Because I am lazy and still playing that infernal game, I thought I would cheat and paste the first chunk of my Nanowrimo novel. Please don’t think me too narcissistic because I’ve named one of the women ‘Frankie’. It’s just what I call the female lead in anything I write until I think of a name for her.
The fog had come down suddenly, drowning the countryside in a wintery haze that was somehow as seductive as it was unwelcome. He had set off hours ago in a conscious attempt to flee the city before the mass of commuters choked the roads and trapped one another at roundabouts and traffic lights. Though now, in the closing darkness, the primeval part of him which feared the fog longed for the company of other cars – the familiar flicker of the lights being switched from main to dipped beams would have offered some small degree of comfort in the swirling grey.
As he continued on into the darkness, his eyes began to trace the thin tendrils of fog, dancing on the edge of the light ahead and vanishing into the waiting tree-branch arms that lined the road. He was beginning to wonder why his fuel had not depleted, despite his pace. He suspected that the gauge was broken and with that in mind, took the next turn on the right, aiming for the cluster of lights that fringed the horizon.
As he reached the corner, he noted that the fog was thicker this way, masking the road ahead in heavy mist. The light had faded altogether now, leaving him with a feeling of suspension in the gloom. Somewhere above, the moon was a thin sliver, lost amongst silver clouds and with a sigh, he flicked off his main beams and peered ahead, slowing a little in consideration for his dipped lights.
The road was narrower here, serpentine and slick with rain. He eased his foot off the accelerator a little and turned down the music, dropping a gear and slowing to a crawl. He could hear something ahead – a thin rattle lost in the dark grey sky. He flicked the radio off entirely, straining his eyes and ears against the fog
There was a jolt, a twisted howl of steel on steel and suddenly his car jerked onto the opposite side of the road, facing down a crumpled, old hatchback. Shaking himself and trying to get his bearings, his eyes met the flickering headlamps in time to see them go out and he was alone again. His vehicle crippled, and stranded in the mist.
He took a few deep breaths to steady himself before looking down. His nerves had settled enough for him to realise that he was uninjured so with shaking hands, he opened the door and went to see whether the other driver was hurt.
As he stepped from the car, he noted that the air tasted different here – metallic and warm – and that the ground was not as solid as it should have been. Glancing back to his car, he noted with satisfaction that the only damage seemed to be to the front-bumper, and that even then, it was only superficial. The other stricken vehicle lay ahead, its bonnet warped over the now-concave radiator grill. He could see a figure stirring inside.
Creeping forwards through the fog, he began to wring his hands, thoughts of man-slaughter charges and court-cases causing the skin on the back of his neck to prickle. About a meter from the hatchback he stopped, listening. There was a dull creak and slowly, the door swung open and out stepped a short, smiling girl.
“You alright?” she asked, pulling her long hair back from her face and heading towards the side of the road.
“I think so… This fog – it’s…”
“Yeah, it gets bad when you come this far out. Do you want me to give you a lift?” She had collected a large rock from the embankment and had started an attempt to hammer her grill and bonnet back into shape. He watched her for a second, astonished and then muttered,
“No, thank you… Shouldn’t we just swap insurance details?”
“Your car’s fine,” she said, without looking up.
“No – it’s scratched on the front bumper and besides, with the state of yours I really think-” he turned to glance at his car and fell silent when he saw it gleaming and pristine.
“See?” she replied, not looking up from where she was haphazardly banging the metal with her rock, “Good as new. Won’t start though.”
He raised an eyebrow and she stopped, turning to face him for the first time and leaning back against her marginally less-crumpled bonnet. Her smile seemed to be a mocking one that made his toes curl. Arrogant woman.
Slowly, conscious of being watched, he stalked back to the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. The starter motor coughed a little and as he looked up, he saw her face, pale and bright, through the fog. He said nothing, trying to keep his own expression passive, and tried to start the car again. His engine stuttered, the vehicle shuddering a little, but then nothing. He closed his eyes and sighed, watching her push her short figure from her bonnet and walk toward his car. With a quick glance behind her, as though checking to see no one was watching, she leaned against his door frame until he wound down the window.
“You know, the longer we’re in this fog the less likely either car is to work. While mine’s still got some life left, I suggest we go.”
There was something in the way she spoke, something about the way she said life – as if it was some sort of fuel which could evaporate into the grey night – which made him stand, close his car, and follow her to the crumpled hatchback.
When they were seated inside, she flicked on her headlamps and they began the crawl back through the silver darkness. They did not speak, the low rattle of her engine filling what should have been an uncomfortable silence. Only feet away, the turn he had taken towards the lights lay ahead and she slowed further, glancing at him quickly,
“Which way is home?”
His stomach lurched as he realised he had no idea. His face paled, and he made to tell her as much but no sound came out. She smiled, an understanding and sad gesture, and then awkwardly patted his knee.
“I thought as much. It’s alright, Jay, you can come back with me.”
“Jay,” he repeated as though trying on the sound, “Why did you call me that?”
“Your registration number – SU59 JAY. Jay. I’m Frankie.”
He wanted to argue with her, tell her he was someone else but the more he tried to remember, the more he slipped away from himself. He felt sick. Slowly, deliberately, as if the action would somehow bring him back, he wound down the window. They were leaving the fog now and the air was crisp and clear as he gulped it down, trying to calm his stomach.
“Hey,” she cooed, “it’s ok. The fog does that if you stay too long. You just… get lost in it.”
“You didn’t,” he snapped, and she sighed.
“No, I don’t anymore.”