Content warning for death.
Getting to the car is proving to be more of a challenge than you initially thought. Sam is trying to run back to the party you just spent an hour trying to get out of.
‘I need t’ say g’bye t’ everyone.’
‘No, it’s alright. You’ll see them all tomorrow.’
Leading Sam down the steps, you take the keys out of your pocket and unlock the car. Sam has trouble navigating the handle. After a few failed attempts, they look at you like a helpless child. You try to resist their big eyes, but they seem so small after being confronted with such a difficult task.
Rolling your eyes and cracking a smile, you step in. After Sam’s secure in the passenger’s seat, you nudge the door, keeping an ear out for the closing thud as you walk around to your side.
Starting the car, the piercing thumps of disco music make you jump. You slam the radio off, as your head begins to pound. Those drinks were coming back up to haunt you. After your head calms, you shift the car into drive and start the long journey home.
As you leave the comfort of your friend’s farm, the country greets you coldly. Ancient eucalypts loom like gatekeepers over the dirt track. Their twisted branches reached down to move you along, forbidding you from going back. They lead the car to the start of the road. With a final whip of the leaves, they send you down the dark highway.
Night-time awakens the surrounding landscape. The country becomes restless waiting to see what tonight brings. The moon refuses to shine, the dull beams from the car your only source of light.
This stillness causes Sam to lull into a drunken slumber. They begin to drift off, curling themselves up on the seat as they do. Their loose hair drapes across their face, shielding their eyes from the light. One mud-stained shoe extends to the dash. It looks like they’ve found the right position to doze off in, however, the sound of them twisting in their seat tells you they haven’t.
Turning most of your attention to Sam, you try to settle them down. You dart your gaze to the road every second or so to keep the car on track.
‘Hey, you need to calm down,’ you lay your hand on their shoulder.
Sam groans, ‘I don’ feel right. The belt’s in t’ way.’
Their tanned arm moves to the buckle
‘No. Don’t take that off.’
A battle of wits begins. Yelling fills the car as you both stand their ground, unwilling to bend for the other.
The road outside becomes flat and dull. It smooths itself over the land, creating slight turns on the way. The ditch on either side of it starts to open up, the blackness from the bottom oozing out. It consumes all that resides as it heads for the road. A few mangled trees remain to serve as reminders of the dangerous depths on either side. The weak glow of the car draws them in, causing them to jump out in front.
Sam’s fast asleep against the window, their fleece jacket draped over them like a blanket. The seat belt buckle knocks softly against the door frame. You stare straight ahead with a furrowed brow. Giving into Sam’s whims was supposed to stop.
They were the only one who could get you to compromise. You weren’t sure whether they knew it or not, but they seemed quite capable of wielding their gift. This causes the scowl on your face to deepen. You’re not sure if it’s directed at Sam for possessing such power or at yourself for constantly falling victim to it.
Shaking those thoughts from your mind, you bring your focus back to the road.
The winding and the turning gently rock the car. They lull your busy head. The repetitive movement comforts you. The constant speed assures you. You tell yourself there’s nothing to worry about.
Your eyelids become heavy. Your arms and head begin to fall. You drift in and out of consciousness; in and out of your lane.
A small light appears in front of you. It acts as a beacon to drive towards; once you reach it, maybe you can rest for a bit. The glow brightens as you steer the car towards it.
A screeching sound accompanies the light. It drones on and on with no indication of stopping, as it becomes closer. You can hear a voice calling for you to abandon your journey.
The steering wheel is yanked to the left. A blaring horn passes you, jerking you awake. Sam’s scarred knuckles are as white as their face. You regain your composure and take the wheel from them. They stare at you with their big eyes.
‘Are you ok?’
‘Ye…yeah. Sorry. I’m fine,’ you take a shaky breath.
‘Really? I can drive if you want.’
‘No, I’m fine. It won’t happen again.’
Continuing the shallow breathing, you grip the steering wheel and stare out the windscreen. You can feel Sam’s gaze on you.
‘Everything’s good now. Go back to sleep.’
They mumble and you can hear them turn back in their seat again. You flick the radio on again, turning the music up just enough to fill the car, but keeping it low enough to not distract you. The taste of bile reaches the back of your mouth.
You were back to focusing on the road. Just the road. The only thing that would keep you safe was your focus on the road.
You can feel the country closing in on you. Darkness spills out from the sides. The road has it out for you. It wants you off. You know it. You can feel it.
You don’t want to drive anymore, but there’s nowhere to stop.
You want Sam to drive, but you promised them. You promised to drive. You promised to get them home safe.
You think about waking them up; their company would be much appreciated. The music was keeping the silence away, but you wonder if it’s enough. Glancing over to their sleeping mass, Sam looks completely out of it, seatbelt still absent from their toned figure.
You should tell them to put it back on, but it’s not your priority at the moment. You just want to get home as soon as possible. You’ve had enough of tonight. The car senses this and obeys your whims.
The road turns and winds faster through the dark. The trees become blurs and the shadows disappear. Nothing but the road can be seen. The countryside vanishes as you continue.
It’s just you and the road now.
The dashes of white in the middle connect and become a solid line. You move to the centre to follow them, letting them lead you homeward. The road promises to get you there. The road will keep you safe.
It leads the car around turns and over hills. You find yourself giving the car complete control as your head becomes heavy again.
The car doesn’t want to continue and decides to abandon the road. It hits something invisible and jumps. You leave the road and enter the airspace. Trading traction for trajection, you roll and bounce down the ditch like a skipping stone.
You and Sam giggled as you rolled down the grassy hill. At the top, the bottom seemed so closed, but once you started, it took ages to reach it. The grass tickled your exposed skin, giving you rashes and scrapes that remained days after.
You would always beat Sam to the bottom. About halfway, they’d end up going in a whole new direction, finishing in the most outrageous positions. More often than not, they’d end up covered head to toe in grass. It’d take days for them to get rid of it all.
Darkness slowly parts from the bottom of the ditch. The moon chooses to show itself now. The wind gently whispers through the trees, determined to not disturb them as it spreads the news across the country.
A warm liquid drips steadily down your face. Your body screams at you when you try to wipe it away.
Your vision is clouded as you attempt to get out of your seat. The door screeches as you struggle to open it. The cuts on your arms burn as you apply pressure on the button to unclip yourself. Landing with a thud, you crawl away from the wreck. Your right leg isn’t complete enough to allow you to stand.
You inch forward, calling Sam’s name. They must be here somewhere.
And they are. They’re heaped into a pile up the ditch.
Sam’s body folds into itself, a contorted mess of blood and bones and glass. You reach them to find their big eyes wide open. They stare back at you, unable to close. Sam can never use their power on you again. The darkness begins to slowly creep back in.
You promised them. You promised them you’d drive. You promised them you’d get them home safe.
Now look at what you’ve done.
George C is an emerging Brisbane writer finishing her final year of their creative writing major at QUT. With a passion for the pessimistic, she enjoys taking a darker approach to their work than typically recommended for a normal author. George also writes for Blatherskite, the ScratchThat podcast.