The car left the road at 6:30am on Monday, November 3. Heavy rainfall the night before had resulted in hazardous driving conditions, which were exacerbated by the leaf cover caused by recent gales. The road, a shortcut between two towns, is notorious for accidents. It is narrow, with many unexpected bends, and nearby property owners are used to making insurance claims.
Oh, my God. Oh God, oh God, oh God. Fuck. Shit. What’s going on? This doesn’t happen – only in films. I can’t move. What am I going to do? There was a bomb on that bus in that film. Will the car explode? I can smell petrol. Will I burn? How long will it take? I can’t move my legs. What happens if I can’t walk? I’m going to be late. How will anyone know? No one knows where I’m going. I’m not where I’m supposed to be. There’s blood. Oh God. Could I bleed to death? Does that happen? What if the car blows up? Will they have to cut my leg off, like in Casualty? I don’t want to die. What’s the time? The back of my shirt is wet – am I going to bleed all over the seats? Car’s only just been cleaned. Don’t be stupid. Will anyone stop? My little girl. This is my good suit. Oh, my God.
Mrs Smith’s accident followed an established pattern – misjudging the speed necessary to negotiate the corner, she lost control of the vehicle. Travelling at 50 miles per hour, the car ran over two roadside bollards, turned on its side (crushing a wing mirror and breaking a window) and slid unimpeded until it hit the wall of a disused outbuilding. The airbag deployed at 6:31am.
What happened? I don’t think I was going too fast. What time is it? Was I going too fast? I’m careful. Not like those other drivers who zoom through residential areas. What if they hit a child? What would people say? I’m not reckless. Leanne knows to look when she crosses the street. You can’t be too careful these days. She won’t even be up yet. It’s cold. I’m cold. Can you freeze to death in England? What time is it? I wish I had a watch. I wish Dave would get me one. If I knew what time it was I’d know if people were missing me by now. They’ll think I’m late. They might think that I’ve taken the day off and not let them know. I’d never do that. Not usually. I’m a good timekeeper. Dave will be so angry with me.
Motor vehicle insurance claims are made every eight seconds of each working day. The worst months for crashes are October and November. On a wet road, vehicle tyres have to disperse up to three gallons of water per second.
How long have I been here now? The car smells oily and musty, like Dad’s big brass clock. It never had the right time. He was always polishing it. I’d pull funny faces in it. But my face might stay that way. Dad didn’t like me messing around. It was always dusty. Finger marks behind the back where no one would ever see. Dead woodlice in piles.
I can hear my pulse. Tick tock. It’s funny how loud it is. I don’t even notice it normally. Well, I do when it’s quiet. You can hear it in your ears; it sort of throbs round the back of your head and in your chest. Sometimes I try and speed it up or slow it down. Like that slow motion bit in that film where the whole world stops. It’s silly really. People would laugh at me if they thought I was trying to slow the world down. Dave would. What time is it? Could you stop your own heart? If you concentrated enough, could you make yourself die?
The sky is turning blue. It’s the same colour as the quartz on the mantelpiece. It needs a polish. I want to see my face in it. Dave smashed my mirror.
Three thousand people die every year on our roads. On average, ten people are killed per day. Women account for 44% of licence holders in the UK.
I can’t feel my arm or my leg. I can still see them, but it’s like they belong to someone else. I should be scared, but it’s stopped hurting. Would I get a wheelchair? A stair-lift? I always thought they looked really slow in those Thora Hird adverts. No. No, I’ll be fine. Someone will come. They always do, don’t they? Well, not always. And they don’t always help. I haven’t heard any cars coming. I’d recognise a police siren.
It’s strange being upside down. I have to concentrate on recognising things. Must be what it’s like being a baby. My baby – I hope she wears a coat. She has to stay warm. Her hair is the colour of the leaves on our tree.
All the blood’s gone to my head, like I’m on a rollercoaster. I used to love those when I was little. That bit at the top, when you get that jumpy feeling in your stomach because you know what’s coming next. You have to hold on tight. It’s so noisy when you come down that you can scream as long as you like because no one can hear you. Lots of faces looking up at you – I loved that. I’d invent a rollercoaster. It’d be so high that the rush would never stop and you’d never stop laughing. It’d be higher than the clouds.
Cross-country routes account for 23% of all accidents and 50% of all injuries. There are 44,000 vehicle accidents per year without any attributed cause.
I can hear birds. Mum and Dad used to take me kite flying and the birds would fly away if it got too close. I wonder how we must look, all the way up there.
I’m sleepy. I want my bed. Bedtime stories and hot milk. Slippers tucked away under the desk and stars on the ceiling. The mobile I bought Leanne is spinning in the light. Just hanging there. I wait until she falls asleep. She’s beautiful. She smells like talcum powder and softener.
Lights off, door closed, slipping away.
Throughout the EU, people are six times more likely to die from road-related accidents than from cancer. Road death is 14 times more likely than death due to coronary heart disease.
There are crumbs on the ceiling – very untidy. There were crumbs on my wedding day. The dress is at the back of the wardrobe. I don’t fit in it now. It’s covered in plastic, like a chicken.
The blood on my arm has little branches, like a tree. It tickles. There’s blood on the window, running into all the cracks. So pretty in the light. Windscreens don’t break. They might kill the driver.
Dave broke my glass birds and ducks once. My fault – dinner wasn’t ready. He loves me though. Why else does he cry?
Local authorities will rarely approve safety measures if the cost per fatality prevented exceeds £100,000. It has been claimed by some charities that road accidents will overtake TB and HIV as one of the world’s biggest killers.
Where am I? Lights flashing in the distance, like a fairground. So far away.
Where was I going?
Was I leaving?