The tarmac was hot and the car rolled along at a steady fifty, there were no cars in sight and the heat outside was like the inside of an oven, thank God for air conditioning and hand held fans. Lucy hadn’t used hers sparingly on this trip and was already on her second of four AA batteries, it was a little present Vic had picked up at the rest stop in Kentucky, that was 3 hours ago and they were still 5 hours or so from Ohio. According to the road sign 3 miles back they were in Flint in Nashville, Lucy hadn’t heard of the town and in all honesty they were going around it so she supposed it didn’t much matter one way or another, the radio station switched stations as Vic searched through, he settled on Patsy Cline singing falling to pieces, she had heard the song a few times and associated it with bad juju as her grandmother called it, it always seemed to be a harbinger of bad news in some shape or form.
“Vic can you switch it over?”
“Sure thing, can’t find many clear stations out here.”
He fiddled with the buttons and gave up with the changing tones of static and switched the radio off, they sat in silence for awhile, Vic found himself getting agitated in the heat, he had never shown any interest in vacationing in hot climates, Finland or Iceland were just fine, getting hot and forever drying yourself in perpetual dampness was not what Vic called fun especially when the annoyance of Lucy clicking her jaw repeatedly was grinding on his nerves, it was something she had always done in moments of stress and recently she had it in shovel loads. Another reason for Vic to just grit his teeth and deal with it, remember best behaviour.
“Turn it back on to that other channel, I’m sure that song will have finished by now, it was 123.7 I’m pretty sure”.
She was getting anxious and before Vic even had chance to turn the radio dial over for her she rushed her hand to the knob almost running his hand over like a car over a rabbit, Lucy fiddled the stations a few more seconds and sure enough she rediscovered the station which now featured Johnny Cash singing about a man in Reno
“There we are”
Vic said deflating each word individually, thankful for the music covering up any bone clicks. Lucy knew he was annoyed and knew that the heat was partly to blame the other half was that he was tired and that there was still a lot more road to cover. Over the last few months Vic had been like a new man, she looked at her husband differently than she had in awhile, for both good and bad reasons.
Lucy gazed out the window and spotted a magpie on a rock, it moved its feet putting weight on each foot periodically to stop from burning the bottoms on the grill like boulder, Lucy saluted it as her grandmother had always taught her to do, one for sorrow and continued feeling slightly uneasy about the omens that were manifesting themselves out here on this unfamiliar stretch of road, the next thought about a nursery rhyme or a saying of something about magpies in a pie seemed to enforce that and she put the thought to the back of her mind. She looked into the backseat and saw the children still sleeping in the back, too hot to even keep awake, she looked at the big bottle of water in between them on the back seat and saw that they had drank a considerable amount, at least they were keeping themselves hydrated like she’d asked.
As another thirty minutes passed, the sun started to set leaving the sky to look like a black stallion with pink scars strewn across his frame, soon he would gain healing powers and the scars will vanish and the shiny black coat will gleam with the moonlight and sparkly star coat.
It was dark in the car and Vic couldn’t see inside the car half as much as he could outside in the light of the headlights, though he couldn’t see, he knew that Lucy was sleeping, so much for skipping a night at the motel he thought, even when Lucy had suggested driving all night on a twelve hour plus road trip he knew this would be the outcome, he knew if she slept a few hours she would at least take the wheel for awhile so he could sleep a few winks before getting to Kingsfield. It had been a few years since Lucy and Vic had been to their hometown and even longer still since he had seen his In Laws, Lucy’s parents, the last time he had seen either of his own parents was twelve years ago and it was his mother’s open casket at her funeral, his father had died five years previous to that, cancer was what got them and at thirty eight he still got all the tests at least once a year, a pre-emptive strike before that black death got him too. He didn’t mind Lucy’s In Laws but much preferred her father Duke, he’s the most down to earth guy he’s ever met, cool, funny and is still adamant that’s his real name, Vic never made much of an effort to prove him wrong, it would be similar to when you hear your mom or dad’s real name for the first time, if you’re young enough it can leave you pondering for days. It will be nice to see all the familiar places and faces as they say, Vic has made plans to drop the kids off at the grandparents for one weekend of the three week trip and take Lucy to all the places that hold a firm place in their hearts, the ice rink where they had their first date, Brian’s Bar & Grill where they had the first meal they didn’t go dutch on, Lucy had been adamant that Vic try it at least once, grinning as she had said it teasing him, he even made plans for the grandparents to take the kids to Wacky & Wild, the longstanding theme park in Kingsfield, on this day he planned to have lunch, which he would make himself, steak and a baked potato and then after go up to Lucy’s former bedroom and make love to her in the same bed (bedroom at least) where they had each lost their virginity, it was a sweet day all those years ago, apart from Vic giving them both food poisoning, but at least this time he actually knows how to cook a damn steak properly and not to burn a baked potato for that matter. It was going to be a fantastic vacation and great to not only experience all these feelings all over again but to share the town with their children for the first time.
Vic looked into the rear view mirror and tweaked it so he could see the shadowed faces of his children, they both looked serene and sinister all at once in the lack of light, but he must admit neither had been so quiet as this, especially cooped up in a hot car, he guessed they must of gotten over it after the first two hours and just surrendered to sleep. It was at this point that Vic heard a crunch of metal and experienced nothing but black.
When Vic came to, he was hazy and having trouble adjusting to his surroundings, his head ached and so did his chest, he would later find out he had a concussion and two broken ribs, but this moment he was oblivious to everything apart from his aches and the burning in his lungs as he tried to gasp air, he finally opened his eyes enough so that he could see the blurry shapes that was the inside of his car, his eyes reacted to his peeking with sharp daggers of pain into his retinas, he closed his eyes once more wincing at the pain, he took a couple more painful breaths and slowly tried to open his eyes again, this time the shapes were more in focus and his eyes decided he had enough pain the first time around and let him off easy this time, administering a dull throb behind his eyes, he saw that the windshield was cracked but not caved in, so he didn’t think he had hit anything head on at least. He looked to his own window on the driver’s side and saw that it was gone entirely, there was no wind outside but it was as cool as the aircon out there, he realised that dawn was approaching and that it wasn’t as dark as his last memory before waking up.
His children, he tried to spin around but his sternum wouldn’t allow it, he only managed to turn himself as far as the passenger seat, he sat there looking at the seat, his mouth gaping open, he focussed on the design which almost looked like static, the design faded in the actual seat part, the part that should have been obstructed by his long since visited wife’s legs and crotch, but she wasn’t there, just her imprint on the seat, he didn’t know what to think, just sat there staring into static of the fabric, losing his own transmission. He looked back at the windshield, cracked but in one piece, he looked, slowly this time into the back seat, neither Tom or Andrea were there, he strained to see into the foothold in the back but again just saw vacant space. He fainted from the pain in his head and chest and just as he succumbed to blank sleep he could hear his children cry for him.
This time, he woke up in darkness, he couldn’t tell whether or not he had been out of it longer the first or second time, all he knew is that he must have been here nearly 18 hours or more, his skin was burning from sitting in the sun so long. His thought process of the events struck him as odd, he had been hit? Been hit on the road, though it wasn’t the busiest road surely someone would have seen him at some point? He tried for the glove box and struggled to get it open, he eventually worked it open and took the flashlight out of there, he prayed as he clicked the button that it hadn’t been damaged, it came on with no hesitation, illuminating his legs, he imagined for a moment that they were disfigured and he had an image of James Caan in Misery superimposed over his own legs, but it was either a trick of the light or just fear on his part, he tried to move his toes and found he could, he worked each part of his legs until he felt confident he was neither paralysed or suffering injuries to his legs, he proceeded to sit up and pulled down the sun visor wish i’d done that before passing out and pointed the flashlight at his own face, looking into the mirror that had now been revealed on the visor, he looked and saw that he had a cut over his left eye but it wasn’t very deep, a trickle of blood ran down the side of his mouth, over his slightly different shaded red cheek, it was a deep red, he stuck his index finger into his mouth and felt his lips, gums and teeth, after fully exploring his mouth he found no injuries, this was the moment Vic realised he had internal injuries and judging the area he felt most discomfort he thought it a safe bet to either be his ribs or general chest area, he was sure he didn’t have a punctured lung. He tried for the drivers door and couldn’t budge it, whatever had hit them had crunched it shut that means i took the brunt of the accident? He clambered over the gearshift and into the passenger seat where Lucy had been sitting, he tried the handle and realised he didn’t need to, the door pushed open, unlatched and with ease, he stood vertical for the first time in nearly a day, his feet planted in the sand and received a sharp pain in his ribs as he straightened up, he needed to ease his way to a standing position, he stretched muscles that hadn’t been used in hours, muscles that were strained around his broken ribs. He caught his breath and slowly turned around and pointed to where the road must have been, there was no road, he slowly did a 360 knowing his bearings couldn’t have been 100 percent at this point, the road was gone, vanished, like it was never there to begin with.
“What the hell” whispered Vic, his voice was hoarse and he suddenly realised how thirsty he was, he looked in the cubby on the passenger side door and spied Lucy’s water bottle, three quarters full, he took a mouthful, swirling it around his mouth allowing the dried blood to become liquid once more, the coppery taste invaded his mouth but he did not spit, it would not only make him more thirsty but be a waste of possibly his only drink, he swallowed and felt his throat become rejuvenated once more, it was bliss, he looked into the backseats, first through the dusty window and then he tried for the door, again it came unlatched and with ease, but it was unease that Vic now felt in the pit of his stomach, he pointed the flashlight everywhere, looking for something, he just didn’t know what, but nothing was what greeted him except for a half bottle of water on the back seat, he took the water and then he slammed the door in frustration which sent a tearing feeling under his arm right into his ribs, he screamed, no words, just a scream of frustration, emotional more than physical, he once again breathed and composed himself, tears welled up in his eyes, but he did not cry, he walked away from the car, feeling nothing but bad vibes from the car, he looked into the night sky and saw nothing but stars, no planes, nothing. He turned back towards the car but couldn’t bare to look at it, where was his family, where had they gone? Had they gone for help unable to rouse him? 18 hours, were they out there? Freezing in the desert? Had they made it to town wherever that was? He looked at his feet, the flashlight spotlighting his sneakers, sneakers that were now caked in blood, he paused staring at the crimson that now enveloped his shoes, blood, whose blood? Not Lucy, not Tom not Andrea. He put the spotlight on himself, scrutinizing where his injury was, lifting his jumper exposing his bare chest to the cold, just bruises and an outline of the seat belt that had possibly saved his life, but at what cost, he let his t-shirt fall back over his stomach, and started to undo his belt, he dropped his jeans, he couple of scrapes but nothing that could create that much blood, he pulled his jeans up, fastened his belt and closed his eyes, preparing himself for what he had to do next, he let the spotlight once more land on his trainers, he looked around at the sand trying to find where he had walked from, which was an easy task, bloody footprints of an invisible man walked right up to where Vic was standing and followed them all the way until about three feet from the car, where the footprints became a pool, not a puddle, the pool surrounded most of the rear of the car and three feet out in this direction, it went under the car but did not come out on the driver’s side, he walked up to the pools edge and shined his light into it, changing its colour from black in the moonlight and snow white’s Apple red under the flashlight’s glare. So much blood. Vic stopped and tried to think of his situation, what he knew and what he suspected, he knew he had been hit out on the road, onto the driver’s side, he suspected whoever did it must have done it on purpose, laying in wait and timing it just right and picking up enough speed to hit the side of the car, he knew they probably hadn’t succeeded, or he would be dead, unless it was all an accident, a desperate person who didn’t need another hit and run on their record hiding the evidence. He let the two opposing thoughts sit with him for a moment and thought maybe they had hit him at the right speed, the perfect speed, the perfect speed to take out the car but not kill the people inside, the blood, look at the blood. Had someone been hurt? The blood was predominantly on the side of where Andrea was, no blood in the car, you’ve checked. It was wishful thinking then in its strange way that she was wounded badly in the crash, so he was now back to whose blood it was. No blood in the car, someone hit you, on purpose. This much he agreed with, but how the hell had they got here? You, how did you get here? He may have been the only one here but he swatted the thought away, the blood wasn’t his, they had all been here. He walked around the blood to the front of the car, the hood was was in one piece, just a dent from where Lucy had hit the gate post in the previous Autumn, he shook the memories from last Autumn away. He looked closer and under the car, he saw a dent in the fender, a groove like a half circle. Towed, the bastards towed us out here, under the cover of darkness they hooked us up and took us out here, it was almost dawn when they hit us so they had to move us out here. But where was here and where was his family? He once again looked in all directions, this time not trying to focus on looking for a road, he looked beyond his line of sight and saw nothing, which way had they brought them here? He thought maybe it was the direction of the trunk, if they drove us on a tow truck the trunk of the car would be facing from whence they came. They wouldn’t be that stupid, they would have thought about it, wishful thinking once again. He walked around the car again, they must have dropped something, left a wallet anything. Yeah, dropping your wallet the sure signs of an expert kidnapper. He stalked around the driver’s side, scrutinizing every stone overturned and any pattern in the sand that took on the shape of a footprint. Then he found the exact thing his mind had been teasing him with.
Bloody footprints. He was sure they were going to be his own and that he had just done a full circle of the car, but these were at the rear of the car, he shone his flashlight and found his own trail out a few feet on the passenger side, these footprints were definitely someone else’s, and a males, the shoes belonged not only to someone with bigger feet than his wife’s but also his own, he followed the trail, his feet fixed on the spot allowing the light to travel the potato painting style path, he shone past the prints without noticing, he retraced and found the path stopped at about half the distance his had reached, he walked over to the end of the gory hopscotch game and saw that the prints at the end weren’t faded, they were almost as vibrant as the first step, he then noticed that there was a print that was a few inches left of the others, so that there was almost three feet lined up parallel. It struck him hard, he changed his footing to get into the vehicle this is where the tow truck was, he rushed to get the flashlight pointing where he wanted and almost dropped it doing so, he scrutinized the ground once more. Tire tracks.
He looked at the markings in the dirt, first the footprints now this, he ran back to the car grabbed his sweater from the driver’s seat, because though adrenaline continued to surge through him the cold had started taking its toll on his sensitive sunburned skin, once soothing cool was now burning with cold and he started to walk in the direction of the tyre track, he knew to run would be stupid and unnecessary, most importantly wasted energy that could be needed for a possible long trip, he knew in his mind he needed to follow the tracks and stay alive otherwise all this would be pointless, he started to trod and stopped in his tracks, something niggled at his brain. Have you even tried to start the car you fuck wit? He ran to the car jumping into the passenger’s side and crawling over to the driver’s seat being careful of his delicate sternum, rocking the cars suspension and hitting his shin on the gearshift, he said some expletives and reached to start the car. Did you really think they would leave the keys? The disappointment was overwhelming, of course they took the damn keys, the empty slot grinning at him, all this wishful thinking was emotionally draining and not very successful either. The car could be hotwired, he didn’t know how but he could try. Wishful thinking He calmed himself and climbed out the car once more, he walked to the front and lifted the hood. He knew he wouldn’t need to pop it from inside, he looked in and saw what his unwelcome new passenger had told him would be there, a mess of wires that had been cut, like a spaghetti of roads that all had half finished bridges. He took hold of the hood and lowered it slowly, clicking it into place, he walked to the passenger door and closed that too, almost so quietly you would be sure he was trying not to wake the wildlife, he continued this almost slow motion walk past the bloody footprints, animal prints, only humans leave footprints, up towards the tyre tracks and sighed, he walked into the black night armed with nothing but his water bottle and trusty flashlight.