John's headlights illuminated the dark country lane with stark, piercing beams. He was already late home from work and Lynn would be furious.
Several explosive arguments had culminated in John promising his wife that the late nights at the office were most definitely over. Unfortunately, his boss had different ideas. This time, his lateness was not his own, stupid fault. Even his phone call had not relieved the tension which exuded from the ear-piece.
He flung his car around the narrow road like some demented rally driver, the National Speed Limit meaning nothing to him at that moment.
His eyes kept glancing towards the digital clock on the dashboard. Five to eight. The glowing green numbers seemed to be spinning forward like a fruit machine.
John looked back at the road and saw faint, misty-white light reflecting off the hedgerows bordering an upcoming bend. He slowed down and negotiated the corner, expecting to see another car coming towards him.
The lane was empty, yet light flooded the entire area. Suddenly his engine cut out and the headlights faded - not that they were necessary in the midst of the shimmering glow.
"No!" John yelled, banging his fists against the steering wheel as the car rolled to a gentle stop.
He climbed out and saw that he was standing in the exact centre of a massive circle of intensely brilliant incandescence. A deep humming from above made him look up. His eyes widened.
"Saucer..." his brain whispered.
"Where the hell have you been?"
John blinked several times. He was sitting in the car and somebody was rapping vigorously on the window.
"John, are you all right?"
He looked up to see Lynn staring, stone-faced, through the glass. She stepped back as he opened the door and staggered out of the car.
"You've been drinking, haven't you? How could you drink and drive? What if you'd been killed or hit somebody?"
"Lynn, shut up!" He leaned against the bonnet and was jolted by a mild static shock. He looked at his angry wife. "I'm only an hour or so late. The car broke down... I think."
"John, it's almost midnight." Her face softened. "I've been worried sick."
"Midnight?" he whispered, his eyes glazing over. "It took them that long?"
"What are you talking about?" Her face turned to granite once more. "You ’have“ been drinking! I'm off to bed - you know where the couch is."
Lynn stomped into the house, slamming the door behind her. John noticed his home for the first time. He looked around, confused. His car was parked neatly on the drive. Nosey old Mrs. Green's curtains were open a chink, her inscrutable silhouette observing him intently. He was home.
He rushed into the house and darted upstairs.
Lynn was already in bed, the lights extinguished. John flicked the lightswitch and the bedroom appeared before him. She pretended not to notice and kept her eyes squeezed tight shut. John sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Lynn, please believe me," he pleaded. "I haven't been drinking. Something extraordinary happened on the way home."
"Has a new pub opened on the A64?" she grunted, her voice muffled by the voluminous duvet.
"She sat up suddenly, startling her husband. "No, John, you listen. I've tried to make this marriage work. God knows, I've tried!
"You promised me and the kids that you would be home at a reasonable time from now on. We hardly ever see you these days!"
"Lynn, I think I've seen a UFO!"
She laughed loudly, a piercing shrill. "Well, at least that's original." She plopped back down and pulled the duvet up to her neck.
"The couch awaits, John."
He stood up and trudged out of the room, clicking the light off as he exited.
"Love you," he whispered and closed the door.
Lynn lay on her back in the pitch dark room, her eyes filling with tears. "Love you too," she breathed. She wiped her eyes and sat up.
She knew that she would be unable to sleep - she was that angry.
UFOs, she thought. What a nutter. Tomorrow I'll get the kids and take them to my mother's.
John and Lynn had been married for eight years and had two wonderful children - both boys.
Then, a couple of years ago, John had found a new job and things had started to go downhill.
It started with the late nights at the office, unavoidable delays, or so he said. Then the late nights at the office evolved into late nights at the pub with his workmates. Of course, John made up all sorts of excuses - so and so was leaving; such and such's wife had just had a baby.
Then it happened. Ten months after accepting his new appointment, John admitted to having an affair with one of the young office girls.
Lynn moaned quietly as the memory played across the dark screen of her eyelids.
John had declared that the affair was over and that he was profoundly sorry. Six months of marriage counselling later, things began to look brighter. Then shortly afterwards, the late nights started again.
John would often come home steaming drunk, leaving the car at work. A banging hangover and lack of transport would guarantee that he was late for work the following day and his boss would insist that he made up the time in the evening. Swings and roundabouts.
This latest excuse was the straw that broke the camel's back. Lynn had had enough of his lies, no matter how original and entertaining they were.
As far as she was concerned, no amount of counselling could save their marriage now.
But she still loved him! Why was life such a stinker?
A loud, reverberating humming sound began to fill the bedroom. it grew in intensity until Lynn could no longer bear it. She climbed out of bed and crossed to the window.
Pulling back the curtains, she was blinded by a glittering beam of light. Shading her eyes, she opened the window and peered upwards, trying to find the source of the shimmering radiance.
Lynn saw it.
"Saucer..." she whispered.
© S. Johnson 1998
Updated 11th March 2012