The Hidden Place
A cloud of acidic steam fills my mouth with the sweet 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. It does 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 closed, but my surroundings remain unchanged.
The throbbing in my head draws attention to warm liquid dribbling down the side of my face. I reach to investigate, and pain shoots through my skull. The liquid is sticky between my fingers and red in the faint glow of the lone headlight.
I struggle to make sense of the world around me. A tree occupies what was once the passenger seat, and a man is squeezed between it and me. Dangling from somewhere above, a wire flops around like an unchecked fire hose, sparks shooting in all directions. No, that’s not a tree beside me; it’s a utility pole.
Did I do this?
The seatbelt pulls tight between my breasts. My fingers fumble with the release until I’m free from its grip. I tug on the door handle and push, but it remains in place. I use what little leverage I have and ram my shoulder into the door. Stuck.
Raising my elbow, I bash it into the window beside me. The glass crumbles like a dry pastry. I scramble through the opening, but an old bit of knowledge gnaws at me. There’s something I’m supposed to do—or not do—around cars and electricity. I push the unremembered thought aside and launch myself off the car, careful not to touch it and the ground at the same time.
Landing face-first, I’m instantly soaked and half-buried in muck. I pull myself up and look for a path of escape.
I dive back through the window, keeping my feet off the ground. Wrestling my hands under his armpits, I pull. He’s 190 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 my arms wrapped around him, I push against the car for leverage. Maneuvering him into the driver’s seat, I jam my foot against the door and pull with every bit of strength I have left.
The crackling wire on the other side of the car grabs my attention. Everything around me slows to a crawl as the wire slap against the vehicle.
What did I do to deserve this?
A loud pop echoes through my ears, and I’m blinded by a white flash. The electrical current surges through my arms that still cling to my companion and into my chest. The jolt blasts me back into the mud.
This is not happening.
Darkness overtakes me.
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