The night is a precarious thing. When the dark veil rolls in, stifling nature’s light, the boundaries between real and imagined turn static.
Anything can happen.
Sarah stared out into the dark expanse, imagining her father stepping out of the walled shadows, removing that barrier between the dead and the living. And though a strangled panic grips her heart at seeing a dead person, it is the cruel anticipation of seeing her father that keeps her company.
Hopes run with abandon in the dark. Maybe he’ll descend from heaven as a ghost to say everything a father should. Or that other wish creeps up, the one she’d never dare speak aloud on the off chance she might let herself believe that everything she knew since she could understand it was a lie.
His death is a lie. He’ll show up one day with adventure stories about how he hiked around the world or the longing that she’ll wake up from a coma and realize everything she’s known for sixteen years was an obnoxious dream. It wouldn’t matter how it came about. All that matters is her dad next to her.
The night is a precarious thing. It allows one’s mind to fudge reality. And tonight is no different. Except for tonight, Sarah has a reason to believe. Tonight, though she may not get to see him in person, though she may not get to feel him next to her, she will get to know him. She has his journal to thank for that.
Sarah practiced her ‘You don’t know me, but I’m your long lost niece’ smile for the thousandth time in the past 900 miles. Her lips still weren’t quite right. They just lay on her face, forced, pissy even. The weight of the unknown crushed her shoulders. Why would she try to find an aunt who never even bothered to try and find her?
The GPS’s tinny, indifferent voice interrupted, reminding Sarah the exit branched off in one-half mile and she thought about turning around. Again.
She almost didn’t cross the state line into Georgia. Florida was home. She knew Florida. She loved Florida. It was only an imagined picture of her father that got her through it. Once she riled her emotions and gunned the car past the ‘Welcome to Georgia’ sign, she thought she’d be home free from nerves.
At the hotel in South Carolina, the receptionist asked where she headed. “Home,” she had said, sleep fogging her brain.
She might have turned around this morning when she left the hotel if the pre-programmed GPS didn’t make her decisions for her, making her stay the course, turn by turn. “Take exit five, to the right, towards Adams.” Sarah mechanically veered the steering wheel and the car drove onto the exit ramp. The headlights illuminated only a cone-shaped area of miles of backwoods roads. Great. The GPS guided me to Hicktown, U.S.A. Population one. Leatherface.
Finally, her high beams caught reflective numbers on mailboxes. She slowed the car, but the houses stood dark. They grew out of the forest, big, shadowy outlines in the moonlight that interrupted the muddle of tall trees. Sarah glanced at the clock in the dash. It only read eleven, yet every house she crawled past looked deserted.