(A short – very experimental – flash fiction piece I wrote a while ago.)
8:52 p.m. Strange day. But at least I’m headed home for the weekend. College has been way harder than I thought it’d be. And I’ve got to watch my speed in this crazy car my dad got me for having made it out of high school.
I’m driving home from my first semester at college in my 1973 Plymouth Gold-Duster and although I just met her about a month ago, I’m also really missing my girlfriend.
I’ve never been away from home so long before. Right now, I just want to get home.
Funny how homesickness grows the closer I get there.
So I started my trip back home the same way I got here; taking Highway 21 south through Talladega and Montgomery. I prefer it to going through Birmingham and the interstate.
It’s just a nicer drive. And if you look, you can almost see the speedway and sometimes, on a clear day, even Mount Cheaha to the left.
Something happened to the Lynyrd Skynyrd tape on the 8-track in Montgomery so I turned on Larry King Overnight. Of course, I spent the next 30 minutes yelling at him, but it kept me awake.
A few minutes ago I saw a shooting star. It was the biggest and brightest falling star I’d ever seen.
At least, I thought it was a star.
I’d made it just about to Georgiana when the thing lit up half the southern sky.
Half the sky!
Who doesn’t love shooting stars?
But then the second one hits and I get a little exercised.
Not scared or frightened, just alerted.
Aware of my surroundings.
But when I can see the pine trees lining Interstate 65, which are normally in total darkness, I realize that it isn’t a run-of-the-mill shooting star.
From what my political science professor has been teaching us, I’m thinking Soviets.
After years of practicing the head-between-the-knees position in elementary school, and sometimes hiding under school desks that were obviously designed to protect from the debilitating effects of nuclear radiation and blasts, they’ve finally done it.
That’s got to be it!
OK. Ok. Got to calm down and think clear.
I’m gonna get back on the road and try and make it to a gas station and call home to check on everyone.
I’m a sitting duck here on this big interstate. I’m gonna try and make it to Evergreen and call home.
I make it to an Amoco station at the first Evergreen exit. My heart is racing. I think one of Ruskies see me so, just to be careful, I drive without the headlights on for ten miles.
I think I hit a small deer, maybe two.
Can’t worry about that now though.
The sky is full of lights streaking everywhere. I don’t know what to do. They start at one end of the horizon and in a split second, they’re at the other end.
I ain’t never seen anything like it. My hands are sweating.
I’m at Barnett Crossroads, the middle of nowhere. There is nothing here, not even a gas station. But at least I am a little closer to home.
Not that it matters now. I think that we’ll all be dead by midnight.
I wonder if it is really the Ruskies? I’m still alive.
And, I got hold of my mom on the phone when I was in Evergreen. She didn’t see anything on the news about an impending regional military takeover.
She is alarmed by the thought though.
She says that it is probably Eglin Air Force Base doing some night training and not to worry.
I ain’t so sure.
Here’s what I am thinking now:
No, really. Physically. The Second return!
I mean, look at the lights.
I ain’t never been so scared in all my short life.
I suppose now is a good time to say that I’m really sorry for all those times I smacked my cousins, even if they did deserve it. And I wish I hadn’t stolen that Snickers from K-Mart.
Although it was satisfying.
Oh, good grief; what’s it matter now? This is it, it’s all over. No more second chances. No more do-overs.
I better try to get through to mom again.
I make it to the Brewton exit and call home again. No answer. I leave a message explaining that I hope they are all prepared for eternity. I also apologize for not warning them earlier, explaining that, at first, I thought it was the Russians.
I tell them I love them and get back on the road.
But, what’s the point if Jesus is here?
Maybe I should stay right here and wait.
The lights are driving me crazy. They are everywhere.
I make one more call to make sure they got my message earlier.
My granddad answers, which is strange because I hadn’t expected to hear his voice again, especially since, well, the funeral.
Which was four years ago.
What’s going on?
I can’t think straight.
And those insane lights are getting closer.
My granddad’s voice reassures me, “Drive safe son. I’ll see when you get here.”
“Ok, granddad. I will. I sure do miss you.”
I begin snaking my way down Highway 225. When are they gonna finish that stupid bridge?
For some reason, I feel calm after talking with him. I sure do miss him.
Another bright light, this time right in front of my car.
This has got to be the end. I had expected to live a lot longer, maybe see the Braves go to the series, the Saints win two games, and see this crazy interstate bridge finished.