The Lady With The Pram
The engine of My E type roars as I change gears and bring it to a complete stop at the Lights. An old Cyndy Lauper song plays on the radio, “Time after time….” She says as I wait for the light to change. There’s hardly any traffic at this time of the morning, on this road, there never is. A summer morning, a touch of humidity in the air and I feel a light breeze gently kiss the skin of my hand where I have it dangling through my window. The only other sound I hear is the idle growl of the engine, there’s a sullen threat of power in it, which seems to take something away from the silence that you have before dawn. I look around, its mostly dense bush in these parts, I have been known to cross paths with the odd Kangaroo on this road, but we were both fortunate to have been concentrating on what we were doing, for it was able to go unharmed, on its way and me, chrome intact, on mine. But ever since that time I have been careful to keep well below the speed limit, specially at this time of dawn.
This is there time of the day, not mine. But it’s a common site to see road kill on these roads. It always brings out mixed feelings in one. You may not have run over that particular victim, but I think, we all feel a general sense of guilt and shame when we see it. It’s probably ingrain deep within our psyche, a shared sense of guilt. None of us want to admit it, but its there. Just look closely.
The light turns green; easing my foot off the clutch I change back to the first and listen to the engine roar as the idleness of it comes back to life, a power, a rush, One I have to exert immense self control to hold back on. The utter rush, thrill of it, as I gently push down on the accelerator. A slight nudge and the roar is deafening. So much for my feelings of empathy with nature, but this is just one of those things that is just too hard to resist. The thunderous roar of an e type.
This is my usual route to work. A drive through nature, then a change of scenery as I drive into and through a small town, my Accounting practice is about 3 suburbs away from the town I just entered.
I keep the Jag at a steady pace, it might be many decades old, older than me when you come to think of it, but it purrs smoothly through the street as if it had just been taken out of the showroom.
It is a street with two lanes on each side. A slow lane and a fast one separated by a wide, tree filled lush green island in the middle. It is a well lit and it is wide, so wide that you can’t really see the oncoming traffic which is safely on the other side of this island. All you see of them are the passing lights of vehicles moving in the opposite direction.
I reduce my speed so that I’m travelling a bit below 70. There’s not a car in site now and day break is a long way away. I ease the car on to the fast lane as there are too many man holes on the lane I’m meant to be on, the feel of a wheel going over one of them just doesn’t feel right with me. The car may be smooth but there’s no point in exerting it too much by driving over these. There are houses and apartments on either side of the road, and during the day it is a busy road. But not at this time of the morning and not today.
I listen to the roar of the Jag as I keep it well within the speed limit. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see a woman pushing a shopping trolley right on to the road. She approached the verge at such a pace and everything about her approach tells me she would step on to the road. My instinct was to slam my foot down hard on the breaks. The tyres screeched as the car came to a sliding halt, passing the point at which I had seen her. There was just no time to think. I knew I didn’t hit her but it felt just too close. I would have sat there in my car for just a few seconds, but it felt like rather a long time before I came back to my senses. I didn’t think, I pulled off my seat belt and got out of the car. When I turned around to look back at the place I had seen her, there was no one there. But I saw a woman. I know I did. I saw her from the corner of my eye rushing towards the road. But there was no one to be seen. The street lamp nearby was dim but there was enough light for me to see around there. But there just was no one there; I even walked around the bushes to see if she was injured or was hiding behind one.
Here I was, my car stopped right in the middle of the road, totally confused as to what had just happened. I looked around in a haze, a haze where one has more a feeling of being in a dream than reality, I really didn’t know what I was doing or what I should do. There simply wasn’t a soul there. All there was was a white cross, an old one but it looked well cared for, with flowers around it and the like. One of those crosses that people place in areas where an accident had happened. I was in too much of shock to think of anything or anything much about it, though it felt just too eerie for me to stay there any longer. Looking behind me I could see a light approaching me from a distance. In a haze, I got back in the car, pushed it back in gear and moved it on to the other lane and went on my way, which in turn let the other vehicle that I had seen at a distance, pass me by.
Could I have just mistaken that white cross for a woman with a trolley? But how was that at all possible. I knew what I saw.
My office was only fifteen minutes away from there, so I just drove on to work. But my mind was just a haze. When I came to work the whole building was dark. The passage light that was generally switched on during the night seemed to have fizzled out. I walked though that long dark corridor, shivers going down my spine as I did. The shock of it all was just too much. Once I got into my office and closed the door behind me, I leaned on it and was there for quite a while. It felt like a very bazaar thing to have happened.
Well, then, as with all things, I didn’t think much about it after that. Work kept me busy till it was time for me to leave for the day. Driving back home that night, I had this strange eerie feeling about me, one of those feeling which you cant just cant shake, but just lingers on. A sense of strange alertness, a feeling of unease was all about me. The next morning I kept a close eye for that white cross I had seen the previous day, passing it I tried to see if it was at all possible for this to be mistaken for a woman with a trolley. I just couldn’t figure out what really had happened, it was all just a haze to me.
I kept this up for the next few days, then, as things always do, I just forgot about the whole thing. But each time I would pass that cross, my foot would come off the accelerator and edge towards the break, it just became a habit for me.
About a month passed since that incident, and I had all but forgotten the whole thing. I was on my way back from work and I stopped at a shop nearby, a place I stop at regularly to buy my weeks supply of sweets and gum. The shop owner, who had got to know me a bit better now, came out to chat with while I was loading my purchases into the boot of my car. He was a Chinese gentleman, probably middle aged, small in stature. But his face had much expression about it. What ever he was talking about could be seen in the expressions he made on his face. He seemed to like cars of that by gone era as mine was, and as an accountant, people in business always have something they would like to chat to you about, which generally tend to be about their business or the economy as was the case today. As we were talking about things, in passing I asked him about the cross I drive past everyday, which happened to be quite close to his shop. We couldn’t make it out from where we were standing, but we had a general idea of where this cross was.
“Oh that” he said while taking on a serious expression. “It was such a tragedy what happened there” he said staring into the distance. “This was long before you moved into this area” he said looking at me. But there was a sad expression on his face. “Long before” he said turning his face away from me to gaze into the distance.
We both watched the traffic for awhile, neither of us saying a word, he then turned towards me again, with a solemn look on his face. It was a full moon that day, and I could see his features clearly in that soft moon lit night. “Such a tragedy” he said again, a distant look on his face. He smiled sadly at me. “She was very beautiful” he said shaking his head, “very beautiful”. “She used to come to my shop to buy milk you know”. He said still gently smiling at me but his mind was far away. “She would always talk with me when she came, its like always, Hi Chin, how are you today, it is a nice day to be out isn’t it?”, “Like that, always would chat a bit”. “She used to live in one of those houses there, so she would just walk to my shop when she needed to”. This was many years ago though, he said smiling at me sadly again.
“So what happened?” I asked him closing the boot of my car and turning towards him.
“Such a tragedy” he said almost to him self, turning his head to look back in that direction. “The truck driver said she just walked on to the road pushing a pram, he didn’t have time to even break”. He kept looking in that direction, and now hairs on the back of the neck were starting to stand up, I just stared at him in horror. Then he turned back to face me “But no one could find a pram, there was no pram. But the truck driver swore there was a pram”. “Just terrible” he just turned back and walked into his shop.
Greylands Psychiatric Hospital, Perth Australia 6.33PM:
A man in white sits in a corner of a long hall which has tall green walls. The floor is a light shade of grey. The man mumbles to him self. He is unshaven, unkept. He’s seated well away from the others. As he sways he talks to himself. He’s incoherent. A nurse goes up to him, she is about to ask him if he was ready to take his medication when he jerks his face up and stares right at her, a look of terror in his eyes. “She just smiled at me…… just smiled at me as she walked in front of my truck”…..
By N Shivam from Australia