I gazed, now, at the countryside blurring past. The faded clapboard building selling fish bait and the bar, which had thrived during tourist season, were long gone. Even the foliage seemed to reject this place, the trees transitioning from verdant green to almost skeletal-bare as we got closer. This place in time matched my own. But like anything else here, I wouldn’t be staying for long. It was the comfort of the familiar I needed right now.
“Why don’t you check in a hotel until you know where you’re going to go?” Ethan asked. “Why in hell do you want to stay in that depressing cabin? It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“You care all of a sudden?”
“Forget it. The sooner I drop you off there, the better.”
“It can’t come fast enough.” I felt like all the air had been sucked out of me. But soon, freedom. Free from tension, so hard and thick, like concrete.
Rain came down in pelts, and I looked forward to sleeping alone in my bed. Ethan drove much too fast, and I grasped the side-door handle with a clammy hand. I’d detected alcohol on his breath in the lawyer’s office, gave him sideways glances with dirty looks. Now, his anger flared up.
“I mean it.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
Ruts in the road jostled us, and the scenery blurred. I turned toward him, fire like a raging inferno on his face. I tried to swallow the tremor in my voice as the car rocked back and forth. It hit a muddy hole, then slid, spun around, tipped onto two wheels like some sort of stunt in a movie. I could barely make out the outline of the cabin in the distance through the downpour. I closed my eyes and visualized the car balancing perfectly on its side, making its way right up, safe and sound, to the cabin’s front door, then drop with a thud on all fours. I’d get out, slam the door for good measure, go inside, and never look back. Instead, the car careened on its side and glided toward the edge of the road then down a sheer drop toward the creek. My purse and sunglasses flew to the back seat when we struck a downed tree, and the day-old coffee in the cup holder splashed onto our clothes. Ethan’s skull cracked against the gear stick as the air bags inflated out from their enclosures.
Blood raced to my head, making me dizzy, not knowing which way was up or down, left, right, nothing. We weren’t completely upside down, but we were getting there, the car tilting and grating beneath our heft along with the heavy boxes of household items in the trunk. We were losing the battle with gravity.
I struggled to unhook the seatbelt, yanking at the strap out of desperation when it wouldn’t cooperate. Ethan’s head lolled, his eyes opening and closing, his forehead furrowed and dripping with blood. His body leaned towards me, and the car’s groan got louder. Taking a deep breath, I thought back to the times Ethan came home late smelling of vodka and strange perfume and God knows what else. How easy it was for me to shove him out the door followed by threats and tears. This time, it wasn’t so easy. I tried pushing him up and away so the weight of both of us wouldn’t topple the car over, but the slope was steep, a favorite childhood place where all of us kids used to glide down on our cardboard sleds onto the iced-up creek. It had been a time during the year when no one was around to terrorize us because Waymore was on Christmas holiday. Everyone knew the ice was too thick to break through.
The car slid down the ravine and tipped onto the passenger door, slipping downward like it was a snow board speeding over wet gravel, mud, and brush.
I reached up over Ethan, despite still being restrained by the seatbelt. The car finally gave way, plummeting toward the creek, before it finally settled on its side in the water. The engine kept humming, then sputtered. Smoke poured out and circled around, forming black ringlets at the front and side windows.
Ethan moaned, his body held up now by the seat belt and its shoulder restraint. Blood poured from his head wounds. I tried to scream for help, but my organs, all of me, were weighing down on my lungs and throat. Through the loops of car smoke, I spotted a possum staring at me from the creek bank, probably trying to figure out what the fuss was all about and who would dare invade his territory. The world looks so different when you’re sideways.
Lori M. Myers is an award-winning writer, Pushcart Prize nominee, and Broadway World Award nominee of creative nonfiction, fiction, and plays. Her work has been published in more than 45 national and regional magazines, journals, and horror and mainstream anthologies. She is the author of Crawlspace and other stories of dark fiction and horror. Lori is an adjunct professor of writing and literature and lives in New York.