SHORT STORY: Fallen, by David Gates
Here is the latest in the series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers' Hub.
The splashes get deeper and deeper ... then, like a ratchet-ing drum-roll, hail sounds a cacophony of repetitive beats across metal and plastic surfaces as water frozen into globes of ice falls to earth.
Leaves, scattered upon the surface of the road, torn from their lofty attachments upon a dark and stormy autumn night, moving this way and that in the wind that howls and lifts water from earlier rain upwards and into view via the light of the car’s headlamps.
As the fallen fronds drift back and forth, like an army of mice scattering to avoid the onslaught of an oncoming predator, flowing in one direction then abruptly stopping and turning to correct and facilitate their escape from an unyielding wheel of death, the wind buffets the car relentlessly.
A flash of light, blindingly bright, moves through the sky. Shadows of clouds move across the lake surface as the lightning journeys between the cumulus.
Then, almost as suddenly as the illumination appeared, it is gone and the area is plunged into darkness once more.
Then a cracking, tumultuous sound that echoes across the land, sounding as if the sky itself is being ripped apart. Droplets hit the lake surface as the rain starts to fall. The splashes get deeper and deeper as the tear-like beads grow larger and heavier. Then, like a ratcheting drum-roll, hail sounds a cacophony of repetitive beats across metal and plastic surfaces as water frozen into globes of ice falls to earth.
More white-light and claps of thunder permeate the gloom, the former showing the onslaught of hailstones as they appear to fall and stop mid-air and resume their journey earthwards in the strobe-like intensity of fleeting electrical discharges and the latter shaking temporary buildings and rattling loose windows in their frames.
The car skids, its wheels losing traction upon the sea of ice and slush that carpets the road as a result of the fallen hail.
A tree, unyielding in its position, blocks the car’s path and the sound of grinding metal upon crushed plastic bodywork and glass shattering follows as the vehicle slams into the bark and trunk of the hundreds-year old oak.
The rear of the car lifts from the ground with the force of the impact, as airbags deploy and deflate with a ‘whoosh’ that merges with the wind’s own voice.
As the car falls back to the ground, its engine spewing fuel, oil and liquids about its enclosure, a spark ignites in a similar fashion to the lightning that, at the same instant, fuses molecules and boils sap as it hits the upper branches of the tree.
The plant and inflammable materials about the car combust in a tableau of yellow and blue as the explosion, simultaneously drowned out by the thunder cascading from above, rocks the vehicle, pushing it away from the tree and plunging it down a steep slope.
Through bushes and grasses the car, its occupant clutching their chest, careers backwards until it comes to rest on a flat piece of land below, the flames from the engine extinguished by the relentless precipitation.
Relieved to have been spared death, the driver peers out of the window, trying to focus their eyes amidst the rain upon their face, on the scene around them. The darkness envelopes the valley they’ve fallen into. As they wrestle with the door, crushed and unmoving, lightning once more illuminates the view. Metal rails, equidistant and constant, stretch out and away from the car for as far as the eye can see in the temporary light from the storm.
A pinging noise, gaining in intensity and regularity, echoes across the dip. The driver squints as they peer into the gloom, realising only too late the train coming from the opposite direction to that which they are looking.
In a second cacophony of grinding metal, the train’s brakes straining and whining as the wheels lock and the engine and carriages skid along the tracks, the car is hit. Compressed into an area too small for it to prevail, the occupant’s body is torn apart as the metal twists and splinters amongst the upholstery and fascia of the interior.
Blood explodes from the ruptured corpse, smattering across the broken dials and controls, staining the bright white of the deflated airbag balloons as the car is forced sideways and effortlessly along the tracks by the train. Lightning briefly shows the scene of carnage.
The luminosity is less intense as the rain subsides and the thunder rumbles at a greater and greater distance from the altercation of train and car.
The storm has passed.