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|The Alternative Route (standard:Ghost stories, 753 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Jan 08 2005||Views/Reads: 2356/0||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Another competition that I didn't win: A story in no more than 750 words, to begin with the words 'It started off as nothing more than a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive'.|
The Alternative Route ©2004 Ian Hobson It started off as nothing more than a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive. At least that was the plan. The traffic on the main road had been pretty heavy and, despite the sunshine, there was a lot of spray from the standing water left by the recent heavy rains. But Jim knew the alternative route: Left at the garage and up the hill, to take the back way around the town. Cut down through the gully and cross the river at the old iron bridge. Then right at the farm and over the cattle grid, and head up onto the moors. But he'd only gone a couple of miles, when a sudden loud clang, followed by an even louder scraping noise, announced that his car's exhaust had all but fallen off. Bugger! Surely, it could only be eighteen months since he'd had the whole of the exhaust system replaced. He pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the engine and clambered out. Fortunately the gully road, though narrow for most of its length, was wide enough, where he had stopped, for any other motorists to pass. Though there were none around at the moment. Jim walked to the rear of the car and squatted down, leaning on his fingertips to avoid kneeling on the wet road, as he looked underneath. To his surprise, the exhaust seemed to be intact. He tapped it hard with the knuckle of his right hand, as though knocking on a door. But the exhaust and its rubber mounts seemed to be fine. Sound as a bell. Didn't even look rusty. But what had made that noise? As Jim walked back towards the driver's-side door he looked up at the, now cloudless, sky. Aircraft perhaps? Sonic boom? Thunder? No, there had been plenty of thunder a little earlier in the day; but it hadn't been that sort of noise. He could have sworn it was the exhaust. He climbed back into the car, started the engine, looked in his rear-view mirror and almost jumped out of his skin as he saw the reflected face – the strangely familiar face - of a man sitting in the rear of the car. Jim let out an involuntary cry of shear fright, and swung around in his seat, only to find that there was no one there. Bloody Norah! He turned back to look in the mirror again. Nothing. Nothing at all. Just the road and the hedgerow down either side. He scratched his head, baffled. He'd only had the one glass of red wine at lunchtime. He was, as far as he knew, in perfect health for a man of fifty-eight. Yet here he was imagining noises, and seeing the face of his long dead father. He released the handbrake, engaged first gear and set off downhill, listening carefully and, almost every second, glancing into the rear-view mirror. Fortunately there were no more scraping noises. And no more... what? Hallucinations? Apparitions? He tried to force the image from his mind. In the distance he could see the moors and below, through a gap in the trees, he glimpsed the river that, in a minute or two, he'd be crossing. As he neared the end of the gully road, he slowed for the S-bend and, still going downhill, drove on toward the river and the bridge, now visible about a quarter of a mile away. But it was then that the unthinkable happened: A huge wall of water came downstream at incredible speed and covered the bridge completely. Jim stopped the car and got out to watch, his earlier experiences forgotten. He'd never seen such a thing. His eyes followed the tidal wave as it travelled downstream. It had ripped whole trees from the riverbank. He could see them being tossed like matchwood in the muddy torrent. And only when the worst of it had passed, and the waters subsided, did he look back to where he expected to see the bridge. But most of it was gone. Just a single buttress remained. He stood for a moment, and then the thought struck him: It was lucky he'd stopped when he did. If he'd been on that bridge when... Now, that really was unthinkable. Still stunned, he climbed back into his car and tuned in to the local radio. If he'd looked into his rear-view mirror, he might have seen the face of his father again, and seen his smile before he faded away. Tweet
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