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It’s cold. The floor is drab linoleum, speckled with dust flecks. The standard office clock ticks formidably, getting bolder. The snotty receptionist pulls a nail file from a drawer and inspects her nails. She catches me looking, and rolls her eyes, a gesture lathered in annoyance.
I stare back at my shoes. I flex my big toe and see my sock peeking out against the ripped material. Grey and torn. The clock ticks.
The engine revved quietly as my tires ravaged the dirt road, music blaring.
“Oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh no no noooohoohahahoooo”. Sadie attempted the complex rock ballad.
“Please be quiet. I only got one brain cell left, and he’s not doing the best”, I
said , irritated and amused.
“Oh deal with it, we’re stuck in this death-mobile another hour, so that’s just too bad for you.”
She took a swig of beer, the amber liquid intensified by the setting sun.
I grimaced at her disdain for my newly acquired 1973 Chevy Vega and attempted to concentrate on the uneven road.
Although the journey was long and discomforting, Lake Times was my favorite haven. Situated far past the highway on an off-road situated between giant cliffs, was a small area that housed a scarce amount of campers in the summer, and woodsmen in the fall. The privacy was great, but that’s not what made it interesting.
My family built a small cottage up here decades ago, right beside the lake, with a field of wild roses growing out front and a grow-operation out back. Our land was enclosed by oak trees, so we often went unnoticed. I made the drive up here bi-annually, checking on things.
For this trip I had finally let my 17 year old sister, Sadie, tag along. This was potentially disastrous, as Sadie and I were too much alike to get along well for any amount of time.
I was too numb to think, to register anything now. It was dark in my skull and I held my breath, each time increasing the amount of time between inhales.
My chest throbbed unsteadily. I chose to focus on this instead, the aggravated heave of my internal organs lurching about inside.
Somewhere outside my numbness, I recognized the sound of footsteps in an outside hall. They seemed loud and sharp, intimidating.
By the time we were 10 minutes outside of Lake Time, the forest had been plunged into darkness. I squinted in front of me as I tried to maneuver the car across the miniature lake-like puddles.
“Just let me drive,” Sadie commented,
“You have terrible night vision anyway, and you’re impaired,” she continued pleading.
“No, I don’t, and no I’m not.” The words came out, but they were off, with a garbled slur.
I frowned for several seconds, defeated, feeling her sly smile burning into the side of my face.
I sighed and stopped, the car huffing aggravatingly in agreement. She was probably right. I looked over to her seat again, but she was already gone somehow, pulling me out the car.
"Go on, get in. I'm serious, I'll leave you here," she threatened.
It was pitch black and the breeze rustled the leaves in trees, and there was a delicious warm summer air. I stood there for a moment, before Sadie revved the engine. Stumbling in the dark to find the passenger side door, I slid in clumsily, and shut the door behind me.
We drove uneventfully for a moment, me tense against my seat. After several more seconds of nothing, I leaned back against the headrest and closed my eyes.
I saw nothing. I tasted beer, and a hint of orange Tic Tacs. I smelt the old musty interior of the car, camouflaged slightly by the pineapple air freshener. I hea-
My head smashed into the dashboard, and I felt my nose crunch.
Crippled with the agonized pain in my head, I forced myself up, stunned.
I looked over toward Sadie.
"SADIE, WHAT TH-,"'
We ran into something loud and solid, and I was thrown against the dashboard again, fracturing something in my chest.
The car groaned, sputtered, and the sound of car parts dismantling filled what was left of the car.
Gasping through the pain, I once again looked to Sadie.
Sadie looked at me, her face mutilated by the jagged window. I would've looked away if I wasn't so angry.
"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN OOPS?!!?",
I struggled against the twisted interior, trying to loosen myself. It was impossible, my left shoulder was pinned by the former dash.
Sadie bit her lip and began to tremble. When she turned to speak again, it was only then I noticed the extent of her injuries.
Something had gashed a huge portion of her head open, and the material was still embedded in her scalp.
She opened her mouth to speak.
"Shh, don't talk. Where do you feel like you hurt the most?"
She just looked at me blankly for a moment, and responded,
"My wrist is broken I think... and I'm really cold. I don't know, everything's sore."
I knew we wouldn't get service here, and I was contemplating trying to move when I noticed something.
"What's that smell?"
I sniffed again. I couldn't see much, but I knew something was wrong, it smelled like... burning tires, almost. Wait. Oh. No.
I forced my head agonizingly towards Sadie, but she was already screaming.
The footsteps approached faster, almost to the door.
Sluggishly, my eyes rolled up to greet them. The doorknob rattled when it turned. The professional oak door swung open, scraping slightly against the floor, the sound muted.
Sadie pranced in, her boots smacking the floor with a loud "THWAP" each
step, her blonde hair flying.
I looked at her expectantly.
"I PASSED, OH MY GOD I FINALLY PASSED!!!", she shouted, elated, while showing me her scorecard.
"Good, now I don't have to drive you around anymore" I said slowly.
She peered disapprovingly at me, annoyed.
"Shut up. Why are you still doped up on cough medicine? Isn't your cold or flu or whatever gone?"
"I guess, but it's the codeine that's the worst. It's been almost 2 weeks and I still need it. Stupid tonsils."
She ignored this, and instead brandished the driving papers at me again.
"Come on, we have to go to the DMV. It closes at 5:00, remember?"
"Alright, just get your stuff and we'll go."
I awkwardly stood up and hobbled to the door.
Sadie followed, smiling the whole way.
"After that, you have to let me drive up to Lake Times, assuming your car can make it there that it."
She shut the door.