She’d never cope without him. Everything had a place and a place to be in. Order was not natural to Susan, but he’d known that from the beginning. She was a bit slap dash. It didn’t annoy him much, of course he would sometimes try to change her and it made him smile when she made the effort. She would always fail. It didn’t matter. It was his job to set the routine, the schedule and keep track of the diary. Otherwise all hell would break loose. Wouldn’t it?
So, she needed some space, a day or two to let her hair down and slob out. She’d come to her senses quick, besides he had removed the meal calendar. A smile spread over Simon’s face as he thought about it. She never cooked. Come tea time, she would look up and not know where to turn or what to eat. He stuck a ready meal in the fridge just in case she came home hungry.
Simon raised an eyebrow to himself; noticed a mark on the work surface, grabbed a j cloth and pounced. He may be moving out for a while, but grime was unacceptable. The thought of what his home would be like on his return sent a shiver down his spine, but he would deal with it, he always did.
The letter sat near the hob, he moved it to the left an inch and then squared it to the back wall, twisted his head slightly and backed out of the room. At the front door his suit case stood ready to leave, handle raised. In case they were separated his name and address were clearly marked.
Susan had not come home the night before; she had stayed at her mothers in Cheltenham. He had rung but had got no reply. He tried again at eight fifty, there was still no answer and after that he concluded it was rude to ring again after the nine o clock watershed. Besides it gave him time to give the house a once over. The bathroom mirror always had toothpaste spots on it. How many times had he told her, and shown her how to keep the spray to a minimum. She’d never learn.
His Volvo face out of the drive, he had lined it up with the row of pots ready for his geraniums. He parked ready to drive straight out; reversing onto the road was against his every calling. Mike, his neighbour would not see it, despite the statistics Simon had gathered from the internet and taken over to shown him.
Out into the early evening he drove the Volvo. The sun dipped behind ‘May hill’ sending the night in earlier than the hour suggested. A buzzard squawked at the thermals, demanding they return so he could climb to his nest. Simon clicked on the wipers. All summer it had rained and now in November, with the soil full, the river had broken its banks in protest at nowhere else to go. The old train station house was in danger of flooding for the first time in twenty years. The far fields had disappeared in October and had failed to reappear to the annoyance of the farmer.
The drizzle, early evening Sunday and the oncoming cold snap kept the roads empty, the wise stayed in, lit a fire and cowered behind a good book. Simon had the valley roads to himself. He had decided on a small hotel situated some thirty miles away. The distance allowed him some ‘Simon’ time, but close for when Susan called and asked him to return. His mind drifted, would he give in straight away or should he spend a few more nights to make Susan appreciate him? He would decide at the time; depending on the sound of her voice and the cleanliness of the hotel.
Clodogon waterfall had flowed over its edges weeks before. Streams that had been dry for centuries ran fast with rain water. All the air in the soil had long gone, displacing the worms to the surface. With more downfalls all gaps were filled and the forces of constant water widen the divide and created slip points in the earth. The soil around tree roots turned to a red mush and the vegetation started to slip. Beneath this level, large rock formations came away from their set point as the water powered into the cracks and hit any weakness it found.
Time was ticking and the tarmac, cut into the valley side, was about to find that nature wanted this piece of land back.
Normally, an exceptional safety device on Simons car, one he had shown to all his family at last year’s Simon and Susan’s summer barbeque, was the automatic breaking system. At low speed any obstacle that comes in front of the car informs its computer to emergency break. As Simon slowed to take a tricky left hander his car discovered a ten foot by six foot, solid red rock in its path. The car stopped.
He raised an eyebrow, dropping his head to one side whilst thinking, then turning to look over his left shoulder; he slipped the car into reverse. The high pitch gear ratio mixed with a low rumble from above. Soil, turf and smaller stones splattered onto the cars roof. Simon braked. He turned radio four off and waited. First came a clout to the bonnet, followed by a large mound of earth to the rear of the car. In front the large rock was joined by red mud, smaller boulders and on top, a large silver birch. The rumble turned into a riot.
Simon gripped the steering wheel, sending his knuckles white. He breathed in deep and held his breath. His engine roared as he put his foot down on both the clutch and the accelerator. Debris hit the roof, denting in the polished red paint work and cracking the beige lining. Simon closed his eyes tight.
On opening them again, he may as well have kept them shut, for pure darkness surrounded him. His senses on fire, his breathing sharpened, shallow and quick, he felt around above his head for the reading light. “Where the fucking hell is it” he spat to no one. He punched at the roof, again and again. He needed light, to make sense of the situation, to be able to work out his next move. He gritted his teeth and made another shot at it.
“Stop, think,” he spoke out loud “It must be directly above my left elbow, it always is.” It was better to talk, he felt less alone. Carefully he lifted his arm, delicately he felt for plastic, rubbing his palm over the textures. He touched it and pushed in the button.
Yellow light shone down and lit the front seats. Simon glanced over to his side window, his reflection looked back. Firmly against the glass, pressed in hard was a wall of dark sludge. Slowly, not wanting to see, he turned to the passenger side. The same late forties man stared back at him. Hairs stood up on his back and pimples appeared, he was suddenly aware there was a section behind and the light from the drivers’ area threw dark shadows against the backseat upholstery. Simon was starting to freak out, his bones went stiff and ice filled his blood. He felt behind and pressed on the back lights as well. The white light gave him some release as he checked that the back was as empty as the front. Simon put his mind in gear.
‘What to do?’ he thought. “Come on, come on” he prayed and turned the key. The electrics stole light from the interior momentarily. The engine ticked over. Simon put the car into reverse. Hard down, he shot nowhere. The wall of clay behind restricted his movement. He tried to turn the wheel, but even with the mighty strength of Samson, it was never going to budge.
“Okay, maybe its covered front and back and passenger side only, it might only be inches on my side.” The window opened automatically at a press of a button. The clay outside stood like a wall, with only a few grains falling into the interior. On instinct Simon brushed them off and became disturbed by the brown mark they left. Squinting he peered at the wall, lifting his left hand, he stretched out a finger and with disgust poked it into the clay. “Where are my gloves when I bloody need them,” he hissed.
His finger slipped in easily to the first knuckle and then stopped. He gave it a wiggle but got no more distance to his dig. Pulling it back out Simon inspected the dirt under his nails, grimaced at it and searched for something to wipe it in. Eventually he gave up and stuck it in his trouser pocket.
Sounds from above grabbed his attention back, he stared at the ceiling. Way up it rumbled, grew louder and closer to the prisoner. He waited, scared and anxious. A roar hit the top of the roof and a deluge of dirty brown water poured down on all sides. A torrent flooded into the open window, soaking his legs in gunge, filling the foot well and covering his black shoes. Simon woke to his senses, pressed the window button and watched as the electrics shorted and the window closed only half way up.
Shutting his eyes to the situation, he bounced his head several times into the headrest. ‘This was unreal, what else could happen?’
In the glove compartment he kept his Nokia, a basic old fashioned one, it took pictures, sent text and if needed made phone calls. His attempts at freedom were futile, he would have to call for help, and even though he saw himself as a self-sufficient man, there was no other way. He held it up to focus on the screen, the battery bars were good, it would be, he had charged it that day. The network bars were empty. “Bugger” he whispered.
Waving it slowly around, he kept a vigil for any movement in the bars. The passenger seat gave nothing, by the open window didn’t help and between the seats did no better. He undid his seatbelt and twisted around to hold the phone to the back seats. As he turned a crack vibrated above him, the roof bent. The whole section collapsed at angles and dropped, crushing Simons’ body, pinning him against the top of his seat. Face down, instinctually he reached and pulled the recline button. The seat fell backward, the roof came down to follow him, the engine died and the lights went out.
Trapped, lying over the headrest, his face resting on the back seat and his body curved over the waves of cushions, Simon stayed like a statue. Waiting, listening to any more sound, every creek sent his mind into shock. ‘What was that sound, where there animals in here with him? Rats?’ He could hear movement, the scrabbling of tiny feet. Or maybe it was the drip and drop of grains of dirt.
Simon’s brain went into overload. ‘Which was worse? The dirt would slowly fill his gap, and in hours he would suffocate as the room he had would fill with soil. If it was rats, they too were trapped, but they could see, they were used to this darkness. Would they start to bite at his fingers, his legs, his face? Rats were covered in germs; they would pour all over him.’ He screwed in his eyes, clenched his fists and screamed into the darkness.
Silence followed, and as it settled, the drip of dirt carried on regardless. His space was filling, and filling fast. He had to get out.
Bit by bit, he wiggled his body, making sure it was all there and free. Blackness surrounded him, and however much he focused he could not get used to it. “Shit”, he said quietly. Fumbling with his fingers, he pressed every button on his phone, each bleeping back in its own way. At the seventh attempt and with panic sending shakes to his hand, he pressed the ‘unlock’ and ‘star’ key and got the screen to light up. With this small torch he surveyed his domain. The roof creaked to his right and collapsed down to join the passenger seats. As far as he could tell, his feet had the foot well to the top of the steering wheel free. His buttocks and lower back had one to two inches of room. His shoulders and head he could raise five to six inches and his outstretched arms could lift up to a foot. On his left the car doors allowed him to wiggle half a foot, to his right, he had a little over four inches.
Simon recalled his note; he had straightened it to the back wall. It read that he was away for a few days and would call later. Susan, when getting no reply from his mobile would sit and wait for his return or for him to make contact. What about work? They would miss him, wouldn’t they? Perhaps not, when he’d taken three days off last month, they presumed he was out seeing a client. No one ever came to find him in his office. He tried to fit in, but never quite got it right. It puzzled him at the time.
Only his quiz team on Wednesday might show a little ripple, but his science and nature section could be covered by David. ‘Would anyone notice him gone? Would they send out a search party for him, would anyone miss him’. More than ever Simon felt alone.
Was this it?’ Simons head was in a whirl. He could not leave things like this. There was too much to do, to finish. He had to make it up with Susan, she was his life. The world tour he was planning on their retirement, he would never achieve it.
“Help!” he screamed into the void, he waited and shouted it again.
“Help!” he repeated bursting his lungs. With his left leg, a twist and a pull and push, he landed it on the steering wheel. His heal pressed the horn and with a constant blast he deafened himself.
‘Simon screwed his face tight, closed his eyes, curled up his body as well as he could, shivered and began to cry.
Some twenty feet from the back of the car the sound of the horn could be heard as a faint noise hiding somewhere in the mess of mud, rocks and trees. Unfortunately for Simon the landslide spread a further thirty feet either side of the Volvo. No sound, no signs of the red bonnet or roof showed to the outside world. Simons was buried deep. It would take days to dig him out if they were looking. They weren’t.
Susan sat at her mother’s small dining table and watched as her elderly parent fussed over cutting some cold ham. Inert questions were being thrown out and Susan answered with a yes or a no when she felt a gap needed filling. ‘God’ she thought, ‘this is worse than home’. One night and one day she had managed, but underneath she wanted her house back. Of course Simon was dull, organised and structured, and she loved the surprise, waking and deciding what to do or where to go. But he had never stopped her. When she went out with her netball team, he had organised the taxis. His fault, in her mind, was that he was happy to stay home and obsessed with making it perfect.
Her husband was quiet, peculiar in his ways. Too tidy and fussy. But he belonged to her, and he would do anything to make her happy. So, a little odd and a bit of a loner, not many friends and no close ones at that. But he was caring, unselfish, and incredibly patient. She missed him.
Susan picked up her mobile phone and checked her messages. Two missed calls from Simon in the afternoon. She wondered what he had prepared for dinner. It was Sunday but too late for a cooked meal, most properly pasta and chicken. It usually was when they had been out visiting on a Sunday.
Shaking her head she dialled her home number. There was no answer. Odd, it was early evening and ‘Antiques Road show’ was on. She rang his mobile and got his message that he would ring back at the first convenient moment. ‘Oh well, one more night at her mother’s would not kill her and she would go home after work tomorrow’.
When she got there, she would find a note informing her he had gone away for a few days. She would sigh, make a cuppa and curl up with a book. He would call when he was ready.