It can happen in a flash.



by Ash Warren

For the ‘Custom Rims’ Award


She’s refusing to wear her seat belt.

You tried to argue with her, but she was adamant so you decide to let it slide, there’s been enough tears today. And now you are both going to die it clearly doesn’t matter.

The moment seems to stretch out, calm and clear, like time has simply slowed down.

The car has left the road and you’ve been claimed by the air. And for the first time ever you feel what it’s like to be driving with no sound or feeling of the road under your tires.

So quiet.

You’ve actually been longing for that all afternoon. She’s been screaming at you for hours. Demanding to know why. Not accepting your answers which, even though you had patiently rehearsed them all week, had come out of your mouth tasting like stale bread. Just the usual lame excuses.

You wonder why you decided to tell her in the car in the first place. That had been a stupid idea. Why not tell her in a park, or wait till you got to her home?

That’s when you realized that actually you’d spent almost your entire relationship with her in transit. In this car. The whole thing, every memory, seemed to be here. The first touch of her hand when your happiness had lifted into the air like birds taking flight from a tree. That slight pause before you had kissed her….

That’s why you told her here. Because it was an affair watched over by an orange dashboard and chaperoned by the four on the floor. The car was means and opportunity. It meant you were going somewhere, doing something. It meant you were a ‘couple’. Your seat behind the wheel. Her seat with her sunglasses in the glove compartment and her handbag at her feet.

And oddly in the end there had been nothing to think about and nothing to say and finally, nothing to decide. When you saw the deer, standing there in the road with the late autumn twilight softly aglow on its sleek body, you had just turned the wheel. Just a half turn. The car had swerved and cut through the guard rail like it was butter.

You can see the deep pitching blue of the waves far below now, stretching out endlessly, quietly lifting and falling like they were breathing. And you think for a moment that surely falling into this would not be so bad, this deep and voluptuous quilt, this calling darkness.

Now there’s a flash of light in the distance, which must be the lighthouse at Green Cape, just south of Two Fold Bay. You remember swimming at a beach near there when you were a child, and climbing the stairs to the lighthouse with another girl, long before. There was laughter, and the wind causing her long blonde hair to stream out behind her like the pennants of an army marching to war.

And you realize that in fact this was how things end for most people, even those that die slowly in their hospital beds, all quite sure that no matter what they were still going to wake up the next morning. Until they didn’t.

And that it had always been there, this moment, just hiding out of your line of vision, quietly following you, never more than a single breath away. You wondered how you had never noticed it before.

There was no placing of the final full stop. Yet at the same time, there was also nothing to finish.

You saw that now.