Thunder rumbles as the car makes its way down a small road in northern France. The man drives stiffly, keeping his hands clenched tight at 10 and 2. He keeps his eyes on the road, but the foot that isn’t on the gas taps in time to the French punk rock playing on the radio.
It’s an old car, a rental made online from when the man found a deal for 88% off the regular price on Expedia. Naturally, the woman convinced the man to take it. Her eyes could work that sort of magic on him. The car had broken down twice on the road already, but by sheer luck there happened to be a friendly passerby both times who was willing to help out. The third time does not turn out to be a charm. The car sputters, coughs feebly as if apologizing, and cruises to a stop. Fields make up the scenery on the right side of the road, with a few horses and cows grazing. The man looks to the left, and sees a large house set back behind a larger, heart-shaped lawn.
The man gets out of the car and stands in the middle of the road. More thunder sounds, and rain starts to patter down on man and car. There is no sign of life from the large house, even though the grass and bushes look like they have been mowed and trimmed recently. There is even a child’s rubber ball near the gate. The design is faded, but it looks like a scene from Finding Nemo. The man sighs and looks up at the sky, trying to gauge the time from the position of the sun. He is hopeless at it, having been born and raised in a metropolitan city where technology is necessary for survival, dependent on devices to tell him the time of day. However, he has sworn off his mobile phone for the duration of this trip. And summers in Normandy, while prone to rain, are also blessed with having the sun in the sky until 10 o’clock in the evening. From his calculations, it looks like it could be around 6 or 7 PM where is my watch when I need it goddamn technology cleanse. He is wrong, but of course he doesn’t know that. And the car broke down, so he can’t check the time on the dashboard.
The man doesn’t know how long he’s been standing there, but the cold rain has slowly soaked into his shoes. He curses, rubbing his hands together to stay warm. He contemplates going into the large house chateau this is France and those are called chateaus and asking for help, maybe a place to stay for the night. He crosses to the other side of the road until he is directly in front of the gates, looking up at the building.
In a brief, manic spark of light, he notices that the chateau has two structures chimneys? sticking up in the middle like ears, making the house look like an oversized stone bat. He lets out a laugh, but the amusing thought goes away as quickly as it came. Another step towards the gate, but he suddenly stops, listening. Where there was silence only a moment ago except for the splashing of raindrops on road and car, there was now a slight hum in the air. Almost as if no that can’t be the car broke down the car has started again. Forcing himself to take a deep breath, the man turns around slowly, his heart beating in a vicious thumpthumpthump against his chest. He blinks slowly, knowing what to expect but not wanting to face it.
When the man raises his eyes to face the old car, it is just as he has left it, but the enginge is now running. He takes a step back towards the chateau, but his heel lands on something that is not part of the road. As he turns around, he finds that he already knows what it is. A foot. A woman’s.
Robyn Phan is a student at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In the midst of studying acting and neuroscience, she writes short stories inspired by moments in her life, big or small. Robyn has 9 dogs at home, and enjoys drinking boba and eating sushi.