Family

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story about a family, or something else.

Submitted: February 14, 2014

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Submitted: February 14, 2014

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The headlights flared, and the car—a small, silver sedan—glided down the highway, its lights cutting through the night with their invasive glow; this glow is the very same one that annoys other drivers going the opposite way when it’s left on. It is always turned off at the right times, but on the few times it wasn’t, the other drivers would angrily smash their horns. They were easy to turn on and off; just a flip of the switch. That was it. No more irritating glow; no more pervasive lights; no more stubborn shine.

Inside was a sort of family. Four people: a man, a woman, a boy, and a girl. “This damned road is so long,” mumbled the man. The woman looked at him, and replied: “It’s a highway. They’re all like this.” The man shook his head, and took a look into the rearview mirror. In that mirror, he saw a boy and a girl. The boy was noticeably older than his female complement. The girl was breathing lightly, softly, and sleeping soundly. The belt swathed around her, preventing unneeded movement. The boy—eyes low, arms crossed—was belted down too, just like the girl. But the boy was awake, unlike the girl; he was very much unable to sleep. The man’s gaze drifted from the mirror and onto the road ahead. The car passed a sign; and he proceeded to read it aloud: “Exit 12-A Morsburg: keep right.”

Such an inconspicuous mode of transportation was the best choice for this family. As the exit came up, the man put his blinker on, flashing the turn signal. The woman solemnly stared out the window. The little girl rustled in her peaceful slumber. She wasn’t able to move much because of her seatbelt. The boy looked over at the girl and closed his eyes, shaking his head slowly. Nobody talked. “Good grief! Glad we’re off that highway, huh?” exclaimed the man to the woman. She didn’t answer him. She just turned back, and looked at the two children. As the car swerved off the exit ramp, the weight from the trunk began to shift. The slide was felt until it reached the opposite side. The boy flinched as it collided with the trunk’s wall, making a dark thump. Now on the back roads, they continued their drive.

“How long until we get there?” asked the woman. It was late. Maybe even early. The man looked at her. “Gee, I dunno,” he said. “Probably another hour or so,” he said. The woman let out a disappointed sigh and turned back to the window. The man’s eyes shifted, once again, to the rearview mirror. The second his stare reached the child, the latter averted his eyes. The man smiled to himself and looked ahead to the road. “We’re almost home,” he assured.

Lights, facing the car, could be seen in the distance. Someone was coming in the opposite direction. The man, quick as ever, flipped the switch and turned his high beams off. As the unknown car drove by, the man closed his eyes, shielding them from the blinding fact that the other driver forgot to turn their high beams off. The boy looked on with his elegiac gaze, watching the car as it flew by. He watched as if he was watching an old friend walk away, knowing they would never come back. “Bah!” the man exclaimed once it had passed, regaining his eyesight. “They left their beams on! People like that need to be put away.” He chuckled to himself, laughing at his own joke, while making sure the silence that filled the car never became too unbearably awkward. The woman turned, facing the man; she forced a smile, her eyes filled with all but happiness. There were no other vehicles, and so the man turned his high beams back on.

Before the switch flipped, the car hit a pothole. The sedan, small as it was, jerked down, up, then out as the wheel slipped into the hole and hit the end. All the while, the weight in the trunk violently wrenched around and, bouncing, it landed with a wet thud that caused the boy to cringe. “Fuck!” the man cursed out loud. “Fuckin’ potholes,” he cursed again. The woman, clearly shaken, looked around. The man, having regained his composure, said to her: “Ah! Awake now, aren’t you?” He said this jokingly, of course, but she was visibly irritated. “Please,” she chided, “watch where you drive.” In the back seat, a new sound could be heard. The little girl had been awakened by the disturbances caused by the jerking and the loud talking. “Where am I?” she asked groggily. “Aw, look! She’s tired,” the man pointed out. He looked at the boy with sharp, piercing eyes. “Could you please put her back to sleep, please?” he asked. The boy looked at the girl with a tender but nervous smile and said: “Hush. Go back to sleep, okay?” His voice was gentler than the gentlest of lullabies, and softer than the softest of clouds. As he spoke, she closed her eyes and fell into her dreams.

The car’s high beams were back on, piercing the night like the brightest of arrows. The light illuminated the world in view: the road in front and the forests on either side. This road was obviously not a major one. “Going this way isn’t very popular, is it?” the man stated. Nobody answered him and he probably never expected anyone to. “But, as they say,” he followed himself up with, “always take the road less travelled!” The woman rolled her eyes and continued to look out the window in silence, staring into the foreboding forest that surrounded everything. This road was perfect for such a family. The man once again took a look into the rearview mirror. The boy, like the woman, was looking out the window with painfully nervous eyes, and the little girl was fast asleep. The boy watched the trees pass by with a gaze full with such longing that the man had to ask him: “What are you looking at?” The boy never answered. He just stared. For the first time, the man accepted the silence, grasped the wheel, and looked ahead.

While the car rolled through the forested path, the night continued to darken, becoming deader than before with every second that passed. The man made sure he was driving four miles under the speed limit. Even given the fact that there were obviously no policemen for miles, getting pulled over would not fare well for such a family. “How much longer?” the woman whined. The man clicked his tongue. “Stop complaining.” He looked at the clock. “No more than 15 minutes.” The woman sighed loudly, crossed her arms, and looked out the window. The man smiled and laughed quietly. “You can be such a little baby.”

A sharp turn came up, seemingly out of nowhere, and the man managed to take it as slow as he could. As the car was going a bit fast, the weight in the trunk once again shifted to the opposite side. The sliding noise could be heard once more and the boy flinched when he heard the dull sound of its complete shift. The man, looking at the boy through the rearview mirror, cocked his eyebrow and, without saying a word, turned the radio on. The music slowly began to permeate throughout the car, loud enough to hear but not loud enough as to wake up a sleeping child. The woman looked over to the driver’s side, puzzled. The man smiled and, without looking away from the road, said: “Ooh, I love this song!” He said this in a hushed voice—at least, as hushed a voice as he could. The boy looked to the front seat and slowly formed his mouth into what could be construed as an uncomfortable smile. The song was one of little novelty; one of those nameless, acoustic?rock-esque songs. It played lightly, and penetrated the uncomfortable silence just as the light from the high beams penetrated the darkness outside. All of this, as the car wheeled its way down the old, back roads through the unliving night. The music played, and the little girl was still sleeping; rustling, smiling and sweetly speaking on occasion. “Mommy!” she would coo quietly. When she said this, the boy would look to the front of the car with sad eyes, and the woman would painfully look away, out the window and into the forest; into the woods. The song ended, and the man turned the radio off.

The car slowly turned into an alcove. “We’re here!” exclaimed the man as everything came to a complete stop. The boy looked around, but it was too dark to see anything. The night was pitch; darkness surrounded, choking the air in a black silence. The sedan was no longer in motion, and all of the lights were turned off. The man and the woman opened the doors. He looked back at the boy and, just before exiting the car, cautioned him: “Don’t you go anywhere, now. We’ll be right back.” The boy was unable to see through the gloom, but the man was smiling. As they shut the doors, a click could be heard, then the sound of the trunk opening. The vehicle tilted forward as the man and the woman, outside, emptied the trunk, relieving the beast of its burden. The girl, formerly in a state of restive slumber, was starting to wake up. Having unpacked the family’s luggage, the man and the woman began another trip. The bags over their shoulders, drooping, they set off, disappearing into the blackness. The boy slowly and quietly pulled the lever, but nothing happened.

The little girl, now awake, yawned quietly, and the boy stared at her with a gaze of hurt. Rubbing her eyes in a tired daze, she turned to him, sleepily, and asked: “Where are my mommy and daddy?” The second those words came out, the boy started to cry. Tears poured from his eyes as if it were on tap. The little girl, surprised by them, looked at the boy. As she looked at him, she smiled a puzzled smile. And in the darkness of the night, the little girl reached out to the crying boy. “Hush,” she said to him, “everything’s ok. You can sleep now.” Her voice was softer than the wind, and gentler than the footsteps approaching the car.


© Copyright 2019 Benjamin Morgan. All rights reserved.

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