[Note: Inspired by a brief recounting of one of my wife’s dreams. Apologies to Neil Gaiman.]
I could smell the blood before I saw it. The man at the other end of the bus stop bench looked a little too nice to be riding the bus – suit, briefcase, polished shoes. The professional image was interrupted by the rag wrapped around his right calf, and the blood soaking through it. He saw me looking, and laughed.
This is exactly why I’d told Mom I wanted a car when I went to college.
“Wassamatter, little girl,” he said, his raspy voice crawling out of some nightmare. “It’s broken. Never seen anyone get hit by a car before?”
I wanted to run. I remembered laughing at horror movie heroines who were frozen in place; the memories were bitter while my legs refused to move. “Shouldn’t you get to a hospital? Take a car? Ambulance?”
The man spat. “Cars. They’s what got me here. I knew they were gonna get me. I leaped out before the wreck. They want blood. They felt cheated, yeah. I know about them!” I felt the ripples of his cackle up and down my spine. “Now they’re hunting me.” He gestured to his leg again. “Clipped me crossing the street. Trying to slow me down, they are.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but the old Ford swerved out of traffic and towards the bus stop. I leaped back, feeling a fender bang against my heel. The car smashed its way through the bench, flinging man and briefcase into the air, onto the hood.
I would later learn the driver had a heart attack. A freak coincidence. Still, I knew I was supposed to be on the bench. I had cheated the cars. My mother didn’t understand why I turned down the car she later got me for my birthday, why I am skittish under the beams of their headlights.
But I saw. I saw the man, lying on the Ford’s hood. I saw his blood running in rivulets down into the car.
None dripped onto the sidewalk.