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A Short Drive

The car sped along the slick surface of the road. Passing through patches of water it sent a fine spray out from its rear every few seconds. The headlights elongated and made shadows disappear in such quick succession they appeared to be animated. Streetlights flashed off of the brand new metallic paintwork making the car appear almost unreal.

The driver relaxed back in his seat proud of the vehicle which was now his and confident in his abilities even as the speedometer touched 110mph. The driver ran his second red light of the night and carried on seemingly oblivious, his foot easing down  further on the accelerator. For a city that never sleeps a lot of people seemed to be in bed at this time of night, especially on this stretch of road pedestrians were a rarity. He’d passed one late night off-licence about five minutes ago, the owner in the process of clearing away the fruit and veg when the car had gone roaring past, causing him to stop, head turning quickly, a disapproving look on his face.

The car was heading towards a deserted crossroads, now doing 120mph the driver tap tapped the break lightly, then as the light turned from green to amber he put his foot down again – wanting to test the car further, sure that it could make it through the lights easily. One hundred yards. One hundred thousand pounds worth of engineering. One hundred and twenty miles an hour. Easy. The lights were about to go red but there was no longer enough distance to brake. Glancing quickly each way He could see no traffic in either direction. Without a choice the driver’s foot eased down further.

All happening in split seconds: The lights hit red 2-3 seconds before the car went through them. The driver’s eyes were tight in concentration, his mouth in a slight grimace. When, from the corner of his eye he noticed a shadow move quickly, he barely had enough time to focus. It looked to be on the central crossing just ahead when as he went by it disappeared and he heard a thud and felt a bump towards the rear wheels of the car. His wide eyes went quickly to his rear view mirror. His foot let off the accelerator but didn’t go to the break. In the road he could see a lump and some fabric rippling in the wind. Just before he turned the next corner the streetlight at the crossing caught a small pale hand which stood lying out curled against the black asphalt. He felt the panic and fear first in his throat, acidic and wanting release. Then the realisation of what he had done hit him and in his mind he denied what he had seen. He drove on until he saw a dark side road, eyes wide and face pale he stopped the car, opened the door and vomited into the gutter.

Joseph Summers opened his eyes and quickly closed them again. He had neglected to close the curtains before getting into bed and now the sunlight streamed in, stinging his eyes. He rose and sat on the edge of the bed, his head throbbing in his hands. He looked out of the bedroom window onto the drive below, the car sat there – a reminder of his rashness and excitement of the night before. He quickly closed the curtains and prepared for the day ahead.

Summers stepped from his front porch keys in hand ready to drive into work in his new pride and joy but as he stared at it he began to realise what he had done. Nearly one hundred thousand pounds – yesterday in his excitement it had seemed worth it. He had imagined turning into the car park outside his building and the admiring stares from the windows above. Now he felt empty. He walked past the car and up the hill away from town and work. Unsure of where he was going he stared ahead and up into the trees and the cloudless sky. A few puddles still marked the pavement and as the sun glinted off their surfaces something dark flashed through his mind, causing him to shudder. He closed his eyes tightly and the feeling disappeared. He walked faster up the hill and through a grey housing estate of low bungalows and high rise flats. Walking with no destination in mind he soon found himself lost, he looked around him and realised that his surroundings had changed. Now there were large houses set well back from the road behind iron gates. Towering oaks obscured almost all the houses from clear view. Up ahead he could see more trees and the road appeared to open out on both sides onto a park or heath of some sort. As he got closer he saw that there were numerous paths leading into the woods on both sides of the road but the actual pavement ceased – simply running into the grass which, for 15 meters either side, bordered the road before the trees began. In the distance he thought he could hear the twinkling of bells and beneath that something which sounded faintly like the joyous screams of children. Concentrating, he identified which way the sound was coming from and followed the middle right hand path towards it into the thickest part of the woods.

“You have been a very Bad Boy Joseph.” He looked over his shoulder to identify where the voice had come from but there was nobody. The woods had grown darker the further in He had ventured, now with a cloud passing in front of the sun the woods had taken on an eerie aspect which felt altogether artificial.

Who is that!?” He demanded in a voice that he intended to be strong but sounded weak even to his own ears.

He quickly scanned the surrounding woods but could see only the trunks of countless pine trees stretching into the darkness on either side. To his right he suddenly heard giggling and the faint chanting of a song in a childs voice. Turning, he saw something in the gloom darting from tree to tree and getting closer.

His trembling hands reached for his pockets and came out simultaneously one holding a pack of cigarettes, the other a lighter. As a matter of fact, ‘to hold’ would be a generous description for what Joseph was doing with the cigarettes and the lighter, it seemed more like he was trying to balance them on top of a pile of jelly. Needless to say the exercise proved to be futile, in the next instant he found himself crouching in the mud trying to find his possessions without a second thought about the condition of his navy blue pinstripe suit.

“Look at you”. He heard the voice of a little girl addressing him.

Following an unconscious moment of hesitation deciding whether this new encounter was relieving or distressing, he lifted up his head like a confused puppy in a cage. He now faced a little girl with messy auburn hair and large green eyes, wearing a little yellow dress with red boats swimming in all directions.

“Aaaaawww he is sooo cuuuutee!!! Mom! Can we keep him?”.

He looked at the girl, his muddy hand shielding his eyes from the burning afternoon morning sun.

“Teehee you are cute, I am gonna call you… Summers!”

He decided to get to his feet to congratulate the little girl for guessing his name right and tell her to be on her way. But her presence made the fear that was crushing his heart more tolerable, he couldn’t help but humour her.

“Aren’t you a strong boy?!”

Joseph looked up, entirely baffled. The little girl’s patronizing intimacy now slowly getting on his nerves.

“I bet you can carry me all the way home and back!”

Joseph didn’t want to imagine the little girl’s house. It must be like a deserted doll house he thought, with dainty dolls in domestic outfits scattered here and there, with their hair shaved off and beheaded. What kind of little girl would go up to strange men wallowing in the mud and ask them to carry her home? Before he had the time to simmer down his own confusion the little girl with auburn hair and massive green eyes jumped on his back.

Onward Joseph!” She shouted shrilly.

What is the point of arguing with a child he thought, perhaps the reason why something pulled him over here was to be the hobby horse of some little girl with auburn hair and humongous green eyes. The little girl slapped him on the shoulder

“Teehee, faster Jospeh! Faster!”

And they advanced deeper and deeper into the woods. The little girl now in a very pleasant mood, began humming and occasionally singing a tune.

Joseph and Mary walked

through an orchard good

there was cherries and berries

as red as any blood”

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