“Driving Home Forever” by Roisín Tuohy
I move into the outside lane, overtaking an Opel Astra that seems to be intent on getting to its destination sometime next year.
“It’s Christmas dude,” I mutter to myself, scoping out its inhabitants. A couple in their seventies, a man with wisps of white hair and thick framed glasses, a thin woman with the pursed lips earned from a lifetime of disapproval. Probably not familiar with fifth gear.
My backseat is filled with presents for my legion of nieces and nephews. The little feckers have cost me the best part of €500. Nobody ever tells you how expensive being one of eight children gets to be by the time you’re in your thirties. It’s only seven o’clock, but as dark as midnight, and the snow has turned to slush and driving rain. I’ve got the heat on in the car, but my hands are still cold on the wheel. My car’s Bluetooth is on the fritz, so I have the radio on. Every station is the same at this time of the year. The funny thing is they act like they’re doing you a favour by playing the same songs over and over.
“Here’s Fairytale of New York, you asked for it – what a classic!” the DJ says, as if you haven’t heard it twice already today.
Secretly, though, I love it. I also need cheering up – it took almost an hour to get on to the M50, and it’s only now, well past Kildare, that I am making any kind of speed. The cheerful synths of Driving Home for Christmas start up. I reach out, turn the volume up and start to sing along. I’m on the outside lane now, passing a green An Post truck.
We’re halfway through the first chorus when I see up ahead, heading straight for me, headlights. Not rear lights, but the full beams of what looks like a black BMW, low slung and menacing. Jesus someone is heading the wrong way down the motorway, and they’re heading straight for me.
I am a rabbit in those beams. I hesitate for just a fraction too long and I veer towards the hard shoulder.
A sensation of crushing metal, of crushing bone, the most terrific and horrible bang I have heard in my life and the last moments of my life, my consciousness, knowing that this was a futile and pointless way to go. For a flash I think of the ruined presents for the kids. I think of my parents.
I open my eyes. The motorway is clear, it’s still dark and I am still driving west at a steady 120 kmph clip. That was weird, I think. I’ll stop at the next exit and get a strong black coffee. I turn off the heating, the cold will be good for me. I feel airless, as if my heart and lungs have stopped working.
Up ahead is an old Opel Astra, plodding along as if on a Sunday drive to the beach. There’s an old couple in there. I overtake, wondering where I’ve seen that car before.
Here comes Driving Home for Christmas.
I feel like I’ve been on this road forever.
Róisín Tuohy currently lives in Waterford and works in the motor industry when not writing. She has worked in journalism and has had short stories published in a number of anthologies. She hopes to finish a novel someday and not have it live in a drawer forever more. Róisín has been a member of Cupán Fae for 4 years and has contributed to the Fiercepunk anthology.