It was around midday when the car finally died. Elvis was surprised how far he actually made it. Hundreds and hundreds of miles of practical desert, hours of driving through a severe and unchanging landscape, he was surprised he didn’t start hallucinating. He had just kept drifting along, like a cloud of dust.
And then the car sputtered to the side of the road. The desert outside was a sunlit, sulfurous yellow, a military-chemical yellow, and for a second Elvis had been afraid to get out of the car. Who knows what kind of air they got around here? So dry, so arid, so raw. Who knows, maybe the military does things out here, tries things? But then he decided he was just exhausted, and that was making him paranoid, and he walked into town.
Indian Springs is small, tiny really, and built in the old Vegas style. Things haven’t changed since it was erected. All the signage is still neon. There’s plenty of parking. The streets are wide and the sidewalks are wider. Elvis wondered what it could have been like in its heyday, or if it ever had a heyday, or if it was even meant to have a heyday. Maybe all of it was built for nothing. Built to be sped past. Cities in the west aren’t like cities in the east. They don’t need purposes. They don’t die because they never lived. Maybe Indian Springs is just meant as a blur in the windshield, a brief change in the landscape, a flash between long, sleepy blinks. He was able to find a mechanic quickly.
The mechanic told him they’d fetch the car and to come back in a while, so Elvis went to a diner and sat. The waitress called him dear. She asked him what his business was.
Elvis told her he was on his way to Las Vegas. He told her he was an Elvis impersonator. “Well I can see that, honey,” she said. He told her he’d been born with the name Elvis, an act of homage from his mother who had been one of his millions of adoring fans, having found something intoxicating, even revolutionary in his voice and the way he moved, and that her simple act of naming had sealed his destiny from the get-go. What else does someone named Elvis do? His whole life led to Las Vegas. It’s not like there was anywhere in Idaho where a man could impersonate Elvis. Then the waitress asked what had brought him there, specifically, to Indian Springs. He told her the car broke down. She laughed. “Good luck,” she said.
When Elvis returned to the mechanic they had the car jacked up. A man with a handlebar mustache told him he’d better get a room for the night, things were pretty busted in there. Elvis closed his eyes. Pretty busted, he thought, prettyyyyyyy buuuuuuuuusteeeeeed. Eventually he opened his eyes. He said okay. He said he’d get a motel room and be back the next day.
The motel Elvis found was desert pink and off white. He got a room on the first floor. It was early evening. He had nothing else to do but practice his songs. For the rest of the night he stood in the middle of the room as the sound of Elvis washed around him, the sound of some kind of authentic truth, or authentic proof of what was possible in the search of truth. Was that it, was that what was behind the voice, the voice this Elvis only mimes, the search for truth? It wasn’t only entertainment. At this point it couldn’t have been only that, right?
There must be lights
Elvis sprang up in the morning and couldn’t remember where he was. It was so bright despite the curtains being shut. The sun is very powerful, very powerful, and really, only getting more powerful. Who knows just how powerful the sun is going to get. Some people worry about things like that. Some people don’t.
Elvis made his way back to the diner. The same waitress said welcome back darling as she poured his coffee. “Car not done yet?” Elvis shook his head. Later today he told her. “Always later today,” she sighed. Then she told him not to worry, it’s all the same everywhere else. Then Elvis finished his coffee.
The sun outside was intense. He squinted in the glare of the day. Some dust blew through the little town and he didn’t see anyone out. Things were quiet.
At the shop they still had his car jacked up, and a different mechanic came out to explain to him what was going on. This one had a hard time explaining what exactly was wrong with the car. His explanation ended up dissolving into a discussion on the Copernican conception of our universe and an Anthropic one, and about how life is really one big struggle to decide which you agree with based on the evidence at hand, and then what to do about it. The mechanic said seriously, when things can be entangled, when a multiverse is predicted, and when the rule of locality breaks down, what is one to make of all this? It’s either all meant for us or it’s not, which is more terrifying? In which scenario are we more in the dark about what’s actually going on? He tells Elvis that he understands why some people, including serious, cutting edge physicists, are starting to think this is all a computer simulation. It has more to do with decreasing the stakes than strictly explaining what’s going on. Everyone just wants to be comfortable he says.
Elvis takes it all in, nodding, nodding, trying to understand, and when understanding seems unlikely he chalks it up to the influence of the military base nearby. There are probably some whacky ideas coming out of there he figures. He asks when his car will be fixed. The mechanic says check back tomorrow.
Back in his motel room Elvis practices his songs. He cranks up the lights and the Elvis. They flood the room, threating to burst it. It’s as if he’s trying to be overcome by something. It’s as if he’s trying to be overcome by sound, by the sound of the sound.
Are you lonesome,
Do you miss me
Are you sorry,
Elvis blinks his eyes open. He’s in his motel room. The morning sears through the curtains. At the current rate of degradation, some estimates give human society until about 2030. Indian Springs, Elvis tells himself. Indian Springs, Indian Springs.
He goes right to the mechanic in the morning. It’s a third man. The car is still jacked up. The third man shakes his head, visibly sorry. “Not ready yet, son. We’ve got our best men working on it but, you know, it may help to think of this world as a stage, and to think that all we can do is play our part in this big play we call the world, and that right now you’re part, son, is to be right here in this little town of ours. The faster you accept it, the better, really.”
Elvis doesn’t see any other mechanic around. In fact, his car is the only car in the whole place. Honestly, if he were to think about it, he’s surprised he made it this far. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, so to make it this far is pretty good he thinks.
Outside his motel room Elvis notices some people sitting around. They sit in the shadows. They don’t say anything to him as he walks by, but when he opens the room’s curtains they’re still sitting around, watching him.
Elvis turns on his Elvis tape and begins to practice. He steps around the room under the harsh lights, strict and concentrated.
It’s now or never.
Come hold me tight.
Kiss me my darling.
Be mine tonight…
It continues on like this night after night. Elvis practices in his motel room, and night after night more people come sit outside his window to watch, to listen, and to reminisce about a time they no longer remember, or never knew, but either way a time that’s vanished and that can never return. Eventually the car is forgotten and begins to rust up on the jack. Slowly the idea of Las Vegas disintegrates in Elvis’s mind, until it’s just Indian Springs. Just Indian Springs and nowhere else. Elvis lives in Indian Springs.
Alex Weidman is 24 years old and lives in West Virginia.