Muffled and Distant

Not going anywhere, no plans to go anywhere.

“Could take a drive. Get out of town.”

“Yeah, and? How far out?”

“I don’t know, an hour. Or two hours, get dinner. Four round trip.”

“No restaurant.”

“Order out, eat in the car.”

Sure, get in motion, feel like we’re going somewhere. Take the highway, head north away from the city and traffic.

The car swerves.

“You see that?” he says.

We barely miss a big piece of steel pipe. I twist around to look back through the rear window. I see a car that looks like it’s going off the road. It is, moving fast in a neat vector away from the pavement across the meridian’s dry dirt. A roiling, dark gale of dust traces its trajectory toward the steep bank of a stream and the small bridge for the other two lanes.


“What’s going on?”

I imagine they might make it over, going so fast, but at that angle, the passenger side front wheel hits the bank first and drops down, so it goes across the stream tilted sideways like a careening child’s toy. I see the top of the roof as it slams down into the base of the bridge at the opposite bank. Murky water explodes upward into the swirling dirt cloud.

“Get a mile marker,” I yell, falling back into my seat. I get one. 207. Now we’re stopped. I’m on the phone to 9-1-1 emergency dispatch. I tell them the location.

“You’re southbound?”

“No. Northbound.”

“Anyone injured?”

“Injured?! They could be dead.”

“Were you involved in the accident?”

The air is heavy, thick, making it hard to breathe or talk. There’s a sense of slow motion against an unseen massive and enveloping encumbrance as I enter the hovering dust cloud near the car, an irreality of the tiny voice in the phone speaking for that behemoth . . . the things that need to happen and do not, a sound like a scream, muffled and distant.


Published in Flash Fiction Magazine

Number May 4, 2021 issue

Prizes Honorable Mention: 2020 Editor’s Choice Award

Flash Fiction - publisher of Dan Reilly short fiction