"What was that flash, Mummy?" Jordan asked, trying to crawl over his mother's knees to cup his hands at the window, eager to see out into the empty night beyond.
Brenda stared through the windows of the coach as it shuddered to a halt in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere; they could be anywhere as far as she knew. The fog outside obscured all views that were further than three or four feet away, and the lights from inside the coach reflected the interior from the window back to her in a twisted form of reality. Pallid faces of other passengers seemed to leer at her from the glass.
"Back in your seat, Jordan," Brenda demanded and grabbed him around his small waist, planting him firmly back in his place. He wriggled and writhed, but she held firm and shot him a warning glance. She was in no mood to fight tonight. And it was a feeble struggle; they were both tired.
It had been a long journey, and exhaustion finally claimed her in its jaded grip; three hours without a cigarette didn't help either. She shot the same warning glance at the No Smoking sign on the back of the chair in front of her, and when that didn't satisfy her darkening mood, she smacked it with the heel of her hand. The man who had been dozing in that seat peered over the headrest and threw her a similar look.
"Sorry," she blushed and returned her gaze to the window.
She heard rustling all over the coach as passengers, few in number, stirred from sleep or from books and newspapers and peeked over the seats in front. The coach came to a complete halt and the engine, once noisy in the quiet, still night of the surrounding mountains, was now silent and dead.
"What's going on?" someone eventually cried from the rear of the coach, voice quickly followed by a murmur of questions and queries from the other passengers. The driver stood, holding his hands up to appease the people he had driven the last two hundred miles, and called for calm. His round belly hung over his uniform trousers like a secreted Siamese twin.
"It's okay. We seem to have a small problem with the engine. I know what it is, so I'm just going to check the back and then we'll be on our way."
A blonde woman, all big hair and puffball black jacket who sat alone two seats from the driver, stood up and surveyed the coach.
"What was that flash?" she asked, and Brenda turned and stared at Jordan.
She hadn't seen any flash, and she'd assumed it had been in her son's mind, a figment of his young and fertile imagination. Now she wondered if she had, in fact, dozed off and not known it. She cupped her hands and squinted into the murky grey soup of the fog but it was useless; she could see nothing. Jordan sat on his hands and stretched his four-year-old body as high as he could, occasionally leaning over the side of the armrest and looking up and down the aisle. He jiggled in his seat, boredom highly apparent; a long coach trip with only a colouring book for entertainment took its toll on a child with such a short attention span. The colouring book had been thrown on the floor only an hour into the trip.
"Sit still, Jordan," Brenda snapped and returned her gaze to the window.