What Happened to Inge Vogel?
Otherville exists just beyond the awareness of the living. It is a place between our world and the afterlife. Some may consider it purgatory, but O-ville's residents consider it an unsolvable mystery, a place that holds impossible secrets to the wonders of eternity.
How do you get to Otherville?
Just like Inge.
It iz time, Inge thought to herself.
She glanced around the reservation, recognizing each member of the tribe who had become her family. Over the past six weeks, she had grown to love the people of the Hopi Reservation. Navajo, Arizona had become the closest thing to home since she left her own five years earlier. The people had sheltered her without question, wanting to hear all about her courageous and tumultuous journey down the Pacific Crest Trail. She basked in their reactions to her stories, especially the ones where she made questionable decisions, and yet they continued to love her. This is what it meant to belong without condition. She had only experienced that with one other person in her life – her mother. And now it was time to make her way home.
Her tear-filled goodbyes were met with well wishes and a shower of thoughtful gifts for her to take on her final journey back to the East Coast. Kasa held back her emotion as best she could.
“I vill neffer forget you, Kasa,” Inge whispered. “You ver un zister to me, and you alvays vill be.”
A few hours and dozens of prayers later, she was finally boarding the train that would take her cross country to New York City. From there, she would hitchhike her way to Washington, D.C. to surprise her mother. With only $20 to her name, she was left with very little choice.
The journey was long and uncomfortable, but she was determined to enjoy every second of it. She disembarked each time the train stopped to take photos. She engaged with other passengers and reminisced over similar journeys and adventures. Though the chairs could have been more comfortable, she couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the last few hours of her wild and freeing adventure around the country.
Four days after she stepped foot onto the train in San Francisco, she stepped off at Grand Central Station. She took a deep breath of that heavy East Coast air and pulled her thick, blond locks into a high ponytail to prepare for her journey south, on foot. She walked through the Lincoln Tunnel and into New Jersey, where she was determined to find a kind man heading south at a truck stop. Though it was chilly, she kept her mother’s face in her mind. That was all the motivation she needed to keep moving forward.
Three hours later, she was staring at a good-looking man with blond hair and yellowing teeth as he pushed through the doors of the dilapidated convenient store. Coffee in hand, he walked towards a P & G truck with North Carolina plates.
Perfect, Inge thought to herself.
“Excuze me,” Inge said. “Vill you be koing through Vashington, D.C. to get back to North Carolina?”
The man paused and eyed Inge carefully. His eyebrows arched widely as he assessed both her beauty and her accent.
“I reckon I will,” the man replied. “What’s it to ya?”
“I’m going to zee mein family there,” Inge replied. “It’z un awful long valk.”
“Yea. I bet it is,” the man laughed. “I take it ya need a ride?”
“Zat vould be loffely,” Inge smiled widely.
“Alright, get on in,” the man said.
“Buck’s the name,” he said, extending his dirty hand out to meet Inge’s as they climbed into the rig. “You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“I’m Inge, und I’m not from around here,” she replied. “I’m horiginally from Germany, but my family liffes in Vashington D.C. now.”
“What brought your family here?” Buck asked.
Inge smiled and told the rugged young man her story. He laughed at all of the right places and nodded slowly when she talked about losing her father at a young age. It was both refreshing and invigorating for Inge to finally tell her story to another soul. Who knows, maybe she would write a book about all of it after all.
“Do ya mind if we pull over to get some shut-eye soon? There’s a place just off 422 up here that I always stop at,” Buck asked politely.
“Zat is fine vith me,” Inge replied. She crawled up into the cabin for some supplies for bed while Buck parked the truck under an overpass. When Inge climbed back down, she noticed the exit sign: King of Prussia.
The two hunkered down in the large truck to catch a few z’s before the next leg of their journey towards Washington, D.C. Inge could hardly stand the excitement. They were only a few hours from Washington.
I vonder vat mother will say ven she zees me, Inge thought to herself.
She woke at three a.m., barely able to contain her excitement. She hoped Buck would wake up soon so they could keep going. She knew they weren’t far from her home. Not wanting to wake him with her restlessness, she decided to step out of the truck for a little fresh air. Buck, however, was already outside, speaking with a police officer in an unmarked car parked behind the large eighteen-wheeler.
She noticed Buck’s physique. The veins in his arms protruded slightly and his muscles strained against his flannel button up. His boyish facial features reminded her of his kindness and warmth. Though he looked worn, there was no denying the classic in his rugged good looks. The police officer glanced her way, forcing Buck’s gaze to land on her as well.
Not wanting to intrude in their conversation, she walked towards the front of the truck. Another unmarked car was parked just in front of Buck’s truck, preventing Buck from being able to move his truck. Inge’s skin tingled and crawled as she studied the black car in front of her. Is it possible Buck was in this much trouble for parking under the overpass?
Her ears rung loudly her head collided with the truck’s passenger-side door. Though she couldn’t see her attacker, she could feel his strength, and smell the scent of aftershave and stale cigarettes. His body pushed her harder into the side of the cold, metal truck.
“Vat is zis for?” she cried.
“Hey! What the hell? Let her go!” Buck yelled at the hooded figure.
The man only tried harder, panting heavily into her ear as he struggled to restrain her resistant body. He was strong, but Inge had just hiked 2600 miles and worked hard in the fields of the reservation. Her tiny frame was packed with solid muscle and she was not about to go down without a fight. She managed to pull her knee into her chest and kick the man in the groin, giving her enough time to escape his grasp. She shoved him a second time, sending him tumbling to the ground before she turned and ran as hard and as fast as she could.
She didn’t see the Honda going well over the speed limit down 422. She didn’t hear the screeching of their tires or Buck’s screams for her to stop. All she heard was the thud of her body going into the car’s windshield.
“Don’t touch her. I’ll call an ambulance,” the police officer commanded.
Lying on her back in the middle of 422, Inge’s gaze floated across the scene in front of her. Glass shattered on the ground, three sets of feet stood around her lifeless body. Or was it four? She felt dizzy and cold. No, she felt warm.
The Honda drove away as Inge’s gaze focused on the sign above her. She could hear a muffled voice begging the officers to help her, apologizing…
Her breaths became shallow as she focused intently on the sign: King of Prussia.
Then there was nothing.