A cloud of acidic steam fills my mouth with the taste of antifreeze. A beam of light fails to penetrate the night that surrounds me. The single headlight, absent its counterpart, reflects off the raindrops and filters back through the shattered windshield. Inches above my head, the downpour beats against the top of the car like an out of control drum solo but doing little to drown out the blaring horn. I blink away the glare burning into my retinas, but the dizzying stream of audiovisual chaos paralyzes me.

This is not happening.

I squeeze my eyes shut, but when I re-open them, my surroundings remain unchanged.

Every muscle in my body aches. My head throbs, drawing attention to warm liquid dribbling down the side of my face. I touch the top of my head and pain shoots through my skull. I jerk my hand away.

The liquid is sticky between my fingers and red in the faint glow of the lone headlight. Blood.

My chest tightens. I’m not able to make sense of the world around me.

To my right, a tree occupies the place of the passenger seat. A passenger, squeezed between it and me, is practically perched on my lap. I can’t tell if he’s breathing. 

No, not a tree. A utility pole.

Dangling from somewhere above, a wire flops around like an unchecked fire hose. Sparks shoot in all directions just a few feet away.

Is this for real?

The seatbelt pulls tight between my breasts. My fingers fumble with the release until I’m free from its iron grip. I tug on the door handle and push, but it remains in place. With the little leverage I have, sandwiched between the man and the driver-side panel, I ram my shoulder into the door. It doesn’t budge.

 I pound the steering wheel with my fists, screaming like a madwoman. Raising my elbow, I swing it into the window beside me. The glass crumbles like a dry pastry.

There’s something I’m supposed to do—or not do—around cars and electricity, but I can’t remember what. I push the thought aside and scramble through the opening. Launching myself off the car, I’m careful not to touch it and the ground at the same time. I think that’s right.

Landing face-first in the mud, I’m soaked and half-buried in muck. I pull myself to my feet and look for a path of escape. What about my companion?

Can I leave him behind?

My gaze jumps between the deserted highway and the man in the car. I’m not sure I can pull him free without electrocuting us both, but I can’t abandon him.

I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Diving back through the window, I keep my feet off the ground and wrestle my hands under his armpits.

I pull, but he’s about 170 pounds of dead weight.

Shoving fear and common sense aside, I plant a foot in the mud and press the other knee into the side of the door. With both hands under his arms, I pull with my upper body while pushing my knee into the side of the car.

Maneuvering him into the driver’s seat, I jam my foot against the door and pull with every bit of strength I have left.

We’re halfway out. One more tug should do it.

The sizzling wire on the other side of the car grips my attention. The world around me slows to a crawl. I hold my breath. The wire slaps against the car.

What did I do to deserve this?

A loud pop echoes through my ears. Blinded by a white flash, electricity surges through my arms—still wrapped around my companion—and into my chest. The shock hits me like a getaway driver fleeing a crime scene and blasts me back into the mud.

This is not happening.

Darkness fills my vision.

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BONUS: 5-Author collection of short stories titled “Dead Memories”.