No Absolution

 

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Daybreak over the Valley of God

Daybreak over the Valley of God

The golden light awakens you. 

Nightmares fade, fizzling away, back into your brain’s nether regions, dying alongside discarded ideas and forgotten memories. Warm drool runs down the side of your mouth but you are unable to move. Your face feels numb, due to your cheek pressed against the cold glass. The tinnitus in your ears stops, replaced by the sound of reality. The hum of Volvo's engine, the friction of road and air, enters your awareness. You open your eyes wide enough to squint, focusing on the countryside sweeping by outside.  

For a moment, reality is a blur. 

You attempt to move your head and are relieved it moves with little pain. Your arm is cramped and your neck feels broken, but you know this is temporary. The breaking dawn illuminates the single lane road, winding around a chain of hills. A clump of trees obscures the misty valley beyond, sending intermittent shafts of copper light onto your face. Once the trees have gone by, you marvel at the spectacle, at the amber clouds cruising along the horizon, at the Auburn fields, smothered with whispers of mist, rolling up and down between chestnut forests. 

Tears form in the corners of your eyes, but the chill dries them before they could sully your reputation. You look ahead, out to where the road straightens out into the broadening valley, cutting through open farmland. Aside from the old Volvo, no other traffic traversed the road. 

“Check out the valley of God,” says a voice. 

Without moving your head too much, you look at the driver. With the angle of the sun low, the windscreen is saturated with sunlight.  

Trevor seems happy.  “Isn’t it beautiful?” he says. He looks over at you, with that nauseating smile, “Don't you think, Phil? Take a look.” 

You move your head and look outside, squinting at the dawn sunlight bathing the road ahead. “What am I looking at?” 

“You're looking at an artistic masterpiece painted by God. Look at how He washes the Earth and all its troubles with one single brushstroke.” 

You remain quiet, nothing he says antagonises you anymore. 

“I'm sorry, Phil.” Trevor says,  “I keep forgetting you're not a religious man.” 

“No, I'm not,” You shut your eyes and try to sleep, feeling you still have some sleep left in you. 

“I get a little overzealous sometimes,” says Trevor.  

You refuse to react to his words, hoping to avert a discussion. 

Trevor, on the other hand, is a cannonball. “I can't help myself. Just ignore me when I start waffling on.” 

Fucken aye,

 you think as you try again to ignore him.  

“Phil?” 

You don't respond, praying to the same dumbass God for some respite. 

“Phil? 

Fat chance. You reluctantly open your eyes. Trevor waits for you to look at him. “Can I stop the car for a few minutes?” 

“Why?” 

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing. Man, I gotta take a shot of this. I won’t even be five minutes.” 

“No,” is your reply. 

“Why not?” 

“...because your five minutes turn into one of my hours. You're gonna wanna set up this, wait for that, wait for this. Whole buncha bullshit later, and there goes the hour, my hour, never to return. Bye-bye hour. Nice knowing ya.” 

“Man, you've got me driving through the night. You know how dangerous this is? Especially the predawn. Stop, revive, survive, man. I need to rest my eyes?” 

You spend a moment contemplating the gravity of his words and attitude. Pulling out the folded country map, the one you had ripped out from the dog-eared copy of the 55th Edition Gregory's, you flip it around until you find the road you are traversing. “Pull over at the next truck stop." 

"How far is that?" 

"From memory, I think it's less than an hour." 

Trevor suddenly appears agitated. "Just five minutes, man." He slows and steers the Volvo onto the gravel. You say nothing, sitting in the Volvo 850's worn faux leather seat, allowing him to stop, climb out, get his camera bag, and begin setting up. By the time Trevor is ready to adjust the focal length of his lens, the layers of mist have dissipated and the sun's light has lost its golden lustre. 

 

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