“…here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit…” – T. S. Eliot The Wasteland
I was running away in the snow. There were tracks ahead of me and I was following them; I had to believe they would save me. The snow was deep, and it wasn’t really running but a lurching forward. For all the effort I felt so slow. I didn’t think I would make it before I got hit, but I was trying. I had to hope. A handful of snow jumped up in the air just ahead of me. They were so close. I gave up on my legs and dove headfirst. I was almost there. Some structure covered in snow. A small building with no visible entrance. My jump wasn’t far enough, I crawled, thrashing in the snow like some beached swimmer. I pulled my legs in and I was behind, all of me, to relative safety. I was breathing, still, my breaths were filling me up like a balloon. I didn’t want to pop but I couldn’t get enough air. The wood behind my back felt solid, maybe stronger than anything I had known. Anything solid in this snow felt like life. The shots stopped. I didn’t hear anything. And then just a little, in the distance, some kind of movement, a crunch, a boot probably. They were still trying.
I looked forward. A vast landscape. I was high on its peak, one side of a shallow valley, all of it covered in snow. The other side seemed close, like if I ran and jumped… although I knew it could take a life to get there. I was almost calm, I knew I had some time; not a lot of time, but in between that and next I ate some snow and just looked. Anywhere I could run would leave a trail, just like the one that lead me here. Someone here before me, but now gone. At the cliff edge I looked down. I didn’t see far. The wind was blowing the snow around, down looked white and dark at the same time, the only recognizable shapes were the darker trunks and branches of trees, and even those were mostly white covered darkness. I stepped off the edge and looked back. As I fell I saw them, just like the trees, blurry dark shapes in the vast whiteness. It all looked the same. White on white on white. How many layers do you need?
I didn’t fall, or crawl, just slid, like floating it takes you. My snowsuit was slick against the wet snow and I couldn’t have stopped. I tried to keep my feet in front of me and I tried to avoid the dark solid looking things that constantly threatened to break me. The sensation was of weightlessness and almost no control. The smaller branches were danger. I couldn’t see them until they had already smacked me and left. I put my arms up in front of my face and I saw even less. At times my feet would feel something solid and I instinctively tried to latch on, but everything was slick and ice, there was no grip. I didn’t have time for many thoughts, but I consoled myself with the idea that I must be half way, that I had survived more than expected, but I knew that I didn’t know that. Then it happened. Both of my feet hit something solid, I slid to the side and there was another solid thing. I had lost my speed, my body was nearly upright and I grasped into the whiteness and found something. I was standing and holding something and not moving anymore. It was sudden. I held still. I tried to listen, to hear something. There had to be a sound but I couldn’t tell what. I felt as suddenly awake after a sleep, not yet able to make use of my eyes or ears. I didn’t work. I was looking down, trying to locate my feet, I knew they were there, I could still feel them. Snow came falling down on me, a lot of it, from my slide, it was hitting the back of my neck and head, like a shower, but heavy and relentless.
I felt myself being buried. There was no space left. I was trapped in snow. I wanted to be back on top where I could at least see myself. I jumped. At first I didn’t move, my hands pushed down into the snow and then it fell away and I started to tumble down again. I was no longer feet first. I didn’t know what way was up. I just stopped and let it happen. I didn’t care. I had closed my eyes, I folded my arms around myself and kept my legs together. I expected the solid things to come and keep coming. It was some time before I noticed, my speed slowing, and the white noise of the whipping wind above me. I had come to a stop. I pushed my hand into the snow, expecting to start myself moving again but nothing happened. I laid there. I looked straight up into the grey sky flecked with snowflakes. I wondered why no one ever made ‘Snow Flakes’. Little white star things with sugar sparkles floating in white milk. I tipped my head over to the side and looked up at the dark cliff that I had just rode down. They were up there somewhere, and they would know that this is the only place I could be, that it was the only possible escape route. Maybe they thought I was dead? What if they could see me in their scopes. I looked down at my legs, sort of expecting to see a mangled mess of blood and bone, but they looked fine, already being covered in a layer of snow.
I sat up with my legs folded underneath, it felt pretty good. I was looking south, further into the valley, it looked like a lake, flat and covered with ice, a few skinny destroyed trees poking out of it. The other cliff face of the valley didn’t look that menacing, but I also knew they weren’t there. I scanned along the top as far as I could see. I took my time, I covered my eyes with my hands to see further. And I saw something. I couldn’t be sure, but something. I turned around in a circle looking one last time, just in case. Back up top I saw blackness jutting out above the line. Too wide to be a tree, it had to be something else. I started walking directly at it and away from them. It made sense and a direction. The snow here was harder, crispy on top, easier to walk on. I took some steps and looked back. I was making tracks, but they were thin and probably gone soon. I was going to get up there and see this thing; anything other than them and this white darkness.
At first it was a stroll, then a climb. I found myself moving sideways up the hill, it was easier and I didn’t notice, until I did, and looked back at my quickly disappearing tracks moving sideways instead of upways. I had to keep it in mind, constantly remind myself that I was going up, not across, or down or any other way, only up. The higher I got the harder it was, steeper and more wind, and the urge to stop, to go down seemed like a hot fudge Sunday. I hadn’t looked that far up. I didn’t want to know. I feared not seeing the black streak in the sky, or seeing it and learning what it really was. I needed it to be something better, something that I couldn’t even think of. Now when I looked up I couldn’t even see the top, there was too much in my way. I would look, feel like I saw the top, that I was almost there; I would climb another 10 feet and it would just be more hill, more trees. Half of the trees here were sideways, like the entire top layer of grass and dirt and trees just slide off the side and kept growing, but instead of up, sideways. I could walk on the trees now like stairs; I had to, there was no other way. I stopped looking up, it always looked like I must be there, and then I wasn’t. I just kept moving.
At the top I scrambled up, crawling on my belly over the edge. I raised my eyes still on the floor. A light in the distance. The blackness above was smoke. The light was a fire. A small orange glowing thing. It was a building on fire. It had to be warm. I got up and ran. I forgot to look around first. Now I didn’t care. If they shot me while I ran to fire I would drag my body into the fire. It hurt to breath, my legs wanted to stop. I pushed, and pushed. The running was heavy. Most of the building was gone. Or maybe it had been two. The fires were small now. I walked over a charred foundation, walls and anything that was inside them now a blackened heap. The other part still had a door, obviously still burning, I could see through the windows. I hesitated but pushed again, I turned the knob on the fire door and pulled it open. The heat and the cold wind were fighting over me. I felt them both, they wanted me, each as much as the other. I wanted the fire and stepped inside. I was so polite and closed the door behind. I had never been in a burning building before. Part of the roof had already fallen in, the fires left seemed tame, like pets that you might pet as you got home from wherever. I felt like I had arrived, this was a destination, a place people stop, glad to be here. In the corner looked like some kind of bed, it wasn’t but the idea stuck, there was nothing left but singed wood and some partially burned blankets. I sat down on the wood, it didn’t break, then I laid down and pulled the covers over my head.
I don’t remember sleeping, just that it was good. I was in a burning house, safe and warm, and no one would look for me here. In the dream nothing happened. I was simply still, like you expect, to just lay still for some hours and then to get up and for more or less everything to be about the same but instead of day it is now night. While I was sleeping, anything that could happen next had to wait for me.
When I woke up I wasn’t laying down anymore. Still under the cover, T. was to my left, L. to my right. T. was gesturing, L. was doing nothing, we were all hidden under the blanket and it was still mostly warm. The fire seemed to be off now. T. made no words, still I gave him the silent signal to be silent, a finger crossing the closed lips, but he couldn’t stop. Something, probably someone had replaced the fire, maybe they were even looking at us all right now, our feet and legs sticking out from the cover. There were little sounds, unmistakable groans from the half burned floor boards under the weight of some feet, some boots. I didn’t know what they could see or couldn’t. T. didn’t stop his campaign until he had shaken the blanket off, even then he continued to point and grimace, not at them, but at me, he only wanted for me to know. But I knew, as much as he did, and that didn’t stop them. Knowing a monster is under your bed only keeps it coming back. They were right there, mere feet away, nothing was stopping them. Still we sat as if hidden. I said ‘run’ out loud, quietly, mainly to myself, T. was stuck in a loop, L. was faded. I threw the blanket and pushed myself backwards, I didn’t look, forward or back, it made no difference. I knew the walls were black charred burned wood and nails and my back smashed through them in a small explosion of blackened bits. The wall did not stop me. I was in the snow again and I ran. Not away, but to the side, around the building, no line of sight. I crouched down at the corner of the building waiting. I heard them inside, just a shuffle of feet, something that scrapes and another piece of wood falling. I expected voices. I wanted to scream. But there was none of it. No one came.
I crept around the rest of the building, I saw the tracks leading inside and no one else around. Quickly I made some tracks leading away from the house, I ran fast, I got myself a decent distance away and looked back, it seemed far enough. I pivoted carefully in my footprint and hurried back in the same tracks, back to the corner of the burned away building. The floor of this place, what was left was still warm enough to melt away the snow as it landed. I walked across trying to be quiet and looked back to watch my tracks melt. I heard something like a pot falling or smashing from inside. I jumped into the strangers tracks and started following them, careful not to add my own print, I was stepping high, trying to match the gait of them. It was hard, they were taller, but their boots bigger, I had a bit of error margin. I had to be fast, the further I got the faster I went, this only worked if no one opened that door and saw me, moving slowly across the all white field, the easiest target. I felt myself the dark blurry shape in the all white everything.
I kept moving. Soon the big boot tracks started to fill with snow. I was getting far enough away, no one would catch me now, except the snow. I was free, and I could die without a bullet, all I had to do was keep going, any direction away. I stopped, trying to breath. I looked straight up and thought this snow doesn’t get tired and it will never stop trying to get me. Their boots, as long as the prints held, would lead me back where we started. If I got there before they did, maybe I’d find their stuff and not them. I ran into the prints, wrecking them as I went, just moving as fast as I could. The frozen lake was to my left. I would look at the trail and then to the lake, watching the lake as much as I could as I went. It was a sight and I wasn’t sure how many more I would have. I felt it before, it had a kind of pull. I wanted to go there but I expected it to be an end. That the water frozen or not would halt my escape, capture me. These tracks lead around the long way, they hadn’t been brave, or stupid enough to slide down the hill like I had. It was a long long way. I slowed to a pace I could keep and just looked down, down and kept moving, just that. One thought and one plan, to keep on.
Eventually the tracks were gone and I was just following the ridge, it had to lead back to that snow covered shack that saved me before. I wanted to be back there, to have it to do over again for some reason. I didn’t have a plan, I just wanted to try something else, something different this time. Hide under the snow or throw snow balls. My legs were weary and I felt myself swaying, it took even more concentration to make my legs keep moving. I knew there was a road, and they had to have come here in some vehicle. I was imagining finding the door unlocked and the key hidden in the visor, turning the heat on full and feeling it blast my frozen legs. I was gone. I nearly ran into the shack, it came up on me in surprise and I put my hands up to protect myself from it, to stop myself from ramming it face first. I looked down to see my hands on a snow covered window. Inside I could see that the thing was piled full of things, a rake, a rope, a stack of chairs. I looked back around myself, I peaked around the corner. I thought of hiding inside, among the things, then I thought of dying inside, having a moment with a gas can at the very end. I couldn’t have that.
I walked out towards the road, it was there, but barely, this was only an access road, a couple of grooves worn into the grass and dirt. It felt so easy to walk in the road with slightly less snow. Any comfort was magnified now. I thought this bit of less resistance could be the difference, it was saving me. I wanted to kiss it. And I remembered to eat some more snow. It was too cold but I needed it. When I got out of here I was going to get a hot fudge Sunday, just to spite the snow and cold, to show it that I could win with my hot mouth, that I wasn’t afraid.
I was right, a vehicle, a grey ATV looking thing, high suspension, futuristic even, like it had traveled back from the very near future just to impress us. And Impossible to park anywhere but here. The passenger side door was locked and I nearly died from disappointment right then. My head dropped and I sank to my knees in the snow. I knew it wouldn’t hurt because there was so much snow and it felt good to give my legs a rest. I think I could have given up, just stop trying, but that thought, just that I felt my legs and worried about them at all, somehow it proved I still wanted something. I wanted my legs not to hurt. I built up a little hope that the driver’s side could be open and I walked around slowly. I was dragging now, the momentum I had for the climb was gone, my energy and fear had swung back from mindless determination and I was now battling to think of any good reason to take another step. I had done more than enough, more than most would. Why not stop. No one would even believe me if I told this story. I tried the handle and it moved and it clicked and the door was open. I stood there with the door just a crack open, feeling the snow still surrounding me. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t jump in and ride off down the hill roads to some warm apple pie. I was mad, maybe madder than I’d ever been. Why did I have to check that other door first? what was the point of that if this one was open. I just couldn’t understand the world sometimes.
I sat down in the snow and just stared at the door. For a long time I didn’t have any thoughts. My chest was heaving, breathing heavy, the anger warmed me slightly. If I had the energy, if there was anything near, I would have broke it, but there was nothing and I knew it. I waited until I could have a thought, any other. The wind was blowing at the door, moving it a little, like it was trying to close it on me. Then I got angry at the wind. The wind made everything worse. I got up and opened the door and pushed my aching legs to haul me up and into this wheeled thing. Stupid future truck so high off the ground, it’s like mounting some giant horse. I slammed the door and the snow slid off in a rush. I looked out the window and realized I was indoors, a controlled environment. I relaxed a little. I searched for the key. I didn’t find it in the more obvious places and the places I could easily reach. I needed a break, I was running on empty now. I laid down on the seat. I knew it was dangerous, that I could fall asleep in an instant and wake up dead. But it felt so good. I was staring at the glove compartment. Did anyone ever keep gloves in there? at some point it was necessary to design a compartment just for gloves. I lazily opened it and pushed some things around. Just some papers, no gloves.
I wasn’t even looking, my eyes were closed, my fingers felt it, metal, small, key shaped. I pulled it out, still not looking, I slid over to the driver’s seat and fumbled around until the key went in. I sat back and waited a moment, turned the key and heard the engine start, my eyes opened up fast and wide. I tried to look out, but the windows were completely covered. I jumped out and frantically wiped the snow away from the windows, front, back, side. I put the thing in drive and realized there was no way to turn around, so I put it in reverse and hit the gas. I wasn’t looking that hard, I figured that as long as I didn’t hit any big trees this thing would run over the rest of it. I pressed the gas and steered a little. Everything felt so fast and yet the scenery didn’t change. It was all snow and flying snow, little shapes of trees, a glimpse of what I guessed was the road I was on. The air blowing on my legs wasn’t even warm yet and I hated it a little bit for making me feel even colder but I knew it would be hot soon. The angle of the road changed and I felt the decent begin.
When the air got hot I felt better, a little safer. I wasn’t going to die of coldness and I had this vehicle. I slowed down, I could see a little more of the road, the snow wasn’t flying here. I wanted to turn around but I didn’t want to get stuck and find myself trudging through the snow again. I didn’t want to stop for fear I somehow might not get it moving again. In my head all I had to do was turn it 180 degrees. The only doughnut I’d done in a car before was an accident, and I was lucky, no one hit me and I simply rolled to a stop. I just did it. Hit the gas and turned the wheel. There was no way to know how much was enough or too much and so I just did. The turn was slow. I wasn’t trying to have fun. But I went past 180 and then 360. The ATV thing’s breaks didn’t do much if anything at all and I was sliding down again, and spinning slowly. When the front was facing down I turned the wheel into the spin and switched from break to gas. The thing straightened but edged off the road. I was turning it back as hard as I could and nothing was happening. I had two wheels on and two off the road. Good enough felt great. There was nothing else to do, so I just hit the gas again and kept going down. It was nice to look forward instead of twisting around to look back. And now the past was behind me. The wipers were frozen and didn’t move so I put the window down enough to stick my hand out and wipe some of the windshield off. I could see, through the small opening an endless road in front of me. The landscape was white and so was the horizon and the sky. It was all a blank. I couldn’t be sure where I was going. Everything was possible and I felt very alive.
The diner was dressed in chrome with white on the top. It looked ridiculous, but I think it knew it did and that felt charming. Plus it was warm inside. I ordered a bunch of stuff and poured syrup on all of it. When something is good, it doesn’t taste or sound or look like anything, it just is. When the food was gone I wanted more, but there wasn’t room, and really I just wanted to enjoy something like that, again. The booths were covered in thick brown plastic, the stitching suggested it was full of plushy foam and would be very comfortable. The reality was that it was only half full and the plastic sunk fast and hard when I sat down. It was also impossible to adjust without making loud squeaking noises. Maybe it was the sugar in the syrup that moved me. I made so much squeaking that eventually, after he put his fork down and turned his head slightly in my direction, I received some advice from the man just in front of me: “Sit down or stand up.” The voice leaned heavily on the down and the up.
I stood up and sat down at the bar instead. I was done really but I wanted to be near people, to be inside. The waitress asked if I wanted some coffee and I said yes. When she returned with a cup she told me not to mind ‘Jack’, and that I was welcome to stay ‘irregardless’. I didn’t know what that meant, and started to ask but stopped and just said ‘thanks’. A woman sat two stools away, she was in a full snowsuit, bright yellow, a ‘safety color’. Just makes it easier to find the body, after. But of course it’s sold with hope, that’s if, and only if, the unthinkable, or obviously the very thinkable, happens; that you will be found, before you’re just a cold body in bright yellow. She had a scarf on and it was making eating awkward. It was entertaining to watch. I felt a bit bad about laughing and to make up for it I started talking to her. I knew she didn’t take it off because it had taken her an hour to put everything on. It took a while, she didn’t really want to talk to anyone, but she told me that she was going into the wild, just like the book, but not to die, just to go. I told her that there were lots of wanderlust people, that the more well known were the women. She said she knew this already. I just kept talking because it felt nice to say anything out loud. The Man V. Nature story was played out. But the Woman V. Nature was still something. A man chopping down a tree was boring, no one’s gonna care about that, but a woman chopping down a tree; incredible. She finally went to the trouble of turning far enough to meet my eyes and told me that she wasn’t broken, wasn’t running away from her life, and that she wasn’t going to chop down a tree or die. I told her that if she really didn’t die she could write a book, that the genre was expanding. She told me she wasn’t going to write a book or a blog. I told her I just wanted to talk to someone for a while.
She had no schedule and so we sat down on the hollow brown plastic across from each other. She was doing me a favor. I was determined to sit down and not move this time. I was surprised she chose this, and so I waited for her, let her have the space. We both sat and looked at each other in our huge snowsuits. I squirmed a little and made a squeak. She didn’t say anything and we just sat and drank from our warm cups. I guessed we looked like a couple of big blow up dolls, lacking genuine human features, all smoothed out, with just a tiny face poking out. I had said I wanted to talk, and now I couldn’t think of what to say, how to begin; worried where it might lead. I noticed that her gloves were still at the bar. I jumped up and retrieved them, and when I sat down I asked: “So why leave?”
She said, “I intend to come back, and I’m prepared.” We sat. I waited again. It was a kind of stand-off, she knew I wanted more. She said, “This is my smoke break. I don’t smoke. If you add up all the time I could have spent standing around outside of buildings and homes and restaurants…”
I asked her what she expected to find, or what she wanted to ‘get’ out of her journey.
She said, “I just wanted to go and then to come back.”
“And you are doing this all alone?”
Out the window the sun was shining behind some grey cloud, diffused enough that it was possible to look right at it. All those thousands of miles, through every possible obstacle, to find our eyes at just the right level. I gestured with my head out the window, “Not often we get to look straight at the sun.” She looked and nodded.
“What if someone had wanted to go with you?”
“That’s not what I’m doing.”
“Would it be different it if wasn’t planned?”
She turned her head slightly, quizzically.
“If you don’t plan it, is it different to be with someone then?”
“Like an arranged marriage in Vegas?” she asked.
“That’s probably different… probably.”
“Expectations are what make things hard.”
“Yeah… is it easier to be spontaneous? No plan means there is no built in idea of failure… anything that happens could be good, good enough.”
We both sipped at our drinks.
“What if I went with you?”
I sat back and didn’t answer. I was thinking, trying to find a reason. I didn’t have one. And I felt myself probably too tired to think of one even if I tried. The time had passed. The space allowed for me to think of something and say it was gone and now it was obvious I didn’t have anything. We sat and drank warmness some more and I didn’t try to talk. And then she said, “Let’s go,” and stood up.
In the lot I told her I didn’t need my car. She didn’t know which one was mine and didn’t ask. She hadn’t asked about me at all in fact. In another state I would have been annoyed, but here and now I was happy to have her and only my own questions to deal with. I could talk to her, she seemed fine with anything. I was overwhelmed by thoughts and didn’t say. She didn’t seem to have motives, goals or concerns. I thought these things fundamental to being human, but there she was, with arms and legs, driving. I heard the snow crunch under the wheels as she drove us out of there. Snow that flies around smashing me in the face up there on the hill, down here it gets flattened into itself, crushed and shoved to the side, dirtied into a dark sludge on the side of the road. I had to admit I preferred it white and free. Of all the choices, everything that I could do right now, going back up the hill with a strange woman on some quest she refused to define; this had to be the worst choice. They were still up there, they had to be; I had their ATV thing. The passenger’s seat was comfortable. I sat back and resigned. I realized this is how I got up there to begin with, in a passenger’s seat, letting things happen, watching. I thought, this is how idiots die, because life isn’t idiot proof. At least there was some grace in that.
“When people say things happen for a reason…” I heard the words come out of my mouth as they came on their own. “Don’t they mean for a good reason?” She shrugged slightly.
“Something pushed you out here,” I said this as a kind of rhetorical statement, at once referring to myself and to her. I was looking out the window now, with my nose nearly touching the glass and she seemed to understand that I was talking just to talk.
“So you’re a goat and your herd goes to this stream and one day some lion catches one of your goat friends and rips it apart, breaks it’s neck and eats it alive, everyone screams and runs away, all of it. These things happen. And then you think, let’s not go there again. That happens too.” I was looking at her now, watching her drive, and she was facing forward, concentrating; not on me.
“If you hurt yourself… you’re walking down the street, wearing sandals and you step on a piece of glass and then you have to get a tetanus shot. And so the next time, even wearing real shoes, you hesitate, that street hurts, it’s dangerous and it’s just as easy to go another way and so you do. Right?”
She looked at me quickly and then back to the road, and back to me again. “I don’t wear sandals.” The road was almost totally gone and looking at it didn’t matter, or rather looking at it obviously didn’t matter now.
She said, “Some people just don’t; they don’t go anywhere, they can’t step on glass.”
“It’s the prey that hides that lives… ” I said.
She nodded, “Yeah.”
“The fear is safe.”
We were slowing as the road became steeper and the snow deeper. There was nothing to see out the windows now. The car felt like a shipping container, encased in snow, slowly transporting us.
I put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Is it worth it… to survive?”
She shook her head, not as a no, but as an I don’t know. There was nothing else to see, we looked across at each other just like in the diner. She pressed the gas harder, stomping her foot down, the engine responded with a groan and we moved a little faster.
“Do you still flinch?” I asked this time for an answer.
It took her a moment to think, then she said, “Only if it’s a surprise.”
“Right, yeah. Anything that happens every day becomes OK. If your goat friend gets eaten every day, you watch, and then it’s boring and then it’s just another thing that happens.” Our eye contact held us tight. “Do you join in the eating because it’s that’s happening?”
“It’s not polite to flinch.”
“We’re not supposed to be surprised?”
That’s when we hit something. We couldn’t see it, just felt her car float up and back down, heard the thumps, there were so many it seemed like constant gun fire. She had been driving as fast as the car could, and we slid forward, still upwards until the momentum died and we fell back down slowly. She pushed the brake and turned the wheel. The car spun around slow and finally stopped. We looked at each other with wide eyes and then at the road, then at the dark lumps nestled in the snow. We stared until the shock faded and then I had to ask, “Do you want to go look?” She nodded slowly and I put my hand on the door latch, she did the same and then I opened my door and put a leg out. When I stood up I could see out towards the valley and the lake. The lake stood out, a blotch of something a little different, a silver grey color and reflective, even in all the whiteness it shown. We didn’t make it very high on the hill, but it was far enough to be in the storms. The snow was flying around us in a swarm.
We half walked half slid down to the black lumps, they were bodies. I already knew that but I waited until I was looking down at mangled limbs to let that be real. There were two of them, they were all dressed in black. We didn’t do anything with them but stare. They were captivating. I didn’t even notice until she asked, “What kind of guns are those?” One was a long rifle, with a scope, I had to have been in that scope earlier. The other was some kind of automatic machine gun with a lot of bullets. I looked at her and asked, “Do you think that’s all of them?” She said, “I hope so.”
And that’s when we heard the explosion. We both turned in unison to see the car half in flames. And then we saw it start to slide down the road towards us. I jumped instantly to the side, but it wasn’t far enough and I knew it. I scrambled, losing my footing and mostly crawling away. When I looked back I realized that it didn’t matter, the car was moving in slow motion, burning and gently sliding down the hill. I stood up and we watched it go by. It ran over part of them, spun around, and kept going. I walked back into the road and watched the car get smaller, the dead at our feet. We walked around them and started following her car down. Once in a while it would explode a little more and I told her, “I’m sorry.” She said, “For what,” but it wasn’t a question. I answered anyway and said, “For anything that happens.”