Sarah spun around at the sound of the approaching engine. Headlights sparkled and danced in the closing darkness, blinding her. The next few seconds appeared to unfold in slow motion. A horn blared, brakes screeched, and smoke surged out from beneath the tires. Hypnotized by the dazzling light, Sarah couldn’t move. The impact of the car’s bumper sent a searing pain through her legs. Her bones snapped like twigs as she flew into the windshield and over the car onto the road.
With a sickening thud, her head smashed against the asphalt. As Sarah lay there, vomit and blood rose in her throat. She tried to roll over to keep from choking, but her body refused to obey. All the strength drained from her body, and her world faded away into nothing.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
Sarah thought she had imagined the hysterical woman’s voice.
“Don’t die on me; please don’t die. I’ve called 9-9-9. Help will be here soon.”
Sarah felt the soft touch of a hand caressing her forehead and looked up into the face of a wide-eyed girl of about her age. Behind the girl, a mangled car rested against a tree. Sarah opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t. She shivered.
“You must be freezing. Here, let me cover you.” The young girl removed her coat and placed it over Sarah. “Please just stay with me,” she pleaded, looking over her shoulder. As the sirens wailed in the distance, everything went dark.
When Sarah’s eyes flickered open, the frantic girl and her wrecked car were nowhere to be seen. Instead of the asphalt surface of Kendonald Road, Sarah lay sprawled out on a narrow, gravel lane.
Sarah’s chest felt as if her father’s entire herd of cows had run over it. She gasped for air and tried to prop herself up on her elbows but collapsed as stones gouged her arms.
Using her last ounce of strength, Sarah hauled herself to her feet. Her head throbbed as if it was about to explode, and something wet and sticky ran down the back of her neck. Dirt and blood covered her rugby shirt and jeans, and her trainers were gone. Sharp gravel bit into her stocking feet as she staggered, trying not to fall. Sarah was surprised she was able to stand. She was certain the impact with the car had broken her legs and maybe even her back.
She wiped her hands on her shirt and cried out in pain. Dirt and blood covered her palms, and her knees felt like they’d been scraped with sandpaper. Her chest hurt with every breath, and she wondered if her ribs were broken.
Barely able to make out a faint light shining in the distance, Sarah stumbled toward it, thinking it was the yard light near her father’s barn. She clapped her hands over her ears in an attempt to block out the incessant ringing, but it didn’t work.
Sarah blinked and stared at one of the ghostly trees lining the roadway. The trunk expanded and contracted before her eyes as if it were breathing. A gust of wind rasped through the branches, and a sudden cry of a long-eared owl made her jump. Shivering, Sarah crossed her arms and rubbed, but pain shot all the way to her fingertips, forcing her to stop.