Photos of a Wren
Excerpt of "Photos of a Wren" by Ava Droski, Chapter 1:
“All right, let’s go boys and girls.” Joe said calmly as he hopped out of the cabin. Dean and Ryan secured their helmets, nodded, and hopped out of the jump seat with the crew. Sam had parked the engine behind two parked cars on the edge of a dark road.
There were no streetlights. Thick woods flanked the road, absorbing into their complete blackness any natural light from the starry sky. The whoosh of ocean waves crashing on the nearby shore cut through the silence of the night like faint, distant bombs.
“We’re in Sun Row, aren’t we?” Dean glanced at Ryan.
“Yeah. ‘The Nest’.”
His eyes attempted to focus and adjust to the darkness; his ears absorbed the calming coo of the ocean’s song; his skin shivered at the touch of Poseidon’s breath on his face. The trees on each flank of the road seemed to have swallowed the twilight and regurgitated an ominous pall of black nothingness. The nearest streetlamp must have been at least two kilometres back. The only light challenging the gloom was the unremitting red bulbs atop the emergency vehicle.
Ryan had mentioned The Nest to Dean once or twice - the desolate outskirts of Sun Row Harbour where the lone main road came to an end at the sea, about a ten minute drive south from the town centre. There were walking trails within the flanking woods, but fitness visitors were rare due to the dense and sempiternal fog that swept the area.
The end of the road appeared to be abruptly swallowed by the beach; a dangerous unity of land and the ocean’s doorway.
Ryan said The Nest was a popular location for teenagers to smoke and drink on the beach late at night. The closest home from the water was approximately two kilometres back on a small piece of land just before the emergence of the woods.
A green Volkswagen was parked in the middle of the road. A woman stood beside it, frantically waving her cell phone above her head, calling attention to the fire crew. She was attempting to speak through hysteric gasps. Joe approached her earnestly.
“I called you. Two cars – over – two cars – I heard the crash – the rocks – I was just leaving my son’s house up there – I was visiting my son up there – I was leaving and I heard the horrible crash – I drove down here to see what happened, if anyone had been hurt - and -”
The woman was frantic. Her cheeks and eyelashes glistened with tears and it appeared as though she had been pulling at her hair.
Joe interrupted her, “Ma’am, I need you to calm down and stay by your car. Do not leave the side of your car. Do you understand?”
The woman nodded and clasped her cell phone tightly against her chest. There was another witness on the scene: a short, stubby man with glasses. He was sitting on the hood of his Taurus. He sprinted to Joe at his beckoning. “She’s my mother. I just got down here a couple minutes before you guys showed up. I live in that last house up there,” he pointed down the road. “She called me. She was shaken and told me she saw an accident, so I walked up a little bit and saw the car up on the rocks just ahead.” He pointed into the darkness toward the beach. “Just at the edge ov- ”
“I need you to stay with your mother,” Joe interrupted, “the two of you need to stay by your vehicles. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes of course, Sir.”
Joe called to Dean and Ryan. He pointed forward to the beach. “Go. Now.” They sprinted down the road, leaving Joe and the witnesses behind. A single, dimly lit antique streetlamp greeted them as they reached the edge of the pavement. A weak circle of light floated and flickered innocently against the blackness. The bulb illuminated the surroundings just enough to make the edge of the road instantly visible to emerging motorists. Just beyond the streetlamp, a car had crashed plumb through the centre of a rocky knoll. The car was encased in a temporary tomb of weeds, rocks, and boulders; hundreds of tiny, shattered pieces of glass shrapnel sparkled on the pavement in the flickering light, the ocean roared thunderous just beyond. Dean and Ryan dashed to the vehicle. Glass crunched beneath their heavy bunker boots as they each chose a flank and climbed the knoll. They moved adeptly and knelt on their haunches by the driver and passenger windows. The ocean continued its midnight howl.
They sprawled on their stomachs atop the knoll. They dug at the rocks and cast away debris that blocked their view inside the car. Dean crawled to the front of the vehicle and peered through the shattered windshield.
The car was empty.
Ryan glanced over his shoulder and scanned the road. “Shouldn’t there be two cars? The woman back there said there was another car – where is it? And where’s the driver of this one? Out there somewhere?” He pointed to the beach beyond the knoll.
Dean rose to his feet and extended his arms laterally, maintaining his balance on the rocks. He turned his flashlight inside the car once more and searched for any sign of movement within.
Ryan sighed. “There’s no one here. What the hell?”
Dean squinted in the darkness. The ocean stirred angrily; the moon cast a faint glow atop the restless waves. He shone his flashlight on the beach for any sign of movement – or another car.
Then he saw it.
The other car.
Dean hurled himself off the peak of the knoll and sprinted across the sand. He dashed impetuously; his face and body dripped with perspiration beneath his helmet and bunker gear. He ripped off his helmet and tossed it in the sand. Ryan followed closely behind.
"Photos of a Wren" by Ava Droski.
Ava Droski is a graduate of the University of Windsor and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree. She lives and writes in Windsor, ON., where she also owns a music school and teaches piano and vocal lessons. "Photos of a Wren" is her debut novel and is a work that has been 10 years in the making! It will be available on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback) on March 1st, 2021.
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