Copyright 2011, 2012, by the author. All rights reserved. May not be copied or reprinted, in whole or in part, without the permission of the author.
The windshield wipers made a constant slap-slap sound. It was virtually the only noise inside the black Cadillac SUV, as it plowed through the snow. Though the blast of hot air from the heater was constant, one could almost feel the winter's chill inside the car. Perhaps, that was because the driver's wife was sitting right beside him.
Andy squinted through the windshield ,as the road monotonously preceded him, in unpredictable straights and curves. The large snowflakes were driving at the car almost horizontally, like millions of fluffy white killer bees. He could barely see beyond the car's headlights. The blizzard-driven snow had an almost hypnotic effect. To Andy, it was bordering madness, trying to ignore them. The road, what little he could see of it, was a carpet of snow, all trace of a center line having vanished under it.
It was impossible for Andy to tell which side of the road he was on. Therefore, he simply drove down what he assumed was the middle of it. Gripping the wheel, Andy nervously prayed that he wouldn't suddenly encounter a big snow plow, or logging truck, looming out of the pitch-black night.
The middle aged business man was a bit out of his element. He rarely spent time in the country, and usually had a private hire car and driver, to take him to his office. So, driving through a mountain storm was an entirely new experience for Andy.
Pine trees loomed like ghosts along the state highway, barely seen, as the car crept forward at a slow, steady pace. Their normally graceful boughs, were drooping with the weight of the snow. Andy heard his wife, Sue, give an impatient sigh, shifting irritably in her seat. By his reckoning, it was her twenty-fifth sigh in the past fifteen minutes.
"I wish you wouldn't drive so fast, Andy. Slow down!" Sue whined.
"I'm barely doing thirty, sweetheart." Andy said patiently, trying to lactate her. "We're already running three hours late. If I drive any slower, we'll be on the road all night. We've not even crossed the state line into Vermont, yet! As it is, we probably won't make it to the ski lodge until well after midnight."
Sue wiped away the moisture clinging to the passenger window with her hand. Looking out, she could see no signs of life. No street lamps, no houses, nothing. Not even any road signs. It was as if they'd been suddenly transported to another world, or another time.
"Where the hell are we?" She fussed. "Are you sure we're even on the right road, Andy? Maybe you should have canceled our plans. Stayed in the city."
"What?" Andy asked, so surprised, that he almost took his eyes off the road. "What are you talking about? You were the one who insisted that we go on this trip, remember? You said not to worry about the weather. It was you who wanted to go skiing this weekend, not me. All I'm gonna' end up doing, is drinking cocktails till I'm blootered, and watching it snow. Which I could have done quite well, at home, Thank you very much. I only went this weekend to get you off my back, for once." He shook his head, smiling wryly, "Didn't seem to work, though."
"Andy, dear, this weekend is for both of us!" Sue enthused. "Networking with the right people could really do wonders for your consulting firm. Think of what we could do, darling! We could buy a second home in Aspen, or even France."
"Er—I'm actually quite content with things the way they are now, sweetheart." Andy tilted his head good naturedly at his wife, and smiled. "Admit it, Sue. We're only going on this trip so you could meet that Ashley whats-er-name. You know, the editor from Hot Trends magazine. And, your wish was my command; here we are, in this godforsaken backwater of upstate New York, on our way. However, if you want me to turn around and go home, fine by me. I'd be more than happy to spend the weekend on the sofa, watching the football game."
Andy's much younger wife bit her lip, unconsciously running her fingers through her dark, smooth hair. Sue could see her reflection gazing back at her from the window. Was that a trace of a laugh line she saw there? Immediately she decided that as soon as they got back to their Manhattan condo on Monday, she'd have to call her plastic surgeon. Maybe Ashley could give her the name of a nice spa. Though they had yet to meet, Sue's imagination had her already on a first name basis with her current heroine, the world's most famous fashion magazine writer and editor. She turned and looked at her husband.
Andy's handsome, freckled face glowed in the reflection of the dashboard lights. His dark eyes stared intently ahead at the two-lane country road. Sue reached over, and turned on the radio.
"Maybe we can get a weather report." she muttered, "and find out if this is just a passing snow flurry."
"...REPEATING, THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR OUR ENTIRE LISTENING AREA. POLICE ARE ASKING ALL MOTORISTS TO STAY OFF THE ROADS, AS THIS NOR'EASTER CONTINUES TO POUND ALL OF EASTERN NEW YORK AND WESTERN NEW ENGLAND, the radio station's DJ gravely warned listeners, UP TO THREE FEET OF SNOWFALL IS EXPECTED OVER THE MOUNTAINS AND HILL TOWNS, WITH LESSER AMOUNTS IN THE VALLEYS. THIS WARNING IS IN EFFECT UNTIL NINE AM TOMORROW MORNING. STAY TUNED TO THIS STATION, AS WE KEEP YOU UPDATED ON THIS DANGEROUS STORM."
After a brief moment of dead air, the three, loud, harsh tones of the government's official warning system sounded. Abruptly, a country song cut in, blaring out of the radio. Sue gave yet another disgusted sigh, and turned off the radio. Andy threw her a quick, puzzled glance.
"What'cha do that for?" he asked, "A little music might be nice. The sound of these wiper blades is just about driving me
"Country music? Since when did you ever listen to that crap? I told you we should have brought along some of my jazz Cd's." Sue said in a petulant voice.
What's wrong with country music?" Andy replied. Flashing her a cheeky grin, he said "Yeee-haa! Then, he improved a country song in a fake southern twang: God bless beer, I shot a deer, then saluted the flag, liberals make me gag, ain't got much schoolin', that's why I'm droolin, I'm a good ol' country boy!"
Andy burst out laughing at the look on his wife's face. She did not look at all amused. In fact, Sue looked quite peeved with him. Now, it was Andy's turn to sigh. Wondering what happened to his wife's sense of humor, he turned the radio back on.
Sue reached over and turned it off. Frowning, Andy turned the radio back on. His wife shot him an outraged look, then turned it off again. Suddenly, the two of them were squabbling over the radio like children, one turning it off, as fast as the other could turn it on.
Without warning, the interior of the SUV was flooded with light. Andy looked up at the road, and saw the beams of two strong headlamps bearing down on him, cutting like a sharp blade, though through the curtain of snow. The constatnly flashing orange light mounted on the vehicle's roof, turned the freshly whitewashed forest, a sickly yellow.
It was a county snow plow, clearing the oncoming lane of the road. The lane their SUV had accidentally drifted into. There was no time to avoid it. A split-second before the crash, Andy heard his wife scream in terror.