I found today's challenge - the road goes ever on - incredibly difficult for some reason. Maybe it was the lack of time, maybe it was a dip in creative energies, or maybe it was just a stupid idea to come up with that challenge in the first place! Whatever the reason, I feel this isn't one of my best pieces of work by any means...
But, this 30 day writing challenge is all about battling through such problems so, despite not being very pleased with what I've written, I'm going to offer it up all the same...
The Road Goes Ever On
The fog wrapped around us like a shroud, the car headlights serving to accomplish little but illuminate the thick grey mist that had closed in on us from every side. We had slowed down to little more than a crawl, hesitantly creeping along the contours of the road, when the fog suddenly lifted and we were once more out in the bright sunlight. After the claustrophobic confines of the fog, the light was so intense that I was forced to cover my eyes with one hand while simultaneously pulling the sun visor down with my other. As I did so, I felt a sudden wave of déjà vu overcome me.
“What?” asked Dave, alternating between staring at the motorway that was now unfurling ahead of us and looking across from the wheel to me.
“Nothing. Just déjà vu.”
“Oooh…that’s a glitch in the system,” he grinned. “We’re in the Matrix…”
“You do realise that it stopped being cool to quote from The Matrix more than ten years ago?”
“In your déjà vu, did I call you a putz in about five seconds?”
“You’re a putz.”
“It wasn’t like that. I couldn’t remember the conversation we were having or anything; I just had this overwhelming feeling of familiarity creep over me.”
“Overwhelming feeling of familiarity creep over you?” laughed Dave.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. Apart from being totally pretentious.”
“How is that pretentious?”
“How is it not pretentious?”
“I am not getting into this argument again. Just because I teach English Lit does not make me pretentious.”
“You call it English Lit. That is, I’m afraid, a bad sign already.”
“You’re just jealous because Mum is happy to tell her friends at the synagogue about what I do. You realise that she is still telling them you’re studying a PhD?”
“Yeah,” he smirked. “I just love how she’s so supportive of my musical ambitions.”
“I think she’d be more comfortable telling them that you were a pimp than a musician.”
“Because at least I’d have a trade, right?”
“I’ve used that line before, huh?”
“You know, I’m sure it’s only because I’m a musician that she’s happy to talk about you. If I’d actually bothered graduated on that law degree, you’d be the son she never talked about instead.”
“I think I might prefer that.”
“Hey, I’ve actually been a practising lawyer for the last five years. I just keep banging on about the musician stuff to keep her from trying to set me up with hideously dull daughters of her friends.”
I smiled to myself and lay my head back in the seat, watching the green fields and trees at the side of the road slide smoothly by. Growing up, there was no one whose company I enjoyed more than Dave; he was two years older than me but we were most often together like twins. Thick as thieves, our father would always say. And things hadn’t changed really even now we were adults; I still loved spending time with Dave and this trip was a perfect excuse to get in a few hours of verbal sparring. Something stirred in my memory as I thought about this, a half memory that refused to reveal itself and which pulled away from me when I tried to grasp at it in my mind, but it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know where we were going.
“Where is it we’re going?”
“I can’t remember,” I said clumsily, almost tripping over the words “I can’t remember where we’re going.”
“Are you alright?”
“I’m not sure.” But, even as I said it, I felt a lurching in my stomach that told me I most definitely wasn’t alright. And, while I couldn’t work out what was wrong, I had a sense that there was something I should remember that would help me understand.
“Take your mind off it, you’re probably just travel sick.” said Dave, “Why don’t you tell me about that other work you’ve been doing?”
“What other work?”
“The work for the government?”
“When did I tell you about that?”
Dave glanced at me with something approaching puzzlement. “On the phone, few months back. Said it was all hush-hush but I figured you’d be able to tell me.”
I sighed. No one was supposed to know that I was doing part-time analysis work for MI6; I couldn’t believe I’d been stupid enough to let it slip to Dave. They’d trained me to tell no one about it and I’d gone and blabbed to my big brother.
“I can’t talk about it.”
“Oh come on; who’s going to know?”
“No, really. I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
“Ok, now you really have got my interest up. You know I’m not going to let you get away with it that easily.”
The memory edged closer and I tried to relax this time, focus not on grabbing it but letting it come to me. As it moved closer, finally coalescing with clarity, I bolted forward in my seat and spun to face the man in the driver’s seat.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Hello? I’m Dave, your brother. Look, are you ok?”
“My brother is dead,” I spat at him. “So I am going to ask you one last time, who the fuck are you?”
“Seriously, Mike, you are really worrying me. What say we pull over at the next service station and you get some air?”
“This is wrong,” I said, looking around and truly feeling it for the first time. “This is all wrong.”
* * *
“Cancel run 102,” said the grey haired man, “He’s getting agitated. This isn’t going to work.”
“Cancelling.” said the assistant in the white coat. “What parameters should we alter for the next run? We could try the mother again?”
“No, the mother was a waste of time. He is clearly most closely bonded with his brother; his brother is the only person he would consider talking to about the encryption protocols. It’s the only person he really trusts.”
“But he keeps remembering his brother is dead.”
“We can compensate for that. Run the program again but I want to make changes to the brother’s sensitivity index in real-time.”
“Run 103, commencing.”
* * *
The fog wrapped around us like a shroud, the car headlights serving to accomplish little but illuminate the thick grey mist that had closed in on us from every side. We had slowed down to little more than a crawl, hesitantly creeping along the contours of the road, when the fog suddenly lifted and we were once more out in the bright sunlight. After the claustrophobic confines of the fog, the light was so intense that I was forced to cover my eyes with one hand while simultaneously pulling the sun visor down with my other. As I did so, I felt a sudden wave of déjà vu overcome me…