The crunch of the underbrush gave way to my hurried pace. I couldn’t tell if he was still on my trail because the hammering of my heart and heavy exhales were all I could hear. I was afraid to stop, for all I knew he was just a few yards away on the other side of the hill I had just bounded down.
How could a simple accident turn into something so life threatening? The curve in the road and the mist that overwhelmed the morning air was to blame. That I knew for certain. We were both hugging the center lane and by the time I had noticed what was inevitably going to happen it was already too late. The eruption of steel upon steel was unmistakable and both vehicles came to a swift and violent stop.
With a quickness I was unaware I possessed I slid from my car and headed towards the other vehicle. As I neared the driver’s side door I could see a man flaccid against the steering wheel. His long brown hair disheveled and covering his face. Attempting to open the door I found that it was jammed closed from the impact. Banging my hand on the windshield to get the man’s attention he suddenly bolted upright and awkwardly looked around finally setting his eyes on mine.
Without hesitation he raised his pistol and took a shot. Blasting through the glass and whooshing past my shoulder I instantly dropped to the ground a crawled to the hopeful safety behind my car. Once concealed I glanced in his direction and saw the man struggling to get his door open, at that very moment we locked eyes yet again and another shot rang out in the stillness. With no reason other than pure horror I bolted into the woods and took one last look back in time to see him exiting his vehicle and coming my way.
Heading over a few more ridges I decided to stop behind a large tree to catch my breath and listen. I could hear his foot falls getting louder as he shortened the distance between us. Looking around for what to do next I picked up a short thick branch and the bark pressed into my palms as my grip constricted. The man was close now and then there was silence; he had stopped.
“I know you’re here,” he said.
My muscles clinched. His slowed steps told me he was about to pass right next to me. Relying on luck I swung hard and made solid contact with his chest. He fell back and the gun fell from his hand. Without thinking I reached for it and its coldness relaxed me a little. Now I have the upper hand. No sooner had the thought passed through my mind he was up and barreling down on me.
I didn’t realize the gun had been fired until I saw the man spin to the side and slump to the ground. Terrified by the scene that had just played out I let the gun slip from my hand. My instincts were screaming at me to run, run fast, and run now. With reality flooding back I took off in the direction I had come from. Not knowing exactly which way that was I simply hoped I would guess correctly. After about fifteen minutes I could make out my car in the distance, still fused to the other vehicle. My pace slowed and as I exited the woods a police car was pulling up; lights flashing. Thank God. Dragging my tired legs I met the officer half way between the wreck and his patrol car.
“I think I just killed a man,” I said.
“I’m sure you did Sherman. Who was he this time?”
“I’m just glad I caught up to you before you made it into town,” he said.
“I’m serious. The accident was nobody’s fault. The mist, the curve in the road; we were both hugging the center and it…it…it happened so quickly. And then before I knew what was going on, I was checking to see if he was alright, he started shooting so I ran. I didn’t mean to shoot him, maybe he’s still alive. Should we go check?”
“What wreck Sherman? You didn’t actually hurt someone did you?”
“The car that I hit coming around the curve,” I said turning to point out the obvious damage. But, there my car was, sitting in the middle of the road with the door open and completely unharmed by the other vehicle that wasn’t there.
“Alright let’s go,” he said placing my arms behind my back placing the handcuffs around my wrists. “They’re going to have to do something about their security over there at the institution. This is your second escape in as many months. God forbid you actually hurt someone while you’re out here.”
He placed me in the back of the patrol car and I stared at the cage that separated the back seat from the front. He then climbed into my car and parked it on the side of the road. He then returned to the patrol car and turned it around and started off down mist covered road.
“The doc is going to be happy to get you back,” he said.
The chill of the window against my cheek and my head moving to the rhythm of moving car, all I could think about was the potential dead man lying out there in the woods and my eyes welled up in shame.
It was an accident. Surely I wasn’t capable of murder. Was I?