The Wandering

Duncan tapped his pockets again before remembering once more that both his mobile and his wallet had been left behind in the car.  Funny how quickly he felt lost and disconnected without those two simple items that he would normally have taken so for granted.  He couldn’t even ring anyone for help so the only option would be to walk back to the road and try and flag someone down.

The night air was bitterly cold and it felt as if he’d already been walking for a lot longer than he probably had.  And his feet were soaked through from his narrow escape from the sinking car.  Who would have thought an entire car could be swallowed up a tiny little stream so quickly like that?  And who on earth had built a road so close to such a perilous stream and not bothered to put up any sort of safety barriers.  It was a country road that Duncan had happily bombed along in the bright, balmy evenings of summer but now the clocks had gone back and the early fall of darkness had transformed the winding lanes into a tricky labyrinth of tight corners and looming hedgerows.

Duncan patted his pockets again.  Why wasn’t he getting any closer to the road?  He couldn’t even see it yet.  Surely he couldn’t be walking in the wrong direction but then again, in the overcast twilight all he had to go on was the outlines of bushes and clumps of grass caught in the faint glow of the stars.  He paused and tried to listen for the sound of passing traffic.  There was nothing.  Not even the trickling of the stream anymore.

Could he die out here?  It seemed ridiculous in this modern age that a man could perish just yards away from where his car had been and half an hour’s drive from home.  And yet he was very cold.  And hungry.  And achingly tired.  How long had he been walking?  He went for his phone to check the time then remembered it wasn’t there anymore.

And then Duncan became aware of something.  Somewhere out there in the endlessly dark night, Mel was out looking for him.  She was calling his name, waving a small torch back and forth, a hopelessly futile endeavour.  For her to find him with just that tiny light would be like finding a particular pebble at the bottom of a mighty ocean.  And yet her voice seemed to carry on the still, winter air and, although barely a whisper by the time it reached him, Duncan found it comforting.  Her warm, familiar voice was like a tiny thread of hope in this wretched situation.  But what was she saying?  Was she talking about their wedding day?  Some of the words were missing but Duncan filled them in himself, thinking back to that happy April day.  The smell of fresh strawberries and champagne.  Surrounded by the beaming, proud faces of everyone he had ever known and loved.  And at the centre of it all had been Mel – after all those years it had been her he ended up with and nothing in the world could have made him happier.  He smiled just thinking about her in that dress again.


“Nurse” called Mel, straightening upwards.  “Nurse he moved!  I’m sure of it, his face just twitched a little there.  It was almost as if he was trying to smile.”

The nurse on the night shift crossed the ward and checked the various readings on the plethora of machines wired into Mr MacDonald’s head and body.

“This is good right?” asked Mel, still gripping her husband’s hand.  “I mean he could be waking up?”

“It’s still very early Mrs McDonald, your husband has a long way to go yet” answered the nurse, trying to look positive.  “But keep talking to him – at least that way he won’t feel completely alone in there.”

Title image courtesy whatmegsaid

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 1:49 PM  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This really grabbed me. You caught me up in his fear and sense of isolation and the powerful thought that it isn’t “possible” to die so close to home.

    I didn’t see the ending coming at all (in a good way, it wasn’t jarring or tacked on), but it was a perfect twist, the kind that fits the story and sheds light on what came before.

    • Thanks for the positive feedback Cathryn. I was particularly pleased with the twist on this one in that A) it was (hopefully) a genuine surprise and B) suddenly brought a whole new perspective on the story without making the reader feel cheated (yes I’m looking at you M Night Shyamalan).

  2. I really enjoyed this too. Had no idea where it was going, i thought perhaps she was a ghost to start with. Did you mean swallowed by a scream or stream? Both work!

    • Hey – it’s definitely a stream. I needed something to steal away his means of escape (and ways of communicating with the outside world) but also wanted it to be something that didn’t quite make sense. Glad you liked it!

  3. I liked the touch of the missing cell phone, and wallet. I’d feel a bit naked without them, myself. It made me wonder straight off about why he was wandering around in the dark.

    The twist at the end was a both heartbreaking and hopeful. Maybe he will get out of that dark night, if he can find Mel again. Hmm.

    Only minor criticism is that it felt like there were 3 distinct parts without enough transition. 1/3 through we’re suddenly introduced to Mel. Maybe mention her (or her voice) sooner?

    Well done! I’m a sucker for bittersweet endings.

    • Hey Mrs Bazelli – thanks for the feedback! I’ll definitely take the point about the transitions on board. This story actually reminds me a lot of “The Ballad of Nate and Carla” has a similar ending with doomed lovers.

  4. There are one or two nice little home truths in here, most people couldn’t survive for more than two minutes without their phone, and it is quite scary how such familiar surroundings can suddenly become so dangerous and sinister.

    The line “why wasn’t he getting any closer to the road?” gave me a shiver, it remimded me of the scene in the Blair Witch Project when they had walked all day only to finish up back where they had started.

    Nice Writing.

    • Thanks Steve – glad you liked it. The mobile phone idea came to me after I’ve been dropped off in town by my wife and then realised I had neither my phone or wallet on me! Fortunately she realised and drove back a few minutes later. Was an unnerving few minutes though!

  5. Great ending! And as you’ve left it open, I will choose to believe he will soon wake up 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah I didn’t want it to be grim at the end, maybe he’ll wake up, maybe not. It’s up to the reader!

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