Motorway air pummels through the window. Far behind, sirens cry. If there’s a roadblock, I’ll blast right through, pick up Keeley and we’ll drive drive drive—daddy and daughter on the run. We’ll spend the evidence and pay in cash for service-station sundaes and trips to see exotic birds up close. Each day we’ll start anew.
The end of the road approaches. Two miles. One. They’re waiting for me. The trick is to pick the weak spot at the edge of the barricade. Everyone has a weak spot. Mine’s horses. The bookmaker’s was cheap security glass. Keeley’s a sucker for anything with wings — angels, dragons, even pigeons.
Up ahead, cars crawl towards the checkpoint. No helicopter thunder or sweeping searchlights, just tired evening commuters inching along. They’ll pull into the driveway, hear about their kid’s day at school, then say ‘you won’t believe the hold up on the M1’.
I could go off road, heave the car onto a field. Rocks would tear the undercarriage and the wheels would groan until they barely turned. All for ten minutes more future.
The only way is to try something completely new. Stay in your lane. Floor it and take the fence. My juddering ‘98 Mondeo prepares for the jump. Fifty. Sixty. More. If Keeley were next to me, she’d close her eyes and cast her mind to the sky.
The back of a lorry flies forward, my brittle windshield the only barrier. I reach for Keeley’s non-existing hand as the Mondeo speeds to a gallop. Eyes close. Brace.
And then, before impact, my steed grows wings, jumps the barrier, and soars into the sky. A glorious white unicorn, finally free. I’ve never flown before and neither has she. I peer down at the red-blue twinkle of the city. Somewhere, Keeley watches, willing me higher.
It could be years before I land.
Philip Charter is a writing coach from the UK who teaches non-native English speakers. He is the author of two collections of short fiction and Fifteen Brief Moments in Time, a novella-in-flash. In 2021, his story The Fisherwoman won the Loft Books Short Story Competition and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Website: philipcharter.com