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The Last Stop

Bright lights set the tunnel behind me ablaze in blues and reds. I had been checking the rearview mirror so much that I noticed right away. I looked around. There was no one else on the road. Then the sirens started.

I let out a long sigh and pulled over. The patrol car parked behind me. I fished my license out of my purse and drummed it against the steering wheel. I was going to be late.

“Come on,” I muttered. Through the rearview, I strained to see if the cop had gotten out yet. I could make out little more than flashing lights. “Come on, come on. I have to go.”

Finally the policeman was beside my car. I rolled down the window.

“Good evening, officer,” I said. For a second the glare of the sun made a corona around the officer’s head, painting his features black. I had to squint to see his hard jaw and weathered eyes. He didn’t look the type to give out warnings.

“Evening, ma’am?” he said, and tapped his watch.

I glanced at the dashboard clock. I’d been prepared to explain that in my rush to a funeral I hadn’t realized how fast I was going. But now I was flushed, confused. I could have sworn it was evening, but — the cop was right. It was early morning.

But then — when was the funeral?

“Good morning, I mean.”

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

“Yes,” I said. “A little overheated, is all.”

“You were looking behind you quite a bit, ma’am.”

I gave a wan smile. “I didn’t know that was illegal.”

“Do you know how fast you were going, ma’am?”

I regained my bearings. “No, officer, I don’t. I’m trying to find this funeral and I’m late, and lost, and . . .” I threw up my hands. “I’m a mess, I know. Can you give me a break, just this once?”

I waited for either a sympathetic warning or a stern reprimand. To my surprise, the officer gave neither.

“Why are you always in such a rush?”

I blinked. He looked at me with piercing eyes. I stared back. “What?” I said weakly.

“Do you know how many speeding tickets I have for you, ma’am?”

“I’ve paid all—”

“Ma’am, you’ve been in the fast lane for too long. You can finally slow down.”

I searched his face for a joke, a trap, something. All I found was an unbreakable sincerity, and a hard truth. It choked me, and I had to look away.

“You, um, you need my registration, don’t you?” I ruffled through the disarray of my car, relieved to have something to distract my thoughts. “I told you I was a mess. I didn’t even take it out.”

“Ma’am . . .”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s here somewhere. Somewhere, somewhere.”

When I opened the glove compartment, it fell to the floor. Only it wasn’t the registration.

I picked up the blue stuffed spider with the big eyes and a silly tongue. The fabric was dirtied. Threads hung from the seams. A pin attached a pink ribbon to one of its legs. The ribbon formed a half-bow.

I looked from the spider, to the road, past the cop and to the morning sun. Back to the spider. Back to the road. That road.

“I’m not making it to the funeral, am I?”

The officer shook his head, and for a moment he seemed to wear a fiery crown. I wiped away a tear.

“Tina—my daughter, you know—was scared of spiders. I thought this would help.” I was crying heavily now, but laughter still found a way through. “She couldn’t sleep for a week. I mean, look at it! It’s such an ugly thing! But you know what? Soon she couldn’t sleep without it. I didn’t know she still had it until she brought it to the hospital. When she knew I wasn’t coming home.”

I stared at the spider for a long time. How long had I been on this road? Long enough for Tina and her father to be waiting on the other side? A part of me hoped so.

“Take your time, ma’am,” the officer said. “This road is as long as you need it to be.”

This time I gave a real smile. “I will,” I said.

I turned the rearview towards the roof and started the car. I don’t know how long it took me to arrive, but when I did, I was ready.


Justin Key is a young writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an aspiring novelist and currently seeks publication while studying to apply to medical school. His favorite genres to write are horror and fantasy and more of his short stories can be found at and


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