by David E Oprava
We have driven too far. I haven't counted the miles, but I sense it. It's akin to seeing the knife cutting into your finger before you feel the pain. Sleeping Beauty is curled close to the passenger's door. She is asleep. Her breathing is fogging the window. I haven't seen an exit for hours. We have driven too far.

It was my idea to go. I couldn't concentrate and was restless. Take a drive and see where we end up. We got on the highway in the afternoon sun. It is dark, very dark now. I wonder if going was wise. She might be scared. She might cry. Fuck it, she's in a coma. I drive on. We have gone too far. 

Sleeping Beauty hasn't been right since she began cutting herself. One day, she cut too deep. The mood swings and occasional tantrums in her deep sleep were to be expected. The silence. I hadn't anticipated the madness of the quiet. At first I pleaded with her to talk to me, tell me what's wrong. Nothing. Then, I ignored the lack of voice and spoke twice as much to fill the space. It made no difference. Perhaps she is waiting for the right moment, or the right place. On the rare occasions when she stirs or sighs, like this afternoon, I jump at the animated breath and hold it very, very close. But, still no exits, we are going far too far.

I have been hungry for a while. There aren't any restaurants, no conveniences, nothing to pull into. Sleeping Beauty eats very little. Like a mouse, I nibble little bits to slide between her lips. I leave the rest for the dog. Dog. He must be mad with worry. He must need to go out. He has probably soiled the house. He has most likely eaten the bills, gnawed through the phone cord, and woken the neighbours. This has gone on too long. We have gone far enough.

In the headlights' shine a sign appears in the road. Not on the side, it is in the middle of the empty highway. I crash on the brakes and we slam into the sign. Sleeping Beauty shoots forward. Her aristocratic face smacks the windscreen. She slumps back. There is a lipstick kiss with cracks running away from it on the broken glass. My poor, charming, prince of a car, destroyed.

The sign is in front of my nose. It reads:

The sign implies something new,
Something on the other side
That we can't see but need to go through
In order to get to another

There are only trees. No road left before us, just the wood stands silent. I get out of the car. The night is chilly. The engine is ticking. Sleeping Beauty stirs. She opens her eyes. She wants to know where we are. It's end of the road, I tell her. She wants to know where we go from here. I don't know. I knew we went to far. Fuck, she's finally awake.

Behind us the road is gone in the dark. No stars, no moon, just blackness idling. I wonder if there ever was a road, so little trace remains.

She is alive and standing next to me. She wants to know what to do. I point at the sign. Read, I tell her. She does, her lips moving over the words. She shrugs her shoulders and, for the first time in a very long time, a weak smile comes.

She tells me we're there.

Then, she walks into the wood.

She has found an exit after all.

I follow that smile.