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A Misunderstanding

The sign said, “Mel’s Landing — 12 kilometres — Gas, Food, Hotel. That was 15 kilometres ago and her gas tank was almost empty. Inside her, the flame of a silent scream caught fire. Melissa wondered if somehow she’d missed the cutoff.

All day it was one thing after another, now this. All day she prayed for help and peace. She was so tired of her client’s demands, each one like a cut to her flesh.

The night’s mist was fast turning into fog. Since she was little, the way it rolled off the lake in the heat of summer fascinated Melissa. She watched now as a slight breeze spun it around like a tumbleweed before allowing it to settle out.

Ahead, a section of the road cleared and the landscape appeared. There was a sign and an off-ramp. That’s got to be it. Please God, I need to get to Mel’s Landing.

She felt she’d caught a break but then the engine began to cough and sputter. She pulled onto the shoulder and took out her cell, but there was no signal.

What possessed her to take a dinky highway instead of the main road? And now, stranded at 2:00 am with no signal and no gas? Did she even have a gas can? And what difference would it make? The station would be closed.

As the fog swirled around the car, Melissa’s mind swirled too. She searched her trunk.

They’ll say, “last night’s fog seems to have swallowed famed wedding planner, Melissa Turner. Her deserted car was found parked on the shoulder of RR 22, only metres from the ramp to Mel’s Landing. Currently the police have no leads but believe Ms. Turner may have been met with foul play.”

Melissa found her red, plastic gas can then lifted her face to the sky and mouthed thank you. Armed with the gas can and her cell on flashlight, she walked towards the ramp.

She thought it was eerie how the fog amplified sound. Crickets sounded like they jumped onto the shoulder to sing to her as she passed. It was like a wedding aisle, or some sort of gauntlet, with unknown trials lining the way.

Melissa gave her head a shake and thought that Mel’s Landing has to be a good place. It’s named after me.

She followed the ramp around a wicked curve that took her to the strangest intersection. It was like a pinwheel or vortex or spider or even a weed eater. All three of the possible roads curved to the left, out of sight, behind a hill. No signs were there to let her know which way to the gas station.

She took the one directly ahead and as she followed the curve, it looked like some kind of garden with red patches all around. Roses?

Closer she saw the red patches were not roses. They were gas cans, exactly like the one she had in her hand.

The fear ignited and rose to her throat. The cans were everywhere, dozens of them. She gripped her own so hard the blood drained from her fingers.

Movement in the mist caught Melissa’s attention.

An older man walked up to her. He wore worn overalls and a plaid shirt with rolled up sleeves. He looked like someone’s grandpa, about 60 years old with a face lined from years of laughter and pain. He smiled at her.

It was the kind of face that melted your insanity and made you feel safe, if you let it.

“What is this place?” Melissa said.

“Don’t matter. It’s different things to different people. Guess you’d call it home, now.”

The fear exploded. She tried to run away but somehow she ended up in front of the same old man. She tried over and over until she collapsed.

He leaned forward and took the gas can from her hand then tossed it in with all the others.

“We do listen sometimes, Mel.”

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