sirens.

"Please tell me that's not the popos." Kasey pauses in his escape from the vehicle to peer in the rear-view mirror. He shudders again before taking deep breath and this door is probably never going to be fixed again. "Don't worry! I'm a mechanic." Really, honest. Squirm squirm, wiggle, wiggle. "Alright, if they ask. You're my cousin."

"Your cousin. Why? It's legal to hitchhike in the state of New York." Today, such is an unfortunate fact. "Don't tell me I'm abetting a criminal." Phone in hand, Tracy eyes Kasey critically for a moment. The phone is put away for now. There's a good chance an ambulance will want to gather she and Kasey up and take them away, but at least it might mean a much easier ride into the city.

"Weeeeeelll…not exactly. But I don't like popos, they make me think of my mom and my mom is dangerous and dangerous is bad and scary and frightening." Kasey takes a deep breath and then another. "Okay, pop the hood now. I think I'm almost done being given birth to by your rental vehicle from a very cold hell."

Once again, Tracy says nothing to the things that Kasey says, but what she does do is reach over and do what he says, prompting the hood to open. As she settles back down, the bare-sleeved woman fights a shiver. Ironic, but there you have it. It's cold, wet, windy, and she's still jostled from the car's spin. She doesn't sit still long before she pulls her sweater and her coat from the backseat. She slides herself into the former, a cardigan, but the latter, a black peacoat, she thinks to offer. Maybe a gesture of small kindness that won't end in disaster. She hands through the opening made by Kasey's efforts. "Here." He has more layers than she does, but if they're anything like hers, they're cold and damp. He's the one outside.

Kasey is adjusting his stance against the cold and wind and what not, eyeing the peacoat and gently pushing it back through the opening. "Thanks ma'am, but I think you need that more than I do." Jaw trembling goes here as he moves around to the front of the car, tugging a few things from his backpack and rummaging around under that hood. Rummage rummage clunk. "Gah, Destructo Witch…"

Suit yourself, Tracy's expression says. She leans against the passenger seat she's found herself in, using the coat as a blanket while she watches Kasey — or rather, the hood, blocking all view of the mechanic — and the approaching lights in the mirror, the red flash a colourful contrast to just about everything else. The car, the road, the rain. Monochrome. It's an ambulance that happens to be nearing, a precaution just incase their incident had turned out worse.

"OKAY!" Kasey calls out. "Give it some gas?" He stomps his foot and rubs his hands together. "C'mon now, we might have enough to get to saf-oh shi-aha…authorities, beautiful." He reaches up to close the hood. "Quickly QUICKLY NOW!" He takes a deep breath and then another. "Then you can drop me off and then go back home to Santa or…whatever it is you do…"

Tracy does climb, with relative grace given the awkward quarters, back into the driver's seat to do as the mechanic says. The car urges away from the sign it so clumsily crashed into (get out of the way, Kasey!). With a scrape of metal on metal, the door is freed, hanging open. "I'm not driving away from the authorities!" she calls through the open windshield before parking the car a few feet away on the side of the road. "Especially not in this car." She sidles her way out the passenger's side, hopping easily onto the pave and sliding her coat on. "I work in politics." Not at the North Pole. "Don't forget your things are in the back."

Kasey flails when Tracy gets out of the car and he sighs softly, pinching the bridge of his nose and yanking the backseat door open to grab his duffel bag, throwing it over his shoulder as he closes his eyes and takes a deep steadying breath. "Of course you do. Lovely. A politician." Then he shifts weight from foot to foot. "Did you leave anything important in the car?"

Tracy hitches her purse over her shoulder as she finishes shrugging into the coat, comfortably heavy and dry; not for long, if this weather keeps up. Ice already flecks the angular shoulders of the black coat. Giving Kasey a briefly annoyed glance, she shakes her head. Everything she brought with her, she has with her now. "I really am sorry about this mess. If this is fate, it's not exactly providence." Spoken by the voice of someone who doesn't quite have faith in such ideas. She holds her coat tightly to her, arms folded, and starts to drift away toward the vehicles with their sirens. "They'll wanna make sure you're alright."

"Iiiiii…don't really like being touched." Kasey starts out carefully before peering at Tracy. "Hey, there are no accidents. We're still alive." He eyes the oncoming be-sirened vehicles and he drifts after Tracy with a small frown. "Right then, get a check up, get back to the city. Everybody's happy." Then he exhales.

They are alive, but the whole thing felt like a wreck. "I guess." Tracy, unconvinced, just gives Kasey a somewhat distant but considering look over her shoulder as she carries on toward the flashing lights through the rain, which is less ice and more ice cold by this point in the darkening day. A few shouting figures jump out of the ambulance, another out of a police car. "At least you don't have to worry about accidentally freezing the paramedics." Perspective.

Kasey covers his face with a hand, muttering behind his hand. "Nope, just ripping out their spleens." He shudders and pulls his cap down low. Hitchhiking = Bad = Almost die from hypothermia. It is settled. He should've taken a bus.

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