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It is late at night and all that I can manage to see are fields upon fields of farming land. I’m with my mom, just her and me as we drive through the dark and endless road. I tire of looking out the window at nothing and turn to look at my mom. And suddenly, the person who I have always seen as the strongest person ever is now just as alone and vulnerable as I am. And it’s true, even if we are concealed inside of this moving steel box, seemingly impenetrable, we are what seems like millions of miles away from humanity and civilization and neither she nor I will admit it but we’re a little scared. Now, there is nothing to be exactly scared of, thousands of people travel on the highways and interstates of the United States on a daily basis and they come out just fine. However, tonight, on this particularly dark night, we are as alone as someone can be without actually being alone. Not another car, truck, or state police in sight. And that terrifies me.
I look at mom once more and I notice her hands tightly clenched on the steering wheel as if she was maneuvering herself through a traffic jam. But why are they like this now? Does she sense my fear? As I look at her, her face appears relaxed but her eyes disagree. They are wide open as if on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. They look strained as I remember we have been driving for about two hours straight now and she must be exhausted. “Do you want me to drive for a bit?” I ask quietly, almost whispering as if to not scare her from the almost hypnotic trance that seems to be in. I start to feel guilty for not asking sooner, I guess my thoughts had been somewhere else this whole time. “No I’m fine for now honey, thanks. Ask me again in a bit” she says while smiling my way. She must have realized that she appeared worried and quickly masks her true emotions with a feigning smile. I knew my mom well enough to know when she lying about how she really felt. She probably felt the same way about me. I smile back and try to look as oblivious to all of this as I possibly can.
I turn on the radio as my iPod squeezes out the last bits of battery it has left and dies in my hands, but is startled by what comes out of the cars speakers. Pure static. This suddenly disturbing noise fills the previously dead quiet car, but I manage to turn it off as fast as I turned it on. “What the heck was that?” My mom asks startled and confused. “I have no idea. This has never happened before.” I reply. Our car was practically brand new having gotten it just a week ago after our beloved 10-year-old minivan passed away. And that car had never done anything like what had just happened.
I guess any other day, we would have shrugged off the cars lack of radio signal as a mere glitch but having this happen while driving alone in a deserted highway with miles to go makes it all the more bizarre.
I glance at the time see that it’s almost nine o’clock. Weird. It feels like it has been dark for hours instead of just one since we were in the middle of July. “Mom, is it just me or did it get dark way before eight?” I ask partly because I want to make conversation but also because I actually feel as if it has been dark for at least 5 hours. “You know, I never even noticed when it did get dark honey” she half laughs. She’s lying. And I’m not sure why. I decide that my mom lied because she didn’t want to freak us both out and further and so for the next few minute we just make meaningless conversation…
It takes all the force in my body to open my eyes. Everything is in a fog. I have no idea what is going on. I open my mouth to ask for help but it comes out sounding more like a weak moan. As my senses start coming back to me, I realize I’m trapped. Fortunately, I don’t feel any pain. Yet. I fanatically go through my brain and try to connect the pieces of what could have possible happened and doing so becomes extremely difficult while in this daze. As hard as I try I can’t seem to remember anything past this point in time. I feel something warm running down my arm and realize I’m bleeding. Everything is still dark when I see lights far away coming towards me. I slowly start to piece together the memories and realize something terrible happened while my mother and I were talking mindlessly as she drove down the highway. Then a horrifying thought comes in my mind. Where is my mom? Is she ok? I start what in my mind seems like frantic screaming for her but in reality I can barely make an audible sound. Something is very wrong.
As the lights approach I can clearly see the car wreckage now that my eyes have adjusted. I quickly realize the lights coming my way are ambulance lights and soon the sirens are all I can hear. All I can finally manage to say when two men and a woman come close and start examining me is “Where is my mom?” I can feel myself begin to panic when the woman quietly says “honey there’s no one else here with you.”
“What?” is all that manages to escape my mouth. What does she mean I’m the only person here? What could have possibly happened to my mom that the ambulance couldn’t find her? My brain tries to process all of this but it can’t. I can feel my mind drift in and out and I can hear the paramedics frantically speaking. “She’s losing a lot of blood and is going in and out of consciousness” one of the men says. “check her heart rate” the other one replies. “We have to move now, patient is in critical condition. Check for identification” and then nothing...
As I wake up all I can hear are the steady beats of the heart machine. I know I’m at the hospital because I remember the paramedics but that is all. I feel a slight stinging in my arm and notice all of the needles and IVs that I have been hooked on. I look up as I see an older woman walk up to me. “Well hello, Jenna. Glad to see that have finally woken up.” “Wh what’s going on?” I quietly stutter. “You were in a car accident sweetie, your car was wrecked but that God you’re okay.” The nurse replies. “My name is Kathy and I’m your nurse okay. If you need anything just let me know. You’ll be better in no time”. “I need my mom. She was in the car with me. Please tell me that she’s okay.” I can see the nurse’s expression start to change. “Honey, there was no else in the car when we found you. You were alone when you crashed.” “No, no no. My mom was with me. Please you have to find my mother.” My voice is shaking while I plead with her to believe me. “Okay dear just hold on a second, I’ll be right back”. I didn’t realize it but the nurse had pressed on my IV to deliver more of the anesthetic. I fight to keep my eyes open but lose instantly.
As my fight once more to open up I begin to breathe rapidly as I remember my missing mother. Suddenly a familiar voice begins to shush me and I can feel a warm hand begin to stroke mine. As I turn my head to see who it is, my eyes fill with tears when I see my mother’s face right in front of me.
“Mom! Oh my god Mommy what happened!? You’re okay! The nurse said no one was with me when the car crashed!” my words all come together as I try to say them as fast as I can. “breathe, baby its okay. I’m okay.” She says trying to calm me. “you’re going to be alright. I’m soo sorry this happened. I have no idea what caused us to crash. I just lost control of the car so fast and suddenly I wake up and I see you hurt and unconscious” she begins to say with tears in her eyes “When I realized I was okay I had to go and get help for you. I had to leave I’m so sorry honey” She’s practically sobbing her words and I’m shocked at all that has happened. “mommy it’s okay. I’m so happy you’re okay. I thought something horrible had happened. They couldn’t find you and I thought maybe you died.” I barely make sense as I wipe my face. “No no I’m okay. We’re going to be okay sweetie.” She whispers as she strokes my hair and kisses my forehead.
I begin to close my eyes as the whole situation overcomes me and start to fall asleep, but first I grab my mother’s hand tight and whisper “don’t let go”.