The white markers in the middle of the road rushed by like the second-hand on a clock. If Aifric pressed her nose against the window, she could see them go past the car one by one. Tick, Tock; Black, white.
“Are we there yet?”, Eoghan cried beside her.
Eoghan was her baby brother, 8 years old, and a pain in the arse. “If he asks one more time, I push him out, and he can walk”, she thought.
“Soon, honey”, Mam replied from the passenger seat.
It had been an exceptionally boring day, she had to give him that. They had been visiting mamó, and that was a challenge even for the grown-ups. Mamó had been in a care home for two years now. She suffered from dementia, and most of the time she didn’t even remember her own name. Let alone her family’s. Although Aifric knew it wasn’t mamó’s fault, it had hurt that her grandmother wouldn’t know her own granddaughter. So most of the conversation was introducing yourself, and when you finally got all the names sorted, you started over, because she’d forgotten the first ones again.
Aifric knew that it was hard for her parents too, especially for mam. Mamó was her mother after all. Aifric shuddered at the thought of seeing her own mam in a care home drooling on a bib.
“How soon is soon?” Eoghan cried.
Aifric’s patience was wearing thin. “For every time you ask, it takes 10 minutes longer, twerp!” She told him.
“That’s not true!”
“It is, so be quiet now.”
“Liar!”, Eoghan was eight, and not stupid enough to fall for that of course. “Mam, Aifric’s always picking on me!”
“Aifric, leave your brother alone.”, mam called. She was definitely annoyed now.
“But he started it!” Aifric defended herself.
“Quiet now, both of you, or I’ll pull over and you can walk home!”, Daid boomed from the drivers seat.
Aifric sighed and looked out through the side window again. The rain was leaving trails on the window, and the white markings went by one by one.
She turned her head towards the traffic behind them. Suddenly she felt a chill, as if something was wrong about what she saw. It took her a while to realise what it was. The lorry behind them was way too fast, it was beginning to undertake them, and it was dangerously close to the fast lane.
“Daid”, Aifric began.
“I said quiet back there, or…”. Daid never finished that sentence.
The creaking sound of metal on metal filled the car, as the lorry scratched along the rear wing. The wing was torn into shreds and emitted sparks that flew right up to Aifric’s window. Daid lost control, and as the torn metal got under the wheels, it sent the car toppling over. The world was upside down for a moment, and in the corner of her eye, Aifric saw another car approaching. They had been falling right into it’s path. A deafening noise filled the car, as it was lifted up in the air, and sent flying off the road. Her brother screamed, and she turned her head towards him. Part of the crash barrier was broken, and a long beam of it smashed through the right window, as the car toppled over once more. Eoghan’s mouth opened as if to scream again, but his cries where silenced by the stream of blood, that came out instead. In slow motion Aifric watched as the metal beam sliced through her brothers waist. It was an eerie silence around her except for a sickening dry crack as his spine was severed. The metal pierced through his side pushing out his entrails like a bow wash of blood in front of it. Blood sprayed from his severed body, tinting Aifric’s white blouse with red stains. Finally, his upper body sank down into the space behind the passengers seat, twitching once or twice. The last Aifric heard from him, was some gagging noise.
The car lay still, Aifric hung in her seat belt, her face much to close to her brothers crushed body. She opened her mouth, and tasted blood, that ran over her face. His blood, or hers?
“Mam.”, she whispered. Then louder “Mam!” She reached towards the passenger seat to her mothers shoulder. As she touched the shoulder, mam’s head slumped to the side in an unnatural pose. In the rear view mirror, she could see her mother’s eyes, staring blankly into the void. Her neck was snapped. Aifric drew back so hard, that her shoulders bumped into her brothers broken body. His severed upper half slumped down further, leaving her to stare at the bloody mess that had been his waist once. Aifric closed her eyes and started screaming.
Aifric sat up straight in her bed. The hospital gown she was in, was soaked with sweat. She panted hard, trying to remember where she was. Ever since the accident, she had to relive this fatal moment every night in her dreams. She always saw her brother cut in two, and she always woke up screaming. For a moment she sat there, shaking and panting. They had given her a one-bed room, because she kept waking up her roommates every night.
“So much for the damn sleeping pills.”, she thought, and got out of bed. She went into the small bathroom, turned on the lights, and stared into a mirror.
A pale, almost ghostly face stared back at her. It belonged to a fifteen year old girl, and anyone would have called it a pretty face, if it weren’t for the pale features, and the dark circles under her eyes. She had a pointed face, that was framed by curly auburn hair, and dominated by a pair of enormous dark brown eyes, that had given her an ever melancholic look, even in happier times. Now her hair was a tangled mess, and her eyes looked sadder than ever.
The door opened, as the night nurse came in.
“Aifric, are you OK?”
“Stupid question,” Aifric thought, “Of course not, or I wouldn’t be here”
But aloud, she said: “Yeah. I’m fine”
The nurse, who was a corpulent woman in her fifties, came into the bathroom.
“Bad dreams again?”, she asked sympathetically.
Aifric nodded. “Same one as always.”
“You need something to help you sleep?”
“No.”, Aifric shook her head.
She didn’t want to sleep, not ever again. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw the image of her
brothers severed body, as if it had been painted on the back of her eyelids. Aifric wished she could cry. She had not been crying, not even once. Not here in the hospital, not even at the funeral, where she had been brought to in a wheelchair. The doctors first wouldn’t let her go, but she insisted. But when she saw the coffins, and the grave, all she could think was, that she was supposed to be with them, down in the cool damp earth. Resting.
She couldn’t cry, and she felt ashamed for that. She had loved her mam and daid, she had loved even Eoghan. And now she didn’t feel anything but the terror when she woke up screaming at night.
It will come, they had told her. But when would that be? And did she really want to cry? Once she started she was afraid she would never be able to stop again.
The weird thing was how little had happened to her. While her brother was literally cut in half, her mam had her neck snapped and daid died of his skull injuries before they reached the hospital, she had but a few broken ribs, a twisted ankle and a concussion alongside some minor bruises. Somehow it felt wrong that she stepped out of this almost unharmed, when all the others had to die.
The nurse handed her a glass of water and a little blue pill. “Take this, and you’ll be better. Promise.”
Aifric knew the nurse was right, she had taken these pills before. They made her feel sleepy, and everything became numb. The feeling of terror didn’t go away, but it she’d be indifferent to it. She sighed, put the pill in her mouth and washed it down with a gulp of water.