Mary hadn’t felt like this in a long time. By a long time, I mean ever. Not once had she felt
this way. It was an unremarkable night. She thrust off her duvet, wiggles of sweat dancing
down her forehead, her eyes as wide as the moon that shone through the slats in the
blinds. She had awoken, in almost total darkness, with a mission she had never had before:
she needed to find God.
Mary’s legs felt firm when she launched herself down the stairs, almost slipping on the
wooden floor. She, somewhere, sometime, had laid out an outfit on her dining room table:
a red blouse, smart work trousers, and nice shoes. She noted how strange it was that the
perfect God-meeting outfit was here, already laid out, and she had no memory whatsoever
of doing it herself. In fact, she had no memory of buying any of the clothes that were laid
out for her. This didn’t distract her, though; she embraced the blips of chance that had
allowed her to be in this position, the position of needing to find God, and didn’t question
it whatsoever. It was fate! It was reason! It was probably her youngest going through her
wardrobe and forgetting to hide the evidence, but Mary didn’t think that, and who am I to
spoil the magic?
Mary got the keys from a bowl she didn’t remember putting them in, it was a little red dish
cheaply patterned with green triangles. She made an effort not to chip her nails as she
fumbled her keys into her pocket. She didn’t bother shutting the door behind her as she
ran to her overly sized car – she didn’t care. She didn’t care about the loveless marriage she
was running away from, nor did she care about the children who never ever appreciated
her. She needed to find God.
Mary inspected the car from her drivers seat. It had been a while since she had driven it really. It had actually been a while since she had left the house, now she thought about it,
she seemed to have spent the last 16 years inside, cooking and cleaning and slowly rotting
away into a piece of old-fashioned furniture. She stopped thinking about it, and
concentrated on her need to find God. Other than a few marks on the window, the car was
spotless. She stared at them. She got back out. She thought that she couldn’t really see God
with a messy car, but the only way to clean it would be by wiping it with her sleeves, and
she definitely couldn’t do that!
She left the dust marks. They simply would just have to do.
She got into the car, closed the door, and took a deep breath. She turned the key, put her
foot down, left the large drive way and the large house in which she had been living a half-life, so it seemed. She thought about a lot of things, without realising or remembering. She
thought about how the trees seemed bigger than the sky, all black and branching out and
reaching around her like some sort of enclosure. Well, she was driving right out of that
now. The road stretched so far forwards it was overwhelming. She noticed how the moon
lit the road, from its tower atop the mountains, big and round and guiding. She noted its
beauty, which she had never done before, and insisted it was to do with the fact that she
was finding God. It’s amazing, she said to herself, though unsure what it was she was
Mary drove out of her high-end housing estate. She didn’t feel even a pang of sadness. She
took her car through orange-tinted side streets, ignored the drug dealings and the drunks –
she had never noticed them before, so it isn’t really too surprising that she didn’t notice
them now. She didn’t know how long she was driving for. She didn’t really know where she
was going. She turned whenever she felt it was necessary. She didn’t think much about
anything, except God, her need to find God. She didn’t even note how not once had she
ever believed in God. She didn’t note the peculiarity of someone who had no relationship
with faith, or anything, to wake up and abandon their life, in an awkward pilgrimage with
no reason. It was very strange, I thought so even myself. She did not, though. She felt like it
was very important. She very much needed to find God.
On one of the busier roads, which was quiet on this unnamed night, almost completely
carless, stood a neon sign which pointed towards a petrol station:
“Open all day and all night!”
Mary felt that she must not speak to God on an empty stomach, and the sign was enticing.
She didn’t really know why. She followed the flashing arrow onto another road, an old blue
coloured road, with more black trees and flickers of pink light penetrating them.
Usually, she would feel uncomfortable around here, maybe even anxious; she would lock
her doors and turn the radio right down, in case there were any weirdos and wanderers
about. Tonight she didn’t. She had the windows open as she sped her way into invisibility.
The only proof of her being there were the cracked pebbles and the disturbed bits of dust.
The station’s light diced through the bushes, and Mary knew she was there. It was neon
green and pink and orange and all of them. It looked very alien. The station was all see
through – giant windows that sparkled, dazzling Mary into believing this was also a sign, a
fate. She was supposed to be here. This is not where God was, but she knew she was
heading the right way. There were little pools of petrol, diesel, oil on the murky brown floor
outside the building itself, car tracks and cigarette ends. Mary didn’t pay attention to any
of this, though, she grinned at the open building she was about to enter.
Inside was gleaming. The white tiled floor glistened, the sterile walls reflected. The
counter had that red and faded black pattern, like most counters do, Mary mused, although
she had never really set foot in a station like this, usually her husband went in there
instead. The stools next to it came up to hip height, they were red too – not one had a rip in
it from clumsiness, not one had a stain from spilt drinks or dropped food. Their silver rim
sparked, too, just like the rest of the station. The only thing in this station that did not
seem as clean as the rest of it, nor seemed happy to see Mary, was the woman standing
behind the counter.
“Hello!” Mary said.
“Hi,” the woman replied.
The woman eyed Mary with what Mary thought to be curiosity – what she was doing was
very curious after all! How often has this woman seen someone like Mary, out on an
adventure, a life-changing, mind-altering experience?
What the woman was eyeing Mary with was boredom, and the irritation of having to serve
another customer, and the truth of the matter was that the woman had worked there since
she was sixteen, and she had seen hundreds of people making rash decisions that have no
real meaning, and in her opinion they just had too much money sitting around that they
didn’t know what to do with themselves anymore, so they ran away into the night. The
woman was bitter, though, because she would love to do just that, and she couldn’t.
And in honesty it was an unfair criticism of Mary. She had in fact woken up, with no real
reason, and sent on a mission: who’s to say no one told her to?
“What would you like?” The woman asked Mary.
“I would like to find God!” Mary grinned, hoping that she was answering the questions
that the woman wasn’t asking. “But I suppose a pasty would do for now!” She laughed. Ha,
The woman smiled at Mary, but she didn’t mean it. She closed her eyes for a second too
long, to keep her patience. Unfortunately, she did need work, which meant she did need to
smile at Mary. The woman got Mary her pasty. Mary thanked her, and smiled, too big for
her face. Too big for someone who’s only been served a probably stale bakery product. The
woman smiled tensely back.
The woman stared at the peaks of the mountains through the station's obnoxiously wide
windows. She wished to be there. Not finding God, or whatever, just to be over there,
behind those mountains. The world began behind those mountains, and ended right here
in this minimum wage job.
She really didn’t care about this woman who wanted to find God.
Mary, however, did. She took a look around the station one last time, admired its oddly
satisfying beauty, and walked out.
“I’m going to find God!”
She walked out of the station, got into her car, and drove upwards, away. Her car left no
marks on the ground, and was out of sight as quick as the pasty was. The woman behind
the counter rolled her eyes to the clock, and counted down the 43 minutes left until her
shift was over. When the time came, the next woman, who looked quite similar to this one,
had the same aspirations as this one and earned the same wage as this one, asked her if
anything interesting had happened, as she always does. The first girl said no.
The woman walked to the back area, changed her clothes, and walked outside. She walked,
and kept walking towards the mountains. She did not want to find God but she did want to
discover what happened over there. As I watched her, I thought that was a much more
Tilly Foulkes is mainly an essayist and a writer of weird and ghostly short stories. She lives in a haunted house in North Wales. You can follow her on Twitter: @tillyfoulkes, and Instagram: @tillyisreading.