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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Emily Wasn’t There

Her right arm was broken. Both feet were held fast by a large piece of metal. She couldn’t feel her toes. Her feet were probably broken too. She bled from a wound in her right calf. Blood pulsed in sync with her heartbeat. The floorboard carpet shone pink in the dull light of the interior as the stain spread out in a circle. She hit the bent steering wheel where the horn should have been but the only noise was the whoosh of powder escaping from the deflated airbag.
She couldn’t tell if the wound was a laceration or a puncture. Either would kill her if enough blood drained from her body. Judging from the flow, it had to be a Class II hemorrhage. Her heart rate would soon increase rapidly and her blood pressure would drop.
The disadvantages and advantages of being a nurse. She had the disadvantage of knowing she was dying and the advantage of knowing how long she had to live. Not long at all from the look of the floorboard.
One headlight still shone on the sparse flora that survived in the dried up riverbed. A mist hovered below the illumination adding to the eerie scene. How far had the car fallen? A hundred feet? She had no idea, but it seemed to go on forever once she had driven over the edge.
It was Bill’s fault. No. It was Jesse’s fault.
The rear view mirror was relatively intact, just a small crack. She reached up with her left hand and focused it on the backseat. Emily wasn’t there. The car seat wasn’t there. Had she taken Emily with her? She was so faint she couldn’t even remember her own name. It was short. Four letters. Lara or Kara or Jane.
She had been upset and had driven away. She was angry with Bill. No, she was pissed off at him. He called her a whore. Does sleeping with another man make you a whore? What do they call a man when he sleeps with another woman?
The windshield was translucent or transparent. What was the difference between the two? The safety glass had fractured when the car slammed into the large boulder. She could see the light from the one headlight and fuzzy images of rocks and the smashed front end and something else. Something moving.
“Help,” she said, softer than she had intended. “Help me, please. I can’t move and I’m bleeding.” Whoever it was moved in front of what was left of the hood, blurry in the darkness outside the beam of light. And the light was dimming. Something was draining the battery.
Where was her cell phone? What time was it? The radio clock illuminated, though dimly. 3:32 a.m. No one would be on the highway. No one would see the dust on the auxiliary road she had accidentally turned on to, thinking of Bill and Jesse instead of concentrating on driving. The dirt had blocked her vision and by the time she slammed on the brakes, it was too late.
She found the phone on the passenger side floorboard. Three feet away but it might as well be a thousand. Her right arm was useless and her left couldn’t reach it. She would perish only three feet from rescue like someone dying of thirst just short of an oasis.
The thing outside moved again, as if it were pacing. She couldn’t make it out.
She looked again in the rear view mirror. Emily wasn’t there.
She stared down at the wound, just visible in the radio light. Blood gushed down her leg. She counted the throbs. Eighty beats per minute. She’d have to slow her heart rate or she’d die soon. She had to be calm. No one would search for her for hours. Bill didn’t care where she was and Jesse wouldn’t worry until the afternoon. By that time she’d be dead.
She looked in the rear view mirror. Emily wasn’t there.
The thing sat stationary on the bent hood. What was it? It moved closer to the windshield.
“Can you help me?”
No answer.
She found a pencil in the armrest cup holder. She stretched as far as she could toward the passenger seat floorboard. The pencil tapped against the cell phone.She sat back in the seat, exhausted from pain.
She thought she saw Jesse in the passenger side window. She had met him when she was a sophomore in high school. He was handsome, athletic, a football player, though extraordinarily shy for someone so popular. They would love each other until the end of time and would never leave each other’s side. After high school, he would play in college and she would go to nursing school. They’d marry. They’d have children. Jesse joined the Army. Without a scholarship, he had no other choice. He shipped out to Iraq three years ago. She’d wait.
Two years ago, he came back. He had only one arm and one and a half ears. He was hideous. She left him. She married Bill. They had Emily. Two months ago, she bumped into Jesse. She still loved him no matter how he looked. They met and made love. Then they met again. And again. Two hours ago, Bill slapped her and kicked her out of her own home.
She looked in the rear view mirror. Emily wasn’t there.
The thing reared back on it hind legs and slammed into the shattered window with its front paws. The windshield bent in a few inches toward her. She screamed. A coyote. Gray and growling, poking its nose through a small hole in the windshield, its teeth clicking. A smell of wet fur and rotted meat. She drove the pencil into its snout and screamed as the beast yelped and backed away. It violently shook its head from side to side until the pencil flew from his soft wet nose. He pounced again. The windshield held, but just.
Jesse pounded on the passenger side window with his stump. He screamed her name. Bill smashed him with a rock, bloodying the half ear.
A rattlesnake slithered through the small hole in the windshield. Didn’t snakes sleep at night? The coyote backed off, just visible now in the brown glow of the headlight. The snake slid down the cockeyed steering wheel and onto her lap. It twisted its head to look into her eyes. She held her breath as it opened its jaw wide to flash its fangs.
“They’re lovely,” she said.
It grinned and coiled around her leg. It stopped at the wound and flicked its tongue under the mini blood fountain. Satiated, it slid to the floor.
Jesse crashed hard into the window and beat viciously at it with his good arm. Bill grabbed him around the neck in a stranglehold.
She saw the “On Star” button above the mirror. She had let the free subscription run out a year ago. But still. When she pushed the button, the radio lights went out and the headlight went dark.
The coyote reared up and smashed through the windshield.
She looked in the rear view mirror. Emily wasn’t there.

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