The Way Home
Gwen barely could focus on the oncoming traffic as she headed for home. What a bitch of a day. All I want to do is rip off this bra and put on the give-up pjs.
A tractor trailor passed her on the inside lane of the on-ramp and blinded her in a mess of slush and salt. She laid on her horn as she braked. “Asshole,” she yelled uselessly.
Yup, it was that kind of day. And now the most important thing on her mind was an evening date with the couch, some TV and a bowl of Capt’n Crunch. Ah, the single life again.
Well, mostly single. Tonight, Dennis would have the boys at his house. If she could ignore the teenage mess, maybe–just maybe–she could relax.
Gwen shuffled up the walk, barely conscious, and unlocked the door, fully expecting a hungry cat and a darkened hallway.
Instead, she opened the door and was smacked in the face with the barn odour of cowshit mingled with the pungent sting of damp stony mildew. Torches flickered on either side of her foyer as she took a step inside. Strange shadows danced on the smooth stone walls. She heard snorting and chanting.
Ahead, where her living room would normally have been, was a large fire, flames licking an open starry sky. Circled around it danced five cows on their hind legs–except they were human legs. Her mind corrected itself as the male endowment of the beasts waggled in their own rhythm as the bull-men moved to their music.
Gwen snapped her hand to her mouth to stifle both the giggle and scream that comes with absurd horror. Of course, she was too late.
One of the creatures heard the noise, turned with an angry snort, and charged the smallish woman in the fashionable yet functional office wear.
Frozen for a half-second, Gwen yelped for real and stumbled backwards out the door. It slammed shut and all was quiet.
Gwen turned and looked across her lawn to the street. It was already well-dark and a few cars passed. Nothing is wrong with the world. You’re just tired, girl.
She shook her head, laughed at herself and opened the door again.
Instead of cattle and labyrinths when she opened the door, a blinding whiteness greeted her. A swirl of wind drug her inside and she instantly felt cold.
Gwen turned around and the door was gone. Every direction was a sea of ice, snow and sky. In front of her stood a rock face and behind her lay the open abyss of altitude. A thick blue rope dangled and her eyes followed it upwards. A trio of mountain climbers hovered, clad in winter gear and sunglasses, their icy beards reminding her of her own exposure. She shivered and one of the men, the one closest to her, turned around and waved.
He smiled and spoke to her. She shouldn’t have been able to hear him. It was too windy. The snow stung her face. Her ears stung with frostbite. But she heard him just the same.
“Wake up, Gwen,” he said. “Wake up now.”
Horns blared and Gwen opened her eyes. She gripped her hands on the steering wheel, yanked right and the yellow light filling her windshield jolted left. She hit the brakes and her tires slid on the slush, only catching on the gravel shoulder in time to stop her car’s tumble down the embankment.
Gwen sat there, head down on the wheel, and sobbed. Another truck slammed past, its wake shaking the car and depositing fresh slush. The wiper blades snapped back and forth in their mindless pattern. The heater fan blasted in its own race to keep the window clear.
She looked at her left hand, feeling the nakedness of her ring finger. I can do this. I’m just tired, that’s all.
Gwen cracked open the window, turned on the radio and pulled into traffic.
She was almost home.
Originally published at Doug Langille.