by John Koch
Maybe I had been hurtling down that stretch of the beltway for a much longer time than I thought. It was a road that seemed to have no end and no beginning for that matter. I really could not remember when I got on it and for how long I had been driving into the night and the escalating blizzard.
The snow whirled all around me in cloudy billows and it swirled in the impenetrable glare of my headlights. When I turned on my high beams I was only blinded all the more as the full assault of the storm filled my view, leaving nothing visible beyond, that is, if there really was something beyond, because it was getting pretty hard to tell.
Nature had thrown her great cloak of whiteness around me and I was trapped. Still, I kept moving. I must have been moving because the odometer said I was doing fifty and what few cars I could see ahead of me by their red illuminated tail lights had to be moving or I would have crashed into them.
Sometimes I could make out a dim light above the highway, or up among where the dark tree branches might have been if the world had not suddenly become frightfully blanketed out. The gusts of gale force winds were sweeping against the sides of my vehicle, shoving it, causing it to jerk and slide on the thick icy road surface.
The fear came on slowly, but once it took hold I could not stop the fear from growing and taking over. I was not fully panicked yet, but I could not see my way out of the sudden winter onslaught. I could not find my way off the highway. We seemed to be on a bridge with no place to pull off on the left, which had no shoulder and only a concrete divider with no breaks in it. There was no shoulder visible on the right either and no signs for any exits and so I went on. I went on and the car seemed to float through the white deluge of its own accord and I was helpless and could not direct it anymore. It was as if some resolute Snow Queen who ruled the vast open wilderness had released her retinue of spirit beings, decreeing that eternal winter and all would be hers and the dark night of the soul would reign supreme. Somewhere out there in the storm was her palace of ice on top of a mountain. Somewhere.
So I drove on and the whirling snow grew thicker and the windshield wipers clapped at full speed and my heater was on full blast and I could not see more than a few feet in front of me and I kept staring at the dim cherry glare of red tail lights ahead, trying not to catch up for I knew if I did I would collide with another vehicle driven by some poor creature who was lost like I was. We would go spinning and crashing through the guardrail and into the air before plunging a hundred miles through space and down towards the frozen lake below.
The fear clutched at me with a cold embrace and it took a firm grip on my heart. There seemed to be no hope. No hope when….suddenly I noticed a dim light up ahead, way up high. I went on and the light became brighter and brighter still as I drew nearer. And there was something moving in the glare. Yes, it was a flag, a tremendous red flag waving way up high over the city, high over the nation. The flag was waving over all the world and my heart leaped for joy for the flag, set atop a sturdy steel pole maybe two hundred feet high, bore the image of the Golden Arches! She was waving in defiance of the storm and the Snow Queen could not touch her or stop her from fluttering and filling the hearts of mankind with hope and courage and driving out all fear on the darkest night of the year.
On the flag waved, and I could also see, under the illumination of her spotlight, an exit sign for my destination and I knew that all would be OK, all would be fine once more, for the flag gave proof through the night, that McDonald’s was still there.
John Koch is a 1990 graduate of Long Island University/CW Post with a BA in English. He grew up on Long Island and still lives there.