It flared, a red flash behind the eyes, blinding, intense. His face swam in and out of focus. It was red, too. But it was not the red of artificial light. It was the red of life. Running over his brow and pooling in his eye-sockets like a horror movie haunt. It made him unrecognizable, the pools for eyes and the way his soul left.
Tires screeched. Someone screamed. It might have been her because she felt it, but it was too far away. The pavement pressed into her kneecaps, and the blood on her hands left tracks on his body everywhere she touched him. The cry in her throat stayed there, buried beneath the pounding of her heart that she was certain was trying to follow him into the darkness, or the light, or wherever it was he was going.
Hands dug into her biceps, pulling her back. The voices were hushed, and bodies crowded and suffocated, looking, mouths hidden behind hands, and the horror in their eyes she was sure was the same horror that took residence when passenger jets flew into buildings or bombs detonated inside daycares. It was all the same horror. It did not matter if there was one victim, or one thousand.
He was still gone.
Sirens wailed and the hands on her held her tight. She did not know why they held her, she didn’t feel like she was fighting them. But they clamped down on her flesh and cut to the bone, and the voices were urgent around the edges of her comprehension.
“You’re bleeding, ma’am,” someone said. “We need to have a look. He’s being taken care of, you need to calm down.”
The car came out of nowhere.
The song on the radio was a favorite, a happy song, and she held the wheel in one hand and tapped with the other while she sang. She threw a glance at him in the passenger seat, and he was smiling quietly like he always did when she sang loudly and off-key. The light up ahead had just turned green. The cars were going through. She didn’t slow down, just sang the chorus and cruised.
The impact was like an explosion. It obliterated everything. She felt herself crushed and pushed and realized she was where he was supposed to be, and he was gone. There was utter silence. The silence could be shock, a vacuum sucking in on itself between her ears. All she knew was that he was gone from the car, and she had to find him. She smelled gasoline, and burning rubber, and slowly the sounds came back, the tick of hot metal, the soft rhythmic squeak of something broken and swinging like a tiny pendulum and marking the seconds that were slipping away, wasted. Seconds that might have been used to hold him here, to tell him something.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. What’s your name? Do you remember your name?”
Isn’t this what ID cards were for? Her mind scrambled.
“Can you tell me what day it is?” The red light behind her eyes became a white light in front of them, and she tried to squeeze them shut, to close it out, but nothing happened, and it flashed back and forth and sent her brain into a spasm. Everything faded into blank canvas.
Maybe she would find him here, roaming these devoid white hallways. Maybe the final Polaroid, that of his gentle smile before the world flew apart around them, maybe it would be enough for the dreams of an eternity.