It was strange to wake up feeling nothing, when what you felt before being knocked unconscious was the most agony a human being could feel in their lifetime.
My eyes flickered open, blood from the gash on my forehead leaking into my eyes. My gaze focused. I could make out a spiderweb of cracked glass in front of me. The windshield.
Turned around for one second.
Then here I was.
My neck slowly turned to the right, where blood was spattered over the empty passenger side seat.
Where was Clarice?
My hands clumsily fumbled with my seat buckle. Once, twice, three times I hit the button before it finally gave way. My body collapsed forward, slamming against the steering wheel. The distorted scream of the horn went on for several seconds before I managed to push myself into the sitting position.
I breathed in and out, my breath coming in raspy heaves. I looked down at my body. I choked as I realized I was filled with glass, shards imbedded in my chest and arms. I could even feel one in my neck, which I dumbly pulled out to stare at.
We were going home. We’d picked up Laura from school.
I turned around for just one second. Just one.
My body was in shock, but my thoughts were on Laura and Clarice. I forced my hand to wrap around the handle of the car door. I pushed, I pushed, and finally it gave, falling open on the ground. Luck was on my side- my legs weren’t trapped.
I crawled out of the vehicle, smelling burnt tires and the smoke coming from my car. I had to stand. I knew I had to stand. I had to stand. I had to check on Laura. Then I had to find Clarice. If she got out of the car. That meant she had to be okay. But for how long?
I stumbled to my feet. My right leg caved under my weight, but I resolved to drag it behind me as I limped to the back.
I opened the door.
Laura was staring back at me with her blue eyes glazed over. She was very still. Too still. A branch had impaled her through the chest, pinning her to her carseat. Blood from her lips dripped down her chin and landed on her lap.
With a hoarse cry, I fell to my knees.
We’d gotten her from school today. We always picked her up together on Fridays. She was talking today about how she aced her spelling exam. She didn’t miss a single word. She was so proud of herself. I was bringing up going to get ice cream to celebrate when Isaac began to cry.
There was another carseat in the back.
We picked up Isaac from day care before we picked up Laura.
Isaac’s carseat was empty.
I looked around. Clarice. She had to have had Isaac. He must be safe. Not Isaac too. I couldn’t lose both my daughter and son today.
I tried to call out for Clarice, but the only thing that slipped from my lips was this guttural vocalization. I couldn’t speak. Had the glass cut my vocal chords? I grasped at my neck, feeling deep wounds I could dip my pointer finger almost all the way inside of.
It was then I heard Clarice screaming.
I tried to hurry. I attempted to take off running, only to fall on my face. I groaned before I forced myself up. I had to find Clarice. I made another hissed moan as I got to my feet, hurrying as fast as I could with my stupid leg holding me back.
I found Clarice a few yards from the car, fallen to her knees. I felt relief seeing that she seemed mostly unharmed. Just a few cuts and bruises. In her arms was clutched Isaac, who squirmed in her grasp. Her face twisted in repulsion and she dropped our son on the ground as she screamed again.
Isaac was our son, but he was his mother’s child. Clarice doted on him, loved him. I tried to ask why would she drop our son, but it came out as a bloody gurgle.
Clarice’s gaze shot up and she gasped, her face going white as she scrambled backwards, trying to get away. I crawled on the ground to our son and gathered him up in our arms.
We were on our way home. Talking about ice cream.
Isaac started crying.
Laura said he’d undo his buckle ‘just for a moment’. That he was squirming and looked uncomfortable.
I looked back to tell her not to do that, it wasn’t safe.
And that’s when Clarice screamed that there was a deer and grabbed the steering wheel to attempt to swerve me out of the way.
Half of Isaac’s head was gone. I could make out bloody skull pieces across the street. His brain was leaking from his skull in a grayish ooze.
But his remaining eye was darting about. He had no idea.
I had no idea either.
I picked up a piece of mirror from the ground, likely shattered by one of my rear views.
My chest was soaked in blood, my throat torn open entirely. I could make out the white of my jawbone from other wounds.
I looked up at Clarice.
She shook her head slowly. She couldn’t believe this was happening.
I heard a shuffle behind me and turned.
Laura had gotten out of the car, the tree branch still through her body. It was weighing her down, she couldn’t stand up straight.
I placed Isaac back in Clarice’s arms before I stumbled back to Laura.
First. I’d remove the branch.
Then I’d go back to Clarice. She couldn’t be left alone in life when her family was waiting for her in death.