By John Thomas Tuft

Winston Freeman is furious. So furious that he cannot fall asleep. He sits in his study brooding. And drinking. Looking for numbness. Looking for clarity. The alcohol provides neither. He entertains notions of retribution. How good it would feel…to knock the snide right out of that son of a bitch…to scream “SHUT UP” to that prattling fool. How good it would feel, satisfying even…to stop in the middle of traffic and run up to the window of that pickup truck and shake a fist in that jerk’s face…to rip the foolish flag off the house of the insufferable neighbor. What a triumph it would be…to call his ex-wife and brag about dating younger, hotter women who hang on his every word…to march into his boss’s office and proclaim from on high how much of an idiotic imbecile he is. Winston is certain he would feel all powerful, on top of the world, a bro among bros. After all, he deserves to feel that way, he is owed some peace and satisfaction. Why can’t he have just one moment?

Winston feels himself growing more and more agitated. By the time the clock reads 3am, he is emboldened, full of the fire of indignation…albeit, fueled by the force of self-righteousness. He studies his collection of pistols displayed on the wall. What if…? Their dark power is a lure, a possible cure for this helpless sense of being impotent in his own life. Who would it harm if he carried one of them with him? As he gets out of his chair to take a closer look, he weaves a bit, unsteady and blinking repeatedly as the display swirls in his vision. The words of the sage, “Object attachment to a piece of metal, whether it be a firearm or a cross, gives the illusion of power to an empty or troubled heart,” find no root in his imagination this night, of all nights. At any rate, he needs more whiskey, of that he is sure. “I’ve had a few, I’ll take my bike,” Winston reassures himself, cloaked in a vague taint of responsibility.

Tucking a Baretta .9mm in his waistband, he sets off down the dark lane on his mission. Winston wanders across the two lanes, unconcerned as the road is deserted. The cool breeze on his face is helping him to realize that he has no idea where he is going. Where does one buy courage in the dead of night? He concentrates on following the center line, absorbed in his quixotic quest when the headlights of a car come rushing up behind him. The driver sees him at the last instant, jerks to the right, slips off the surface, overcorrects and careens across the pavement, hits the low retaining wall and rolls over and over in a metallic screech and shower of sparks, landing upside down in the drainage ditch, wheels still spinning in a helpless appeal to the laws of physics. Winston stares for a moment, stunned by the suddenness and ferocity of the crash. Then he shakes himself, drops the bike and hurries to the wreck.

Kneeling beside the driver’s window, broken glass crunches under his knees as Winston bows low to see the interior. A young woman in obvious pain is suspended by the seatbelt, upside down. Her red curls dangle toward the roof as she turns to look at him, her face shockingly pale. “I’m in a wee spot of trouble,” she manages with a grim smile. “Me granddad told me to not be trying to drive through the holy dark.” Winston reaches across her, searching for the release button. “Can you move okay?” She groans, and attempted movement brings a sharp gasp. Winston looks at her lap and has to swallow hard. The impact has fractured her right femur and bone is poking through her jeans. A small bloodstain is rapidly growing larger as he watches. “Don’t leave me, please,” murmurs the girl. “You’re hurt. I need to get help,” Winston manages. “You be my help,” she says, pleading in her voice.

“I’m afraid to move you. But you can’t stay like that.” Winston quickly takes stock. “I’ll crawl in the other side and maybe I can keep your leg from getting worse when I undo the belt.” He pushes back out and goes around the car. The fumes of gasoline spilling out bring an expletive to his lips as he remembers his phone is back in his study. The sides of the ditch make it impossible to open the doors, so he wriggles through the passenger window, his back on the interior roof. “What’s your name?” he asks. “Miriam,” comes a weak whisper. In the light of the dash, he can see the bloodstain growing with each beat of her heart, saturating the cloth and starting to drip free. Winston struggles out of his shirt and reaches up to try to put pressure on the wound. “Miriam, I’m right here. I’m staying right here, okay?” “I’m cold,” she manages, “and the spirits of the holy dark be whispering to me. Mo ghradh, I’m not ready to go on alone…”

In the early morning, police responded to a call about a wrecked vehicle on old Route 219. When they arrived, they took note of the skid marks across the road tracing the path of the accident and called the fire department to handle the spilled gasoline. But when they looked inside the car, it was empty. Empty that is, except for a blood-soaked men’s tee shirt. “Nobody could lose that much blood and live,” one surmised. And none could figure out why it was tied to a Baretta pistol as though fashioning a crude tourniquet. Nor was there any explaining the tire tracks of a bicycle leading off into the distance, toward the holy dark…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.