How to crash a car

car.jpg

You know you’re in trouble as soon as you hit the accelerator. The front wheels don’t grip, you oversteer; you have a fraction of a second to try and hold it together before you hit the verge. You’re not quite sure how it happens but you’re thrown back across the road.

You have another second to try and gain control but it’s useless. Your first thought is ‘I hope no-one’s watching this.’ Your second is that the crash is inevitable.

You hit the off-side verge almost straight on; you’re not sure how fast you’re going but it’s fast enough to leap the ditch completely and smash into the bank beyond.

Time for one more thought: ‘This is going to hurt.’

The impact is a barrage. The windscreen shatters. The seatbelt grips. The airbags blow. Then you’re rolling and you lose all sense of direction.

Stillness.

Now the thoughts come hard upon each other: you’re alive; you’re in pain (chest, shoulder, knee, hip); the air is thick with smoke; the baby’s screaming.

This last thought pushes all the others into nothing.

You hit the seatbelt release – no fumbling, just one and done – and let yourself to the ground. You’re lost; don’t know how the car has landed. You consider searching for your phone and glasses but they’re not important, not crucial. You crawl into the back, grateful that however you settled the way seems clear. A moment to realise that the smoke is probably the explosive from the airbags.

Your baby is still in her car-seat, upside down, wailing. You say something to her, or at least you think you do, and support her as you release her. Again, no fumbling; she drops into your arms and now she’s right-side up and still screaming but you cradle her and coo to her and wonder how to get out.

The door is above you. You find the release and push but you’ve only got one hand. It doesn’t give at first. You try again and this time you get something behind it.

Then the door is pulled up. The onlookers have arrived, the assistance. You pass out the baby. You haul yourself up and let arms take you, undignified, to the ground. No, you say, there’s no-one else inside. Just me. Just the baby. You take her back and let yourself be led to a waiting car. Has anyone called emergency services? Not you.

You sit and cuddle your girl. You want to cry; you are crying. The pain’s not too bad. The shame, the shame, the humiliation. What happened? The truth is that you were going too fast for the conditions. There’s no other truth, though you dearly wish there was. It’s your fault. You lost it.

People are kind. You phone her mother on a borrowed phone. You speak to emergency services on another. The ambulance comes; you try to thank people but words are tricky. You hold on to the girl and never want to let go.

The ambulance arrives. Then the police. The breathalyser. People are telling you to be strong, be a father; guilt can come later. It’s already here, you want to say. A spectre of failure. you’ve let everyone down, wasted everybody’s time. You’re the statistic you swore you’d never become.

You’re fine, but for a minor fracture and a lot of bruising. The car is written off.  The baby… prognosis uncertain.

You go to hospital. You’re still not sure if you’re allowed to cry.

Bitter poetry

Anita Nowinska Turmoil II

Anita Nowinska; Turmoil II

You can’t talk. You open your mouth and nothing comes out. You want to scream but that’s what the morons do; share every little thought heedless of the consequences. You have a reputation. You care for it. You work hard and nurture it. If you let go now then you’ll have nothing, nothing.

Besides, if you start talking you might never stop.

You have so much to do. You have the time, for once. A lacuna, an eternity; the sort of space that’s bought with death. But the words won’t rest on the page. The eye flits from perch to perch, never quite getting a sense, never quite knowing what’s solid and what’s the Grimpen Mire.

And you can’t start anything new. It’s there; it comes into focus; it’s swept away by the very attempt to gather.

So time flows in gossamer drifts, swirling and swimming through the great cavity in the skull. It’s lost as soon as it’s seen; lost forever, that perfect moment always just out of reach and you can never stop moving: forwards, forwards, ever forwards. To cease is to die. Virtue measured in achievement, purity in production.

The furnaces are cold today. Rats scurry on the foundry floor. They chew on your leftovers, on the parts you discarded, all the skins you’ve set aside. You always kept them – just in case, just in case. But you’ll never wear them again. You can’t look back; too late to heal the wounds.

The bullet’s the wrong calibre. You were sold a pup. You’ve been lied to – mostly you lied to yourself. But that’s okay; you can just rip this face and start again. Maybe this time the dice will land sixes. About time the luck ran your way, huh?

This is bitter poetry. This is a silent scream. This is weakness masquerading as determination. Quitter, quitter, quitter. You’ve turned your back so many times you don’t know which way’s forwards. You’ve convinced yourself you were strong because you kept it all inside, a sin-eater, a martyr.

You put a hand to your forehead and find the seam. You pull and great necrotic scabs scatter the vermin. They return twofold for a feast. The flesh falls and it falls and it falls.

Your shadow steps away. All that’s left. All that remains.

Step into the shadows. Disappear.

Disappear again.

Welcome Home

The room was blank and cold.

“Choose.”

“What do you mean?” the man said.

“Choose. Add something.” The voice was impersonal, distracted. Neither male nor female, it sounded as if it had been doing this all its life.

“Warmth. Books. A chair.”

The room heated instantly – a comfortable temperature. A rack of shelves appeared on the wall, fading into existence as if they’d always been there. They were covered with brown, dog-eared titles; paperbacks and leather-bound hardbacks. They brought with them the smell of comfort. The man exhaled and fell into the armchair that had just appeared.

“Anything else?”

He realised then that he wasn’t actually hearing the voice. The words were simply appearing in his memory. “But – what do you want?”

“Me? This isn’t about me.” As if it had never considered the possibility. “Choose.”

The man looked around the chamber. “A window. A desk.”

They appeared as if straight from the subconscious; archetype objects. The man got up to tap at the surface of the desk, littered as it was with papers, pens, notes. Not just the object itself, but everything a desk was.

Through the window he saw landscape. It was nowhere and it was everywhere; frictionless, impossible. Even the colours had melted.

“What is this place?”

The voice hesitated. “Is there anything else?”

“I can’t think…”

“It is done, then.”

“Wait!” How he knew the voice was leaving he couldn’t say. Like it was turning away. “Wait – what is this place? What am I doing here?”

“Why, this is Hell, of course.”

“W-what do you mean?”

“This is your existence – I won’t say life, you’re done with that now – until the end of time.”

“But – but wait… Hell? This is –”

“Or Heaven. There’s really no difference.”

He had no words. His mouth flapped open, head shaking.

“It’s sad, really.” The voice – it was distant now, pausing by some invisible exit.

“W-what do you mean?”

“Eternity alone? What –”

“Company! Give me friends, give me my wife –”

“Too late now.”

“Who – who are you?”

“Just a soul who’s far more damned than you.”

The man felt a sigh like a whisper on the wind – except there was no breeze. Nothing moved. The window, he saw now, was closed. Sealed. He knew he’d never be able to get it open, never smash the glass.

He knew he’d still try, though.

He’d spend a long time trying.

*          *          *

 The entity drifted silently through a million blank walls, waiting for its next assignment. It shook its incorporeal head.

“‘What do you want?’” the voice chuckled. “As if, as if…”

The man’s fate wasn’t so bad, not really. At least he had books and paper, could do something to pass the centuries. No, not nearly as bad as the things the entity had seen. But it had hoped… A clever man like that…

“One day,” it sighed. “One day one of them will ask for a door.”