My friend Vic sent me a message the other day, briefly outlining an incredibly random dream of hers that I’d been in. Just a few sentences, none of it really making sense. I decided to try and create a short story out of it, and here’s the result…comments and thoughts gratefully received, as always!
I gently pressed the brake pedal of the hire car as the speed limit sign came into view. The white background was grubby behind the 3-0, the road grime over the winter had coated the sign with a thin layer of filth that no one would clean. I’d not been back here for a long time, but nothing had changed. The Edwardian buildings were still large and imposing, most in a good state of repair, but some showing signs of wear and tear. I know how they feel, I thought to myself.
I saw her before I turned into the road. She was sitting at a table, in the middle of Kirkby Lane. Her hair was longer than I remember, and I laughed. Of course it would be; it’s been years. I pulled up on the side of the road, the car engine idling as I stared at the woods in front of me. They were dark and brooding, and a chill ran through me. It was a sunny Spring day, but I felt cold. I couldn’t shake the gloom I felt.
“Hey!” she shouted as I stepped out of the car. “How’s it going?”
“Hi! What the hell is going on?” I got straight to the point. “Why on earth are you sitting at a table in the middle of the road?”
“The Police put it here. They didn’t want anyone driving past.”
I looked around, but I couldn’t see anyone. Vic wouldn’t make things up, and she’d asked for my help but something didn’t feel right.
“What’s up?” She asked me. “You look jittery.” We hadn’t seen each other for years and I wondered how she could tell. How did she know this wasn’t just how I was nowadays?
“Oh nothing. Long drive.”
I sat at the table, and she pulled out a flask. Tea.
“You’re a bloody lifesaver.” I said, as she poured two cups. She slid one over to me, and I watched the steam rise from the liquid. “So,” I said, after what seemed like forever.
“So.” she replied.
“What’s been going on?”
She filled me in on the last ten years. So much had happened, in this place I used to call home.
“I never knew what happened to Caroline though.” She said, looking at me. Her hands were still wrapped around the now empty cup. “She moved away, and we lost touch.”
“Do you still keep in contact?” she asked.
I wondered how much to tell her.
“No.” It came out abruptly, I know. I couldn’t help it. “I know what she’s doing though.”
She looked at me, expectantly.
“She had an affair.”
“No way!” Her eyes were wide, and I knew she couldn’t believe it. I didn’t blame her. None of us would have imagined it. Me especially.
“What about Lewis?”
“It was messy. He was devastated.”
“But, but…” She scrambled for words. “They were perfect. They’re still together right? They sorted it out, surely?”
“Shit.” Vic shook her head in disbelief. I’d done the same only weeks before. “Who did she have an affair with?”
I looked at her.
“Martin.” My heart was heavy.
Her eyes widened even more. “WHAT? But. But.” I knew how she felt. I’d felt it too.
I opened my mouth to respond but we both jumped as we heard a loud shout from the woods.
People came running towards us, all dressed in high-vis. These must be the Police Officers, I thought. I’d not had a chance to tell Vic about the guy I’d seen laid in the road about 2 miles back. Surely it had to be connected.
“Hey! Hey!” Thoughts of Caroline and Martin disappeared from my mind as I shouted and waved to the neon-clad army. “HEY!” I shouted, as I grabbed the nearest one. “I saw a guy laid in the road back there. He’d parked a shopping trolley in the path and I’m pretty sure he’s going to ambush people and put them in it.”
“What the fuck? That’s weird.” Vic said.
“I know! Nothing makes sense at the minute.”
I was still holding onto the woman in yellow, and started to walk away, pulling her behind me. “Come on! I’ll show you where he is.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Vic whispered, as she followed.
“Err, excuse me” The woman started to talk but I cut her off.
“Yeah, we’re not far away.” I looked past her at Vic. “It’s complicated.”
“Hey!’ The woman raised her voice, and stopped in her tracks. “Where are we going? Where’s my dog?”
I looked at her, and realised – she wasn’t a Police Officer. “I was just walking my dog. I wear this-” she gestured at her jacket, “-so I can be seen by cars. Can you please let go of my arm?”
“Shit!” I dropped it like a hot potato. ”I’m so sorry!”
She stared at me, Vic stared at her and I looked at them both. Jeez this was awkward. Then the woman started to laugh. Vic laughed. I couldn’t help but join in.
It was good to laugh.