‘Road Closed’

My indicator’s ticking. I slow down. I see the sign, but there are no barriers; nothing to stop me turning left into the village. It’s late. Nobody does roadworks at this time of night. I bet it’s still open.

By the light of my full beams, the propped-up signs are blinding. Silver arrows on blue circles point me on, on, on through the village, as if there was anywhere else to go. Dozens of them. In between, orange cones and magenta plastic barriers huddle in the road at intervals. I steer past them. Nothing yet.

In the pub on the corner, no lights are on. Strange, I think to myself. It’s only half past eight. At the side of the road, no cars. None in the driveways. I’m still coasting through at twenty. Still looking for why they closed the road.

At every bend I cover the brake, expecting the tarmac to fall away into gravel, to strike a row of cones, to hit a Heras fence or a gushing water main. Might it be here? Here? Shall I keep going? And still, there are metal signs on every corner, and abandoned cones, and the road carries on.

This stretch – was it always so long? I can’t remember the last time I took a breath. I’m fighting the heaviness in my eyelids, watching out for landmarks in the hedges to show me where I am. The blackthorn bushes are tall and cloud-like, the mottled colour of granite in the rain: sometimes blue, or grey, or brown, maybe even all three and every colour in between. But for all I knew, they could be entirely devoid of pigment. The colour of a thing before it’s painted. Right above, the starless sky stretches, black as spilled ink. I feel it seeping into all the cracks. Closing in, the deeper I go.

The road’s stretched out straight now. I’ve been driving for hours. Perhaps I’m almost at the woods, a cluster of trunks makes me wonder. But as soon as I think that, there are no more trees for miles. It makes me scared to wonder if it’s getting darker. It’s as if my headlights are fading. Something is taking the light.

I glance at the clock. It’s still half past eight.