The hearse arrived at midnight, rolling quietly down the cul-de-sac. A thing of night even in daylight, it was like an oily distortion in the dark air, recognizable only in the dim lights reflected in its gloss and the pair of rheumy beams it cast forward.

It pulls up in the dark, further than can be seen. Up to the house where the police cruisers and an ambulance clustered, flashed, a few hours before? Not the way things were usually done, but perhaps. A false alarm might have turned into the real thing, with nothing left to do but summon the last limousine.

A lone relative, without a car, dropped off from a ceremony where they were the soule mourner? The kindness that one ought to be grateful for turned into icy unease by the thick empty weight of the compartment behind. They rode in the same car just last week, only not like this. Not like this.

Suppose that the late hour and the light are just right that it’s the great Hearse itself, the one driven by the Man in Black who awaits at each crossroad. Come to collect, trading scythe for side panels and robes for road but still inky, still inscrutable, still inevitable. Cut him off in late-night traffic if you dare.

Sleep comes on heavy wings; the hearse does not reappear. A metaphor, if nothing else, of the uncertainty at the end of our own rides therein, no matter how certain we be of our destinations.

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