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THE KILLED CONSCIENCE
Out front of the cabin, three cars sat; their headlights beaming and exhausts spewing hazy clouds of white. Casey and Skylar sat in the car at the front; Emilee and James behind them; and Morgan sat in the car in the back. She checked the time then pressed the horn twice. “Sebastian come on!”
Sebastian bolted out from the cabin and jumped into the passenger seat. “Sorry,” he said.
“What were you doing?” Morgan asked
“Just making sure everything was turned off.”
“But, you know I always do that.”
“I know. Just wanted to double check. You ready to rock and roll?” Sebastian called Casey. “Hey, you can go now… Yeah… Um, I don’t know. Shouldn’t be too bad but I guess we’ll see. Why? You don’t have to lead, you big baby. Morgan can… All right then, let’s go.” He hung up.
All three cars started rolling forward. A couple of minutes into it, Sebastian got a text message. “It’s from Casey.”
“He’s texting and driving?” Morgan said.
“Ha-ha, he said, This ain’t nothing! Guess he hasn’t realized we’re still on gravel.”
The three cars reached the end of the gravel road then stopped like they’d hit the edge of the world. After a moment, Morgan laid into the horn.
“Morgan,” Sebastian said.
“What? He’s not moving.”
“Give him a second. This is Casey, you know he’s skittish.”
Finally, Casey pulled out onto the asphalt road. Emilee and Morgan followed. From that point on, most of the drive was downhill, and the ice on those thin winding roads was worse than anyone had expected; certainly worse than anyone could’ve hoped for.
They made their way back down the mountain at a painstaking and sluggish pace, somehow creeping even slower around those tight turns. Morgan maintained control over the car and Sebastian seemed to be comfortable enough with her driving. He did seem to hold a concern elsewhere though as he grabbed his phone and called Emilee.
“Hey,” he said. “How’s everything up there? You making it okay?”
Emilee told him everything was fine so far and that the drive wasn’t as bad as she’d been expecting. But up ahead in that car, Emilee sat as stiff and straight as the spine of a hardback. With both hands, she gripped the steering wheel. Her fingers were coiled around it tighter than she knew.
“Did you know there are roughly 1,800 deaths annually due to iced roads?” James asked, laid back with his feet up on the dash.
“I don’t know why you know that but great.”
Emilee didn’t turn her eyes from the road for a second. They were already moving at a glacial pace, but Emilee couldn’t help feeling like she should be going even slower. She wasn’t used to driving in the slow, let alone the thin icy roads of a mountain. The black asphalt roads beneath the rays of her headlights held a sheen that glistened. Emilee would’ve thought they were just wet if it weren’t for the light dusting of snow on top. She knew not to touch her brakes, but the road leading to the upcoming turn was getting steep, and they were rolling faster than she wanted to go. Her foot started for the brake but stopped. She put it back over the gas and forced it to stay there, hovering. In the passenger seat, James sat on his phone, sniggering about something. He spoke to Emilee, but she didn’t hear him. Too much of her was focused on that icy road and her impulse to hit the brake.
James looked at the road ahead, then back at Emilee. He sneered. Then… “EMILEE!” he shouted.
Emilee jumped. Her foot hit the gas. The car shot forward. In reflex, she hit the brakes. The car began sliding, moving towards Casey’s quick. She took her foot off the brakes but the car was already moving too fast. Casey’s was coming up and she couldn’t stop. She stiffened her arms against the steering wheel, gripped it tight and squeezed her eyes shut.
A striking THUD that shook her. The impact brought her car to a stop. Behind her, Morgan was somehow able to stop perfectly. But ahead, Casey’s car was sliding down the road. His back lights lit up red as he hit the brakes, but the car kept going, shifting at an angle as it slid. The road turned but the car did not. Everyone watched as Casey’s car went off the road and hit an uneven spot on the snowy ground that brought them to an abrupt stop.
Emilee looked to James, breathing heavily. “What?”
“Why’d you scream my name?”
“Oh, just to see if you’d lose your shit.” He acknowledged Casey’s car angled down off the side of the road. “You did not disappoint.”
Emilee got out and carefully stood on the black ice. “Casey,” she shouted.
Behind, Sebastian got out as well.
The driver door to Casey’s car opened. Casey climbed from it and stood in the snow, glancing around. “Was that your plan all along?” he shouted up to Emilee and Sebastian. “Put me in front so you can try and kill me?”
Emilee smiled in relief that he was okay. But then that smile fell when she realized nobody would be going home that night. Just like that, they were stuck there in that cabin.
|Jordan Antonacci, Author|