Trace slid back into consciousness and was aware of pain. Like a knife in his back, radiating out to the rest of his body. His mouth tasted like blood. He moved his head, but the pain was so bad that he lay still for a time. The sound of his own breath scared him. And there was another sound too, like the dripping of a faucet, except thicker. His jeans were slick with his blood. The light from the streetlamp shone on the denim fabric.
He rested with his forehead on the steering wheel, eyes open, watching the blood trickle over his jeans.
He raised his head again, slower this time. The lonely country road was deserted. He thought about the cell phone he kept in his pocket. Retrieving it seemed like a monumental task. If he could get the cell phone out, he could call for help. But what for? This was his fault. Seeing him covered in blood would only excite the killer instinct inside them.
He knew they’d be happy to see him like this. Bleeding and broken, whimpering like a run over dog.
He didn’t have the strength to reach into his pocket, but he wanted to so badly that he thought it was in his hands. But then he opened his eyes and he was in the same position as before. Drool gathered in his mouth. He knew he was about to vomit. When it came it sprayed out forcefully, and he began to mewl like the cat his brothers had set on fire when they were kids. He tried to reach for his cell phone again, but he still couldn’t get himself to move.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
There was a woman tapping on the window. Trace stared at her. She looked worried for some reason. Trace tried to talk, but his words came out as a slurred mess.
She pulled at the door, but it had been crushed.
He watched her put her fists in front of her mouth. She turned away and scurried up the side of the road. Distant headlights outlined her figure. He saw her turn away from the light, with her cell phone pressed to her ear. She was gesticulating wildly, and behind her the headlights were growing brighter.
When the truck finally arrived, her back was still turned. He watched her body explode. Blood spattered the windshield and the top half of her body landed forcefully on the hood of his car.
Smoke began to fill the interior of the car. Dimly, Trace saw a man standing in the place where the unfortunate Samaritan had stood. Flames began to lick the dashboard, coming closer to him.
Trace screamed as terror unlike anything he’d ever known overcame him. He clawed at the windows, making hand prints on the soot that clouded him. The burning smoke made him gag and cough, but he could still feel the flames charring his skin. He smelled his own flesh roasting. In his panic, he broke the small bones in his hands in his desperate attempt to escape.
Eventually, he stopped struggling and submitted to the pain. When they opened the car to remove the remains, there was a moment of silence as they saw the charred body, curled in on itself. Then the older patrolman recovered himself first.
“Look at that. This one crashes, and this lady gets herself killed trying to save him. No good deed goes unpunished,” he joked.
The newer cop went into the bushes and vomited.