Loud by D. I. Jolly
Snow drifted down on what looked to be the only car on the road. Inside Brian sat listening to his wife and child play in the back of the car and couldn’t help but smile every time his son let out a little laugh. It seemed to bring light with it, and he thought that if he could just bottle that feeling, he’d be able to sell it for millions. His eyes drifted to the rearview mirror and he caught a glimpse of his son’s bright face as he let out another even louder laugh that started as a blast and turned into a helplessly charming bubbling giggle, and the sound filled him with such joy that he missed the dark figure of a deer leap into the road in front of them. The car slammed into the animal with such force that it sounded as if the front of the car had exploded. Desperately, Brian started turning the wheel, trying to wrestle back control of the car as it went into a hard spin on the slightly icy, slightly wet road. In a final moment of failure, he pulled up the handbrake hard and turned the wheel a too sharply, and the car tipped and began to roll and spin until it finally came to a halt when it slammed sidelong into a tree. All the while Brian couldn’t stop thinking.
‘My family, I’ve got to protect my family.’
And now as he lay there with his head against the steering wheel, seemingly encased in darkness, it was still all he could think, but he fought with himself to try and quiet his mind. Desperate to listen to hear a sound, any hint or sign that his family were alive. The thought sent a shiver of revulsion over him. The grim realization that he couldn’t be sure if his family were even alive, not if they were good and happy and healthy, the normal worries of people you love, but simply alive. He tried to push against the darkness, listen with all his might but his head filled with thoughts, memories of his family. His son’s laugh, his wife’s smile, small details he’d so often overlooked but now seemed as precious to him as air to a drowning man. He tried to take inspiration from them, strength, and once again he pushed his mind against the dark, desperate to will his body into action and after one last flood of memories and one last desperate push he broke out of the darkness and gently floated off into the light.
Meanwhile, in the back of the car Brian’s wife sat with one arm almost clinging to the car seat and her phone in her hand crying at an emergency services operator begging him to hurry, because although the baby was screaming, and his eyes were open, her husband wasn’t moving.