Summer, 2 Years Ago — Luckwell, Texas
Austin Kyle could see a car out of the corner of his eye about to enter the intersection he was now racing through. His heart quickened, and his vision narrowed and time weirdly began to slow down. As he sees this car encroaching into his view more and more he realizes, too late, that he is about to ram straight into the front left tire of the other vehicle.
He didn’t have time to tap the brake, much less slam his foot down onto it. He only had time to tighten his grip on the steering wheel and prepare for the hit. His bowels turned to liquid as he saw an older lady looking out of the driver side window of her car, right into his eyes. In the instant their eyes locked Austin’s car collided into hers like a battering ram breaking down a fortress gate.
Austin is suddenly aware that he is no longer in the car. He’s standing on the curb just next to the yellow crosswalk button attached to the base of the streetlight. He is just standing there, watching the entire scene play out before him. It was as if he was an on-looker, watching the accident in real time.
He couldn’t feel any pain, he couldn’t feel anything. Austin wasn’t scared, or shocked, but he wasn’t calm either, he wasn’t much of anything right now, he was just watching.
Austin saw the front end of his beat-to-shit, decade old Pontiac crumpling like a balled up piece of paper. He could see his own face being thrown back violently by the exploding air bag, as the other car pirouettes away from the wreckage. Her older, heavier boat of a car was able to sustain the collision without too much damage.
His car was now just a chunk of metal of an indeterminate shape, like an asteroid that hit the ground leaving a small debris field in its wake. But instead of swaths of earth thrown up, all around it were pieces of metal, plastic, and glass, along with personal items strewn about that were ejected from the floorboards they were once rolling around.
Austin, still standing/floating, at the corner could no longer see himself in the car. He stared at the ruins of the accident for what must have only been minutes, but felt like hours. He stood there watching random people run toward both cars. An older couple checking on the lady, while a younger man was at the driver side of Austin’s car.
The man kept ducking from Austin’s field of view, popping up every now and then to yell something to the people gathering around. Austin couldn’t hear what the man was saying, but he looked adamant about whatever it was.
He could see another man wearing light blue coveralls stained in oil and mud sprinting toward the chaos with a fire extinguisher in hand. Another woman was talking to someone on her cell phone, only able to look at the scene for a second or two at a time before turning her head away in disgust. Thankfully this was a smallish town so help wouldn’t be that far away.
Austin Kyle couldn’t tell exactly how long it had been since the light changed red and his life changed for eternity, but it seemed it only took a few minutes for the ambulance, fire truck, and police to show up and take over for the Samaritans doing what they could. It was minimal, but their work might have been just enough though to keep him standing there watching, instead of possibly floating away into the sky, either that or just turning into nothingness and disappearing altogether.
There he was again, Austin could finally see himself, or what he imagined to be himself. It was hard to tell with all of the braces, bandages, and blankets covering him on the rolling stretcher as the medics pushed him towards the mobile hospital.
They shoved the gurney into the back of the ambulance. The taller medic then ran to the front and hopped in behind the wheel, while the shorter one jumped in back with this other Austin and slammed the door closed behind him.
When the door clanged shut, Austin was startled awake, but instead of jolting upright in bed, like one does waking from a hellish nightmare, his eyes slowly quivered open.
The bright fluorescent light filled every square millimeter of his cornea with the light of a thousand suns, flooding his head with a stabbing relentless pain. The stabbing quickly moved over his entire body. Austin slammed his eye lids back shut, which sent another shockwave reverberating through his brain.
This migraine from hell poked and prodded his mind with every move of his head, and small breath he sucked in, no matter how slight. With every rise and fall of his chest, his ribs felt like they were getting kicked by Connor McGregor trying to get the TKO.
“What happened, where am I?” is what Austin was trying to say, but what actually came out between his swollen and cracked lips was “Whappend…whermy?”
“It’s okay, son. You’re okay. I’m right here,” his dad said rising out of the half-slumber, half-awake purgatory he’d been in at Austin’s bedside since the moment he got the call from the hospital.