Drive On

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
How several couples solve their travel problem.

Submitted: March 29, 2015

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Submitted: March 29, 2015

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DRIVE ON

The tunnel opened in front of the drivers entering it, like an enormous black mouth. As one vehicle passed in front of another, it felt as if they were all being sucked into something unknown. The rear lights flashed as they went on down, deep into the interior. Everything was moving so fast, it would have been utterly impossible to say what was happening on either side of the tunnel. No one had their windows open, it would have been courting danger from the pollution emanating from the exhaust pipes. On and on they went, the drivers’ eyes looking straight ahead, never seeing anything else, and desiring above all to see the end of that dark place. The lighting was pitiful, and made it seem more important than ever to arrive at the exit. After what was more like an eternity, the semi-circular shape of daylight came closer. The vehicles that were far ahead were suddenly bathed in a pale light, and not in the dark and dirty interior of the tunnel. There was a natural urge in all those who were exiting to go faster and get out of there as quickly as was possible. From the exterior of the tunnel, it was as if that large round hole was vomiting out all kinds of vehicles, as they were a continuous mess of colours, shapes, and noise. So they shot out of the darkness to return to daylight. For those who had never travelled inside the tunnel it was a horrifying sight, but for those who were habitual users, it was just another day and the same old experience.

 

Dusk was setting when the car was coming out of the tunnel, occupied by Bentley and Mia, who saw something fall onto their car bonnet and fall off. The notice on the side of the road said ‘DRIVE ON’, so they didn’t stop, and continued on their way.

“What do you think it was?” Mia asked Bentley.

“I don’t know, and it’s none of our business. We are not allowed to stop on this road, we have to drive on - no matter what.”

Mia insisted, “Supposing it was a body, then what are we to do about it?”

“Nothing. It’s the local police’s problem,” Bentley replied as he speeded up. They were a couple who had just reached their fifties, and were taking advantage of being child-free to have another one of their innumerable holidays.

 

The body that had bounced from the bridge that was formed over the tunnel, was that of a male of about forty years of age. The local police were permanently stationed in the area of the exit of the tunnel. It was a well-known suicide and murder point. While Bentley and Mia were driving to their destination, the police were getting in touch with a police car near the exit of the tunnel, and informing them of the body that had come from above the bridge.

 

That evening the local television news and radio channels sent out information about the body. Bentley and Mia heard nothing of it, because they were driving on towards the holiday resort where they had booked themselves into a good hotel. They were on holiday and didn’t have any interest in distractions.

 

The road stretched out before Emory and Peyton, who had missed the sight of a body falling onto a car. Emory was, as usual, in a desperate hurry. They had, in fact, just passed an unfortunate coach that was also on its way to the coast. The speed at which he had passed the coach created a terribly turbulent slipstream due to the confined space, which caused the coach driver to lose control of his bus - unbeknown to Emory, who simply carried on driving like a man possessed.

 

The atmosphere inside the coach was happy and relaxed, people were talking and sleeping away the kilometres of road. The coach had had to enter the tunnel, and when about half way through, a car travelling very much faster than it should have been, came up from behind, and was so close that it made the coach rock. The driver of the coach did what he could to keep it straight, but the force was so strong that the coach lurched out of control, and ended up beside the tunnel wall. The car sped off and disappeared into the light of the setting sun, which signalled the end of the tunnel.

 

Emory and Peyton exited the tunnel as if they had been projected by a rocket. Neither of them mentioned the coach. Why should they? They didn’t see what happened behind them. They - drove on.

 

The coach managed to right itself, and the driver rang the travel company. The answer he received was not very helpful. The boss said, “Yes, the tunnel is rather off-putting, but it makes the journey to the south much shorter. Don’t worry about it. We’ll see you’re all right money-wise. Keep us up to date with the tourists and the coach, and yourself of course.”

The driver rang off and got back into his seat and started up again. He did what they all did, and drove on. If any of the passengers were shaken up by the incident, no one said anything. The coach left the tunnel and drove along the same route that the cars had been taking all day - straight to the south.

 

Even though they weren’t inside the tunnel, the traffic was no less, in fact it was quite heavy, and there were lines forming when those who wanted to, were able to leave. The vehicles were moving slower and slower, and those caught up in the growing traffic jam were becoming more and more fretful.

The passengers inside the coach were more relaxed, they didn’t have to worry about getting to their hotel - that was the driver’s job. He turned into the shingled driveway to the car park of a restaurant and petrol station. “All right, everybody. Time for a stretch and refreshments. I’m going for more petrol and water, and if you like, there’s a shop you can walk round, and a cafeteria where they serve hot meals, if you want one, or they serve fresh sandwiches and all kinds of drinks. We’ve got a forty-minute break as the journey is so long. If you take my advice, eat now, and you’ll feel a lot better, as we still have many kilometres to go. OK?”

They nodded and grunted their agreement, and all of them went off in different directions to spend money and time, till they had to board the coach again.

It wasn’t long before the restaurant was busy in all its services. The hot food proved to be most popular, and some bought sandwiches to eat on the coach, just in case, or to eat in the hotel on arrival. Drinks were purchased in abundance, as everyone knows being thirsty is worse than feeling hungry. Outside in the car park, more and more coaches were arriving and leaving. The restaurant was making a fortune with all the travellers. The driver had a hot dinner and coffee, and bought a new bottle of water - as did many of the passengers. Those who had already eaten were standing outside, getting a bit of fresh air while eating an ice-cream. Some of the passengers, especially those who had never travelled by coach before, kept a faithful eye on the driver, so that when he got up to leave - so did they.

Night had almost arrived when they resumed their places inside the enormous vehicle. The second driver took over, and the first one rang headquarters to let them know that everything was all right. As they left the car park with other similar vehicles, they all saw the notice ‘DRIVE ON’. And they did. Into the night.

 

Bentley and Mia were too keen to get to their hotel and didn’t stop for food and drink. They had packed picnic food, which is all right for emergencies, but not for the stress of a long haul. Bentley had lost his job and he made that a permanent excuse for being tight-fisted. Mia was still employed and, at fifty years old, had no worries, only that she wasn’t keen on hearing Bentley’s constant moaning. Mia was getting a headache and took out a paracetemol and swallowed it down with water from a bottle she had taken from home that morning. They drove on. Bentley hardly said a word, he was fed up and tired. He had never imagined that driving so far could have turned out to be so exhausting. They passed notice after notice saying, ‘DRIVE ON’, ‘BE CAREFUL’, even ‘DON’T FALL ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL’. At times Bentley felt his eyes getting heavy, and he got Mia to give him a drink of water, or coffee from the thermos, which by that time was rather revolting.

“Why don’t we stop and have a proper rest? That’s what the coach drivers do, and then carry on till the end of the journey,” Mia suggested.

“Don’t bother me with trivialities. We are supposed to get to the hotel at eight o’clock, and that’s what I intend to do,” Bentley said, with his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

 

Emory and Peyton saw a petrol station with a restaurant, and made a stop. They were not as anxious as Bentley about arriving at the hotel exactly at the hour stated on the booking papers. “What do you fancy, a hot meal or salad or a sandwich?” Peyton asked.

“First of all, I’m going to wash my hands, and then we can see what’s on offer.”

They cleaned themselves up and went inside the restaurant, where they joined a long queue for the self service. They had macaronis, and a steak and chips. “That should keep the wolf from the door for a while,” Emory declared, after clearing the ketchup from his plate with a piece of bread. They had a large cup of tea and then, after a short rest, went to look around the shop. Peyton bought some bars of chocolate and bottles of water. Emory, who appreciated his stomach as being an important part of his anatomy, purchased packets of crisps, and tiny salted biscuits, and a small piece of cheese.

“Emory, we’re unable to get to the hotel tonight. Can we stay in an hotel or hostel on the road?” Peyton asked.

“That sounds like a pretty good idea. I don’t fancy driving all night, and as you just said, that if it’s not on the cards our getting to the hotel tonight. I’ll phone them and let them know where we are.”

 

The vehicles were unable to stop once on the ‘DRIVE ON’ road, they had to continue till the end.

Randall and Aurora had started out much later than the vast majority who were on the road. They entered the tunnel when it wasn’t quite so full, and just continued on and on. They had their eyes looking ahead, and missed out on a man running behind another man in the tunnel. That meant they never saw the metal flash as the pursuer closed in on his victim, and stabbed him mortally. The other drivers in the tunnel at the same time as Randall and Aurora, never saw anything either. Most important of all, they never saw the killer climb back into his car and join the rest of the line passing through the tunnel.

Darkness had almost descended on the exit and the road ahead, when Randall and Aurora finally found themselves outside. Travelling through the tunnel wasn’t a pleasant experience, in fact it was claustrophobic. Aurora switched on the air conditioning, in order to feel some fresh air on her face. They saw ‘DRIVE ON’, and Aurora asked Randall, “What does it mean?”

“It means you don’t stop, you keep on going. Why?”

“Nothing. I just wondered, that’s all.”

Aurora and Randall had been partners for five years and were still young enough to have children, but the economic climate was prohibitive for that. The holiday by car wasn’t their original idea, it had so happened that what they wanted had been booked up months ago, and therefore they had been left without a place to go that appealed to them, and they were both loathe to stay at home for two weeks.

The petrol station and restaurant were lit up for night time when they got there. The sight of the bright lights was like an oasis in the desert for them. They got out of the car after filling it up, and went for a wash and brush up. Aurora was feeling dreadful and told Randall, who went up to the manager of the shop and asked where they could spend the night.

“There are rooms with bathrooms at the back, and you can leave the car right by the room.”

Randall, who was sick and tired of driving for the day, said, “Fine. We’ll take one of the rooms. What time does the restaurant open in the morning for breakfast?”

“We never close. People are coming and going all night long. When you’re ready, I’ll show you your room,” the manager told Randall, who felt relieved that Aurora had thought of a good way of spending the night.

They went for dinner first and then went to their room, which had a lovely shower with hot water. After they had both showered, they got into bed, and Randall switched on the television. It wasn’t long before they were fast asleep, oblivious of everything. Driving at night doesn’t appeal to everyone, and the rooms at the petrol station were soon booked up by other tired and weary drivers. The manager was pleased because for the first time in months he was fully occupied.

 

At around midnight the traffic almost came to a halt, except for those driving lorries and coaches that had to keep going all night, so as to get to their far away destinations early in the following morning. None of those spending the night in the motel were aware of the body that had gone over the bridge, or the murder perpetrated in the tunnel. They were nice and cosily tucked up in bed, fast asleep.

 

The coach driver made good time and got his precious cargo to their hotel at the official time. It was half-past seven when the coach pulled in at the hotel. A light shower was falling, but this was not an impediment to the travellers. They got out slowly and gingerly, stiff after so many hours sitting. The sound of their trolley cases rattling across the pavement from the coach to the hotel entrance woke them up, and was a joyful noise to those who worked in the hotel. One by one they were signed in, and given their room keys. In five minutes the entrance hall was empty of tourists and their luggage. The dining-room of the hotel was busy and only those who had a key to a room were able to get a meal. The bar was also doing good business, and those who preferred something light for dinner, ate and drank there.

The shower had become a hailstorm, and nobody was keen on going out in such bad weather. Some of the tourists asked whether the weather was usual for the time of year. But the waiters and other members of the staff shrugged their shoulders, as if to say, ‘What’s up? Weather is weather!’

 

Bentley and Mia weren’t worried on seeing the rain, but that attitude changed when it became hail. Bentley drove on and on. Mia said, “Don’t you think we’d better stop? The visibility is almost down to the minimum, and you continue. Please stop, and let’s find somewhere to rest till the storm has stopped.”

Her words fell on deaf ears, and Bentley drove faster and faster, till the car was skidding on the ice. Mia was frightened. She knew that once Bentley had made a decision there was no stopping him. She looked at her watch and saw that it was ten minutes to eight. How far away was the hotel? Why the rush?

The road was like a skating rink and all the vehicles were skidding around all over the place, totally out of control. Then they began bumping into each other like bumper cars. Mia was very upset and couldn’t think how they were going to come out of such a dangerous situation. One car ahead of them went into another one, and then another one entered the fray, and then Bentley, furious that he couldn’t get to the hotel at eight o’clock, rammed into the one in front, and behind them came another.

The traffic police were called to the scene and what they saw was a pyramid of piled up cars and other vehicles. “How do we get the passengers out of this mess?” asked one policeman.

“We call the fire brigade and tell them the situation, meanwhile we cordon off the road, and ring up all the hotels and motels around, to make sure no one comes this way till it’s all been cleared.”

It was all a sorry sight, and being at night made everything more difficult. The hailstones had covered the road with ice, worsening the work of the rescuers. Ambulances arrived as well, and slowly the victims were removed from the twisted metal. The firemen had to cut through the crushed car bodies, to get at those who were trapped inside. It took all night before everyone, dead and alive, was accounted for.

 

Bentley’s chest received the full impact of the steering wheel on hitting the car in front of him. He died. Mia was taken to hospital with broken bones and shock. When asked why she and her husband hadn’t turned back when the hailstorm had started, she had answered, “My husband was a tightwad, and the hotel had offered everyone who arrived at about eight o’clock or a little after, would be given free cocktails and a dinner. That’s what it was all about.”

The police found it hard to believe their ears, till they heard what some of the other victims had to say on the subject.

 

Randall and Aurora went into the restaurant for breakfast and, on finishing, the manager called for everybody’s attention. “Good morning, everyone. I hope you all slept well. I’m afraid you won’t be able to resume your journeys to the resort, due to a serious accident that took place last night in a hailstorm. Some escaped being killed, but others were not so lucky. So, if you’ll be patient, we’ll be giving you updates on the road traffic situation. Thank you.”

Randall stared at Aurora and said, “Shall we turn back and find somewhere else or shall we go home? We’ve been lucky that we stayed here overnight, or today we might be dead or in hospital. What do you think?”

“I think we should go home. I never liked the idea of going by road anyway. Come on, let’s pay the manager and leave. We can be home by teatime,” Aurora said to her weary husband.

 

Emory and Peyton had spent the night at a small hotel they had found off the road. It was quite comfortable and warm, and they both enjoyed the extras - like the minibar and the toiletries. Peyton, who loved comfort, was quite happy to delay returning to the car and the road.

 

The next morning, by the time they found their way downstairs to the dining-room, it was late. They went into the breakfast room and waited while their breakfast was being prepared. Neither of them was in a hurry, and then the television was turned on, and they saw what had taken place the night before in the hailstorm. The two of them had been so tired, that they had gone to bed as soon as they had been given the key, and on top of it, they had slept like logs.

The manager told them, “No one is allowed to travel on this road to the resort and will have to find another way, which is on a slower road, or turn back. It’s up to the individual to make the decision.”

They stood outside the hotel and both said in unison, “Let’s go home.”

 

The accident had caused an unpleasant taste in the mouths of the car travellers and they weren’t keen on driving on. Look at what had happened!

 

The tourists who had gone by coach, felt rather odd that morning. They had already had one incident in the tunnel, and now they were not at all sure of what might happen next.

 

The man, in fact, had not fallen off the bridge, but had been thrown off, and was pronounced dead on the spot.

 

The murderer in the tunnel got his comeuppance in the hailstorm accident. Also dead.

 

Did anyone enjoy their holiday after - driving on?


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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