Written for the Carry On Tuesday prompt ‘Are we there yet?’ with a polite nod to Sunday Scribblings ‘Eternity’ and Writers Island ‘Clarity’
‘Are we there yet?’ said a sad little voice in the back seat. ‘Are we there yet?’
He was driving fast, too fast. On a night like tonight he should be warm and cosy, curled up on his sofa, whisky in hand in front of a glowing log fire.
‘Are we there yet?’ called a plaintive little voice from the back.
It was pitch black. His cars headlights aimed a pair of brilliant silver blades into the gloom. Its tyres protested as he swerved this way and that on the rundown road that twisted and turned in the darkness ahead.
‘Are we there yet?’ cried the melancholy voice in his ear.
His eyes were bombarded by dazzling crystal raindrops which peppered the windshield; his ears assaulted by the staccato rattling of water splattering on glass. Sudden and unexpected gusts of howling wind hurtled the car to the left then right as he fought with the leather clad wheel to keep it on the road.
‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’
As he roared through a cathedral of bowing trees, a bird – an owl or maybe a wood pigeon flashed in front of him, flailing its wings of white brown and grey feathers just inches away. In a reflex action he momentarily touched the brake and the car slithered and jerked throwing his head against the window. For a moment everything around him became a blur. He opened his eyes wide and thanked the God he’d never known, for keeping him on the road.
‘Are we there yet? whimpered the little voice. ‘Are we there yet?’
The journey was taking an eternity. Every few minutes he passed a clearing which appeared to be the same clearing he’d passed a few moments earlier. At regular intervals his front right hand wheel thumped through a pothole sending a wave of water high into the sky. Time after time a bird fluttered within inches of his windshield causing him to touch the brake, swerve and thump his head on the window.
Suddenly everything began to come into sharp focus. As he hurtled along the tree lined road, things which were moments before a blur, he now saw with perfect clarity; the bark on the tree trunks, the swaying hedgerows and every blade of grass on the verge.
‘Are we there yet?’ whined the voice behind.
His mind cleared. Where was he? Where was he going? What was happening?
‘Are we there yet?’
He’d never had children. He’d never carried kids in the back of the car. There was no one but him in the car! He stood on the brake pedal and the car skidded to a shuddering halt. He spun round and found himself gazing into an empty seat. There was no one there. But he was sure he’d heard a voice.
He began to shake. Something was happening to him. He was imagining things. Surely he was imagining a sad little voice in the dark. He was imagining the bird and the pothole and the reappearing clearing. He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know where he was going and he had no idea what was happening.
The rain had stopped and a shaft of moonlight illuminated the road ahead. He fumbled with the satnav and punched in his address. All he wanted now was his cosy sofa, a glass of scotch and his crackling log fire. He started the engine and set off towards home.
He punched on the radio and the soothing sound of a Beethoven sonata wafted around and he began to relax. Right now all that mattered was going home. Once there he felt sure everything would become clear, everything would fit into place.
A smile broke across his face and he began to hum along with the music. As he turned a corner he saw the familiar sight of the Dog and Duck pub. Suddenly he felt things were returning to normal. He took a left turn down the winding country lane which led to his cottage, passed the crooked red post-box and the ancient stone horse trough. Almost home. Nearly there.
‘ARE WE THERE YET?’ screeched a voice from behind him. ‘ARE WE THERE YET?’ it screamed. The lights went out. Darkness. Pitch darkness. He felt a clammy and cold hand stroke his throat and he was frozen with fear. Then the hand tightened and tightened and tightened.
There was bang on the floor beside him. It bought him to his senses with a start. He felt dizzy, everything was swimming. The pictures on the walls seemed to float past, the flames in the log fire danced a merry dance and his whisky glass was spinning around at his feet. But surely he was in his car. What was happening? Was the whole thing a dream? Was it a nightmare? He rubbed his temples with his thumbs.
For several minutes he sat motionless trying to make sense of everything that had happened, if indeed it had happened. Then he eased himself to his feet, threw a log on the fire and picked up the glass. As he poured himself a refill he noticed his hands were trembling. He slumped back on the sofa and took a large swig of scotch. The only sound was the hissing and gentle spitting of the fire. His eyes drifted closed.
‘Are we there yet?’ whispered a voice in his ear. ‘ARE WE THERE YET?’ it yelled