Prose Header


by John Saxton

He hurtles through the night, trapped behind tear-stained glass. The cold wind sings death lyrics through the torn metal of riven wings and hood.

Tires fluctuate between humming and screaming on wicked-slick road surface, as the nightmare journey twists and turns. Lights blaze; horns blare; cars, vans, trucks swerve madly to avoid conjoining with his engine.

Hamilton Perry’s hands are not always on the wheel. They alternate between that and clawing at the jammed seat belt, which holds him trapped like a fly in a jar, covering his terrified eyes and tearing at his thick black hair.

He has to see Iona. Now he clasps his hands together in a child-like gesture of prayer, as he cries out loud, unashamedly, to any god that is willing to listen.

She waits for him at home, where the candles are lit, and the children are bathed and now snug in their nightclothes, waiting for Daddy to come home from the heavy-vehicle rental company. He’s worked late a lot recently. But he’ll hug them, as he always does, before reading their bedtime story. They are very much loved; the devoted father’s twin boy and girl.

On he speeds, heading the wrong way up the 3-lane motorway. Straight up the middle lane. His heart hammers the chaotic rhythm of his fear. His suit is soaked with a cocktail of cold sweat and urine: such is his terror.

Hamilton Perry stamps on the brake pedal and hauls on the handbrake. Wheels obediently lock and the tires squeal, a choir of frantic lost souls. This new sound combines with the melee of horns and blinding lights and shattering glass and twisting metal, as the oncoming vehicles veer off to their own demise, tangling with each other and the central reservation.

He has to get home. Has to tell her that Ruth meant nothing. He’s finished the affair; he’s even terminated her contract as his Personal Assistant today. She’s out of his life. But he can’t forget the hurt in Iona’s eyes. It’s burned into his brain.

The tickets flap wildly on the passenger seat: Dominican Republic — 3 weeks, 2 adults, 2 children. Tomorrow. A chance to put things behind them.

An oncoming hubcap breaks free and skims like a discus, imploding the windshield. Roaring air, like the breath of corpses, assaults his face and upper body. Multiple needles of rain stab at him without mercy. Now all noise is intensified. He turns his eyes down from the blast of the hissing gale. His desperate gaze locks on to the speedometer. It registers zero. But his BMW exceeds 100, with the brakes full on.

The juggernaut had rammed him with such force that he had smashed through the central barrier. No more than a minute ago, yet the ordeal feels to have lasted a lifetime.

His eyes are drawn upwards to the weirdness of the sight that now approaches. Three large trucks, neck and neck in each of the three oncoming lanes, thunder towards him, headlights dazzling.

No room for manoeuvre.

This is it.

Time slows...

Noise ceases. A blanket of silence descends. The airline tickets now dance in slow motion; the trucks come at him one frame at a time.

Images float across his brain. There’s Ruth, naked and supine on black satin sheets, her alluring flesh pale in contrast. Her moistened mouth is slightly open and their lips meet in the heat of passion. They gasp for breath, bodies slick with sweat — and the pleasure is intense, fiery, electric.

The memory is replaced in an instant, by the trusting, innocent faces of his children. The mental picture pans out to show them splashing around in the crystal surf of the Mediterranean. Silvery, warm sand bears their tiny footprints. Sitting cross-legged, on a plain blue towel that mimics the sky, is his wife. She is reading a book, her eyes shaded by sunglasses. Her lightly tanned face lifts to look up at him.

Iona smiles, in his mind’s eye. And Hamilton smiles too.

Ruth leers at him in the rear view mirror. Her face is demented, possessed, insane. He cannot see her knuckles, white as they grip the juggernaut’s wheel.

But he can see her eyes. They glisten madly, likes monster’s eyes.

Hamilton screeches like a child, high-pitched and long.

Ruth’s foot is crushing the accelerator to the floor, the front of the truck and the back of the BMW are inextricably joined, metal-bound Siamese twins at the point of impact.

Inseparable — just as she and Hamilton had been.


Blinding light.


* * *

The candles flicker, half burnt down, molten wax making them ugly.

The children lie in bed, eyes closed, but not sleeping. Mummy’s upset — they can tell; even though she says it’s okay, not to worry.

Iona sits back into the softness of the settee. Her face is wet. Hamilton isn’t answering his mobile. She thinks of him. And she feels empty inside.

The hand that caresses her thigh is a comfort to her. It’s so easy for him to slip in each night, through the door at the back of the house; after the children have been put to bed. Just a few short steps from next door. He tells her that Hamilton isn’t worth the tears, neither of sadness or guilt.

Yet her thumb rests lightly on the call button of her mobile. Perhaps she’ll try just one more time.

Copyright © 2008 by John Saxton

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