by Angela Kempe
The car sputtered and coughed.
“Not now, old lady. Come on!” I pleaded.
I searched the dense fog for a place to pull over, but there wasn’t anywhere safe on the windy mountain highway.
The car lights flickered and the engine died.
“No, no, no!”
I tried the keys, shifting into first, and pressing both boots down. The engine revved and the lights flashed on again.
I slowly made my way up the forsaken country road, voyaging deeper into the muddy fog. I turned the brights off and leaned forward, searching for the pavement, but could only make out a few feet ahead of the hood before the world vanished into a dense haze.
My old car whined again, this time rattling to a complete stop.
I lift my foot off the brake and let it roll down the hill, haphazardly parking it along the shoulder. Then, gazed out into the black night, cursing myself.
Might as well look under the hood, I thought, reaching for my jacket in the backseat.
A rustling in the trees.
I slipped on my coat and waited, listening for the familiar sounds of small nocturnal animals rummaging through the cold bed of freshly fallen leaves which softened and blanketed the moist forest floor. But all was silent, and even the trees stood frozen in time. Their long corpses reaching outstretched arms. Tips sharpened like cold stone blades, piercing the black autumn night.
I turned on my headlights and the mist shimmered in yellow light. Then, I saw something flicker in the shadows. Something was in the fog. I acknowledged the possibility of an animal peering back at me from the thick shelter of the forest.
This time the distinct sound of something scraping against the side of my door.
I shot back in my seat. Felt the sharp edge of my shoulder strap against my neck. Smelt the odor of something foul drifting up through the vents. I locked my door and forced myself to breathe. Then sat, waiting in the dark.
I turned the lights off again and started turning the keys in the ignition. This time the engine let off a series of clicks. I pressed the icy key forward and the engine moaned back with a click, click, click.
Tears welled up in my eyes. I forced myself to accept a slow deep breath, closed my eyes, and prayed to God.
Then, stared into the dark.
Feeling my keys with my fingers. Pinching my thumb and index against the car key. Silencing the other keys against my thigh.
The fog enveloped the car with a biting cold. The steering wheel and the door became like ice. My keys burned my fingertips, and so I hid them in the folds of my jacket.
If I could just force myself to venture outside. I could pop the hood and check the engine. It could be a simple fix. Sometimes the wire came loose. I knew exactly which one it was. I had performed the fix many times before. On cold mornings before work. On late afternoons. On trips to the store.
I leaned my face close to my window and stared into the black forest, my hot breath fogging up the cold glass. The car, enveloped by the murky sludge. My eyes, squinting into the turbid night.
I decided to have some faith.
Pulling the plastic door handle, the door popped open and I stepped blindly into the fog.
The fresh smell of wet pine wafted around me. Fog so thick that I could feel it in my lungs. My eyes adjusted in the dark.
There it stood, looking back at me.