SHORT STORY: Part I - Things go bump in the night

Thursday September 12 2019

Two bright lights suddenly pierced through the mist behind her, illuminating the cabin of her car and coming toward her fast.

Two bright lights suddenly pierced through the mist behind her, illuminating the cabin of her car and coming toward her fast. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA 

NADYA SOMOE
By NADYA SOMOE
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It was a miserable evening. Dark and dreary with a cold drizzle that had been falling incessantly all day, now turned into a steady downpour that obscured everything in a haze of grey. Salome drove with both hands on the wheel, her eyes peeled on the slick road ahead.

Her mind however, miles away.

It had been such a successful day for her organisation! They had finally won a petition to stop oil exploration in a pristine, marine reserve; a case they had been fighting for years now.

She half smiled remembering the elation in the courtroom, the howls of joy from the weary activists who had been feeling like they were fighting a losing battle… But then, victory!

Her lips turned up in a full bodied smile at that pleasant though. She really couldn’t contain herself.

“We won!” she laughed out loud, “We actually won! Whooa!”

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Banging on the steering wheel in her moment of exuberance, the car jerked to the right suddenly and as she quickly righted herself, her eyes glanced up into her rear view mirror. What was that? Was that a car behind her? There were no headlights, just the ghostly pale shadow of what looked like a car, looming in the cold mist and rain.

Mind games

Slightly uneasy now, her eyes darted back and forth between the road in front of her and the rear-view mirror… something was there in the darkness behind her and she was starting to feel tendrils of panic creep up her chest.

“Breathe,” she whispered to herself, as her mind sped through all possible scenarios and outcomes. Deciding on a whim she had to know if that was a car at all, and if it was, was it actually following her, Salome floored the gas pedal and shot forward into the mist.

Concentrating fully on driving and staying on the road in the treacherous conditions, she did not look up for a few seconds but when she did, there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing she could see, however hard she strained her eyes.

Slowing down, she breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“Nerves,” she murmured, “that idiot has me jumpy and…”

She never finished her sentence. Two bright lights suddenly pierced through the mist behind her, illuminating the cabin of her car and coming toward her fast.

Salome powered into primal instinct. Switching off her lights, she pressed down on the accelerator, her hands taut on the wheel; her whole mind in defensive mode now.

Thankfully, she had used this road countless times, what with how many times she had had to appeal the petition. So, she swerved to avoid potholes that were virtually invisible, turned on bends she knew were there even though she could see practically nothing now.

“I am not sure you understand; you will pay for this…”

That idiot. That idiot, with his sneering face and contemptuous attitude for the environment, the one she’d been fighting against for so long now… had threatened her countless times before, but since he’d never believed she could win, could today’s victory have pushed him to act?

Avengers

Salome’s mind churned as she sped along, they had already won the case, what could he hope to accomplish by hurting her now? Revenge, pure and simple. He had lost a lucrative investment, he was hurting and he was going to make her hurt too.

It was getting darker, if that could even be possible. Twilight was definitely settling in, the incessant rain now strengthening into a small storm.

As she sped along, she could vaguely make out the forest on either side of her, tall silhouettes of trees that as she whipped past, blurred to form one solid dark wall. Every now and then, Salome glanced up from the road. The car behind wasn’t gaining on her, but she wasn’t losing it either. They had her in their sights and they were keeping up. All alone on this lonely road, how would she get out of this?

Cornered mouse

“Think Salome, think!” she urged herself, feeling on the edge of desperation. The road ahead stretched for maybe another 38km before joining a busier highway where she would be safe.

Question is: Could she out-run them that long? Glancing at her rear view mirror, she saw how close they were shadowing her. ‘Nope’, she thought, ‘I’ll never make it.’

So what now?

Distracted with the conundrum she found herself in, she lost focus and hit a huge pothole, almost veering off the road. Breathing heavily as she regained control, her mind snapped to attention as an idea formed. The pothole! If she remembered correctly, that huge pothole she’d just hit was only a kilometre or so away from a sharp bend in the road, a notorious blackspot that turned suddenly off to the left with no warning.

That, would be her chance.

It’s a funny thing, survival. One would never suspect they would be hurtling down a dark, wet road, with their headlights turned off, towards a blackspot…in order to save themselves! The humour of it was not lost on Salome, she gave a wry smile as she squared her shoulders and stepped on the gas. Adrenaline was king now, every nerve in her body was alive, she could feel her pulse in her throat, behind her eyes, in the fingers gripped tight on the wheel.

“It should be right about…four, three, two,” she counted down, “…now!”

Salome inhaled sharply as she braced herself for the impact as she stepped dead on the brakes.

Fireballs

The wheels protested and screamed shrilly and crunched against the road as the car fought to flip over from the sudden loss of momentum.

Salome ground her teeth and fought harder, bringing it to a dead stop smack in the middle of the road. She had only seconds now. With an efficiency that didn’t betray the absolute panic gushing through her system, she unbuckled herself, found her arms and legs and leapt out of the car and sprinted wildly towards the cover of the forest.

She heard the roar of an engine and sensed rather than saw powerful headlights break out the darkness of the mist.

A heartbeat later, just as she dived behind the treeline, a massive crash sounded, reverberating and shaking the ground as her pursuers ploughed headlong into her deserted car.

A massive fireball lit up the night, illuminating the area in a brilliant flash of light that disappeared as fast as it came, leaving only the glowing red of fire that left ghostly shapes dancing eerily on the forest canopy.

She thought she heard whimpering, but then her heart was pounding so loudly she might have been mistaken.

But a wariness washed over her and she sought to create as much distance as she possibly could with her current surroundings.

Salome lifted one leaden foot and followed it with the other. Both hands outstretched to guide her, she crept away gingerly, feeling her path past twigs, dead leaves and night creepy-crawlers rather than actually seeing her way.