Aphelion Issue 219, Volume 21
July 2017
 
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Daddy Is Driving The Car

by Susan Anwin




The car was standing in the parking lot on the riverbank. Cecilia and Sam didn’t know where they were going and why mom looked like she wanted to squeeze their whole lives into the trunk of their car, but it was a beautiful spring day and they were going to have an adventure. That was enough for them.
The morning traffic was still light around them when Lynn finished packing and she finally strapped herself into the passenger seat.

"Where are we going?" Cecilia asked.

Dad winked at her in the rearview mirror. "You’ll see. Why spoil the surprise?"

Lynn cast him a side glance. "Is there no other way?" She asked in a voice barely above a whisper. She needn’t have worried; the kids were too giddy to care.

Dave didn’t look at her. "If there were I’d take it, you know full well. We have no other choice."

"You think it’ll work?"

He sighed. "It has to."

Lynn hid the trembling of her mouth behind her fist as she stared out at the city blindly.

"Do you think we’re going to Nick’s by the lake?" Sam turned to his sister. The yearly visit to the cottage of dad’s childhood friend was a family tradition, but it was too early in the year.

"No, I think it’s gonna be a whole new place somewhere much better than any place we’ve ever been to."

Their parents exchanged a nervous glance, and dad started the car.

*****


"Look where the earth mirrors the sky."

Dave remembered that dusty summer afternoon on his gran’s glassy verandah. Granny Ainsley was threading beads with dizzying speed; the twinkling ropes were hanging from the most improbable places in the little house.

"When they come after you. There is one in each generation in this family. It’s the price we paid for the ability to shift." Her fingers were lining up the beads tirelessly. "I don’t know yet if you’re the one, but it’s better to be prepared."

Dave picked up a striped glass bead. "Why did we need the shift?"

Granny Ainsley chuckled. "Let’s just say one of your forefathers was a little too curious." Her glance became distant, dreamy. "To see what’s out there."

He still couldn’t quite believe he was the one, yet here they were on the run. Lynn knew of it too, but not the kids. Not yet.

At first, he didn’t want to notice the single figure almost disappearing in the afternoon crowd, almost, except Dave felt him staring from ten floors below, through concrete and glass, standing still, staring unblinking with his mouth hanging open idiotically, and Dave knew there’ll be more of them soon, and they won’t be content with just staring.

"You’ll know where to look. It’s part of the gift," granny Ainsley had said. "It’s the only way to get away from them."

*****


They drove all day, stopping only for toilet- and food breaks, and well into the night. Dad seemed to be on the hurry, constantly spying the road behind them, becoming noticeably more anxious whenever a car kept driving behind them for a longer period of time.

The sun set and the first stars were coming out, but still they were on the road. The Moon rose and set. They were crossing a bridge running low above a lake, and in the undisturbed surface of the water it seemed like they were driving among the stars.

"It’s beautiful," the little girl breathed.

"It’s nothing compared to what is to come," dad grinned in the green gloom of the dashboard. Cecilia looked away.

The steady hum of the motor lulled the kids to sleep, and Lynn cast him a frightened glance. Dave nodded barely visibly.

*****


Cecilia awoke slowly to sunlight glowing through her eyelids. She opened her eyes and let out a happy scream.

"I told you it’ll be more beautiful than anything you’d ever seen," dad laughed behind the wheel.

"Daddy, this is wonderful!" Cecilia cried. To her voice Sam woke up too and looked around, blinking sleepily.

They were driving on a highway (very high indeed, the ground was somewhere deep down below, partially obscured by the fluffy clouds) that shone with a sort of unstable, iridescent sheen. Big, shimmery things – butterflies? Supple dancing ladies? – were floating up outside the windows. The sun – suns, Cecilia saw when she checked again – shone with a light the color of which she had no name for, casting everything a double shadow.

Giant, iridescent bubbles bounced on the road ahead and behind them with cheerful, ethereal creatures trapped inside, waving to the kids, laughing. The bubbles burst occasionally, falling apart into a myriad of sparkly drops. If they burst by the edge of the road, the creatures fell into the abyss, their mouth opened to a silent scream. Cecilia frowned. "Will they be okay? Mommy?"

Lynn turned back to her. "Of course, darling. No harm befalls anyone here."

Cecilia nodded unsurely. She wanted to believe mommy so bad.

Ahead of them, beyond a pearlescent cloud glittered a palace, its graceful spires and bridges twisting and leaning in impossible angles.

"Is that where we are going?" Sam breathed. Things were floating majestically around the castle that for all the world looked like dragons from afar.

"There, or wherever you please," dad grinned.

"This is the most beautiful place we’ve ever been to," Cecilia beamed.

The creatures in the bubbles stared after them. Some of them opened their mouth in wonder.


THE END


2017 Susan Anwin

Bio: Susan Anwin was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, Her flash-fiction Talk of Armadale trees was featured in the anthology My Favourite Place, published by the Scottish Book Trust in 2012. Her short stories Fog-People, You'll die as Fish, People of the Green Cloud, Dragonfly man and Eddie's lousy Saturday were published by Aphelion in 2016 and 2017.

E-mail: Susan Anwin

Website: Susan Anwin

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