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Lights in the Desert
“This is Jazz in the Desert, here with the new album from Buddy Smith called Dreams. Stay tuned for the newest from up and coming artist Luke Wilms…”
Finally, I switch off the radio, and let the silence sit around us. The windshield wipers flash back and forth, finally squeaking as they run out of raindrops to push around. The weathered road is wet. It’s very, very wet. “Be careful,” I tell him, “Don’t hydroplane.”
“It’s ok,” Jackson tells me, squeezing my hand, “I won’t.” I squeeze his hand back, looking out the window. The dark Arizona desert flashes by, the odd cactus or rock obscured by the the slanting moonlight. It’s monsoon season out here, flash thunderstorms that come by night can cause floods… or worse. And we were out in the desert, camping. Celebrating our first anniversary. I spin the ring around my finger, absentmindedly. One year…
“Ahh,” Jackson says, leaning forward, his face creased with worry. He stomps on the brake, but our wheels lose traction. We spin in circles, growing closer and closer to the bluff face that runs along the highway. Someone’s screaming (is it me?) and I feel Jackson’s fingernails dig into my arm. I grab onto the sides of the seat, pressing my cheek into the seat belt and close my eyes.
The windows are shattered, and the front end of the car is a mangled mass of metal. The airbags deploy, throwing me back into the twisted metal of the seat. Blood drips down my nose and the metal taste fills my mouth. Suddenly aware of what happened I look over at Jackson, his head leaning, limp against his chest. “Jackson? Jackson!” I scream, shaking his shoulder, “Jackson Williams! Jackson!”
Suddenly, he coughs, blood spilling onto his shirt, staining the white a deep red. Blood pours into his eyes, and he embraces me. “It’s ok,” He says, “It’s ok. Can you move?” he wipes the blood from his eyes. His teeth are stained dark red, filling in the cracks between each tooth.
“Yeah,” I say, “Yeah, I’m fine.” The door is crumpled inward, but I climb out of the window. The broken glass cuts my hands open, and more blood drips down my wrist and onto my neck as I haul myself out. Jackson cuts his seatbelt with his pocket knife, ‘cuz the clip got completely smashed shut. He climbs out of the window after me.
I look at me, look at him. We’re covered in blood from cuts from all the broken glass. I wipe the sticky blood away from my eyes, and see Jackson pull a sliver of metal out from his leg.
We stumble through the desert, the open, empty, dark, desert. There are no cars and no buildings, just the stars above us and the darkness all around. We walk along the still-warm blacktop, hoping to find a car or something to take us to get help. I still can’t believe that we survived that crash. The car is nothing now but a lump of mangled metal and deflated airbags, surrounded by a carpet of glass dust and dangerously close to catching fire.
Two little specks of light move closer in the distance. “Look!” I say, “It’s a truck or something!” The two headlights grow closer with every passing heartbeat.
But it’s like a dream. I don’t feel the pain of all the cuts on my hands and the cut on my scalp that bleeds so much. I don’t feeI it when I reach up to brush my hair back and a section of skin goes with it. I still don’t feel it when Jackson tears his shirt into strips to mend my broken skin and tie me back together. It must be a miracle.
We watch the pair of lights grow closer.
“How did we survive that crash?” I ask Jackson, gripping his hand like it’s my lifeline.
“I don’t know, and the funny thing is...” He trails off.
“I don’t feel anything. I haven’t felt anything since the crash. Not even the cuts or...” He stops.
“Neither do I,” I say, quietly, holding onto his arm, tightly.
“It kind of makes me wonder…”
“That we didn’t survive.” I finish for him.
He nods, too shocked to speak. We sit on the edge of a warm boulder and watch the lights grow closer, bright against the darkness of the desert.