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The road I was traveling on wound through the forests of Arizona like a snake traversing grass. I had been down that road so many times that I considered myself an expert on every bend and straight. So much so was this feeling of superiority over the road that I had no care for the speed limit. I was traveling well over the suggested speed of 35 because, hey, where were the cops to stop me?

The road was mostly one lane but two lane stretches were scattered throughout the portions closer to town. I was approaching the first of these swellings of asphalt when I noticed a small black car coming up on me, and fast. I was already going at least 10 over so I deduced that the man in the black car was at least going 25 over the recommended rate of travel. (He must have been an expert of this road as well). In the brief moment that it took for him to overcome my vehicle I stole a glance at his car. In the drivers side I caught a glimpse of a younger man with a big smile on this face as if he enjoyed putting everything around him in danger. In the passenger’s seat was a girl about the same age. She was beautiful but her facial expression was impossible to decipher in the split-second window view I had. My guess was something between fear and pleasure.

“Psh. Young people now-a-days,” I immediately began judging. They were probably a new couple. He was the type that didn’t have much to say and made up for it by doing a lot of reckless stunts for admiration. The kind that didn’t really know how people operated but knew how society and action heroes do; always had good intentions though. I figured from my short sight of the woman that she was probably in one of those awkward experimental relationships with the driver. The ones that make you say, “Well we do have this in common so why not just try it out?” And afterwards they make you say, “What was I thinking getting closer to such a complete idiot? He couldn’t even tie his shoes without my help, let alone carry a decent conversation. I’ll never make that mistake again.” She will. I know she will because they all do. She’s probably scared right now but doesn’t want to say anything to the man because she knows it will fuel him to drive faster and get all the fear he can out of her beautiful brown eyes.

All of this was going through my mind as I watched the car fade out of sight.

I slowed down to the speed limit because that little black car reminded me how much I hate when people break the rules.

I was on my way to work. Work has always been that one syllable word that strikes a different note in each individual. For me, the note was a strong one full of content and dedication to that single clear sound; that single word… Work. I loved my job and woke up to greet it with open arms every day. I am one of the lucky few that has found their calling in life. It wasn’t till half way through engineering school that I found out that my calling was people. “People” was another word that held a special string of my soul like the word “work”. People are the most complicated of creatures. For their ability to grasp self-awareness and existence makes them susceptible to a wide range of emotion and thought-driven analysis of the world they inhabit. I am a counselor and no two encounters with people are ever the same. The situations, the problems, the places, time, and patterns of thought or behavior are usually seen more than once but the people themselves are never identical. Every person on this planet has an identity that is individual and special. My job involves figuring out those things that make each person who they truly are and tapping in to the roots of their mind that others have yet to touch. Unlocking this and finding the source of the problem they are facing is the key to getting them the help they need and in the fashion most efficient for them. This is exciting to me. People are fascinating.

As my appreciation of life and humanity was swelling inside me I began to smile. It slowly reached my mouth where it pushed up the corner and created a crooked grin. The rising tide of positive emotion was stopped short of the top of my head by a message received from my eyes that contained strands of foreboding. Just ahead of me on the road, before a sharp turn to the left, was a pair of black stripes with a definite beginning that faded slowly as they approached a gaping hole in the guardrail. I began to slow down because I knew exactly what had happened. The image of the young couple in the small car smashed into my conscience and faded just as their skid marks on the road did. As I passed the hole in the rail I could see that the skid marks had turned into a deep brown as the tires cut though the dirt bordering the road. The grooves in the ground led my eyes to the crash itself. The small black car had its front end wrapped around a tree and slow curls of smoke were rising from the edges of the crumpled hood. Both doors in the front were ajar and all the windows had a web of cracks in them. The driver was stumbling around the back of the vehicle with a sharp angle in his left leg and a look of dread on his face.

I pulled up on the side of the road after the guardrail ended which was about 50 yards from the accident. I had a cinder block in my gut and fireworks going off in my head but knew that I needed to do whatever I could to help. That’s a strange thing about people; always feeling a need to look out for those in need. I don’t get it.

By the time I came upon the remains of the car the man had already made it to the other side of the vehicle. Somehow the silence was much louder than the sounds of shuffling that I heard on the other end of the wreckage. I wanted to say something, to call out to the man, but no words came. My feet moved me along the same path that the man had just taken which was now speckled with blood. As the people came into view, the situation itself rose in clarity, and therefore increased my terror. The man was sitting on the ground beside the car, leaning up against the closed back seat door with his back towards me. The woman’s head was across his right arm and tilted towards me. Her mouth was agape with blood running from it and covering her face. Her brown hair was matted down by dark blood that oozed from a large gash running from the right side of her forehead to the top of her head. The woman’s eyes were a cloudy brown and were forever caught in a gaze at the sky just above my head.

I froze.

The man rotated his body, slowly easing the woman out of the crumpled vehicle to the point where his back was resting up against the closed door. The woman lay in his lap with all the rigidness of a pile of tattered clothes. The man’s face was visible now. I could tell he was around 26 even though he looked as if he had aged 10 years within a few minutes. His face had about half the blood on it than his partner did; mostly from a smaller gash over his left eye and a bloody nose. He stared at the woman’s lifeless body for a second with a look of hopelessness. His eyes began to tighten up and his lower lip trembled. The man’s face quivered and then a sudden and quick choking sound came from his split lips and broke the unbearable silence. The silence immediately returned before being broken again by the man’s short and shaken sobs. Tears rolled down his cheeks and his whole body shook uncontrollably as the crying became more intense. The woman’s head lolled from side to side as his arms and shoulders shook.

I am frozen with fear about ten feet away. Staring seems to be the only service I have to offer at the moment. My mind is full of static. I’m not thinking about anything because my mind is in a fuzz and I cannot even begin to make any movement. It is at this point that I notice that the lady is wearing a light blue nightgown. This doesn’t seem to fit the picture that I am seeing right now. Nor does the fact that she seems to have a midsection that is far too large in proportion with her petite frame. It all seemed very strange; unreal even. The realization of what I was seeing hit me very soon and hit me hard. The man was mourning the death of more than one human being today.

I couldn’t believe it. The thought was too terrible to fully comprehend. As the facts set in I realized that no matter how much I denied the possibility, I couldn’t avoid the truth. The blood covering the bottom half of her nightgown was evidence towards the unborn child that had lost its fragile life at the moment of the impact.
It was at this moment that the man noticed my presence. His head darted in my direction with inhuman speed. His intense blue eyes penetrated my soul and questioned my existence. They said, “What are you looking at? Why do you deserve to stand where you are without a scratch on you while my family lays lifeless in my arms?”
I couldn’t argue with those eyes.
The man looked angry (or was it fear?) and held what remained of his life closer to his chest. This slowly gave way to a look of unquenchable longing and another bought of sobs and shakes. He looked down at his broken family and looked back up to me with a look of desperation; as if I was the only thing on this planet that could bring them back to him.
“Are… you ok?” I asked feebly, though already knowing the answer.
Silence, desperation and sobbing followed. He looked back into the lady’s face, somehow searching for an answer.
I regained mobility and slowly approached the ruined man. I knelt beside him and rested a hand on his shoulder. I looked him in the eyes and slowly, with shared pain, said, “I’m so sorry.”
The man cried even louder, yelling, “NO! NO!”, and tears came to my eyes as well.
At this time another concerned bystander came up around the edge of the car, apparently having parked by my vehicle. Her hands flew to her face to suppress a scream as she came to a dead stop by the trunk.
“Oh my god. What happened? Is everyone ok?”
I told her what she needed to know with one concerned glance and she quickly ran back to her car to call an ambulance.
The ambulance was already too late.





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OceanLily said...
Dec. 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm
Wow!!! Your story touches on many levels of thoughts and ideas, as well as lessons... Its a well written and thought through plot! Its intriguing and captivating. I like how you have the man analyze the two characters in the car only to realize he is completely wrong about the man and woman couple. I think that aspect is what hit me the hardest as I read your story!
 
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