NANCY cantered through the woods. Pine needles and stones crunched beneath her. Trunks parted ahead and her breaths snatched. But exhaustion hit her too soon. She resorted to putting one foot in front of the other. She repeated. The limo’s tortured bulk skulked in the trees. She couldn’t get away from it. No matter how far she walked, the monstrous bin-liner would follow. It had the power to catch up or sneak past her without her notice. She feared the Cycloptic glare would find her on the other side of the trees.
She took assurance from the strobes’ decreasing brilliance. She must be gaining distance from the site. But even from here, she could just make out the soft orchestra of collective engines. Nancy ducked behind a hillock before her senses had processed what she’d heard. Thirty yards to her left, two officials tramped through a thicket. Stalks splintered their lurid jackets. A man’s voice called out. Nancy lowered herself. She entered a trance and a wormhole into the past. She gazed at the twigs on the floor in the same way she had gazed at a stretch of carpet behind the sofa or a pile of toys in her bedroom. Her trance helped time pass. It provided an emotional shell and rendered her invisible.
Voices kept coming back and Nancy preserved her trance. She would wait. She would remain still for as long as she had to. Her vigilance compressed time into an instant. The thicket no longer betrayed movement. Only a pearlescent flicker rebounded against the trees.
Nancy was walking again before she knew it. Plastic straps chafed her toes and the chill cramped up her calves. But Vince’s coat radiated her heat back into her midriff. She fancied a morsel of his had been trapped within the lining. The sleeves being too long enabled her hands to keep warm and she sought comfort from the coat’s weight.
She paused when noting she’d heard the passing of a train ahead. She forged on, pushing through the thicket at the fringes of the culvert. Hooped wire slashed across the ditch. Nancy looked back and could still make out the pulse of distant strobes. The crash site would remain active for some hours, it seemed. Mists shrouded saplings below, telling her the way would be impassable. She burrowed into the thicket where twigs snagged the lapels of her coat. But the black monstrosity was waiting for her. Its single headlamp would pick her out of the gloom the moment she entered a clearing. Drizzle smeared her vision. She blinked and realised the damp had been her tears.
A scar on the ground assured her she must be going somewhere. The hooped wire dipped just ahead. Nancy pushed through a kissing gate in the hedge and followed overhead wires. Discarded coke cans and sweet wrappers clued her in on recent activity, but what lay ahead, she couldn’t be sure. She realised she had nowhere else to go but Glebe Hollow. No one knew her name but the pap had her photos. Witnesses would detail on Nancy et al having a blast in the Nexus night club; the police would have a lead beginning with Bex’s tits. Still, Nancy hoped the small matter of a double hangover would buy her some time.
Soda lights fizzed beyond a brambled dip. Thorns chafed her ankles and her breaths vapored in the chill. The contorted wreck was still awaiting her. She could sense it beyond the trees. It would forever skulk just out of sight, but the bulk was there, as real as the mud caking her heels. Nancy pushed up the slope and disappeared through a slit at the top.
The station comprised but a stretch of tarmac and a footbridge. Nancy planted herself upon a sheltered bench in front of the sign Hampton in Arden. The lights flickered above this apparent tramp. She lifted her heels, curled up on her side and tucked her feet beneath Vince’s coattails. Before she knew it, her sensations had faded into the distance.
The cab was immaculate; burnished leather and black alloy. Moonlight glided over streamlined fascias. No occupants, no combustion, yet the limo was cruising straight ahead. Everything within had been molded to her needs, no one else but for her. But Nancy didn’t want to be sitting inside. Night smothered the windows yet something was coming. She could hear it.
Nancy prized an eye open. The seat’s struts pinched her skin at her joints. The horizon had bruised up and a carriage was approaching. She peeled herself from the bench and retrieved a fallen stiletto.
Nancy didn’t recall getting inside. She was the sole occupant. The carriage rocked and shadows slithered. She readied her purse for the conductor but no one came. Her form had impressed upon no one. She perceived herself as a ghost. She shouldn’t be here. She should be dead.