A woman is driving along a quiet country road late at night. She has her young baby in the car with her. She is running away from a problem. Her car gives trouble and she is forced to stop on the lonely road. This is a collaborative story and anyone can add their reasons for her fear and her flight.
This time there could be no mistake: that flashing red light on the dashboard was not going to go away and it could only mean one thing - engine trouble. I felt my heart beat quicken and my mouth went dry. What was I going to do? To carry on driving could mean total disaster, but to stop on the side of the road could be equally dangerous.
I glanced in the rear view mirror to check on my baby daughter asleep on the back seat. She was bundled up in the two blankets which is all I had been able to snatch up before running out of the house. She looked warm and secure but, I wondered distractedly, for how long?
When I had first noticed the red light, I had instinctively slowed down and now I decided to pull off onto the side of the road. Perhaps, I thought optimistically, once the engine had a chance to cool down, that little red light would magically disappear.
It was dark and bitterly cold - no moon or stars were visible and the whole world seemed to consist of a vast, black void. Once I'd turned the engine off the silence was oppressive. My daughter gave a little cry as if she was aware that we had stopped. Luckily she didn't wake up, for which I was grateful as I had no bottle with which to comfort her.
I tugged my coat more securely around my shoulders, wishing the heater in the old car still worked. I put my feet on the seat and drew my legs up to try and generate some warmth. I was terribly frightened, here I was, at midnight, on a lonely country road, in a car which was causing trouble and with no idea what was going to happen next. It was not likely that many cars would be travelling on that stretch of road at that time of night and even if they were, would it be safe to accept help, if, indeed, it was even offered?
Time crawled by - the cold seemed to intensify as did the silence. Once I heard the snapping of twigs nearby and terrified, I peered through the window but could see nothing but the intense blackness surrounding the car. I had time enough to relect on my situation and the reasons behind it. I know it had been madness to flee but what else could I have done? He was after me and would have taken the baby - I had no option but to run. Would he come after me? Would he know where I was heading?
I forced myself to stay awake - I had to keep alert - I daren't risk falling asleep but it was difficult and the desire to close my eyes was hard to resist. I sang softly to myself, recalling old songs and nursery rhymes from my childhood, anything to keep awake. I glanced frequently in the rear view mirror to check on the baby, wanting to snuggle up to her in the back seat but afraid that it would disturb her.
Just as I had decided that maybe I could risk closing my eyes, I looked in the mirror and saw in the distance, on the road behind me, the lights of a car travelling in my direction. My first reaction was one of heartfelt expectation - I put on my hazard lights and decided that when the car was closer, I would shout out for help. Then I had a paralysing thought! What if it was him - that he'd worked out what road I'd taken and had follwed me? Although I'd had a good start, the engine trouble had forced me to stop and thus would've allowed him plenty of time to catch up with me.
I watched the headlights draw closer and closer and then I heard the motor switched off as the car rolled to a quiet standstill behind me. I heard the car door open and slam, then the sound of footsteps crunching on the frost-bitten earth. I ducked down and pulled my coat over my ears. I heard the rapping of impatient knuckles on my window and then a voice, quiet but ominous, say, 'Open up!'