Sensation returns first. Physical warmth. Pain.
I’m aware that I’m floating, that I’m wet . . . no, that’s not right. I’m actually in water. Submerged.
I can’t breathe.
The water is warm.
My head hurts.
If I stay in here long enough, it won’t matter that I can’t breathe or that my head hurts.
It’s a comforting thought.
Self-preservation returns next. Panic.
I thrash, somehow fight my way to the surface, and it’s blind stupid luck that it is the surface, that I’m not scrabbling at the bottom of wherever it is that I am until I drown.
I gasp and gulp and sputter and shit my head hurts.
I’m chest-deep in dark, soupy, smelly water, and I’m blind in my right eye. I smell blood–mine–and rotten vegetation and dank mud. I’m in James Creek. I have to be. It’s the closest place to dump a body.
Circle of light on my left. It darts away from me, then toward me. I don’t move. Not because I’m trying to stay quiet, or I think the light won’t find me, but because I don’t want to be under the water again. My lungs still burn. I still taste the mingling of blood and muddy water, and I don’t want to go back.
The light comes within an inch of me before it vanishes. For a second, all I hear are the mosquitoes whining in my ears. Then:
“Thought I heard her.”
“She’s dead. You got her right in the head. Fuck, let’s go.”
“Ought to go down there and check.”
“I ain’t going down there, John. These’re new boots. And you know what? You know what, even if she’s alive–and it’s a slim fucking possibility–the gator’ll get her. Let’s go.”
The light appears again, illuminating the bank directly ahead of me. I see logs, a tangle of vegetation, a few beer cans. Then it swoops to my right.
“John, come on. I wanna get high.”
“Shiiiiit. Will. The car. The motherhumping car. We gotta get rid of it.”
“Later, man, come on–”
“No. I got tow straps in the truck. Gimme a hand.”
Will Harris laughs. “We’re towing a fuckin’ cop car through town? Brilliant, just brilliant, you senile old bastard.”
“Shut the hell up and help me!”
The light goes bye-bye again. Despite the smell and the greasy feel of it, I sink into the water, until I’m neck-deep in it. I just can’t stand upright anymore. It takes too much energy.
I hear sounds . . . rattles, rasps of metal on asphalt, a vehicle door opening and slamming shut. To my left is the short bridge that spans the creek, and there are red and blue lights swirling on the bridge’s guard rail. I can’t really see much from this angle. There are no street lights here, and it’s cloudy. It’s very close to pitch-black, a condition that saved my life a few minutes earlier.
My life–my hand goes to the right side of my head. It’s tacky with blood. Hurts a lot to touch it, and my skull feels weirdly spongy a few centimeters above my right eye. I drop my hand. I wonder if I’m permanently blind, if my eye is gone, shot out by John Wayne Corbett, and I’m unaware of that fact because I’m not exactly surrounded by mirrors right now.
My life. Do werewolves get nine lives? If so, what number am I on?
The red and blue lights cut off.
I hear movement behind me. Not splashing, but something gliding through the water.
I don’t want to turn around. I don’t want to know. Will Harris said something about an alligator. I spent the better part of last week shining a flashlight into this water, hoping to see it. Had I known this was going to happen, I could have saved my batteries.
Rev of an engine on the bridge. Then tires thrumming over the bridge. The truck. Followed very closely by my car.
They’re towing it. The idiots, why didn’t one of them drive it? The keys are in the ignition.
These are the criminal geniuses who nearly killed me.
I am so fucking ashamed right now.