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Head craned forward, peering through the windshield as the wipers fought back against the ghostly fog. A yellow-white glow from the fog lamps penetrated three feet into the mist then disappeared. Visibility was so bad I couldn't see the trees. Twice I found myself driving on grassy weeds and pulled the wheel frantically to find the driveway again.
The flames from Emily's burning house were twisting, fiery smudges in my rear-view mirror. I clenched my teeth and kept driving. Somewhere up ahead the gravel driveway would turn onto a dirt road. From there I could make a paved road in an hour or so.
I remembered pouring lamp oil over Emily the way she told me to, smashing the burning lamp onto the floor and running toward the door. The image of her dress catching fire played over and again against the theater screen of fog. I remembered her eyes popping open and me screaming.
Don't let me die one of them, she'd said.
I did what she told me to do. If she was right, maybe I'd done a good thing. If she was crazy, I was going to hell.
Something was suddenly standing in front of my car.
I slammed on the brakes and said, "Oh shit, shit, oh shit."
Too late, I knocked it over and under the car. I felt a horrible, squishy slide as it went under the tires and then the car stopped moving.
The drainage ditch on the far side of the road was just behind the front hood.
Sweat slid down my scalp and onto my cheeks.
What had I done?
What had I killed?
My hands trembled on the steering wheel.
I didn't want to open the car door and go see what I'd done. Didn't want to feel the touch of the clammy moist air against my skin. Didn't want to see who or what I'd hit.
The flashlight was in a compartment beneath the mid-seat arm rest. I took it out, flipped the switch and the car interior lit up in a cone of white light. I saw the Bible and the photo laying on the floor where they had landed.
Stones crunched under my feet as I stepped out onto the road. The night was filled with a sense of ominous presence. I aimed the beam at the fog and it lit up but revealed nothing. I listened for sounds. A voice begging for help. A twisted moan. A dying gasp. But the night was silent as if the murky miasma surrounding me had absorbed everything.
I took a deep breath, then aimed the light at the front of the car.
A mangled blue arm stuck out from beneath the tire.