This is the second fragment from a far-away unfinished story that I played with for months before deciding that I didn’t know where to take it. Recently Dinah and Shaw have appeared in my life and I suddenly understand where everyone is going. Now all I have to do is to get them there…
…I was walking along some god-forsaken ‘B’ road, somewhere between the middle of nowhere and the middle of nowhere else. The rain was falling so hard that it was bouncing back from the road surface and having another go at making me wet. It cut through my clothes like icy spears and made its way down into my very heart and soul – and drowned them. It had already made its way into the engine of my car which was residing, hopefully beneath several feet of extremely acid rain, in a lay-by somewhere short of the middle of nowhere, whilst I was trudging, huddled and freezing, along this unlit country road searching for somewhere which, for all I knew, quite possibly did not exist. However low my previous lowest ebb, my present one was even lower and I was beginning to ponder the possibility of drowning by syphonic action. It was then that I first became aware of the car that had stopped beside me. I hadn’t heard its approach, nor had I seen its lights, yet there it was, stationary and alongside me; engine running, lights on. I didn’t wait for an invitation to open the door.
The warmth from within billowed out and enveloped me as I lowered myself into the passenger seat and closed the door behind me. My glasses steamed up instantly so that, with or without them, I was practically blind. The car began to move smoothly away as I tried to wipe away the condensation from my spectacle lenses on a sodden jacket that just made the problem worse. The heat made me feel a little light-headed and the music from the stereo seemed to increase in volume as the car accelerated.
“Persephone,” I said.
“You really do know your Wishbone,” said a voice that I vaguely recollected.
Now, I’ve never been one for putting two and two together and coming up with five, but suddenly I was into double figures. I went through my pockets, frantically trying to find something dry with which to restore my eyesight. I felt an arm reach across me and I’m ashamed to admit that I flinched. The glove compartment dropped open in front of me. “There’s a box of tissues in there,” he said. I fumbled around, expecting to come across a gun or a knife or… I don’t know what I expected to come across, but all I actually found was a box of tissues. “I keep the gun under the seat,” he said.
I was suddenly profoundly uneasy. I knew from the tone of his voice that what he had said was nothing more than a joke, a light-hearted remark, but it was as if he knew exactly what I had been thinking. I needed to see him properly. I pulled out a tissue and wiped the lenses unnecessarily hard. It crossed my mind that if I continued it might alter the prescription. I put the glasses back on. It was him. A slightly blurry him, but him none-the-less. Tall, distinguished, white-grey hair, long, but immaculately neat, the beard full, but neatly trimmed. He looked like an anorexic God, in jeans and a checked shirt.
“Where are you heading?” he asked.
“To find someone who can mend my car. It’s broken down, about two miles back I think, probably more by now. I know it’s in a lay-by, near some trees… That’s not going to help is it?” I looked through the windscreen at the rain-sodden trees hanging limply to either side of us as far as the eye could see. “I’ll have to come back this way in the morning, in the light, when it’s stopped raining. I’m sure I’ll find it then, as long as no-one’s set fire to it.”
“Don’t suppose it would burn in this,” he said.
“No, I guess not. Well then, I suppose I’ll have to find somewhere to spend the night. Can you drop me at the next town?”
“Of course,” he said and we lapsed into silence, both entranced by the swish of the wipers on the rain-spattered windscreen and the sound of the tyres on the road. “I don’t suppose you know where the next town is, do you?” he asked.
“No, I was just out for a drive really, when the rain started falling and I saw you walking. I never really pay too much attention to where I’m going. I just sort of know when I get there. Where were you going?”
“I’m not sure, I just sort of drove. I was in a temper, I suppose. I needed to cool down. It’s something I do; I just get in the car and go. I think I was driving for quite a long time, I’m not sure, the car just sort of stopped really. All the lights came on and it stopped.”
“Like you’d run out of petrol?”
“Exactly.” Light dawned somewhere in the declining grey ooze behind my eyes. “I ran out of petrol. Stupid, stupid. Why didn’t I check the fuel? I…” The car began to slow. “Why are you stopping?” I asked.
“I think we’ve arrived,” he said.
Puzzled, I looked around. The rain had eased, but everything else was as it had been for miles. Trees, trees and more trees. And a lay-by. And my car…
“Erm, thanks,” I said. “I really… That is how…?”
“It’s good that you’ve cooled down,” he said. “But I think your family might be wondering where you are.”
“I don’t have one,” I said, instantly aware that I sounded really pathetic, “but you’re right, I ought to be getting home.”
“There’s petrol in the boot,” he said.
I eased myself from the seat and went round to the back of the car. I wasn’t surprised to see the petrol can, alone in the centre of an otherwise empty boot. I carried it quickly to my car; the rain had eased, but it was still cold and wetting. I heard his car begin to pull away behind me. I wasn’t surprised. I think I had expected it.
“Hang on,” I yelled. “Your petrol can.”
His window opened slightly. “Don’t worry,” he said “I’ll get it next time I see you…”