By Lucy Bray, Age 12
Dumbarton Middle School
© 2021 by the author
My eyes are squinted, struggling to see through the rain which is pounding against the car. The glaring headlights don’t do much to help. I can hear the kayaks on the roof rattling against the top of the wet slicked car. Puddles of mud cover the road, and the car is becoming completely enveloped with it, making it hard to see through the windshield. The car brushes against the dead, acicular shrubbery growing along the roadside. In Texas’ dry countryside, I’m sure there are no cars around for miles.
While lost in my thoughts, the car dives into a thick brown puddle. Peering through the mud-splattered window, I curse under my breath. The back wheels are caught on some wire, stopping the car just before it flips over and sinks.
I grab for my seat belt, but when I push the button, it doesn’t come loose. I push it a little harder, thinking hard enough will release me, but the seat belt stays tight around my chest.
I tug on the rough, leathery strip, attempting to rip myself free when I’m suddenly blinded by light. I swivel my head to find its source, and, coming to a halt across the street, I find a rusty green pickup truck.
The engine ceases, and I sit in my car, waiting, hoping for someone to rescue me. But no one emerges. I wait a minute more, but the pickup truck just sits there.
Giving up hope, I turn back to my seat belt and jerk on it. The seat belt rips a bit, and as I get ready to tug on it again, the screech of my car tilting forward pierces the night air, farther into the murky water. Water begins to slowly seep into the car and trickle toward my feet. I look back out the window and desperately hope for a savior. My wish comes true as the truck door swings open.
A worn-out, leather boot takes a step from the truck, then out emerges the rest of the man. He has a long, brown leather coat that appears shiny and new. The rain slides off of his coat and onto his boots, soaking them. His hands look skeletal where they are positioned at his sides. He wears a torn-up grey fishing hat, with holes all over its crown. The hat shadows his eyes, making them impossible to see through the heavy rain. Crumbs fall from his shaggy white beard as he stumbles across the road, and by the looks of it, he’s over sixty years old.
He approaches my car and stops, standing at the edge of the muddy pool. He examines the car, and, as he finds the handle, I realize the car is locked. I take my keys out of the car and unlock it. The man hurriedly opens the door, but not with enough care. My eyes widen in panic as the wire snaps and the car falls into the pool.
In a final attempt at saving myself, I jump from the car, hand outstretched toward the man. A rough hand covered in calluses latches onto my wrist, slowly heaving me to safety. My other hand latches onto the edge of the pit, and I’m able to pull myself the rest of the way up.
I sprawl out against the wet, muddy road and breathe deeply as the rain pounds against me. I glance down from where I lay and see my car, sinking into the mud, completely ruined. Rain rolls down my cheeks and tears soon join. I’m thankful to be alive and also shocked. But I don’t have time for a pity party.
I look up to see my rescuer’s face, but his back is turned to me. I stand up slowly, wobbling from the cold. I tap the man on the shoulder, and he swivels towards me, breathing his stale, warm breath into my face. He tilts his hat up slightly so I can see his eyes, and I jump back a bit, almost falling back into the cold, muddy water.
His eyes are pale blue, as if he were blind, but that doesn’t seem the case.
“Thank you,” I say.
He grunts in acknowledgment then turns away and walks back to his truck.
I look back at my car, sunk in the mud. I don’t know what to do. This strange man is my only option. “Do you have a phone I could use?” I ask the man.
“No phone,” the man says in a gruff, age-worn voice as he continues to walk back to his truck. He walks around to the passenger side of the truck. “Get in,” he says to me.
I look around, hesitant to get into this man’s car. Knowing my only other option would be to walk a little over fifteen miles to get home, I hop into the car and slam the door, glad to be out of the rain.
The man gets in the driver’s seat and starts the engine. He slams his door shut, then stomps on the ignition. The car lurches forward and we drive on through the rain.
“Where are you taking us?” I ask the man.
He doesn’t respond, so I just sit there, still as a stone. We continue on through the night, taking a few turns as we go. After half an hour I start to wonder if we will soon come to my hometown, which I believe to be in the same general direction we’re going. As I’m about to turn to the man and ask him another question, I notice that the road cuts off ahead, dropping abruptly into a valley of graves. I shake him, trying to snap him out of it. He doesn’t move, and neither does the wheel. Not knowing what else to do, I grab hold of the steering wheel and try to turn it, but it doesn’t budge. I close my eyes as the truck flies through the air and then falls, the car doors swinging open. Just before the truck hits the ground, the man driving the car turns to mist and disappears.
Suddenly, I’m back in the man's truck, but this time I am without the man, and I’m the one driving. I save myself, but this time I’m a woman.
Before we hit the ground, I catch a glimpse of the gravestone next to me. It only has one word.