The stars were obscured by a thick layer of clouds, and, as Janice drove down the congested street, snow began to fall. It swirled in front of her in little tufts and flurries, and made it instantly even harder to see the patches of ice on the road.
“Great!” she muttered, flipping on the windshield wipers. She was approaching the part of the street that went by the university dorms and practice fields; the street wasn’t really narrower here, but it seemed that way, since there was no parking along it, and the cars whizzed by only inches from the people walking on the sidewalk. Janice squinted through the snow, partially blinded by the bright lights of oncoming cars. She sighed wearily, wishing she were already home.
She saw cars approaching the road from a side street that led to the practice fields. They were inching toward the intersection, apparently hesitant to go too fast in this weather. Janice eyed them anxiously, waiting with a knot in her stomach for them to slide accidentally out in front of her. She really, really hated driving in winter, even in town.
A red Toyota had come to a stop on the side street, and Janice made eye-contact with the driver, a woman who was glancing warily at the traffic much as Janice had been doing. Janice felt relieved at the other woman’s nervousness, since it reduced the chance of the Toyota making any sudden, dangerous moves. She continued along the street, turning her windshield wipers to the highest setting as the snow began to fall faster.
Suddenly a blue car appeared directly in front of her.
She slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. She crashed into the blue car, and her airbag deployed, cushioning her as she was thrust forward. She struggled for a moment to catch her breath. Was she hurt? Well, her arms hurt from the force of the airbag flinging them away from the steering wheel. Her face felt like she had been slapped. But … no, she didn’t seem to be injured. I should still go get checked out, she thought. But first she needed to find out if the other driver was okay; she had struck the blue car right at the driver’s door, and she was very much afraid that she had seriously hurt or even killed the driver of the blue car.
Somehow the wipers were still working, and she saw the blue car crushed up against her own engine. She saw, too, that the driver of the blue car had blood running down his cheek; he seemed to be unconscious – at least, Janice hoped he was only unconscious. Smoke was rising up from both cars, and Janice, imagining an action-movie level of explosion, decided it might be safer to get out of the car. She carefully pushed her door open, looking at the row of cars that had stopped behind her, and stepped onto the slippery, snow-covered street.
The woman in the red Toyota had also left her car, and was staring at it now in utter disbelief. “What – what is this?” she asked, shaking her head and looking increasingly frightened.
“It’s okay,” Janice said, more out of the habit of wanting to comfort than from any real feeling of optimism. “It’ll be okay.” She moved around to the door of the blue car, wondering, as she approached the unconscious driver, just where in the heck he had been a moment before – the only car at the intersection had been the red Toyota, yet suddenly the blue car had also emerged from the side street without Janice having seen any movement at all, even though she had been checking and double-checking in all directions.
She reached the blue car, and instantly understood why the woman in the Toyota looked so terrified.
The blue car was intertwined with the Toyota, its trunk embedded in the Toyota’s engine as though the two had been welded together. It looked like the blue car had driven through the Toyota, and had become stuck to it – stuck inside it – somehow.
“What are we looking at?” Janice asked, her mind racing. She didn’t know how to get her head around what she was seeing. How could the blue car be part of the Toyota?
“I – I was waiting at the corner,” the woman from the Toyota said, her voice shaking. “And all of a sudden he was there in front of me, and he hadn’t been there before.” She began to cry. “He just appeared there, and now …” She gestured helplessly at the melded vehicles, tears running down her cheeks.
Janice saw the unconscious driver moving his head, and thought she heard him moaning. “Stay still,” she called, and walked quickly to him. She put her hand on his arm and repeated, “Stay still. Help is coming.” She assumed it was coming, anyway; surely one of the many witnesses had called police or an ambulance. She looked once more at the intersection of the blue car with the Toyota, took in the fact that part of the Toyota’s grille – completely intact and undamaged – had poked through the blue car’s back seat. It made absolutely no sense, and the more she stared at it, the more unsettling it became.
“Just stay quiet,” she said gently, patting the man’s arm. “Help is coming.” She wondered again where the blue car had come from, and what exactly the police would make out of this. “Everything’ll be okay.”
She stayed by the side of the blue car, her hand on the man’s arm, and listened as the sound of sirens came closer. With her free hand she brushed the falling snow out of her eyes.