“Aw … Aw, fuck!” Wes Burgis moaned. His head was throbbing, and he could not stop choking on whatever was in the air.
When Wes opened his eyes, the only thing he saw was a smokey, white haze. The car’s airbags, he thought – the car’s airbags did this. At first, the young man did not know that with certainty, simply because everything had happened so quickly, but as his vision began to clear, he could tell that things were bad, really bad.
“Charlie,” Wes called out to the driver. “Big C, man, you okay?”
There was no response. Wes turned his head slowly to the left, and found the driver slouched over and bleeding in his seat. Charlie was unconscious, Wes reasoned, but he was breathing – barely – which meant that he was alive. That also meant Charlie was probably going to need help. Then Wes’s bloodshot eyes shifted to the rear of the vehicle – or, more aptly, what little actually remained of it. The telephone pole had made short work of this sedan, basically ripping it open and impelling the backseat passengers with shards of metal, glass, and wood. Unfortunately, no one could have done anything for them; they were already dead.
“I gotta get out…” That was the singular, commanding thought that motivated Wes to push open the door and roll out of the vehicle. Wes hit the soggy ground, instantly realizing that the car had landed, facedown, in a ditch, and it seemed to take most of his strength to climb out of the mud and onto the asphalt surface of the road. His head still pounding, Wes made every effort to stand, but he could not think coherently enough to do that easily. That was perhaps more of a consequence of his drinking than a result of the accident, he thought. Or, of course, it could have been a concussion. When he finally made it to his feet, Wes looked back at the mangled hulk, and he realized that he was lucky to be alive. Then he peered only a few yards up the road, only to find more carnage. There were two other cars – one of them, resting on its side – in very a similar condition to the one from which he emerged.
The sight of the wreckage overwhelmed him, and the shock was intense enough to kill his buzz. Fighting back tears and emotion, Wes could only utter one word – “Help.” He knew that he had not spoken loudly enough. In fact, the words were just a whisper, really. “Help!” he finally shouted. “Somebody, help us!”
“Hey, son! Hey! Are you okay!” Wes heard the voice calling out to him. He turned to find an elderly couple in pajamas approaching him with flashlights clasped tightly in their hands. They seemed every bit as confused what they saw as Wes. No doubt, the young man thought, they were jolted out of bed by the sound of the accident. When the couple reached him, the old man looked at Wes and then across the scene. “Are you okay?” he asked, again, and this time the young man nodded his head. “Were you the only one – the only one that made it out?”
“Yes, but my friend Charlie is still alive in there! Please help me!” Wes replied, as he turned back to the vehicle.
With a burst of adrenaline, Wes raced back to the car. He leapt into the ditch and slouched through the mud and water with only the light from the couple’s flashlights to guide him. He was determined to save his friend, but he did not make it.
No sooner than Wes arrived at the car did it began to flicker. In fact, strangely enough, its pieces of ripped metal, the splintered chunks of wood, and even the motionless bodies – all of it seemed to flash into and out of existence. Wes was understandably confused. He reached forward to touch the vehicle, but just that quickly, it was gone. It had vanished without a trace, as if it were never there – and so, too, had the vehicles and debris on the roadway. Nothing from the accident remained, except him.
Wes shook his head, as he climbed out of the ditch with the assistance of the elderly man. “What the hell!” he mumbled. “What the hell is happening here!”
“No, not hell,” the woman said. “It’s something else.”
Wes did not immediately say a word. He only watched her shake her head. Then he turned to the elderly man. “What’s she talking about? What’s going on here?” he asked, but the elderly man only gave him a blank stare. Wes grew agitated. “Answer me! Am I losing my fuckin’ mind! What the hell just happened here!”
“This is not hell,” the elderly man answered. “No, as best anyone has guessed, we are somewhere in-between, but no one seems to know where that is. All we know is that we aren’t where we come from.”
“What are you telling me! What does that mean – ‘somewhere in-between’! Are you saying what I think you’re saying to me!” Wes was becoming visibly distraught. His head was shifting in every direction, and his eyes moved even faster. “Are you saying that I am dead!”
The elderly man reached out to Wes, touching his shoulder. He never responded to the emotionally-charged questioning. He only uttered three words: “I don’t know.”
Those words left the young man stunned. His jaw dropped and eyes bulging, Wes just looked to the couple. “I … I don’t understand.” He stepped back. “I … I … I need …” He turned back to the ditch, and he fell to his knees, while he stared at the site of where the car should have been. Then he broke down and began vomiting.
On the road behind him, the elderly couple watched in silence, and it was only when the man looks at the woman were any words spoken. “Go ahead, and call them,” he told her. “Let them know that there’s a new arrival.”
# # # #
(Property of G. Harrell Literary Properties. Any unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.)
GaryHarrell.net is the home of all things literary from author Gary Harrell.