So this post is more fiction than fact, though there is fact interwoven, my imagination did get a little hyperactive…
…It was near midday when we arrived. Coming down the highway, going up the Eastern coast on the Australian map, it was a pretty standard section of the highway. Plain, grey tarmac, with white lines down the sides and middle, some dotted and some solid. The car, follows, gently rounding each corner, with a firm grip and a grace-like performance. I feel calm as I look out the window, up into the sturdy, solid, skinny trees. I don’t know their names. I don’t know what they are, but the light that streams through their dry yet most like atmosphere, is almost magical. It twinkles, almost. It dazzles, definitely. And it highlights the leaves on the trees; skinny and long and dry, some green, some pale brown.
In the front seat and the back, family members Mum, Dad and Bro, were totally arguing about something. Left, right, back, forth, they argued about whether it the upcoming turn, the one after, or the one passed. It was just an ordinary argument, one of an annoyed driver, who needs, desperately, to know which is the road to turn off, and which isn’t, not “oh, maybe it was that” or “Darling, it was that one!” One was a passenger seat driver, whose past time was to not really pay attention, even though she was paying attention, and then make comments, that were relevant, but in the long run, not really useful, because they were always a moment too late. And the other, happened to be looking at the roughly drawn map, trying his best to pinpoint the relevant roads to the ones that had passed. Overall, he was failing.
As for me, I couldn’t help the tingling, unsettled feeling that was creeping up my arms. I snatched the paper from my Bro and looked at the ballpoint drawing. Its crass, and bland, with a line or two there representing roads leading off the curly squiggly of the main highway.
And I said, ‘Go back. We passed it,’ but it’s like I’m being ignored. And I think, oh who cares? But I watch, this scene is too friendly, too normal to be comfortable. I feel the change in the air, the darkening of the sky, the uncomfortable feeling welling in my gut as I turn my head back to the window. I feel a little dizzy as I watch the forest slipping past me, their lower half covered in black from some hell bent fire.
I remember the stupid movie I’d watched a few nights before. Advertised as some kind of thriller, I expected a thrilling ride, only to discover it was a rather low budget two character film set in an isolated camping place, ending in a murder suicide. Oh yeah, did I mention the dugong that was dragged to the campsite, with no explanation whatsoever, except that it was a plot device for scaring the second main character? And, that’s right, the dog is the only one who survives, purely because he’s left behind in the car when his owner runs mad with fear, right up to the point where he’s smashed to gory bits by an oncoming trucker. Lame. Except when the car I’m travelling pulls to the side of the two lane highway, on a rather rounded curve, not particularly dangerous, but still, I’m unsettled by the thought of highway horror crashes.
Dad takes out his phone and dials, while our pup is wandering around the car looking for a nice view of her owner. For some time she’d been out, car sick, sleeping in front of the air-con with her folded ears sticking up. She was an energetic little thing. But it isn’t until later, when I’d feel unsettled by her constant state of unsettledness.
The highway is barren, a car or two passes every so often. Even the car and caravan that’s been with us most of the way pass us. We’ve speculated several times on the destination of that car, but we never found out. Still, it was a past time. But now that we were lost, at the end of our journey, I think we’re all a little stressed.
I watch carefully as my dad talks on the phone outside. He’s walking around smoking, talking loudly like there’s a problem with the speaker on his phone. My bro looks a little worn, and my mum is teasing the pup. But I’m queasy, so I open my wind a little. What if I was wrong? What if the road we had to go to was too small to spot? Where are we going?
My dad looks a little pissed. And several more cars pass us on the highway, each one rattling our car as they fly by. I grip the door, a little panicked, but okay. That is, until one passes too close to us, just as my dad hangs up his phone…