Okay, so I’ve been reading Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension and it got me to thinking about applications of the fifth dimension to my fiction. I did touch on the idea of parallel universes in Any Tomorrow, but I thought that the implications for a more personal story might work out even better.
Coincidentally, I had the fortunate experience of riding out “Snowmaggedon 2018” in the comfort of Middleton Place, a plantation, in Charleston, South Carolina. Thanks to that experience, it took little imagination to describe the events in the story below.
What I have provided here might be considered a teaser, of course. The fully formed story with all the requisite twists and turns—and physics—will take some time to flesh out. Until then, you might consider where you would take this.
It’s a terrible thing, that complete lack of sensation, when the familiar road noise becomes silence. And it takes a moment for the brain to realize what the body already knows. Anticipation raises tension to terror, as the inevitable impact approaches.
The storm began hours earlier, before the temperatures finally dropped below freezing. The warmer temperatures before the main storm hit meant that beneath the snow was a solid bed of ice. Now, this wasn’t so bad so long as the snow covered the ice and allowed for slow, but steady traction. The problems arise when the wind drifts the snow off the ice, exposing it.
Unfortunately, snow covered ice gives a false sense of control. It was that deception that enticed Sue Marlbee to press down on the gas. She was late for her shift at Sav-Mor-Mart, and even with a snow storm raging, she was expected to do her shift. After all, people needed beer and cigarettes and milk, and the Sav-Mor-Mart wasn’t about to close.
Sue had little experience driving in the snow. The storm, which would later be called “Snowmageddon 2018” in social media, was a fluke for coastal South Carolina. Before it was over it would deliver a solid foot of snow and days with temperatures in the teens. But all that was a future of which Sue was blessedly ignorant. Had she known, she might have considered another course of action, but she didn’t know and it might not have made a difference anyway. She couldn’t afford to lose her job, not now, not when she was almost free.
Sue didn’t just hop in the her old Ford Focus—she would have been a fool not to see the danger in the snow—it did give her second thoughts, but she figured if she could just get to the Savannah Highway, it would certainly be clear and that would be a straight shot to Ravenel. The problem was that she had to negotiate a series of narrow back roads, flanked by swamp and forest, to get there.
How long would it take to get to Ravenel? Normally, it took her maybe forty-five minutes. Tonight, under these conditions, she decided to leave early. Plenty of time, she thought, but even with that she was anxious. Her manager was an asshole on a good day. If she was late, she’d catch hell about how he was there—probably pulling a double shift—and she didn’t even have the decency to show up on time. Screw the snowstorm, only he mattered to him.
It was the anxiety that drove her, that and her luck on the road. No other traffic. No sliding. Making decent time. And then it happened. The dark patch of road was ice. She hit it doing forty miles an hour. And that was it. One moment she was on the road headed for work. The next moment she was plowing through the snow, over and embankment, and into the swamp.
Within minutes her tracks were only suggestions. In ten minutes, they had disappeared beneath a blanket of fresh snow. So dark was the night and so thick was the falling snow that even if a plow had come down the road, they would have never seen her, half immersed in the frozen swamp.
It had all happened so fast, she barely had time to comprehend what had happened before the snow covered the old blue Focus. Before she could even consider what to do next, the car had all but vanished to the outside world. It had become part of an eerie grayish white landscape.
She sat there, still clutching the steering wheel, her foot still on the brake, unconsciously assessing herself. Her final verdict was that she was uninjured and alive, just shaken up. Sure, that’s all, just shaken up. Her heart was racing.
She looked around, really nothing to see. Her purse had flown off the seat and was on the floorboard. She wished now that she had brought a mug of coffee with her. All in all though, it could be worse. The cabin was warm—or about as warm as the miserable little seldom used heater could make it. The engine was running, but had two things going against it. The first was that the gas gauge was threatening the “E”. The second thing was that snow was building up behind the car and the hot exhaust was struggling to keep the tail pipe open.
And there was something else. When Sue took off her safety belt and reached for her purse, she noticed that it was damp. Not just a little damp, but wet. She turned on the cabin lights and could see that both the driver and passenger side had a couple inches of water on the floorboard.
She pulled her legs up closer to her seat. Thank goodness she decided on the hiking boots instead of the sneakers. She felt herself fortunate, but she could see where water had already attacked her boots, and wondered how waterproof they really were.
The car was still running—for now—but the heater was struggling to keep up with the frigid howling wind. And what happens when it dies, she thought. Maybe I should just make a run for it. No run for it. She’d driven these roads for years. There wasn’t a house for miles.
“Oh, Lord,” she said out loud, “what will become of me now?”
As if to answer, her cell phone played the familiar ringtone—Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’. She hesitated to answer it. She could have sworn that when she picked it up off the dresser it was dead. Dead, dead, dead.
And it was dead, dark as ash, but it still played the reggae anthem. She picked it up with hands that trembled not from cold, but from fear. Looking at the dark screen, she could almost make out a single word, Dad. But how could that be? It had been more than five years since he had called her, more than five years since the accident. More than five years since—
She pressed the answer button and held it to her ear.
“Hello,” she whispered.
“You got yourself in quite a jam, girl,” said the familiar voice.
“Dad?” she asked with hopeful wariness. “Is it you? How can this be?”
“How could you go out this storm?” he asked. It is him, she thought. It has to be.
“I didn’t know this was coming,” she said. “I didn’t know this was coming. I don’t listen to the news. It’s just too disturbing. It’s just too depressing. Why should I put myself through that?” The snow, compelled by the wind, scratched against her door like a thousand tiny claws. The voice on the phone did not reply.
“Dad,” she asked, “are you still there?”
“I’m right here, Sue,” said the voice, “why don’t you open the door and let me in?”
© Copyright 2018 by Kevin Fraleigh