The highway stretches before us, winding through the oncoming mountains like a trail leading to a new life. At least that’s what I expect.
I glance at my mother gnawing at her lower lip, her hands gripping the steering wheel as if the harder she digs, the slower we’ll get to our destination. But with each passing second, we’re nearing her childhood home and all the secrets it entails.
A navy sedan to our right veers into our lane. The tires travel closer to us over the white dotted lines of the highway.
A breath lodges in my throat. No, not now.
I should have driven. The lack of control will only make me spiral even more.
I grip the door handle, tunneling my fingernails into the hard surface.
The edges of my vision blur. My heart races, and I attempt to call for her, but my voice catches in my throat.
She doesn’t see the car.
A horn blares. I’m not sure whose. The sound echoes in my head, but she still carries us over the concrete at sixty miles per hour.
The vision veils reality, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Twenty-five years of these morbid intrusive thoughts force me to fall into an impassive routine when they show up.
“Mom.” The word finally comes out in a low moan.
Her head tilts to the side, too slowly for my reaction. The thick strands of dirty-blonde hair slide across her shoulders. I try to focus on her instead of the inevitable crunch of metal breaking through the squeal of tires. I fling my arm out, as if the parental gesture she used on me as a child will stop what’s about to happen.
I’m always too late.
I need to close my eyes and breathe. But I can’t. Everything moves quickly now, as if on fast-forward. My eyes remain glued open. My mind needs me to see what I’ve done to my mother.
The car bumps against ours. I imagine the gray metal molding to the shape of the other vehicle.
Her mouth falls open in a silent scream as she lifts her foot to slam on the brakes. It’s too late.
The sedan grinds to a halt. We fly forward. The seat belt snaps back, cutting against my chest. The windshield caves in on itself. Fragments of glass pepper the dashboard and our bodies before pelting the floor.
I’m paralyzed with fear, but all my energy focuses on closing my eyes. This will all go away. I just need to breathe through it.
A large chunk of glass cuts my mother’s neck. Thick burgundy liquid pools from the gash. The violence isn’t new, and it’s not the first time I’ve watched her die. I grit my teeth and inhale a sharp breath before closing my eyes.
The image of her impending death disappears.
The number blinks in my vision, replacing the wretched curse haunting me.
My breathing howls in my head, removing the sounds of the accident and my mother’s wailing.
Another breath. The air filling my lungs burns, but it’s a welcome relief.
The hum of the tires on the highway returns, and a dull ache settles into my fingers. I peel them from the handle.
I open my eyes. We’re still barreling down the highway. The navy sedan is no longer careening into our car. Granted, it never was. Other than for that split second before the driver must have noticed and veered back into his lane. But I manifested a scenario far less innocent. A second. Yet my visions live in minutes, the worst minutes of anyone’s life.
The other driver clicks his right blinker and heads toward the exit ramp.
My heart hammers in my chest as if I’ve been sprinting.
“Jenny, are you okay?” my mother asks.
“Yeah,” I croak and look at her. Turning my head is much harder than it should be. I expect the worst. Glass cutting her face, the explosion of blood across her chest.
There’s nothing to worry about. It’s all in my head. It’s always in my head. The movies—visions—of a future that doesn’t exist feel as real as the concrete road under us.
About the Author: Katlyn L. Duncan is the author of psychological fiction portraying the complex lives of women, their relationships, and mental health. She has also ghostwritten over 40 novels for children and adults. When she’s not writing, she’s obsessing over many (many) television series’, and hanging out on YouTube where she shares her writing process and all the bookish things.