Well my dear followers, my prompt for today does not fit in with where the story is headed – should that mean I abandon John to his fate to your howls of annoyance or simply add another post to today’s challenge?
Obviously I add another post.
If you are new to this blog and want to catch up with the story so far please go back two days to – Fear, read that and next read Favourite, finally tootle on by here to read day three of John’s worst day so far…. the links are at the bottom of the page.
As John pulled out of his parking space he still had an uneasy sense that someone was following, or at the very least watching him. Was this his overdeveloped sense of drama after years of writing, or a reality he asked himself checking in the rear-view mirror for the fifth time in a minute. There were other cars on the road, but whether any were truly about to follow him he had no real idea.
Punching the address of the cabin into the SatNav John saw that it would take him about an hour to get there, an hour he thought could be too long for Karen, and with the snowfall picking up and settling well on the ground he thought an hour was looking on the bright side.
It could only have been John’s bad luck that saw him battling through the rush hour traffic of the city. Progress was slow, and it seemed that every set of traffic lights he came to were against him, turning red just before he, or more often than not the car in front, could rush through them. When this happened for at least the fifth time John thumped his fists heavily on the steering wheel in ultra-frustration.
John neared the edge of the city half an hour later. By this time it looked like the snow was settling in for the night. His wipers were driving the snow backwards and forwards across his windscreen while the chill in his head and heart had nothing to do with the weather.
Eventually the traffic petered out and John was able to pick up a bit of speed. ‘At last’ he thought to himself. Trying to remain aware of the city speed limits and the falling snow he was starting to move much more quickly toward his destination. Suddenly he heard the wail of a police siren and saw a police car barrelling down on him flashing their head-lights as they came.
“I don’t believe this,” he said out loud slapping the steering wheel once again as he slowed and started to pull over. He didn’t think he was speeding and had no idea why the police would be after him. The car had only had a service a week ago so there couldn’t be anything visible that they were stopping him for.
As he pulled to the curb the police car overtook him and pulled over just in front of him. Not only did they turn in front of him but they carried on going into the small side-street just ahead of where John had stopped. It wasn’t him they were interested in after all. Sitting in his car, at the kerb, to collect himself John noticed how much his hands were shaking. He checked the clock. It had now been almost forty minutes since he had left home and the SatNav was suggesting that his journey was still going to take him another forty five minutes. A journey that should have taken him fifteen minutes had been more than doubled by the traffic and the weather.
Pulling back out into the road John put his foot down on the accelerator and headed out of the city. Checking in the rear-view mirror yet again he noticed just three more cars behind him. He made a mental note of each. He still wasn’t sure he wasn’t being followed, although he could think of no reason why anyone would ever want to follow him, especially on a night like this was turning out to be.
Gradually the city fell behind and the countryside took full domain of the roadsides. This meant there was no longer any street lighting. Without the glare of the city’s street-lamps the night became blacker while the snow fell covering everything in it’s path creating a monochrome landscape, which at any other time may have been romantic. On this particular night it only heightened John’s sense of panic and settled the well-grown fear deep into his bones.
All of a sudden a voice pierced the silence, making John recoil into himself and utter a high-pitched yelp.
“…right in two hundred meters,” the voice said.
It was simply the SatNav advising the next turn. Normally John travelled with the machine in silent mode, finding the voice tiresome and annoying, and had done so far on this journey. He had no idea what had made it suddenly switch to ‘voice-mode’ and whilst he had been scared almost witless he couldn’t help but laugh at his reaction, even though it indicated just how tightly his nerves were wound. Leaning forward he turned the machine back to silent. He didn’t want the distraction, the visual prompts were more than enough for him.
Checking the clock John could see that he had about another fifteen minutes before he arrived at the cabin. Looking through the windscreen past the wipers at the deepening snow he considered it might be nearer twenty if he was lucky.
John checked the gauges on the dashboard, primarily to see what the temperature was like outside. Noting that it had dropped to below zero he thanked his lucky stars that he had thrown a jacket onto the backseat before he left. At the same time his eyes alighted on the fuel gauge. With dismay he noticed that it was rapidly dropping towards the red line. From the trusty SatNav he could see that within the next mile there was a service station. He mentally crossed his fingers hoping it would be open and that luck may still be on his side.
A few minutes later John saw the bright lights like a beacon in the snow and pulled over to refill the car’s fuel tank. He had hardly stopped at one of the pumps before opening the door and jumping out. He knew time was of the essence and didn’t want to waste a second. As he filled the fuel tank he heard again the disembodied scream which had ended Karen’s call. Shivering from the cold weather and the thoughts he was conjuring he dropped the nozzle back in its holder and moved towards the booth to pay.
As he crossed the forecourt fumbling in his pocket for his wallet a car screeched into the service station and sped towards him with intent. ‘What the…?’ John thought as the car’s headlights suddenly turned from normal to full-beam.
It was clear the driver had no intention of stopping, and it looked like John was the car’s target. Without further thought John threw himself hard against the cash-booth smashing his face against the glass with a resounding crack as he did so. The car carried on its way, passing right through the service station back to the road, disappearing into the night.
“Did you…?” John spluttered towards the woman who was regarding him as if he were some kind of bug squashed on her windscreen.
“I did,” She smiled at him placidly, “And don’t you worry none. It’ll just be the village kids having a bit of a lark. They meant you no ill, I’m sure. There’s not a lot for them to do out here, and it ain’t safe for them to go into the city at night.”
John couldn’t believe what he had heard. He wasn’t sure he believed the old woman’s explanation either. At the back of his mind he still had a feeling he was being followed and was sure he’d seen that very car over an hour ago, back in the city, when this nightmare journey had begun.
He dropped enough notes to cover the price of the fuel into the tray, turned on his heels and threw himself back into his car. Starting the engine he too sped out of the service station. He had lost too much valuable time, time he, or rather Karen,didn’t have.