SHORT STORY: Driving into a new life...

Thursday May 05 2022
Black smoke emitted by a car in a ditch

She released the handbrake, stood back and let gravity do the rest, watching with a wry smile as her car rolled slowly off the cliff into the valley. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Hollow, empty, like a tree trunk whose insides had been carved out by time, maintaining a beautiful façade but incredibly fragile. That’s how Emily had been feeling for a while. Life had been a highway, a straight road with barriers on either side so high it was as if she were driving through a tunnel, just going and going.

But to where? She wasn’t sure. All she knew was, she had to get off this road.

“Moon?” Emily asked. Her voice was dull, without an inflection of emotion. “I need some papers.”

Her breathing was shallow and there was not an ounce of nervousness in her body.

“And before you say you don’t know what I’m talking about, I represented you a few years back and I know for a fact you were guilty.”

“Em…” Matt aka Moon started to say, but Emily cut him off sharply.


“No names! Now yes or no?” Emily was in a hurry. “And today, Moon, or I’ll take my money elsewhere.”

“Yes,” Matt replied, “This afternoon? I’ll need pictures of course.”

“Check your WhatsApp.”

Emily cut him off again, hanging up after her clipped reply. She quickly sent him photos via the messaging app. She had to go or she would be late.


It was a surprisingly short drive to her office. Once inside the impressive stone and glass skyscraper, Emily mingled easily with hundreds of lawyers walking about briskly. She had worked there so long she could navigate the complicated corridors with her eyes closed.

“Sir?” Emily’s voice was robotic and detached.

“Ah, yes, Emma is it?”

He was one of the three managing partners at the law firm.

“Come in.”

“It’s Emily, actually,” she said firmly, declining his request to sit with a slight shake of her head. He was not used to being turned down.

“What’s the issue?”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth as he plopped himself into his chair.

“I quit,” Emily said, ignoring the bulging of his eyeballs. “Today,” she continued. “I’m on a road I don’t like, and I’m getting off it,” she finished, turning on her heels as the managing partner found his tongue and began to shout at her retreating back.

“Your contract isn’t over! You can’t leave! We’ll sue you!”

“I’m a lawyer,” she called over her shoulder. “I know how it works.”

Taking nothing with her, she was out of the building in minutes. Feeling the hot sunshine on her hands, she drove carefully through twisted, narrow roads that were more pothole than tarmac. She finally arrived at a row of nondescript high-rise apartments where half-naked barefoot toddlers ran about outside, scolded by tired looking women.

Emily remembered Moon’s apartment well. He had been her first pro-bono case, her foray into a gritty world she had read about but never truly believed existed.

The papers were ready and he simpered as he offered her a number of other dubious services, impressed by the thick wad of cash she handed him as she hurriedly made her exit.

The next morning, a cold drizzle welcomed the dawn. Despite the millions of icy droplets that fell unceasingly, Emily was warm as she packed everything she needed into the boot of her car. She wanted to be on the road before traffic built up, but first she had a short stop to make.

Swinging off the highway into a petrol station where she was a regular, she walked into the adjacent convenience store and bought two bottles of whisky, ignoring the judgmental eyes of the attendant. Then she was off, driving recklessly down the highway before swerving onto a winding road that hugged a steep rocky cliff that dropped off into a beautiful valley.

There was almost no traffic here, just the desolate keening of the wind and several kilometres of empty road, perfect for her plan.

Emily stopped her car and got her things out, before unscrewing both bottles of liquor and dousing the car’s cabin with them, tossing the empty bottles on the floorboards.

She released the handbrake, stood back and let gravity do the rest, watching with a wry smile as her car rolled slowly off the cliff into the valley, crashing into a ball of fire and spouting thick black smoke.

Next, she took out a wig from her bag, in a short bob style, and drew it over her long hair which she had braided the night before.

Then hoisting her heavy bag onto her back, she began walking away. Her boss would remember her saying she wanted to “get off this road”, the petrol station attendant would recall her buying alcohol, other motorists would say they saw her speeding, and everyone she had dealt with recently would mention her apathetic state.

They would find the mangled wreck of her car, and that would be it.

Emily, with a new identity thanks to the forged papers from Moon, would disappear. Her plan had gone no further than this.

As she walked, Emily noticed that the hollow space in her chest was now filled with excitement.