MIMI MISSED HER TURN and screeched to a stop.
She checked the map on the seat beside her, backed up, and squinted through her own dust at the signpost.
Uppe V lenti e Rd.
A deep-throated bark seized her attention. A gargantuan dog was tearing toward her from the dilapidated house on the corner.
The animal bounced up and down at her door, brindle and with far too many yellow teeth. She threw the Mini Cooper into reverse again and slewed to the left, almost hitting the ugly mutt.
"Take that, Hellhound!"
Then she thrust the stick shift forward and left the paved road, sending out a rooster tail of gravel.
Undaunted, the dog stayed on her tail - stayed with her for a hundred yards or so - then finally fell behind, his territory no longer in danger.
Mimi took a deep breath and patted the leather-upholstered steering wheel. "Ms. Cooper, we are now officially not in Kansas," she said. And the Mini's horn beeped twice in reply.
The little car was red with a black top, and Mimi had red shades and black hair. She wore a red T-back sports bra and black low-rise capris, as if the car were an accessory. Well, it was small, after all. Like Mimi - small and powerful.
Gripping the wheel tightly in her left hand, she picked up her digital camcorder from the passenger seat and held it at arm's length, aimed at her face.
"News update," she said. "This is Mimi Shapiro reporting from Nowhere!" She swiveled the wine-red JVC HDD around to take in the countryside: the empty dirt road stretching out before her, the overgrown borders and broken-down fences, the unkempt and empty fields, the desolate forest beyond them.
"Not a Starbucks in sight," she said, returning the camcorder to her face. "What do you think, Chet? Have we actually entered the Land that Time Forgot?"
"Well, Mimi," she replied in a low and amiable TV sidekick kind of voice. "you'd think the officials at the border might have warned us about this, wouldn't you? 'Welcome to Canada. Sorry we're out right now.'"
She put the camcorder down in order to negotiate a long S turn, and there up ahead - just to prove her wrong - two huge mud-stained trucks were pulled over onto the shoulder, nose to nose. Farmer One leaned on the driver's side door of Farmer Two. With both hands on the wheel, Mimi swerved around them, glad to be driv ing such a small and responsive vehicle. Both men wore ball caps, which they tipped as she flew by. They took her all in with their shaded eyes, and she wished she hadn't taken her shirt off back at the rest stop on 401.
"Oh, Ms. Cooper," she muttered. "What have we gotten ourselves into?"
She had left New York City yesterday morning and stayed overnight just outside Albany. Then bright and early this morning - way earlier than she was used to - she had set her compass due north, and here she was, though with every passing mile she wondered if maybe Marc had been lying to her. He was hardly the world's most reliable father.
"Almost there," she told herself, to calm her misgivings.
She glanced into her rearview mirror, half expecting Clem and Jed to be on her tail. She imagined them hopping into their trucks to follow the half-naked girl in the toy car. Yee-haw! But the road was empty behind her. She crested a hill. There was a house ahead, though it was hard to tell if anyone still lived in it.
She whooshed by the driveway, where an old woman with an even older dog was collecting the mail from her mailbox. The woman glanced Mimi's way, clutching a letter to her flat chest, glaring at the girl as she flew by. She was wearing a ball cap, too.
"Got to get me one of those," said Mimi.
The road was climbing now. On her right she caught the odd glimpse through the trees of a river - the Eden, she hoped, though it wasn't as impressive as Marc had led her to believe. She wouldn't put it past him to turn a creek into a river. She wouldn't put anything past him.
Lost Creek. She had seen a piece in the Tate Modern by the American artist Kathy Prendergast. It was called Lost and it was a map of the United States, but the places marked were all lost places: Lost Valley, Lost Hills, Lost Swamp, Lost Creek. All these lost places. She wondered if Prendergast had done a map of the lost places of Canada. She could use it about now. Or GPS.
A magical place, Marc had said. It wasn't the kind of word he used very often. A place to get your thoughts together.
Just then her cell phone started playing "Bohemian Rhapsody." She found it under the map, looked at the number, and threw the cell phone down. It stopped after a while but then started up a few minutes later.
"Fuck off, Lazar Cosic!" she shouted. "What part of 'leave me alone' don't you understand?"
Then she pulled the map out from under the cell phone and laid it on top. Ontario was a big province - seven times bigger than the Empire State. Surely you could escape someone in a place this large? She pressed a little harder on the accelerator.
Now the road began a lazy decline, and soon she was in the bowl of a wooded valley. Towering maples made a tunnel of the road ahead, though she could see late-afternoon sunlight glinting through the canopy, tinting the leaves with gold as if she had traveled right through summer into fall. She shuddered at the thought. Shuddered at the coolness of this leafy tunnel. She tried to reach her shirt on the backseat but swerved dangerously and gave up. There wasn't a lot of road to work with. Then she was out in the open again, and there was a flurry of tilting and rusted-out mailboxes. And then nothing . . .
In all fairness, Marc had described much of this, but he had never really gotten across the isolation of the place. But that's...
Excerpted from The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones. Copyright © 2010 by Tim Wynne-Jones. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.