Another world: Episode 1

man lying on sofa
Sofa Research

Ms. G.G. Pettigrew
North Rompshire School of Manners
Great Sodden
Rompshire 404F 34

Dear Gloria,

I’ll be glad to give this year’s sofa-etiquette talk to the girls on the 16th at 2 p.m. I’ll bring my back tie. I’m sure getting there won’t be a problem, but thanks for the warning about the state of the roads in this weather.

And that’s a yes, on staying the night. See you about eight-o-clock on the 15th.

Yours truly,

Barry Plumb
Antiques & Sofa Therapy
20 High Street
Dampford 
Rompshire ROM S55

TUESDAY

Barry Plumb knows he should have started earlier. He’s expected at Ms. Pettigrew’s for dinner at 8:30, and he’s already over an hour late. Who would have thought this part of Rompshire is so wild? Its narrow winding roads don’t make for easy driving.

His 1947 Alvis TA14 splashes through the downpour in the dark. He hasn’t seen another vehicle for an hour. Two headlamp-cones of yellow are his only illumination, that and the occasional lightning. No streetlights here. No lights at all except for the glow of his instrument panel.

He only has himself to blame. Gloria Pettigrew warned him of the treacherous conditions. But Barry put it down to all that nonsense talked about being out after dark on the 15th. The curse of something-or-other, what rot!

As he crests a hill, a flash of lightning, and for an instant, he sees untamed country; gnarled trees, stone walls, and a forest in the distance. Rain pounds on the car’s roof. His wiper blades aren’t up to the job. The heater is on the blink. He wipes condensation from the interior glass, but he can see little in front of him, and his rear-view mirror is black. The serpentine road is only wide enough for one vehicle now.

The road winds downhill. The wind howls. And if that is possible, it’s raining harder. Then he comes to a junction of three narrow roads: a signpost.

He can barely get the car door open against the wind. He splashes across to the signpost. Even with his flashlight, he has to get close to read: Great Sodden 7 Miles.

But that’s in the direction he’s just come from.

He gets back in the car just as the sign blows down. He’s wet, tired, and lost. He’ll catch his death of cold if he’s not careful.