There were no screams. Even young Jason had not screamed.
All he had heard were the aggressive squeals of the passenger door scratching the tarmac next to his head, and the silence as the ground spun away. His dad was trying to turn the steering wheel, perhaps not knowing the tyres were already airborne. That useless action was the last thing he ever did.
Then came the crash. The tree trunk launched itself into the driver’s side, smashed the windows to shards, and caved in Mum and Dad’s side of the car with a violent crunch.
The car rocked backwards and came to rest. Jason breathed, just to make sure he still could, then looked to his right.
Or is this my left? I’m upside down…
Dad gave no answer, and his chest was neither rising nor falling.
The physical shock of the crash gave way to panic. Ever since Jason had seen that programme about heart attacks, whenever Dad had fallen asleep on the sofa he had watched the ups and downs of his chest, just to be certain he was still alive.
He might still be ok. I don’t know, maybe.
I won’t cry. I’m eleven now.
Still no answer.
Jason undid his seatbelt and dropped headfirst to the ceiling. His teeth chomped down on his tongue as he landed, but when he yelled out in pain Mum did not come to his aid.
His fingers scrambled for the door handle. The following seconds were too blurred to register in his memory, but when his mind put itself back together he was spitting blood onto the grass. The world had turned itself the right way up again, and he could stand on his feet.
If we’d left the stadium a minute later it wouldn’t have been in the way…
It’s not fair… we were two miles from home!
“Mum? Dad? Can you get out?”
It took his quivering hand three attempts to open the door to the back seats. When he did, his mother’s eyes and mouth were still open. Parts of her body stuck out in directions they should not have done. She was staring right through him, as if frozen in fear of something behind him. As if Jason was not worth looking at.
Mum had never ignored him in his life.
His tears came without voice. His local priest had once told his Year Six class that the dead looked peaceful, but clearly he had never seen a car crash. Mum and Dad, who had breathed and laughed half a minute earlier, had never looked further from peace.
A flood of unwelcome thoughts pushed their way into Jason’s mind, as his denial gave way and he admitted his parents were dead for real. He thought of everything that vanished from the world when you didn’t have a mum and dad. Everything that would change.
Nobody answered. Not even his echo.
“Someone! Help! Mum and Dad are…”
The end of the sentence evaded him.
He kept screaming, holding on to the ridiculous belief that another living human would somehow be close by.
When he realised he was alone, he yelled to the road and to the sky. Once his voice had scratched too hard against his throat, he moaned to anything close enough to hear. He cried with a wounded voice that only a fresh orphan could make.
Twenty minutes passed without him realising. Daylight began to fade, and he came to his senses with the threat of night-time.
I need help. I can’t do this alone. I need someone who knows what they’re doing…
He staggered back to the front passenger door. Dad’s phone, if it had survived, would still be in the hands-free kit.
Dad’s body looked different the wrong way up. The seatbelt kept him in an awkward position, which would have hurt him if he could still feel. His face was turned away from Jason. The tree must have been his last sight.
Jason wiped his teary face clean, and held his breath. The phone was there. It was time to call for help. Only…
Not the police.
A bolt of terror struck Jason, and made him shy away from the phone.
Not them. They’ll figure it out.
His morals instructed him to reach for the hands-free kit, but his fear overruled every good part of his personality. He backed his shaking body onto the grass, and made A cloud reached in front of the sun, and the ground went dark.
Not Neil and Jane either. Not even my mates.
Not anyone I know. I’ll be found and taken away.
Jason said a final goodbye to Mum and Dad, and then ran.