This is a work of fiction, a short story of 760 words.
Roger was much more than angry. Maybe furious would do, he wasn’t sure if that was enough though.
“Where the hell do you expect me to get cranberry sauce at this time, on Christmas Day?” Perhaps he had shouted too loudly at Samantha. After all, she had got him the new ten-inch tablet he had been hinting about. And she had been very gracious about the earrings, even though he had suspected she didn’t really like them. “Will anybody even want it on their turkey?” Sam shrugged. He knew it was no good, he would have to go out.
As he walked to the door, car keys in hand, he heard her call from the kitchen. “Try that small shop in Marlowes Lane. You know, the one past the garden centre. They are Indians or Pakistanis or something. They’re bound to be open, they don’t do Christmas.” He waved a hand in acknowledgement, not trusting himself to say more. Roger’s head was pounding when he sat in the car. A headache that was sure to ruin his afternoon was building behind his eyes, and the last thing he needed was a twenty-minute drive just to buy bloody sauce that nobody would want. Trust her to forget to buy it yesterday.
He was almost certainly driving too fast as he approached the roundabout, his anger transferring to his right foot on the accelerator. But he managed to control the car despite the speed, and took the last exit onto the far end of Marlowes Lane. Something seemed to snap inside his head. It was as if an elastic band in there, stretched far too tight, had just given up. Time slowed down as he straightened the car, and it seemed to get very dark all of of a sudden. He couldn’t focus that well, and stared at the dials behind the steering wheel.
Roger was not aware that he was dead. The car slowed, and drifted across into the oncoming traffic, hitting a family saloon coming in the opposite direction. He didn’t feel the impact, or hear the scrape of metal on metal and the sound of glass breaking. He was unaware of the airbag inflating, smothering his face momentarily, or the startled screams of the family occupying the other car.
There were lots of people around him. More people than he had ever seen in one place. Crushed together, like the crowd at a sports event. Nobody was speaking, yet everyone was undeniably talking. The countless conversations filled his head, but he was unable to isolate more than odd words. He was moving slowly carried along by the crowd, and unable to turn back, or move to the side. Everything was grey, opaque light barely illuminating the scene. He cast around, trying to find someone to ask a question of. Why was he there? What was happening? Where was the car? Was Samantha here too?
But everyone stared ahead, glassy eyes fixed on the crowd ahead of them. The man beside him had only half a face; the woman in front was very short, perhaps a child. He wasn’t sure. When he tried to speak again, no words came out, but the man turned and looked at him. Roger sensed the words, “I don’t know, none of us do. Keep walking”. The man had answered his question without moving what was left of his mouth. The pressure of the crowd kept him moving. More like a shuffle, than a walk. He realised he couldn’t hear anything; not the sound of movement, nor any ambient sounds whatsoever. He didn’t smell anything either, no odour from those tens of thousands of moving people.
They walked on, their destination unknown to all.
The paramedics and fire crews had taken their time dealing with the family. Luckily, it was mainly cuts and bruises. One of them had looked at Roger and shaken his head, moving across to the other car to help his colleague. The shaken driver was talking to a policeman. “He just drove across the road, straight at us. I didn’t realise, until the last second.” The policeman nodded his head. “Not your fault sir. You were all lucky, and cars can be replaced.”
Samantha was pleased. Everything was ready. When her parents arrived, she showed them into the living room and asked what they wanted to drink. Her Dad looked around. “Where’s Roger?”. She smiled at him. “Oh, he won’t be long. He just popped out for some extra cranberry sauce. I only got one yesterday, and it might not be enough.”