-Published in The Oakland Post Blogs
The accident happened in an instant.
One moment, Molly was driving back home from a skiing trip with her little brother. The next, she was facing an oncoming car and slamming on her breaks.
Her tires spun wildly, unable to find traction on the snow-covered asphalt. The black Mercedes hit her blue Prius head on. The sound of crunching metal echoed in her ears. The other car rebounded and smashed into the cliff side, sparks flying into the air. Her car skidded off the edge, busting through the metal highway barrier. It tumbled over itself several times. Molly squeezed her eyes shut and gripped her steering wheel hard.
"Molly!" her brother screamed as he reached out to grab her arm.
"Hold on, hold on!" she yelled as she imagined the frozen river greeting her.
The car broke through the foot of ice, the deafening roar of the undertow blocking out all other sounds. Frigid water began to fill the cavity of the vehicle, the stinging spray causing Molly to gasp in pain. The undertow pulled at the car, threatening to drag it under the ice.
She managed to unbuckle herself, hardly noticing the sticky blood dripping down her face. She didn't even recall bumping her head.
"Lucas, are you okay?" she asked and she turned to help him get out of his seat belt. Her brother was limp in his seat, thick black blood gushing from his shattered nose. Remnants of blood stained the dashboard. The metallic smell clouded her senses and made her stomach churn.
"Luke, wake up," Molly said, her voice becoming more anxious. "We need to get out."
Freeing him from his seat belt, she dragged him into the back seat. Water continued to rush in, causing the car to creak as it the sunk. In minutes, the car would be completely submerged.
They needed to get out.
Running on pure adrenaline, Molly heaved the duffel bags onto the floor and laid her brother against the door. She fumbled with the zipper of her duffel bag and grabbed a ski pole. She thrust the metallic tip at the window until she punctured the window and shattered the glass. More water splashed in and started to fill the car around her knees.
She kicked away the stray shards of glass, and shoved her brother's slim body through the window and onto the ice. At that moment, the car lost its traction and plunged into the river.
Water rushed through the window, forcing her back against the opposite door. Sputtering and coughing, she wiped her now soaked hair back from her eyes and waded against the strong current of water. She only had a few more seconds to escape.
Molly gripped the edge of the window and heaved her body through the opening. She grabbed onto the ice and pulled herself up. She kicked off the car to give her leverage. The force pushed the car under the ice, leaving her half in the water. Mustering all her strength, she dragged her water logged body out of the frigid river, and onto the cracking ice.
"Help! Can anybody hear me? Help, please!" Molly screamed, hoping someone would hear her pleas in the empty wilderness. She staggered to her feet, wobbling as she spun around in search of help. "Please, God! Someone help us, please!"
Ice cracked beneath her feet, the deep, booming sound reverberating through her chilled bones. The sound startled her, and she took a step back in fear of falling through the ice. Her soaked boots slipped on the wet, red stained snow, bringing her to her knees in an ungraceful and heavy fall. She cried out in pain and curled in on herself. Her body trembled as the winter wind picked up. The feeling in her fingers and toes were gone. She held her hands up to her mouth and blew into them, attempting to thaw them. They were starting to turn blue.
Lucas was lying near the gaping hole in the ice where the car crashed. Blood was pooling around his head, and he looked lifeless.
Molly gagged, crouching over as she heaved. Ice water forced its way out of her lungs and stomach and onto the slick ice. The bitter tang of blood lingered in her mouth as she spit out the remnants. Her tongue throbbed and stung, and blood kept pooling in her mouth. She must have bit her tongue from the impact.
She needed to get to Lucas. She tried to stand, but her knees wouldn't hold her up. She slid herself along the fractured ice. She could feel the strong currents of the river gushing under the ice beneath her. Trembling, she made it to Lucas and hovered over him. Tears stung her face as they spilled over her cheeks; rivers overflowing in a flash flood.
"Wake up!" she pleaded in a broken scream, her voice wavering as she numbly shook the frail body of her brother. When he didn't respond, she rolled him onto his back, pressing her hands on his chest. Molly searched for a heartbeat, longing for any sign of life. She could barely feel the pitiful beat of his heart.
A choked sob escaped her lips as she curled over the young boy's body, clinging to him like a life preserver. She couldn't form words as she sobbed and screamed in agony and despair. Trembling hands clenched around the nearly lifeless body, already blue and no longer trembling. The bitter wind and snow whipping around them only made her colder.
Molly could feel him giving into the grip of the afterlife, sinking farther and farther into its depths. Misery filled her as she sunk to the ground to lie beside him. She rested her hand on his, squeezing it gently. She scooted closer to him, mindful of the blood that pooling around his head like a macabre halo of a fallen angel.
"Wake up…" she whispered, her breath forming soft clouds in front of her face. "Don't leave me." Her vision faded in and out as her surroundings began to blur into a dark mash of shapes. Unable to keep her eyes open any longer, she welcomed the darkness enveloping her. She closed her eyes and rested her head on her brother's shoulder, using him as a makeshift pillow.
She felt her heart beat finally slowing, and she couldn't help but smile as she felt a strange warm sensation dancing along her skin. Perhaps it was the hypothermia and frostbite burning as the wind licked at her skin like icy flames.
"Don't leave me behind…"
The warmth comforted her, and she wasn't scared anymore. Her pain and her sorrow left her, like embers of a raging fire blowing in the wind. She was dreamily aware of the sirens wailing in the distance, and she could see the slight flashing of lights behind her eyelids.
However, the warm, blinding light in the distance was much more inviting. She let herself fall asleep, holding onto her brother's hand as the sound of the water, the wind, and the sirens faded into white noise.
None of that mattered anymore. As long as she was with her brother.