Parallel Universe, Entry for the 24 hour short story contest

Back in April I think I mentioned to you all that amidst the A to Z challenge, I had entered the 24 hour short story contest. I didn’t place. 😦 Awww me. 😉 Ya win some, evidently ya lose some. Anyway, here’s my entry and a link to the winners.

Link to the winners.

My entry:

Parallel Universe

  1. April 20

“A camping trip isn’t going to make anyone forget what happened,” I say. “I killed a man.” The words catch in my throat, tears prick my eyes.

“It wasn’t your fault. All the witnesses say his bike swerved into your path. Anyway, camping will be good for the kids. A good diversion,” says Neil.

It’s two weeks after the accident, yet the memories are still so vivid. “I hope so. I read that Dr. Mellar was a virologist. I keep thinking what if he was about to save the world? What if I had managed to turn the wheel just a bit quicker? What if—”

“Hon, we can do what ifs all day long, but it won’t change the outcome. It wasn’t your fault.” Neil pulls me close, rubs my back, kisses my temple. “Now let’s get on the road before the Friday traffic builds up.”

 

  1. April 6

The extra cup of coffee this morning has made the morning commute more jittery, and with Bobby and Sandy acting up, I’m on edge. My eyes can’t seem to focus just on the road, but on the rearview and the sibling antics behind me.

“Mom! Watch it,” Bobby says.

My eyes jerk toward the highway. Immediately I yank the wheel to the left, just skirting by the cyclist who’d swerved toward the car. Despite my attempts to correct the movement, we veer into a slight ditch.

“Man, that was close,” Bobby says.

The air seems to have evaporated from lungs. I press my palm against my chest where it feels like my heart is going to explode from my body.

“You kids okay?” I ask, turning to check on them.

There’s a rap on the driver’s side window. The cyclist. I roll down the window. My lips attempting to form a smile.

“Are you okay?” he asks. “The front end of the bike hit a rock. If it weren’t for your quick reflexes….” He shudders.

I nod. Being in a ditch that I’m sure this behemoth of an SUV can escape is better than what almost happened.

“Will you be able to get out?” he asks, his eyes surveying the placement of the truck.

Again, I nod. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

“I’ll just wait to make sure,” he says. He pulls a card from his wallet. “Here. Take this. It’s my card, in case there’s any damage to your truck or anything.”

Dr. Daniel Mellar, Virologist, it says. Whatever that is.

With little effort, the SUV scales the tiny bank and we’re back on the road. The kids are gratefully quiet for the remainder of the commute.

My nerves are shot for the rest of the week. I keep imagining another reality where the SUV impacts with Dr. Mellar at 55 mph. The outcome is never pretty, and not one I could live with. Neil suggests camping, which he always does. Communing with nature will help us find our center, he likes to say.

Now, as I sit beside the lake, watching a loon glide along its silvery surface, I must agree. The tension that’s been stiffening my muscles since the near accident is loosening. I sip raspberry herbal tea, alone at sunrise.

Knowing Neil and the kids, never early risers, won’t be up for at least another hour, I hike to the nearby overlook to watch the valley begin its day. Suddenly my cell vibrates with a flurry of incoming texts. Evidently this tiny hill gets a signal. Do I really want to be bothered with reality today?

But they keep coming and curiosity overwhelms my desire to disconnect.

We ask all residents to gather emergency supplies for an orderly evacuation.

Check your map for your quadrant for evacuation.

There are more messages all sent last night, throughout the early morning hours. Directing my eyes toward the highway, I notice that eastbound cars are taking up three of the four lanes of the highway heading out of the town.

Trish, I hope you get this. Things are bad in town. People are dying. My buddy with the Mayor’s office says some scientist accidentally released a deadly virus.

 

end

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