Welcome to Rest Stop Stories and thank you for your incredibly generous support. This month’s episode is called The Road to Concord.
The rain pours down on the carriage as it plunges its way down a route she knows by heart. The cloth top has long since folded back in the icy blasts of wind that blow her long hair back from her frozen face. Thick mud splatters the sides of the eternal horses as they race through the storm. Just as they’ve done for three hundred years.
She sits in the carriage, not moving a muscle. That is, assuming she still has muscles. Her body doesn’t feel any different than it did all those years ago. Than it did that stormy night when she followed her father into this carriage with blind trust, confident in his furious oath that they would make it home. They would get home to Boston that night, he’d vowed, or else they never would. And she, wide-eyed and unquestioning at eight years old, had barely even heard the second part of that vow.
Three hundred years later, the words ring through her head as they soar through the darkness of Concord. Perhaps a hundred years into their torment, she had realized their route was a cycle. The night (if there is any such designation of time to be had) begins outside the Concord Inn. As the years have passed, the lights of the inn have transformed from flickering candles to kerosene lanterns, then to electric lamps that still barely penetrate the eternal darkness around the carriage as it sails past. The road they travel has also evolved. Where dirt paths had led to the cobblestone streets of Boston, a massive road full of vehicles almost as fast as their cursed buggy now flows. The horses weave through this traffic as they trace the impossible route back to the home that is no longer theirs.
She glances at her father, the wraith. Peter Rugg was once a strong, hot-tempered man. But now he sits hunched over in his seat, silent and spectral. She hates him. She loves him. This is all his fault.
The darkness wraps around them, wiping the stars from the sky and the lights from the now alien Boston ahead of them. She knows the next step and it’s the one she dreads most of all.
That fateful night, all she’d thought about was getting home. Of seeing her mother and baby sister in the morning. Now she can’t remember their faces. She knows they’re long dead. They died never knowing what had happened to her or her father.
She wonders if he ever thinks of them too.
Tonight though, tonight is different. After three hundred years of terror, of boredom, of acceptance, she is done. She will rescue herself and her father from this damnation and they will find their way back into the world they knew. Not this hell in which they have been trapped by her father’s wrath. This isn’t God’s doing. God has no connection with this half life they’ve been living for so long. This is on her father and whatever demonic rage found its way into his words.
Tonight as they pass what used to be their house, she will act. She knows in her heart that that is where it needs to happen. Hull Street was once homes, though now it’s filled with what appear to be shops and eateries. But she knows where the house used to be. She might not remember her mother’s scent or her sister’s laugh. But by God, she remembers the house where she was born.
And if she’s lucky, the house where she and her father will die tonight.
She prays God will forgive her for this. But if he doesn’t, even Hell is better than this.
She feels the wind in her hair, fresh and cool, and wonders briefly if it’s a sign. Maybe things will work out fine. If she’s feeling the wind (feeling anything) tonight then maybe this will work.
The glittering lights of the city cut through the fog around the carriage. The horses snort and she wonders vaguely what they think of this plight. Do they realize what is happening? Do they realize they’re no longer mortal?
She wishes she could save them, but she can’t. It can only be her and her father tonight.
“It will be alright,” she tells her father. Her voice creaks with disuse but it doesn’t matter as he doesn’t acknowledge her anyway.
She wonders how he feels. Is he guilty? Does the shame eat him as he watches his daughter wither away into dust beside him? She’s not a child anymore. She can feel her body, knows it remains childlike. But after the centuries, she’s far from the innocent that she was. She hates him for taking that from her. For taking her life, her mother, her everything except for him.
But he’s all that remains and thus, she loves him.
She can’t remember when he last moved. Or spoke. Or gave any indication that a part of Peter Rugg might still be within him. Instead he simply stares ahead, his eyes unfocused and fading in the creeping fog.
They’re approaching Hull Street now. This is the last stretch of the cycle, where the carriage whips past their home just slowly enough to provide a glimpse into what they’ve lost.
She turns her head, neck bones cracking as they move for the first time in centuries. She lifts an arm, perhaps for the first time in a hundred years. Then she wraps an experimental hand around her father’s shoulders. He doesn’t move, doesn’t breathe. If it weren’t for the slight flicker in his eyes, she could easily believe him a corpse.
But this will work. It has to. The wind blows through her long brown hair, the rain splattering on her cheeks. She hasn’t felt them in centuries and she knows, she knows, in her heart, that tonight will be the end of this hell.
There’s hope in her chest. It blooms and makes her feel so young. This is it. This is the end and tomorrow, she will be with her mother and sister.
The house approaches, the glimmering lights of the signs adorning it glowing like a sign from the Lord. This is it. It is time.
She grips her father and looks into his sunken face. “I love you.”
Then she throws them both from the impossibly fast carriage and into the mist.
She lands with a thud on the familiar wooden seat. The rain falling in her face is so heavy that it’s painful and thunder rumbles in the sky above her. She blinks and cringes in the downpour.
“I’ll get home to Boston tonight!” she hears her father roar, his voice as powerful and furious as it was in 1770.
The pieces slowly slide together in her foggy brain. “N…n…” she tries to choke out.
But it’s too late. “Or may I never make it!” Peter Rugg finishes. And with a flick of his whip, he damns them once more.