|The full moon was the only light illuminating their lonely journey. Kate leaned against her husband's shoulder as he sped down the darkened highway. The trip home to see her parents in the country had been nice, but she longed to return to her own life in the city
It was getting late and they were both tired. They debated whether or not they should get a hotel room for the night, but ultimately decided they should just push through until they got home. Kate smiled as thoughts of her own bed entered her mind.
Danny looked over at his wife.
"No falling asleep," he yawned. "You know the rule. If I can't sleep, you can't sleep."
She nodded, silently cursing herself for ever agreeing to that stupid rule. She wasn't driving; why shouldn't she be allowed to sleep? She vaguely remembered some conversation about it being a courtesy to the driver, but right now sleep was the far more preferable option to being a polite traveling companion. She unbuckled her safety belt and reclined the seat, stretching out.
"I won't go to sleep... I'm just going to rest my eyes for a minute."
After only the most fleeting of moments, Kate's breathing became heavier and more steady. Danny looked at her and sighed. There was really no point in pressing the issue anymore. While he could have used some conversation to keep him awake, he wasn't going to force his exhausted wife to stay up with him. He strengthened his resolve, rubbing the sleep from his bleary eyes as he settled in for the long drive.
As the car traveled along the deserted country highway, a fog began to roll in. At first there were only the slightest traces around the vegetation on either side of the road, but slowly and steadily it began to spread, until the entire highway was immersed in a thick blanket of white and gray. The light of the full moon reflected off the water droplets in the fog, creating an eerie luminous glow that made it nearly impossible to see more than a few feet ahead on the road.
Danny squinted into the fog, trying to see. He flipped on his bright lights, but that made it worse. Reluctantly, he eased off the gas pedal, resigned to the fact that it was going to take longer to get home than they had anticipated. He looked over at his wife, now soundly asleep in the passenger seat. He smiled at her angelic appearance.
He turned his eyes back to the road and screamed.
The sound of metal and fiberglass being horribly distended.
Everything went black.
The first thing Danny's aware of is the smell. The awful, acrid stench of smoldering rubber invades his nostrils, bringing him around. His eyes flutter open and he struggles to focus. As the haze clears from his vision, he assesses his surroundings.
He's still in the car. Well, for the most part, anyway. His body was halfway out of the car, through the gap where the windshield used to be. His torso was caught on the steering wheel and he winced in pain as he started to move, sure that the impact with the steering wheel had bruised, if not broken a few of his ribs.
Looking outside the car, he saw the beat up refrigerator that he had collided with, that had been left in the middle of the road. He groaned as he tried to move. Danny looked over to check on Kate, but she wasn't in the car. Fear and panic spread across his face when he looked around and saw a fog-obscured body sprawled out on the pavement, past the refrigerator. She had been hurled clear through the windshield... and she wasn't moving.
Danny struggled desperately to free himself from the car. What if she wasn't breathing? What if she was bleeding out? What if help didn't come? His mind flashed through all these possibilities as he fought to get out of the car.
He sighed with relief when he heard the siren approaching, white and red lights refracting off the thick fog. The ambulance pulled up beside Kate and four paramedics climbed out. They crowded around her, ignoring Danny in the car. He could barely make them out through the fog, one flickering headlight from his car the only source of illumination other than the moon.
The paramedics pulled out a stretcher and loaded Kate onto it. Danny sighed with relief as they hoisted her up.
She was going to be okay.
To Danny's surprise and confusion, the paramedics didn't carry her toward the ambulance. Instead, they carried her down the embankment on the side of the road.
"Hey!" Danny yelled. "What are you doing?"
The paramedics didn't respond. They only continued their silent trek into the woods.
Danny frantically tugged at his seatbelt, wriggling out of it as fast as he could. The door was jammed shut, so he had to crawl out through the space where the windshield used to be, careful not to cut himself of the shattered glass. He was unsteady on his feet, still having a hard time concentrating. But he was determined, and he pushed on, following the path that he had seen the paramedics disappear down.
Moving through the foggy woods, Danny remained quiet, listening intently for any sign of movement. He heard twigs snap and bushes rustle, but nothing to indicate a direction they had gone. Despite fancying himself a tough guy, he was beginning to get really scared. He had no idea where he was. Between the fog and the gnarled, tangled trees, he had completely lost his sense of direction. He started to fall into despair, until he heard footsteps in the distance.
"Kate!" Danny screamed as he rushed after them.
As he pursued them, the sound of running water became more pronounced. Were they headed to the river? Danny picked up his pace, hurrying to catch up with them.
The fog was thinner here, allowing him to see farther out. Fifty yards in the distance, he saw the paramedics at the shore of the river, a cloaked ferryman waiting for them with a raft. They placed Kate delicately on the raft, just as Danny cleared the woods and started charging toward them.
Without a word, two of the paramedics moved to meet Danny, blocking his way. Danny tried to push past them, but they held his arms with surprising strength. He fought valiantly, but was forced to watch as one of the other paramedics reached into his pockets and pulled out two gold coins. He placed them over Kate's eyes and the ferryman nodded in approval, face concealed by the hood of his cloak.
Danny screamed as the ferryman used his oar to push the raft off the shore and into the current.
"What are you doing?" Danny screamed. "Where are you taking her???"
He was practically in tears, thrashing against the men that held him fast.
Danny sobbed uncontrollably as he watched his wife fade into the fog in the distance, slowly disappearing from sight. He had nothing left in him to fight, and sagged in their grip.
Once they were gone, the paramedics released him. Danny collapsed to the ground, his body wracked with deep, anguished moans. He pressed his face to the cold, wet earth, feeling the same chill that shivered through his insides.
"Hey, buddy. Can you hear me?" He heard one of them ask. He turned to look at the paramedics and instead found himself blinking against a bright light. He realized he was still in the car. He winced as he tried to move off the steering wheel, which still pressed against his ribs.
"Whoa there," the voice said. "Take it easy."
"Where... where am I?"
"On the highway. You had an accident."
Danny was now starting to come around. When his head was clear, he looked around frantically.
"My wife! My wife. Where is she?"
He struggled to get free of the car. He looked out into the road, past the refrigerator... and saw Kate on the ground. He watched one paramedic look to the other and shake his head.
As they covered her with a sheet, Danny began to cry.