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The Crash

by Rhyan Mack

 

The flashing lights of the ambulance were no longer blinding. The crunching of gravel under boots had faded into background noise. The chatter over walkies sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents were urgently trying to tell me something. My eyes focused and unfocused but didn’t immediately cooperate when a figure stood before me, blocking the ambulance’s lights. As I attempted to refocus, the red and blue glow created a brilliant aura around a woman I did not know well enough to trust.

“Is this your car?”

The voice wasn’t unfamiliar, but the clarity of the words made it feel brand new. I nodded, my eyes following her gaze to the totaled mess scattering the highway and merging with the other vehicle.

“Yeah, it was.”

I turned my head to inspect the damage I hadn’t taken in yet. Debris had littered the side of the road, tumbled into the embankment, and buried itself both in my skin and that of the shrouded form being loaded onto a stretcher. The impact hadn’t felt that destructive despite the mechanical and organic carnage I knew had been inflicted. The pain in my neck showed just how much it had done to me, though I’d refused the cervical collar. The ache wasn’t unbearable. It made me feel more alive than I had the moment before the collision.

“You wanna tell me what happened tonight?”

“I hit him.”

I dragged my eyes up to the figure as I made my declaration. Of course, I’d hit him. My car was heavily damaged, but his was decimated. The driver’s side door had folded in upon itself. The entire car looked like it had been used to demonstrate an elaborate piece of origami, then been discarded due to a misplaced fold. More glass littered the road than still fitted into any of the windows. It seemed like an endless reflective sea, with water stung and drew blood and sharks. Sharks that were loaded up into stretchers under white sheets who were hunted for sport after they took chunks out of surfers or divers.

“Y’know, as jarring as it is, accidents like this happen all the time. Sometimes they’re tragic, and someone doesn’t make it.”

Tragic. That wasn’t the word I’d use to describe it. I felt like I was staring through her, focusing on the light shining over her thin shoulders and behind her tied-back hair. Her heavy jacket, or at least one like it, had been offered to me what felt like a dozen times. Despite how cold I had been and still was, I'd shaken my head. My gaze tracked back to the ruined bits of the car. It couldn’t even be sold for parts, not like the parts he stole from me again and again and again.
No one bit was entirely salvageable, nothing for greedy chop shops or vultures to pick over. Not even empty bones or an annihilated chassis. For once, he got to experience what it felt like to be nothing.

“Do you know how fast you were driving tonight? Any drugs or alcohol in your system?”

“Not fast enough.”

Something in her gaze shifted when I said that. I’d noticed the concern playing across her face, her thin lips twitched at the corner, and her light eyes seemed to be looking for something to grasp onto. Another question to ask. She looked like me, or at least like I’d looked when I’d met him. Sitting in a café on campus and chatting with a friendly stranger felt harmless. A date felt harmless. Drinks felt harmless. They were not. He was not.

“What about anything in your system that could have impaired your judgement?”

“My judgement was not impaired.”

She was looking away now; then, she took a step toward her coworkers. After a couple of moments, I registered the temporary solace and painfully turned my neck to see the entirety of the scene I’d caused. There were no police cars, which was odd. When someone called in the crash, two deaths must have been anticipated. Maybe they were taking their sweet time. My resilience had not been expected. I couldn’t blame them for that. He hadn’t expected me to tell anyone what he’d done to me, to countless girls before me. I hadn’t expected to be believed, and I wasn’t. The law had failed me, the school had failed me. I was not going to fail myself. As his wallet was rifled and cards were extracted for identification, I felt the corner of my cut lip curl up. I’d left him so terribly disfigured that they were asking each other if he’d stolen the wallet and the cards. The only satisfaction I’d been denied was seeing his face and taking in the carnage for myself. The fact that he was not easily matched to the shitty photo he’d always said he wanted to get retaken filled me with a kind of pride I’d never felt before. I made him look as ugly as he’d made me feel. The crunch of gravel was back, and I forced myself to look at the EMT.

“I know that you’re probably in shock. You hit your head in the tumble and I don’t want you to say something you don’t mean. Especially when the-”

“Tell them. Tell them all. Let them all know that I hit him, I killed him, and I’d do it again. I’d sit outside his apartment, I’d wait for him to get into his car, and I’d follow him onto the freeway. I’d hang back for a bit, letting him start to feel safe. Then I’d push the car a little more and I’d ride his bumper through the city and into the backroads. I’d make him feel the fear I’d felt over and over again, if only for a moment. When he went around a sharp turn and swerved to lose me, I’d go over the side with him too. I’d make sure he was in as much pain as possible, and then mercifully, I’d let him go.”

Silence from all parties. Even the walkies seemingly had gone quiet. I held out my wrists, looking between all of them.

“Any more questions?”

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