Published by Amy Doherty at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Amy Doherty
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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For the person down the street who the Jaws of Life couldn’t save.
I was leaning in the driver’s side of my car, fumbling around for coins, when I first heard her voice. She excused herself and asked if I knew how to get to Richard Street.
“You’re on it,” I replied, looking under my arm, backwards, at her standing behind me. She looked pale, panicked almost.
She struggled to get her words out. “Are… Are you sure?”
I shuffled backwards out of the car and stood up, facing her. “Definitely,” I said, gesturing to the street sign across the road. We made eye contact once more and the hairs on the back of my neck stiffened. There was a gentle breeze that was shaking the wind chime that hangs from my rear vision mirror. She seemed nervous, but I wasn’t sure why I was; even though we were in a troubled area, she didn’t seem threatening. She broke eye contact and asked me which bus would take her to the city. I pointed to a bus stop about forty metres from us on the opposite side of the street and told her that any bus that picked her up from there would be on its way to the city centre. I noticed that she was wearing a thin black cotton dress with no pockets, and wasn’t carrying a bag.
“You’ll need money,” I said. She looked at my right hand, which was balled into a fist, holding the three dollars in change that I had intended to use to pay for parking. I immediately understood why she had approached me. I stepped towards her and she flinched; I was unused to this type of reaction so I stopped and held my arm out, palm up, coins exposed. “Take this,” I said. “It will get you a bus ticket into the city. It’s a short ride.”
She took two steps towards me. She was so graceful; her dress flowed in the breeze and she appeared to barely touch the ground with her feet. Before I realised what I was doing, I looked down at her feet to make sure she wasn’t floating. She wasn’t. She was wearing delicate brown leather sandals that buckled at the ankle and covered her toes. Suddenly, I felt my body tense, as she took the coins from my open hand. Her hands were like ice. She quietly thanked me and carefully walked down the street to the bus stop. It was almost as if she were counting her steps, knowing that I was watching her. I had a sudden urge to chase after her; I wanted to know her name, ask her if she was okay, and offer to drive her to where she needed to go. I didn’t want her to be afraid and alone in the neighbourhood that we were in. It would be dark soon. Without thinking, I walked out into the road to call after her.
“Hello? Miss! Wait!” I looked to both ends of the street and she was nowhere to be seen. Where could she have gone? She couldn’t have vanished. This was impossible.
I was snapped back to reality by the loud honking of a car on the road, followed by an angry, shouted command to get back on the footpath. I stepped back from the road and walked back to my car.
Coming up the path, I noticed that I had left the door open and that the breeze had disappeared; the wind chime was still and reflecting the orange glow from the sun that was setting behind me. I felt around in my jacket pocket for my keys, but felt nothing. I felt a sudden relief that I had left the door of my car open and climbed inside, still looking for my keys. I found them in the space between the front seats and took a moment to myself, deciding whether to go home, or head into the store as I had originally planned. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt shaken.
It’s getting late, I thought. There was a Thai restaurant close by to my house that delivered. That settles it. I fumbled with my keys, looking for the ignition, and started the car.
I couldn’t shake the feeling of discomfort and was distracted whilst driving home. Who was the young woman from today? Where did she go? For the second time today, I was jerked from my thoughts back into the real world by the sound of a car, but this time, the screaming of locked wheels, skidding along bitumen, desperately trying to stop. I looked to my right, searching for the source of the sound, and it was if time had slowed to a standstill. As I took in the searing brightness of the car’s headlights in an attempt to work out how far away it was, I realised. I had run a stop sign. I was afraid. I closed my eyes and braced for the impact.
The first thing that I felt was my seatbelt tightening across my lap and chest, and then the crushing force of two tonnes of machinery colliding with my body at 70 kilometres an hour, with only a thin car door between us. The sound of metal on metal was excruciating. Everything went black.
I don’t know how much time had passed when I came to. To my right was an ugly display of warped steel and broken plastic. To my left was broken glass and an open door. I fought with my seatbelt to get free and crawled over the passenger seat to the opposite side of the car to climb out. I fell out of the car and passed out on the road.
I regained consciousness to flashing lights and the sound of emergency services all over the scene of the accident. I pulled the blanket from my face and looked up. I was laying in the back of an ambulance, but the paramedics were no longer attending to me, which seemed to make sense as I felt fine. I sat up. Tuesdays, huh. I just wanted to go home. I waited for hours but nobody came over to me, and the ambulance stayed put. Giving up, and knowing how close I was to home, I left. I should have spoken with someone, given my details to a police officer, but I was tired. I wanted to go home. So I left, deciding that I would check in with a doctor the following morning.
When I arrived home, I realised that my phone had stopped working, which was unsurprising as it was in my pocket at the time of the crash. I plugged it in to charge in the hope that the issue was that the battery had died. I guess it didn’t really matter anyway. I didn’t have anyone to call.
I awoke the next morning and showered. I felt numb. I barely noticed the water on my skin, in fact, it was as if I couldn’t feel it at all. My breakfast was tasteless and felt like an exercise in futility, an activity that I participated in because it was what I did every morning. I made my way out of the house and down to the bus stop that was at the end of my street. I had no idea where my car was and my phone was still dead, so I couldn’t even call anyone to find out.
I scanned my rider-pass as I stepped onto the bus. I was grateful that I didn’t have to speak with the driver. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I sat by myself halfway down, and the bus began moving. At the next stop, the bus pulled over to let another passenger on. I looked up. It was the young woman from yesterday. We made eye contact, but this time it felt calm, familiar even. She dropped some change in the hand of the driver and made her way up the aisle, all the while staring into my eyes. It felt like she saw right through me, and yet saw all of me in my most complete state. She sat down next to me and placed her hand on top of mine. It was warm and brought a sense of safety.
“Hello,” she said, calmly and quietly. In that moment, I understood. I felt no fear. I was safe.
Her name is Death, and she rides the bus.
About the Author
Amy Doherty loved books so much that she began to learn at a very young age, fuelled by envy of her older brother who could read independently. She is grateful to their parents for taking her to the town’s library whenever she asked and putting up with many nights of her calling out from her bedroom, asking, “What does this spell?”
Amy wrote this story after witnessing a car accident in front of her home.