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I glanced at the clock as I eased my tiny blue car to a stop. 11:10. If I hurried, that would give me just enough time to get home before lunch was over. As unnecessary as it was on the abandoned country road, I quickly flicked on my turn signal and left the relatively smooth chip-and-seal for fresh, loose gravel. Griffin road was not unfamiliar to me—I had traveled up and down it dozens of times throughout my then seventeen years. It isn’t a very long road, just a stretch of dirt and rocks that winds through a thick pocket of forest. The only things that made the road special in any way were a far-fetched supernatural story and its notoriety for being a short cut to a local camp. I personally had been taking the road to get to summer camp every year from the time I was six.
Even so, there was one portion of the road that always brought out the cautious side in me. About midway down the road was a steep hill. Not even eleven years could guard the uneasy feeling that always rose from the pit of my stomach as I neared the top of it. I turned the radio down to just above a whisper, barely louder than the tiny droplets of rain sprinkling down. I slowed the car to a sluggish ten miles-per-hour as I began creeping down the hill. For a few seconds that felt like an eternity, my nerves were dialed down as I listened to the quick taps of loose gravel hitting metal.
As I neared the bottom of the hill, the rainfall became harder. I tensed at the sudden chaos but I reminded myself that it was just rain, just a hill, just temporary. I continued my drive down the hill, my back ramrod straight. A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I reached the bottom of the hill. I instantly scolded myself. I had been through this too many times to be worrying about the hill. If anything, I should be worried more about a car shooting from around the narrow curve. It was just a road, a simple country road.
My body relaxed, only to instantly clench back up as I felt the back of my car jerk to the right. I griped the steering wheel with both hands as I tried to correct the vehicle. Confusion clouded my mind, panic joining it as I felt myself losing control. I pivoted the car to the left, right, left, right once more before my whole world began to spin into a swirl of green, brown, and gray. My jaw fell slack as I realized what was happening. A strange calm fell over me as I registered a tree that seemed to be sprinting towards me.
I am going to die, I thought. I snapped my head in the other direction, not wanting to see. Everything went black.
The world slowly drifted back to a blurry existence. I felt a sharp stabbing pain near my rib cage that seemed to be cutting off my air supply. I doubled over, gasping, and rested my head on the steering wheel as the pain evaporated and I could once again use my airways. I wildly looked around as my mind tried to comprehend what had happened. There were branches—or were they bushes?—lying on the hood of my car. My head rolled to look out my window, noticing a tree too close to my face for comfort. The only visible barrier between my head and the tree was the jagged remains of the car window still jutting out from the door. I felt panic creep in as I wondered what happened to my window. Frantically, I checked my lap, my hands, even the car floor for the remains of the glass, but everything was clean. A sick understanding leaked into my head. Carefully sitting up straight, I leaned out of the door and looked on the ground.
My stomach churned as tiny shards of glassed glittered at me from among scattered twigs and mud. My hands flew to my face, feeling for any pieces of glass otherwise lodged into my skin. Tears burned my eyes as I blindly clawed through my purse in search of my cell phone. Snapping it open, I tried not to panic as I punched in the numbers. When my mother answered on the other line, sounding cheery as ever, I could not keep my voice from cracking as I spoke.
“Mommy,” I struggled to speak, still slightly dazed. “I think…I think I—I need you!”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, alarm and worry etched in her voice.
“I think I hit a tree,” I choked out as tears started to run down my cheek.
“I’ll be right there, don’t move,” she ordered before hanging up the phone. After our conversation ended, the phone slipped out of my hand and fell to the floor. I looked at the clock once more. 11:14.