This is an excerpt from my upcoming short story, Exit 1042. This is just a little hint of what’s to come.
The long stretch of road had been too much for Derrick. He closed his eyes and leaned back into the passenger headrest.
The hum of the engine and rubber on the pavement were only broken by the sound of Sara’s fingers tapping lightly on the steering wheel.
Tap tap tap.
He knew the rhythm well. Once with the first finger. Twice with the second. Three times with the third and on through to the fourth.
Normally, her sonorous drumming annoyed him.
Today it was strangely comforting. He couldn’t think why.
Perhaps it was because it reminded him of his daughter Alice?
Derrick frowned, and closed his eyes.
For a moment his daughter was alive again in his mind. A mere glimmer. But inside that flash, folded tight as an origami puzzle, lay all the pain in the world.
Sweet Alice. Wise beyond her seven years. Velvet pantsuit with tiny blue flowers for buttons.
Blue flowers to match those in the favorite field she played in. Fat bumblebees buzzing from flower to flower.
How could he have been so naive? The highway had always been too close.
He grimaced and opened his eyes, hearing a loud semi’s horn fading.
“You okay?” Sarah asked, barely audible over the hum of the engine.
“Yeah, I’m good,” he nodded.
His voice croaked as he spoke. He coughed uncomfortably to clear his throat.
“Hungry,” he added. “That’s all.”
Her hand left the steering wheel and squeezed his. Sara pointed to the exit.
“1042,” she said. “Next exit is 62 miles and we’re running out of gas,” she told him. “There was a sign back there for a diner and fuel station. We could grab a bite before we get to the hotel.”
Derrick agreed, falling silent. Alice hadn’t died in a car accident. Alice had drowned in the lake, and he hadn’t been able to save her. His brain killed her thousands of times in different milieus. Torture by the sea, torture by abduction. Shots fired, flash floods, Hantavirus.
Years of therapy changed nothing. The coffin was sealed, and unless there was an afterlife, his daughter was lost.
Exit 1042 is now available for purchase on Kindle. Add it to your end-of-summer reading and win the satisfaction/feeling of accomplishment of having read something.