“Slowly?” I repeat.
Colin shrugs and Max looks worried.
“Any better ideas?”
I shake my head. I really don’t, but I do know that we have got to get out of this and walking is not something we can do. We’ll be dead long before we get out of the smoke.
“What about the car?” Max says. I can tell that he is listening to the engine. It sounds fine.
“Well, if there isn’t too much ash in the air then it should be fine.”
“Otherwise?” I ask.
“Colin meets my eyes in the rear view mirror. “The car will stop as the air filter clogs up.”
“Well,” Max says. “I suggest that we get going.”
“Yeah,” Colin mutters. I can see that he is tense. He slowly eases the car out of the space. He goes forward so he must have backed in but I can barely see the hood of the car. The smoke rolls off the windshield and we move slowly forward.
“You have insurance?” Max asks with smile.
“Ha.” Is all Colin says. He is hunched over the steering wheel and edging forward. We pass very close to a pillar, I watch it shift past. It is as if we are moving through a dream.
The pillar must mean we are out of the car park but I don’t say anything. I don’t want to break Colin’s concentration. He turns one way. I can’t see how he knows where we are going.
“I’ve done this run so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. Course I never realised I ever would.”
Max smiles at Colin but I am barely holding it together. I am so scared that we will crash. We have already come close to a parked car.
“They are going to be a problem,” Colin says.
“The parked cars?” Max asks.
Colin nods. I am having problems hearing over the racing engine.
“You don’t have to gun it,” I say.
Colin grimaces. “I’m not. I think the soot is clogging the air filter.”
We sit in silence listening to the labouring engine. It has developed a cough and although I’m not a mechanic, sounds ill.
I am about to ask how much longer we can go on when I see a car coming toward us. I see…
“Guys, can you see that?”
“Yeah,” Max says. “The smoke must be clearing.”
The car passes us and I press my face to the cold window trying to see out. The driver is staring ahead with a fixed expression. In the back I can see a small face. I think it is a child, but I can’t see well. I make a big gesture of a wave and I see a small hand send one back. The child makes me think of the one from the plane.
“Do you think they are still at the airport?” I ask.
“I didn’t hear the child, so no,” Max says. But I know what he is saying. If we didn’t hear the screams of the kid, he either couldn’t scream or he was too far away for us to hear.
“What about the radio?” I ask suddenly.
Max immediately reaches down and switches the thing on. Static fills the air. It starts to search…
This…. Emergency broadcast. Please stay in your homes and await instruction. This is an emergency broadcast. Please stay in your homes. This…
“Oh God…” I mumble and then louder. “What has happened?”
Max just shakes his head. Colin says nothing.
The car is moving faster and I can see that the smoke is clearing. I’m not sure where we are, but Colin seems to know where he is going. I don’t question him. I just listen to the same few sentences coming over the radio. The car is sounding bad. The engine is vibrating slightly and it is loud.
“I’m going to have to stop,” Colin says finally. “Otherwise the engine might go.”
“So?” Max says.
“At the moment all it needs is a new air filter but if is goes I’m not sure I can fix it. Changing an air filter is something I can do.”
Grudgingly we agree. Colin pulls onto a large grass verge and turns off the engine. The silence is complete.