Thursday, March 19, 2015

Joseph's Accident, Chapter One

The climax comes first.

At 9:02 in the morning, on a Tuesday, Ronald Joseph Brittons - who disliked his name and went by Joe - was hit by a car. The bumper of the maroon 1993 Honda Civic collided with the side of Joseph’s right knee at 28 miles-per-hour, breaking first one, then the other, leg. Three milliseconds later, his right shoulder and head left a four inch deep impression on the hood of the rapidly decelerating Honda. His body hit the windshield, shattering it in three places, spider webs spreading outward from the points of impact, meeting, separating, meeting. He flew back into the street and bounced when the car came to a stop.

The entire interaction took fifteen seconds.

His sister, Georgia, and her large golden retriever, Sir Richard Longtooth, were five steps ahead of Joe when the car rounded the curved neighborhood street at 47 miles-per-hour. At 8:27, Georgia, Richard, and Joe had left Georgia’s house to walk and talk about life. To catch up a bit after a long separation. He was on vacation from a small town on the other coast. Joseph’s on-again-off-again girlfriend was off again. Her name was Charlotte and she didn’t know whether she loved him - he was alright either way. She would later try to come by and see him, but it was complicated.

At 8:43, the driver was trying to find his doorknob. He was certain he had one. He was also certain that he needed to be at work in fifteen minutes. He hadn’t slept. The party the night before had lasted quite a bit longer than anyone expected. He lost track of time - and also his doorknob. Ah, it’s on the right hand side of the door.

At 9:09 the ambulance arrived. Later, Georgia would not remember any of what followed. She called for it, she was pretty certain. Richard rode with them to the hospital in the ambulance. She couldn’t remember any of it, but the moment of the collision was   permanent. It was a fixed thing. For Georgia, it was the start of a new timeline, like the birth of Christ. Before the accident and after. But, at the same time, it was as though it had always happened, a stone in her thoughts - she could not remember life without it. Even life before the accident was time spent waiting for it to happen.

For the next twenty years, when she had nightmares, her body tumbled around in space, randomly colliding with hidden, dark objects, without any control of where or when or what would follow. Empty space and harsh unseen objects, that was all. It was not certain how deeply Sir Richard was impacted by the event, but secretly he understood more than anyone gave him credit for, and in his dreams he only chased one car now - one maroon car. And if he caught it, he tore it to shreds.

Ronald Joseph Brittons lived. Aside from the broken legs, his collar bone was shattered, three ribs broken, and four vertebrae in the cervical curve were fractured. There was massive internal bleeding in his chest and head cavities. He was in a coma. These injuries, however, were relatively unimportant to the remainder of his life. At some point during the accident his spinal cord was severed very close to his brain stem. His mind was separated from his body. When he awoke he had lost the ability to move or communicate in any way. His autonomous functions - to breathe and digest, salivate, fart - continued. He continued to experience sight, smell, taste, but he, himself, was trapped in the prison of his mind. He had a window on the outside world but he could not even rap upon the glass. Except, he could, he would later find, occasionally laugh.

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