Though the outside temperature was sub zero, he was drenched in sweat thus reluctantly, guessing what he would find he followed his wife’s gloomy
gaze down into the driver’s foot well. The surprise of fluid colour he saw there caused his vision to spool. To his astonishment and horror, the
engine block had torn through the firewall and supports. The dislodged mass of metal had struck his legs just below the knees, driving them back,
pulverising them into his seat. Shiny aluminium streaked with black oil and his torn flesh, crushed bone a grim verification of the severity of their
situation. He had become a caterpillar, impaled and smeared by the cruel hand of fate. In that moment he assumed he was dying, a groan of utter
torment hissed between clenched teeth.
Summarising his predicament he acknowledged that his legs were still there somewhere but they were smashed to useless pulp, and likely candidates for
amputation. He could feel them abstractly as a swarm of pain gnawed undyingly at his mind, causing him to cry out occasionally and flex in his seat
like a puppet. Having his injuries all but pointed out to him had not helped him to control or at least subdue the relentless throbbing. He began to
sob, mourning with total abjection the death of his legs and inevitably, as hope and light faded, the cold air submerged him in a steely embrace he
succumbed mercifully at last to unconsciousness.
‘Wake up. Death is tired of waiting. It’s coming love.’
John opened his eyes with a start, inhaling hard, knifing pain coming back as vision and hearing came back, related now, a dancing razor edged thing,
cutting and dicing the corners of his mind with malicious abandon. It was evening, darkening and he was freezing. His body was broken and his mind was
not far behind as it rode the spears of suffering from his feet to his chest. Up and down, he crested the waves of pain like a surfer, knowing if he
fell; the agony would consume and devour him. He also knew that if he slipped into unconsciousness again there would be no further awakening just
deaths icy, ultimate kiss, a kiss with a smile and a pat on the back for a job well done, two birds with one stone. Mentally John cursed the illusion
as it formed in his mind, flicking it an illusory middle finger, rage welling up within him.
He looked to his left and Dominique was staring ahead over the twisted bonnet of their five series BMW. Her normally slightly tanned face was now so
pale there was a bluish tinge to her skin, waxen. She looked to all intents and purposes, dead and John felt a surge of anguish take him with such
force that his physical pain was so much more preferable to this sudden sense of total loss. Dominique his dearly loved wife of ten years and gorgeous
mother to his seven-year-old twin daughters Alexandria and Cassandra whom they had left with Dominique’s parents down in Edinburgh. They had
intended to spend a weekend in a highland log cabin in romantic and awe inspiring surroundings. ‘Don’t baby. I’m sorry, stay with me please’,
he implored with a broken voice. ‘I did a bad thing I know it. I screwed up sure but please. I love you. I can’t be without you now, not now, not
ever.’ The effort of words wracked him, caught in his throat, he forced them out.
He reached toward her with his left hand and found the movement clumsy and without coordination. His wrist bumped the gear stick and he paid the toll
by having to suffer the vengeful complaints of his badly broken arm for what seemed like an eternity. He whispered her name and in that moment, she
turned her face toward him, looked straight at him. The glow her gaze normally exuded had dimmed; her stare vaguely out of focus but John exhaled hard
with relief and then wished he had not as his broken body was not prepared for it. The movement of relief that life still burned within Dominique
caused sharp edged bone to rub against ruptured flesh. John gagged, inadvertently crunching molars down onto his tongue and he nearly passed out
‘You have to get help,’ Dominique gasped. ‘Once night comes, the temperature will drop like a stone and we won’t last much longer after that
happens. The temperature is already below freezing as it is so the odds are already stacked against us.’ Her voice dropped into a throaty whisper
and blood welled up at the corners of her mouth. She looked past him, indicated up the way they had come with a reverse nod of her head. Her eyes
focusing on the near obscured tracks the car had made. Nobody would see them from the road and by the time, someone up on the road did notice them
they would be dead from the cold, shock, or loss of blood. ‘I can’t even move, my legs are mashed, I’m pretty much trapped to boot,’ John
protested. ‘If I move I think I might die’. The possibilities of biological toxins released from abruptly decompressed injuries were sudden
nagging thoughts in his mind.
Dominique’s response was an abrupt and surprising flash of anger, her mouth twisting into a contemptuous sneer. She hissed with shocking vehemence,
‘If you try aye you might die sure, but if you don’t try you will definitely die and our children will be left without a father.’
‘Nique, I’m sorry I don’t know if I can’, John exclaimed wretchedly. I can’t remember where I stashed my damned phone. Where is yours?’
‘Outside I think along with nearly everything else that was in the car at the time you planted us in this field. No time to go looking now love.’
Irritation gave a hard and uncompromising edge to her voice. The tone intended to force John back to constructive thought. Her anger however fed his
desolation instead, heaping itself on top of his excruciating injuries and he unexpectedly started to sob, his head dipping down onto his chest, hope
lost, all but succumbing to relentless pain.
Dominique’s eyes gleamed, blinking in distress and her annoyance faded, eyes softening, fresh tears welling she focused with unbreakable force into
his eyes, and then said flatly, almost matter of fact ’John my back is broken just below my shoulder blades. I can feel vertebrae grate every time I
talk to you. The pain is much less then I would have expected. I think the cold is anesthetising me but I can’t move.’ She winced, breathed out
hard, a frozen cloud of carbon dioxide breaching the space between them. ‘You have to do this or we leave our children orphaned’.
She stared harder into his eyes, nodding slightly by way of emphasis, directing a reassuring smile. There was no blame, no animosity just an unbending
will to get at least one of them back to their daughters. She had already assumed it would not be her. John read a sense of grim acceptance in her
‘Are you sure your back is broken?’ The question ended with a stream of blood and saliva spurting from his nose and mouth. He was fast running out
‘I’m a surgeon honey, I’m not one hundred percent certain of course, but I’m pretty sure’. John locked her eyes with his and something
primal passed between them; a mutual determination that they would fight, not to let this blackest of experiences go unchallenged. One of them would
have to explain to the children how this event had unfolded. John knew he would have to live with the liability that it was his fault.
‘Give me a second love’, he groused, already digging deep into himself to muster the strength he would need to wage war against the waves of agony
that would assault him once he started to move. His body had started to shut down after suffering for so many hours in bone numbing temperatures; it
would not take his struggle to remain conscious very kindly.
‘I’m going to get the kitchen sink thrown at me; I hope my heart can take it. What do you reckon to my chances?’
Dominique simply looked at him her face angled down and to her right, golden curls, half covering her face one eye looking at him. In the fading
light, John could see glistening tears at her cheek, drifting over caked blood. ‘You can do this, if you could have put up with my mood swings for
so many years then see this is just a passing moment in time; A glitch in the matrix as they say.’
‘At last an apt time to use that very irritating Cohen brother’s catchphrase,’ John teased gently.
‘It had to come sometime you know.’ She beamed, gleaming teeth. ‘It was inevitable.’
He smiled back at her, though a smile devoid of any vestiges of humour. ‘I always love your many and varied moods Nique. I choose to see them as
precious stones living in a velvet bag so hold onto that thought as I tear myself apart getting out of this damn car.’ He stopped, turned his head
to her, and leaned slightly closer as far as he dared without incurring the wrath of his injured body. ‘You are right of course; we can’t stay
here any longer.’
Dominique was chuckling softly under her breath. She abruptly coughed, winced, and repeated with incredulity, ‘precious stones living in a velvet
bag. What a crazy man I married.’
‘You’ve seen nothing yet, Want to see crazy well baby watch this.’
The night peace was shattered as John howled in abject agony. He hurled himself sideways against the door and swore profusely, raged as the door
refused to move. It seemed to be jammed as tightly as his legs were jammed by the section of engine wreckage. He elbowed the handle in frustration,
felt broken bone give way under his skin and searing, indescribable pain race up his arm into his neck and shoulder to slice at his mind. Vision swam
and he saw lights coalescing around him as he fought to stay conscious. He screamed and then vomited blood, but he would not, could not stop. He
slammed the door several more times and maniacal laughter escaped him as the reviled obstruction made a metallic crunching sound before falling open.
The gap was a beautiful, snowy thing. Heavens gates could not have looked more beautiful.
‘I love you Nique, I will get help you can count on it, wait here’,
‘Not going anywhere, silly man,’ an exasperated rolling of eyes her response.
‘Sorry’, John replied, his breath coming in ragged gasps. ‘By the way… I think I crapped myself. I couldn’t help it. Yep I definitely
‘Always the sweet talker,’ Dominique whispered hoarsely, a smirk fleeting. John was at the final impasse, his legs. Here was where the pain, the
great obstacle to freedom from their shattered prison would rake at his mind with acid blades, where the effort of physical movement could actually
kill him but there was no turning back now. In his mind’s eye he could see his daughters, could see them all together. It would be a rough time when
he and his wife would recover in wheel chairs, then on crutches and then to a time of rebuilding shattered bodies. He could see it all as he gathered
his strength for the effort of tearing himself free from the accursed metal that had transfixed him for so long. In his mind, death laughed and
cruelly ridiculed the notion with a dance, pointed to the severity of their situation, their brutal injuries.
‘Damn you, bring it,’ john hissed, his mind a stone.
John looked over his shoulder one last time as he angled himself for the assault and Dominique was smiling strangely at him. Even in the snow-shrouded
gloom, he could see her eyes. They were proud and full of expectation, her skin lustrous, and teeth gleaming. Even so injured he noted that she was
the most beautiful being on god’s earth. He beamed a broad smile back at her and then without another word or another moment’s hesitation,
declared total war on the snow, his terrible agony, and the twenty metres of incline to the road above.
It took an hour to pull himself from the car. He had sacrificed himself, as he had to leave his legs behind, the effort of tearing himself from the
wreckage, the defining moment of his whole life. His mind would never be the same again. The moment his legs had come apart from the car, breaking
apart, tendons and ligaments popping like wet bacon, shattered bone separating from mangled connective tissue had been the moment something inside him
had snapped. The snow had been a godsend, soothing a ferocious thirst. The snow, its icy embrace as he had fallen into it instantly soothed his misery
but with every wrenching movement, he made with his wrecked arms to haul himself up the embankment he died a little. Climbing like a giant crushed
insect up into bright moving light, he had promised her and he was a man of his word no matter the level of suffering. He would make amends for the
mistake that had sent them hurtling off the road. He would be a better man, husband to her, and father to their children.
There was movement up there, headlights flashing above him periodically from right to left, the drones of car engines and splashing snow coming closer
and then going away. Deep within John worried that another vehicle would make the same mistake he had made and come barrelling down the embankment and
thus end him and his wife’s hopes. He struggled to keep this at the back of his mind as he dragged himself up to the crest of the embankment, eyes
wide with expectation, mind awash with a new sense of hope that he would be rescued from this hell.
The moment he saw headlights blinding him, he experienced a near mystical level of rapture, a blast of relief of such magnitude he wept with the joy
of it. Headlights flashed like suns coalescing, giving the illusion of heat to a man so sapped of his. Car doors opened, slammed shut, shadows moved
towards him… John let a cry of sheer exhilaration escape him and then fell into oblivion, headlights transforming into sunlight that caressed his
skin, sunlight blazing down from azure South American skies.
He opened his eyes as he felt index finger and thumb crushing his right ear lobe between them. A paramedic in green and yellow was looking down at
him. She had friendly eyes, a concerned though reassuring look to her. ‘My wife, she’s still trapped in the car,’ John groaned. The medic looked
away briefly as someone out of sight spoke to her. She returned her gaze back down to John, draped something over him. Others were coming up the
embankment but he could not see details. His vision was blurred, his senses dulled and he assumed shock and loss of blood was having a detrimental
effect on him.
He felt a sense of worry eat at him at the thought of it. ‘My wife; Will she be ok? He tried to focus his eyes but they had lost all sense of
direction. The medic glanced away briefly. When she looked back, John knew something dreadful was coming his way. He did not need to focus his eyes to
be able to read the body language of someone about to impart bad news. ‘Your wife was killed instantly. Her seatbelt, she was not strapped in, she
went through the windshield on impact, I am so sorry’.
The words were hammer blows that reverberated through him like a vibration from a giant church bell, made his head feel like it would burst wide
‘No, no that can’t be. She was sitting next to me in the car. I was talking to her. She talked to me… Where is she?’ John lurched upward,
using the last of his waning strength to attempt to wring the truth from deceiving lips and discovered to his disgust and disappointment that he was
as feeble as a lamb. He screamed at the medic as he buckled, ‘you are lying, DONT LIE!’
The snow-capped world fell away around him, vision, and sound becoming fluid and disjointed, becoming one and nothing as pain faded, replaced by the
black certainty of a mind bankrupted by grief. A world crushed by a sense of impossibility, of precious life, timeless love lost ultimately to blame
and fatal error, morphine’s kiss a gracious release for a short time only. The future was suddenly a cavernous maw devoid of meaning or mercy, an
eater of all wants, of all hopes. At the centre, death his mind-crafted illusion an unwelcome voyeur, a sadistic conductor of the game of games threw
back a hooded head and laughed pure vitriol, total victory.
John recoiled, continued to withdraw further into his mind, a chimera of foetal positions and thumb sucking tumbling around his mind’s eye. The only
certainty in a dark new world was his children’s love, all that was left of her. Darkness swarmed down on him, enveloped him and in the distance he
could hear a helicopter coming closer, and then words, Dominique’s words came to him softly like a warm summer breeze through dazzling white linen,
uplifting his spirit.
‘I love you. You did great, I’ll be waiting.’