The powerful low winter sun illuminated the seemingly endless road. The glass glistened like walls of diamonds; the highly polished doorknobs that led to the place of ones dreams were glowing like hot molten lava that had just erupted from the brittle and frozen pathway.
The place would have been perfect if it weren't for the thick yellow lines that ran parallel with the crisp frozen pathway and the people who waltzed up and down it with no time to stop and look at the wondrous beauty, to time to stand and talk and no time to care about other people.
Berny took one long deep breath of the cool refreshing air and filled his lungs with courage, for he knew he was going to need a lot of it. He stepped out onto the frost-covered pavement and immediately became one of those people.
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Yet secretly, he was taking in all of the smells of this beautiful street. He was secretly admiring the way the glass glistened and the doorknobs glowed. He wondered if he would ever be able to visit this wonderful place again and if so why.
He reached the end of the street he loved so much. He knew this because there were now cars, vans and big red buses ploughing through the wide streets that were full of even more people that only cared about themselves.
Berny started tapping his feet as he waited for the eyesore that changed the speed of the mercurial vehicles to tell him it was now safe to cross. Safely across the energetic and hectic road Berny opened the door of the inconspicuous Lexus that was parked waiting for him.
As he slipped inside the nondescript, matt black box he was greeted by three men who he had never met. Although he had never met them he knew their names, well what they were called anyway. Even they probably couldn't remember their real names anymore.
No one spoke as they were going through the dense traffic. The only sounds were that of buses stopping with a hiss or ambulances flying past with their sirens on; other than that there was nothing except for the heavy breathing of the three men he had the pleasure of travelling with.
Whilst adjusting himself for the third time on the luxurious cream leather seta, he got a whiff of the man in front of him, the driver. He was obviously a bit of a chain smoker and it showed, as around his mouth there were wrinkles so deep Berny was sure he could see dust in the great canyons between them, or perhaps it was ash from the little white sticks he put in his mouth. He had tried to cover up the fact he was addicted to the little white sticks, by covering himself in a strong fragrance, it was too strong, he had probably got it half price in Superdrug.
Berny despised cigarettes and felt no pity for the people who put them in their mouths and then complained of lung disease or some other illness caused by them. There was one reason for this; Berny's father had been a heavy smoker and died of cancer as result when Berny was still young. The only memory of his father was the strong smell created by the toxic smoke. Berny had blamed his fathers death for ruining Berny' life and getting him in to such a mess.
A single tear had appeared from the bottom of his right eye. The salty liquid was stinging his eye and made it feel like he had been hit. He turned his head to the one-way window and right on cue the saturated tear ran down the harsh, bold contours of his face; over the faded ink scar he had been given by an energetic broom handle. He made no effort to stop the acidic liquid and it fell to the floor like a snow onto ice.
He turned to face the person next to him; it was Knuckles, very original, so called because he had none. He was a thug and he looked like one, he had a shaved head, a prominent brow and very heavy shoulders. He looked uncomfortable in his pin-striped suit, and would have probably preferred to be wearing a leather jacket. As Berny looked at him, Knuckles' jaw twitched quite sporadically, his jaw seemed to be having a fit. Berny chose to ignore it and returned to looking out of the window.
They had stopped at another ghastly set of poles with lights on when a police van containing enough policemen to storm The Ritz pulled up beside their box on wheels. This seemed to make the three men nervous, as far as Berny knew they had no reason to be, as they weren't in any trouble and hadn't done anything wrong, yet. The lights changed and the car and the threatening van went their separate ways.
They were reaching the edge of the crowded and over populated city when Knuckles' phone rang. It was one of those really annoying tones Berny loathed, but everybody else seemed to love. Knuckles brought the inconspicuous brick out of his jacket pocket and put it to his ear. He did not talk, he just listened. Towards the end of the conversation, he spoke softly into the mouthpiece and said "Yes that's fine, see you tomorrow". Berny had never heard him speak before. He had a timid but clear voice that would have been more suited to a poet rather than a football hooligan.
"The plan's changed Bob" Knuckles said softly.
"Where to now then?" Bob, the driver bellowed in a coarse Northern accent, which would have suited Knuckles much better than his existing one.
"The barn" he replied as if he had rehearsed it.
"K" was the acknowledgement he gave back.
Berny sat thinking, the barn? He didn't know of any barn, was it actually a barn or was it code for something? He'd know soon enough.
As they left the smog of the city behind them the eerie tension lifted also. "Alright chaps?" Al the man in the front passenger seat asked. Of all of the men he was travelling with Berny liked Al the best, he did not know why, he just did, perhaps it was because he was he was older than the other three and reminded Berny of his father. Knuckles gave a squeak that Al seemed to understand as "Everything is fine".
"Good" was Al's reassurance. "How you doing Berny? Long time no see mate" Berny didn't quite know what this meant as he had never seen Al before, he had spoke to him, many times they had spoken on the telephone and on internet chat rooms. In fact they knew each other so well it did feel like they had known each other for a very long time, they knew each other well but not too well as there were things they did not want to know about each other, these things were never discussed.
"I'm fine. Still not sure what we're meant to be doing." Replied Berny. Berny had dropped that question in as he did not want to confront Al directly about it.
"We're going up North to see someone who would like to talk to you" was the answer to his cleverly disguised question.
They were on a motorway now. The fields either side were empty except for the thin layer of ice that was preventing the rich soil underneath from being exposed to the harmful rays of the sun. they were going slower than the other polluting vehicles. This gave Berny a chance to get his bearings. The land was flat with small rolling hills. The clouds were lightly spread and presented no threat, allowing the powerful rays of the sun to shine off anything that was stupid enough to get in their way.
Bob broke the silence "Off here Al?"
"Yep" was the well thought out reply. Berny couldn't see anywhere to turn off. But Bob found the small lane and directed the car down like a heron swoops in on a fish.
The lane was bordered by a hedge, which had lost all of its leaves and was now just one big mess of tangled branches. There was one on both sides. They grew over the road and touched once or trice in the middle. This place must look really beautiful in the summer or early autumn when the leaves are crisp and brown. Berny wished it wasn't winter, because now the mess of twigs were bare, they looked evil, each one trapping itself around the other starving it of the precious light there was.
The peaceful little lane had now turned into a spiralling labyrinth of sharp bends and deep gully's. Berny leant to his left so he could see out of the front windscreen. Left right left again, the bends were getting closer together. Some of them you couldn't tell which way they went until the last second. Bob must have been a rally driver in a past life.
Bob was now accelerating on every bend. It was as if he wanted to tip the car over. He was making it very hard for himself. Perhaps he liked a challenge.
Everyone else started looking worried. It wasn't just Berny who thought Bob was taking the corners too fast.
Al screamed to Bob "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
Bob didn't hear, or didn't want to hear. He was in a trance.
It was knuckles turn now "SLOW DOWN YOU'RE GANNA KILL US ALL!" This provoked no reaction either.
Berny felt obliged to have a go "BOB STOP IT NOW" Bob must have heard this but it did not prompt the response they were all looking for. Instead it made Bob speed up even more.
The corners were getting sharper, the speed was getting faster. There was nothing they could do except hold on and hope Bob would come to his senses.
Bob was now finding it hard to see the corners. He was leaning forward. He was squinting to get a better look. His breathing was shallow and very fast.
His arm started first. Then his leg, his hands and finally his neck. Bob had no hands on the wheel. He curled into a ball against the side of the car and started rocking like a pendulum going three times faster than it should. A thick froth had formed at his mouth and was now coming out of every hole on his body, including the tiny holes in his skin.
Berny knew what was going to happen. He saw it first. It was a great oak. The most beautiful and overpowering tree he had ever seen.
It did not feel like he had imagined it would. He was slammed into the seat in front of him. His legs hurt the most, there was a loud hiss. He was alive, well he thought he was. It was hard to tell. He looked at his legs, they were still there. He looked around him. Knuckles was covered in blood and stuck between the two seats. Berny did not even try to see if he was still alive and if he was what kind of life would he be able to live as his neck was at an angle that should b impossible to put it in.
Where were Bob and Al? They weren't there, they couldn't have got out. Where they would have been sitting was now just a mess of tangled metal.
The door opened first time, Berny slipped though the small inviting gap and found himself in a pool of liquid. As he inspected the liquid he found some of it was petrol and the rest a deep scarlet of red blood. Whose blood he did not know, he did not care either. The petrol and the blood did not mix, the blood sat in the centre surrounded by the strong smelling, flammable fuel.
Berny pulled himself away from the wreckage. He sat in the road covered by blood and fuel. The birds sang almost as if trying to comfort him. Berny tried to take in what had happened. Was it his fault? What should he do now? Where will he go?
Before he had time to answer any of those questions a face appeared in the wreckage. It was Al. He smiled and winked. His pleasant face was now a blur of deep red and pale yellows. Berny rushed over as fast as his crippled legs would take him. He was halfway when he heard it, a loud click.
He was pushed back by the heat of the monstrous flames.
Berny sat watching the overpowering flames take over the wreckage. He sat in his pool of fuel and blood and a single tear formed in his right eye.
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