I open my eyes to a fractured world around me. Shattered glass twinkles lethally underneath the flashing lights of squad cars and ambulances and a single fire truck. Blood smears the crunched hood of my car. Somebody in black, with obscure writing on his back, leads a body away into the back of a van. The word Coroner, scrawls across the doors. Cops push a growing crowd back from the scene.
People are crying. One man holds his wife as she weeps into his shoulder. A mother hides her child behind her as she surveys the crash in horror. A car screeches to a stop, just before the cop cars and a woman exits the passenger side running past them before anyone can stop her. A man in uniform catches her and holds her back, lifting her from the ground. She struggles and screams and cries, ripping her necklace from her neck and gripping the hair on her head so tightly chunks wrap around the rings on her fingers and rip out when she tries push away from the cop to get to her child. The woman collapses to the ground screaming her daughters name.
I did this. I caused everyone's pain. And all it took was a single stupid mistake. I remember, in drivers ed talking about this. The teacher devoted practically an entire day to movies about safe driving and not driving under the influence. I remember, when I got out that day, I laughed, joking with my buddies, about the way the guys head looked, missing a good portion of his skull, as they pulled his dead body from the carnage of his car. It just didn't seem real. The damage the car did. Just didn't seem like something that would someday apply to me. So I blew it off, thinking I would never be put in that situation. I was a fucking idiot.
I throw myself out of the seat, trying to get away from the horror. It was surprisingly easy, throwing myself onto the asphalt. Too easy, really, but when I roll over onto my back I understand. I've read my fair share of out-of-body experiences. I've seen the movies. But nothing could've prepared me for how it would feel. I don't feel disconnected. I don't feel light and willowy, like a ghost. I don't even feel incomplete. The feeling of an out-of-body experience is like something I would've never guessed. I feel normal, like I would on any normal day. The only difference is, it's like I'm in the passenger side of my own life. I have no control. My body is still sitting in the drivers seat. My face is bloody, my arm twisted in an odd direction, and a large ragged cut snakes its way through my chest down to my stomach. Surprisingly I'm still alive, though, my chest rising and falling almost imperceptibly.
Firefighter's run up to my door and begin to sever it from the rest of my car, then they slash the seat belt from my body. After they leave EMT's hurry in, moving my body onto a gurney and strapping it down. I watch discontented, I shouldn't be alive. They shouldn't fight for my survival. Not after what I've done. I don't deserve it. I'm a murderer. Following them, I watch. They lift my body into the back of an ambulance, start an IV and shove a tube down my throat.
That's when I start to feel the pain, spreading outward slowly from my heart, to the rest of my body. It's unlike any pain I've ever felt before. A mixture between burning and getting stuck with millions of needles . I clutch my chest and take a couple of steps forward, trying to work through the pain. Walking just makes it worse, but I continue on anyways, suddenly driven by the need to know who I killed and needing to see their faces, needing to say sorry.
The pain spreads past my shoulders and works its way through my torso. Reaching the Coroners van, I lean against it haphazardly, the pain spiking to unbearable. Fog begins to seep through my mind and cloud the edges of my vision, but I muster the strength to climb through the door and take in what I see there.
Four. Four people, I killed. Four people whose life I ended by being behind the wheel intoxicated. Inside, underneath the burning, I can feel my heart snap. Its like I can't even take a breath. My unworthy lungs unable to draw the oxygen into my body. I'm suffocating by the enormity of what I've done. The pressure on my chest, the weight of a thousand pound car.
Just then the pain reaches my knees, causing them to give out. I hit the floor with a loud thud, and as the floor starts to swim closer to my eyes I turn my head trying to lessen the blow to my face. I land on my stomach with my face to the wall of the van. Above me a tag hangs from one of the body bags. It twists and turns lazily, the name catching in the light of a cars nearby headlights. Livia Browne.
I don't try to get up. I don't try to flinch away from the hideousness I caused. Instead, I just lay there and embrace my private little hell. I lie with the people whose lives I ended. And before the pain and the fog consume me, I manage to whisper one last thing.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."