by R.K. Mason
This is the prologue to my novel Intemperance.
Bang. Smack. Crash. My arms flailed wildly about the car as my mother screamed. Scrape. Thud. Our car was tumbling down a hillside. I was strapped into my car seat, but that didn't stop me from flying around the inside of the car. Screech. Hiss. Silence. Our car came to an abrupt halt against a boulder as my mother frantically called my name.
"Mommy, what happened?" I asked, blinking back hot, sticky tears.
"It's gonna be alright sweetie," She said, trying to reassure me.
She had blood running down her face, staining her platinum blonde hair. Her legs were pinned under the steering wheel and her face was cut and bruised from the impact of the accident. My head was throbbing from the pain. I had smacked my head so hard against the window that cracks like spiderwebs were forming in the glass. I could hear my mother's high pitched voice talking to me, but a thick haze shrouded my mind. The corners of my vision began fading into black, and I suddenly could only see what was in front of me. My breathing was heavy as my eyes began to dart side to side, trying to make sense of what just happened. The air was heavy around me and I felt like couldn't get enough air in my lungs. Slowly, the darkness around me took over.
Sometime later, I regained consciousness. I awoke to an unfamiliar face- a man with a badge, trying to pull me from the car's shattered window. All I could do was move my eyes to look at him.
"Hey sweetheart," the strange man said, with an unsure smile on his face.
I blinked a few times to release the tears that were stuck on my lower eyelid. They burned the cuts scattered along my cheeks as they slid down my face.
"Can you squeeze my hand for me?" He asked me, gripping my right hand through the window.
I tried diligently to respond. I knew I wasn't moving my hands, but he still met my reaction with a smile. He let gently let go of my hand and placed a big plastic tube around my neck. I didn't know what it was, or why it was on me. It did nothing to ease the butterflies that were overflowing in my stomach and up through my body. While holding me still with one hand, and cutting through my seat belt with another, the man managed to free me from my car seat and pulled me through the window. He laid me in the wet grass outside of the car.
"Wait here," he said with a calm and gentle voice.
The man walked around to my mother's car door and reached in the window. I could hear his heavy footsteps sloshing in the thick mud that surrounded the car. A few minutes later he returned to me.
"Where is my mommy?"
The man grabbed my hand and held it.
"She's gonna be fine sweetheart, she's just sleeping."
I looked at him again with tears in my eyes, as he laid down next to me on the grass. His navy blue shirt was stained with blood and dirt. He had mud on his face and pants. His gray hair was caked with sweat and dirt, but his kind eyes looked at me with intense urgency.
"What's your name?" He asked.
"Nice to meet you Dakota, my name is Officer Grimes."
I didn't say anything. Laying on my back with hands at my sides, I felt my brain get heavy again as I gazed openly into the blue sky above me. It was the first time I realized how beautiful everything was. The blue sky. The white clouds. The smell of summer air. My eyes opened and closed slowly, like I was fighting back sleep.
"How old are you Dakota?"
"Six" I replied, weakly.
"Well, you're the bravest six year old I've met"
The corners of my mouth curved into a twisted smile, as intense pain shot up the center of my face and behind my forehead. At the top of the hill, I could hear an ambulance arrive. Officer Grimes shuffled to his feet and walked over to meet them. Paramedics quickly side stepped down the hill, pushing a stretcher topped with several bags.
"What do we have?" A woman paramedic asked, bending down into the mud next to me.
"Six year old female, possible partial paralysis." Officer Grimes said.
I didn't know what paralysis meant, but I knew it wasn't good.
"Who was driving?" The second paramedic asked quietly.
Officer Grimes pulled him aside.
"Possible DOA," he said under his breath, but still loud enough for me to hear him.
I didn't know what that meant either. The woman paramedic stuck me with a needle and placed a clip over my finger. I could faintly hear beeps and clicks on the stretcher next to me. She carefully picked me up and placed me on the stretcher, with the equipment at my feet. I had no fight left in me. I lost consciousness sometime later to the image of firemen cutting the top of our mangled car off and placing my mother on a stretcher. I desperately wanted to call out to her. To say goodbye and to tell her I loved her. Firefighters covered her with a white sheet that instantly turned red from her blood and that was the last time I saw my mother. That was the day my family fell apart.