September 15, 2022

Learning to drive in a small space

By aarondkey

“I’m hoping you know the way,” he settled for saying. The journey to Scotland, their eventual arrival in a clearing in the woods – it was all settling vaguely in his mind

“It was this way,” Gerard said and they began walking along the lake edge again. As they crossed over the grass covered bridge Timonthy pursed his lips and shook his head. He remembered going this way now but everything in his memory was so dim, so distant. He must have been so tired when they first arrived.

They grew close to the mound. This was where Stolid stood when he first greeted them, he remembered that now. He couldn’t help straining his neck to see if Stolid was sitting on the mound still but there was nothing at the top but the ring of trees.

It was like an impressive tumulus: the sort that had a reputation for being haunted and was avoided by anyone local to the area. He shook off that feeling of unease just like the cold sensation at the edge of the waterfall.

It was starting to become a habit: the sensing of the not there, a tingling as his body hair rose while all around life continued as normal. Birds still chirped and insects hummed. The wind still blew softly through the top of trees.

He was suddenly afraid as he had not been for years. He felt stalked by death – a cold hand on his shoulder – but he was quite determined not to die at this moment. There was too much to do, too much life to be relished.

To distract his mind he began telling Gerard about the basics of driving and he checked his pocket for the keys: still there. They came at last to the path in the woodland and to the clearing where his car sat as a solid reminder of the world he had left just yesterday.

The grass was higher around the wheels than he remembered it but he opened the door, directed Gerard to the driving seat and sat down next to him.

They spent the next half an hour fully occupied by clutches, gears, brakes and steering wheels until he felt brave enough to suggest that Gerard tried to turn the car around in the clearing.

Gerard began falteringly at first but then with increasing confidence and eventually finished the fifth turn it needed without knocking into any trees. He pulled the hand brake on and they both sat there looking at the entrance to the path they had arrived on.

“The lorry was in front of me. Where’s it gone?” Timonthy asked.

“Perhaps Peter took it back to the place he rented it from,” Gerard speculated.

“That was a good bit of driving to turn it around and fit it around us – and you would have thought it would have cleared the path, a little.”Timonthy peered into the darkness of the forest.

“I’m not sure we’d get through that,” he said, “though it couldn’t have grown too much since yesterday. I’m just going to have a look. If we could, we could follow it to the proper road and then you could get up a decent speed.”

He walked into the archway made by trees. Underneath the grass was cut to ankle height at least. The dangling branches were resting on his shoulders. He walked deeper into the tunnel, bowing his head to avoid leaves brushing his face. There were some heavier branches in there too. He could imagine them scratching the top of the car. He had already resolved that he wasn’t going to bring his car into this green trap before someone had arranged for some gardening to be done when he walked into something warm and solid.

The other person swore in a foreign language although this resolved itself into intelligible speech quickly.

“God! I’m sorry, Timonthy,” it was Peter’s voice. “I wasn’t looking where I was going. I’m not used to meeting anyone else here. Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m sorry too. I was keeping my eyes down as it’s so overgrown. I was trying to find out if we could easily drive back to the road.”

“Oh, are you leaving already?”

“No. I was trying to teach Gerard how to drive,” Timonthy tried to explain and could see signs of relief in Peter’s face. So he wanted them to stay for some reason.

“It’s got worse in here,” Peter complained. “I think I dislodged things when I took the lorry back this morning. It’s like sleeping beauty’s palace, only you’re trying to get out not in. How about we go and have some lunch and I’ll get a few chaps to clear it for you.”

He had no choice but to agree so they walked back together. They passed the mound and over the bridge in silence until Peter said,

“Elena said you spoke to Stolid this morning before he disappeared. He didn’t say where he was going, did he?”

Timonthy shook his head, “No, I’m afraid not. He didn’t say a lot.” “Elena was worried,” Peter said.

“She told me to mind my own business this morning, after I told her I was worried,” Timonthy said with vemon.

“Perhaps she thought that it was up to Stolid and Koa to sort out between themselves. That doesn’t mean that we cannot worry about our friends. I don’t think she meant it to sound like that.”

A forest Path