‘For the road’

She was driving right into the sunset. Due west, it must have been. It pierced the clouds, sent the most otherworldly light up into the entire sky. It was everywhere, like a liquid. Like warm white wine poured into the dregs of red.

If she could have drunk that too, she would have. After the third, nothing mattered. ‘What the hell, what’s one more?’ she’d find herself saying, and then ‘How would I get home otherwise?’.

The van two cars in front tracked into the hard shoulder, then veered back. Must have been taking a photo, she tutted.

She wondered how many of these other cars were going home too. Propelling themselves like cockroaches to their burrows. Yeah, you, puffy face man. Hag in a chintzy blouse. You’re so cool surfer dude. C’mon, who buys a yellow car? She glanced at each driver that passed her on the right, evaluating them in a second.

The closer she got to it, the brighter the fire ahead seemed to burn. The clouds were settling like a sex on the beach. Slipping though the breaks: liquid gold. Hot, blinding yellow. An injection in the spine. Vodka in the throat. They were all mesmerised too, those stupid insects with their black big eyes, flying down the motorway in their shiny metal shells.

Her eyes flickered up to the rear view mirror. Go on Mr Nose, get a little closer why don’t you? She watched him edging out, edging back, impatient to outrun her when the time was right. What’s the rush mate? Can’t you see what I see? He might have been looking right back at her, but she couldn’t tell.

Then it was all shell, all around her: brown metallic shell in her face, and the sound of things becoming tight. She was no longer flying with the rest of them. Nothing was moving.

When they lifted her out, the sun was squeezing out its last few drops of day. What slipped forgotten below the horizon was sodium orange, the colour of flashing hazard lights and safety jackets. What was left: the smell of engines running. A scattering of empty shells, wings open. All those bug faces, watching on. And this grapefruit pink haze that faded from rosé to the colour of ice in a crystal tumbler, slowly, slowly, to the thickest Guinness night.