I opened my eyes.
Blinking softly, I looked about begrudgingly to get a bearing of my surroundings. My head felt indescribably heavy, yet I had no trouble holding it up. I peered out the windshield and up at the sky. It was a flat white with obscured splotches of black sprinkled across it. I blinked again, raising my hand to my face. I wiped my eye with my palm as I felt something trickle down my forehead. Extending my hand out in front of me, blood dripped from down sluggishly along my skin and stained my brown coat at the wrist. The third blink, that's when my senses hit me.
I was upside-down. The sky wasn't white at all. It was a mound of snow stained with deep patches of oil and debris. The wind blew through the collapsed window next to me, slowly freezing my cheeks. The bitter stench in the air was antifreeze mixed haphazardly together with the scent of leaking gasoline. The windshield I thought was securely in front of me had been cracked wide open, shards of glass scattered all over the ground ahead of me. I felt the blood trickling down my body somewhere, the taste of it strong in the bottom of my mouth.
I scrambled for my coat pocket, pulling free my cell phone and dialing a number instinctively. I reached down to my seat belt buckle, ready to unhook it before I was stopped by something. I felt my cold face contort in confusion as I felt around at my hip. My hand felt along some kind of contortion of steel, bent off the car frame and leading onto my waist. It had made contact. I patted my coat down at my side. It was damped, soaked even. I pulled my hand away to hold it out in front of me as a voice chimed in through the speaker of the phone.
“9-1-1 emergency services, what is the nature of your emergency?”
I didn't even notice the woman's voice as I watched the blood flow quickly down my hand. I was bleeding. A lot. impulsively, I let go of my phone, dropping it down onto the ground above me as I watched several drops of blood follow suit onto the screen.
My attention returned to my injuries. I closed my eyes tightly, sucking in air through my teeth as I attempted to wiggle my toes inside my boots. Nothing. I felt my heart slow. I tried to lift my foot. Nothing. I tried a new approach, violently kicking my legs. The car was completely silent as I slowly became aware of a warm sensation seeping along my body.
I couldn't bring myself to look down, so instead I looked up.
I reached up for my phone with a grunt, wiping it clean of snow while cursing weakly under my breath.
“Hello? What is the nature of your emergency?”, the phone peeped again. I stared at it for a moment in silence before my thumb worked it's way up to the disconnect button. It pulled back before casually dialing a new number. Tucking the phone snugly underneath my hood and holding it tightly in the nook of my shoulder, I leaned back into the chair with a sigh of relief as I listened to the ringing. I watched the snow fall lightly down from the sky below, landing on the slicks of oil on the bank ahead of me. Despite the circumstances, it felt serene.
“Hello?”, a girl asked begrudgingly after the ringing ceased. She sounded groggy, like the frog in her throat hadn't gotten free yet.
I hesitated, not quite expecting an answer this late in the night.
“J-Jane?”, I asked, as my eyes stayed locked to the snow swirling about outside.
“Dad? It's really late, aren’t you home from work yet?”, she asked from the other end.
I felt detached from the whole car business. I laughed, shifting my weight as little as I could in my seat. Nothing felt wrong, more than anything, I was just glad she picked up.
“Nothing's wrong, sweetie. Were you sleeping?”, I asked.
“What? Yeah I was sleeping, it's two in the morning! Why wouldn't I be?”, she grumbled, indicating that she was hardly pleased being woken up for silly questions.
I couldn't stop thinking about her now. I thought of the way she used to sleep on a cloud of stuffed animals and buried herself away in layers upon layers of warm sheets. I thought of the way I used to tuck her in as sleep slowly came over her. I felt my smile working its way across my face as blood trickled quickly along my jawline and up to my temple.
“Sorry, I just...”, my hand felt around the piece of steel along my side. “...I just wanted to talk to you.”, I hesitated as a thought passed my mind, “You weren't dreaming, were you?”, I asked apprehensively.
I heard her adjust herself in her bed, it's iconic bed springs loud enough to carry over the phone line. We really should have buy her a new bed.
“It's pretty hard to do that when the phone's ringing off the hook. it's late, are you alright?”, she asked only to be answered with a short silence. I was stuck thinking again.
“Do you remember that one time we walked across the river back home in like, the middle of winter? Your mother kept trying to pelt us with snowballs and we were trying to get back to our fort on the other end? I remember I never saw you run that fast, you completely creamed me! I remember-”, I paused, a hacking cough sputtering up blood into my palm before I caught my breath, continuing again as I wiped it on my already bloody jacket.
“...I just remember sprinting to the other end and falling down practically dead. It took me an hour to catch our breath after that!”, my hands enthusiastically began waving as I spoke, the memory slowly rushing back to me. I don’t think I had ran that fast since I was a kid. The blood began to dribble quickly onto the snow-covered ceiling above me, so much so that I resolved to keep my eyes trained forward.
“And- And we got a bucket full of snowballs and hauled them back across the river that to get her back and ran right into her doing the exact same thing, I knew we wouldn't get away from that. Before I even knew what was happening you were halfway across the river again!”, I laughed out loud, wiping my mouth with my forearm before continuing.
“I remember when you looked back to me as I was getting smacked by those snow balls you looked so happy. But...but something about the way you laughed at me. I think that's the thing; even when you laugh you look beautiful. You definitely are your mother’s daughter...and...and you’re going to make some young guy proud one day.”, I asked, stifling something back. I wasn't sure if it was a laugh or a cry. Either way, the laugh soon took over. I began giggling uncontrollably, my vision fixed to the snow bank in front of me.
There was a dead silence broken only by the sounds of sirens echoing through the cold wind, quickly growing louder, commanding voices called out from the distance moving closer and closer. I panicked slightly. I thought I felt my heart stopped beating until she spoke up.
“Y-Yeah...of course I remember it Dad. Th-Thanks...thank you, I think Mom would agree with you.”, she stopped talking. I think she was trying to listen for the voices closing in around me.
“It's really late though...why aren't you home yet?”, she asked. I could hear the tone of concern break the frog away from her throat. I was just happy she remembered it too.
The voices only faintly became audible in the distance, yelling out.
'Here! Down here! It's fucked up, get the para-'
'-no tracks, someone's gotta be inside still!'
'Stretcher coming through!'
I paused for a moment, thinking my heart had stopped once more before realizing she was just waiting for a response.
“...traffic.” I managed, still not turning my head to the sounds as the snow began to reflect faint flashes of red and blue lights bouncing to and fro like my own little Northern Lights.
I had expected her to retort on how 'there is no traffic at two in the morning', or something like that, but instead she only managed a simple, “...oh.”
I think she was beginning to realize. She was always a smart girl - but I think I would have preferred the other response. The creeping silence afterwards started to feel dangerous.
“Are you alright?”, I asked her meekly, trying to turn my head to brace my hand to the phone at my neck as tightly as I could muster.
“Y-yeah...will you be late, Dad?”, she asked. I could tell she was fighting back tears.
“...maybe a little.”, I responded.
More silence before she sniffed loudly. I heard the sirens and voices creepy ever closer and closer, though their words growing ever more indistinguishable to me. I clung my hand as tightly to the phone as I could.
“Have a...have a nice trip.”, she sobbed.
“You too.”, I barely managed to respond as the phone fell from my grasp and into the red puddle above me.
I closed my eyes.