Living a scant three hour drive from Las Vegas for over 20 years, I went there a lot. A LOT. Weekend trips, day trips, ‘just because’ trips. I really miss Vegas.
Anyway, when you made the drive that often, you began to memorize the scenery. There were a couple of small towns (one of which boasts the World’s Tallest Thermometer, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds), then the California/Nevada state line, then Las Vegas. In between, a lot of nothing. Just good places to dump a body that wouldn’t be found for decades (I assume).
Sooner or later, everyone who makes the drive notices that road sign (it’s pronounced zye-zix, rhyming with Isaac’s). As you can see from the picture, it seems to just lead off into nowhere. I always wondered where it went, and why it was there. I eventually found out and I must admit, it was a little disappointing (although you can read about it here).
In 2000, I got a temporary job working for the US Census Bureau. Yep, a government employee. It was easy work, and it paid pretty good for the time. I ended up in a little group that worked with places like nursing homes, halfway houses, that sort of thing. Fairly interesting, but there wasn’t enough work for the team.
That meant a lot of down time. And the way the office was set up, all the computers were banked in one part of the room, so if you didn’t need to be on them, you didn’t go on them.
So I was stuck at a desk, with no computer, with nothing to do. I doodled, played tic-tac-toe, and tried to make my own fun, but you can only make a calculator say ‘BOOBS’ so many times before you start to go a little crazy.
One day, I started thinking about a dream I’d had. I wasn’t in it; it was like I was watching a movie. A car full of guys on a road trip to Vegas had car trouble, and a Highway Patrol officer happened upon them and offered them a ride back to the station to call a tow truck for the car. The cop ended up being a psychopath, and drove off somewhere bad to do bad things to them.
I was sitting there, thinking about that dream, and almost subconsciously grabbed a legal pad and a pen and started writing. And I just didn’t stop. I wrote every day, whenever I had a free moment. Before long, I’d filled up a legal pad and started on the next one. The story strayed from my dream some, but I kept it pretty much the same. Out of an active imagination and pure boredom, I wrote my first novella.
As I wrote, it became a no-brainer what both the antagonist’s hideout and the title of the story would be.
Ironically, over the years the road has been referenced a couple of different ways. Zzyzx Road is the name of a song by the band Stone Sour, and it was also the title of two different movies – Zzyzx (later changed to Burned), and Zzyzx Rd.
Zzyzx Rd is especially notorious for being one of the lowest-grossing movies of all time, making just $20 in it’s opening weekend. I didn’t leave off any zeros. Twenty dollars.
If you’re wondering, I did check; no one ripped off my (never-published, little read) story.
Even though it wasn’t great, and probably not even good, I was always proud of it. I still am, even though I’d like to think what I’m writing now is quite a bit better. Time will tell. But it was the original story that put the bug in me, and after years of neglect it thankfully never went away.