Author: R. J. Erbacher
I was twenty minutes outside the airport going 65 on the interstate headed to a meeting to smooth some feathers; my illustrious job. Watching the road around me I passed a bus on my right, in front of that was a small red hatchback, then an eighteen-wheeler dump truck with a dirt payload. My eyes continued to scan forward and in front of me, the lane was clear for a quarter-mile. I came alongside the little red car and saw at a sideways glance that there was a family inside. Two boys in the back seat between the ages of nine and twelve, laughing and poking each other, a mom in the passenger seat, turning around also laughing, and a smiling dad driving with hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. My mind registered the family…and then they were gone.
The safety latch of the dump truck had come undone and the hydraulic cylinder sufficiently leaked, tipping the front of the dumpster just high enough that it couldn’t fit under the overpass by inches. It caught and brought the massive rig to a jarring halt. The red car with the family inside disintegrated into the back of it. The bus behind sandwiched what was left and exploded the gas tank. This all happened in my peripheral vision, then I was beyond it. I frantically checked my rear-view mirror and saw only an erupting cloud of brown dust, like a CGI movie avalanche. Nothing came through the miasma and it was if the world behind me was swallowed up.
I wanted to stop, even though there was nothing I could do. But I didn’t. I just drove on. I arrived at my hotel sometime later, met with the clients, had dinner and drinks and the meeting was a success. I didn’t mention the incident although it probably would have been an interesting conversation piece.
That night, alone in my room, sitting on the edge of the bed in my boxers, I popped the TV on. It was tuned into a news station and the story was about the accident. The reporter said that the truck had struck the overpass and damaged it so severely that the road above and the highway below were currently closed pending a safety inspection. The driver of the truck and the bus were both in the hospital in serious but stable condition. It had taken firefighters an hour to put out the inferno and rescue crews four to extricate the smoldering metal debris. They could not determine the occupants of the vehicle in between, as there was almost nothing left of the wreckage to examine.
I knew what had been there. A family. I turned it off and went to bed.
The room was pitch black and only the monotonous hum of the air conditioner filled the silence. My mind went back and envisioned the last, slow-motion milliseconds before the crash. I saw the family obliquely, alive and vibrant, members of this trivial planet. And just before everything went cataclysmic, my eyes almost completely off them and focused on the impending tragedy of the truck, the family went away. They simply vanished. Their seats were empty. The vehicle was unoccupied. I was sure of it.
Did they have the capability to instantly teleport to another location? Was mass dematerialization a possibility? Maybe divine intervention and they were lifted to a better place, saved from a horrific finality? Or was it just a needful deception of my own mind. I contemplated everything and soon fell asleep, my eyes closing and tearing up a little bit.