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Creative Non-Fiction: Black Ice

Hey everyone! My name is Kyle Lewis, and I am currently a junior studying Marketing in The Broad College of Business and pursuing a minor in creative writing. This is a piece I wrote about a pretty scary event in my life that happened about 3 years ago. I hope you enjoy.

Black Ice

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The ear-piercing sound of my alarm echoed through my bedroom. It was always unpleasantly surprising to hear it, as if I didn’t wake up that way every morning. I would never get used to it. I hated it with every fiber of my being. As I sat up out of my warm cocoon of a bed, the frigid air instantly surrounded my body. There was no doubt in my mind the insulation in my room wouldn’t pass inspection. The walls were chill to the touch, and the hardwood floors were equivalent to stepping outside in bare feet. It was that sort of problem you kept pushing off, and every morning you cursed yourself for it.

I forced myself out from under the covers and stood on the icy floor. My ankles cracked and popped as I shifted my weight, which surely couldn’t be healthy. It was simply another issue I wouldn’t find time to investigate. My toes slowly went numb as I pulled back the curtains covering my bedside window. I was greeted with a nearly pitch-black sky that would’ve looked no different at midnight, which was my least favorite part about winter. In the front yard, every spot of radiant green that was once there was suffocated by layers of whiteness. Not one area lay bare, including the mound that consumed my car.

As I stood there shivering in the faint light of the window, my breath fogged up the frosted glass. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. All that awaited me the rest of the day was a solo presentation in a language I barely spoke, and a trigonometry exam that might as well be its own language too. Not to mention that presenting was my absolute least favorite thing to do. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything that terrified me more. I was three months away from graduating, and still couldn’t get past the irrational fear that overtook me when I stood up in front of people. My hands always shook uncontrollably, turning any paper I was holding into a flag of surrender, and my pathetic vocal cords fought against me. It was safe to say I wasn’t looking forward to it. To make matters worse, Spanish was my first class of the day.

The rest of the house was still dark and showed no signs of life at this hour. I didn’t blame anyone for choosing to sleep until at least 7 AM if possible. Sadly, the Michigan public school system hadn’t considered those much-needed hours the past four years; I would just have to survive till the end of May. Guided by the one dim light in the foyer, I quietly made my way downstairs to the kitchen. I never had an appetite this early, but if I didn’t eat something my stomach would be churning by lunch. Lacking the energy, skill, and time to cook a full-course American breakfast, I settled with my regular Eggo waffle at the kitchen island.

The deafening silence in the room forced me back into my anxious thoughts. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to present for even thirty seconds, let alone a few minutes. Sure, we were allowed a note-card, but my hands would tremble so much it was useless anyway. It would be like trying to read a book set upon a shaking washing machine. Throughout my years of school, I had tried every distraction technique in the book; imagining everyone in their underwear, focusing on only a couple people in the crowd, and even having my friends make faces at me. None of them ever succeeded in relieving my suffering.

Getting stuck in the driveway was always a possibility, but I luckily pulled onto the street without an issue. I couldn’t afford to be late today. The roads were surprisingly clear, save some half-melted snow. Never having been in a real accident before (which was more than any of my siblings could say), I was pretty confident in my abilities to drive in most conditions. Every time winter came around, my mom would remind me that she spun the family van in the middle of the freeway at my age. While cliché, it kept me from wanting to have a similar story. I kept my speed just below the limit anyway.

As I approached the intersection at the end of my street, I pushed on the break early. The sudden resistance under my foot sent a chilling sensation down my spine. It was fighting back. I must’ve hit a patch of ice I couldn’t see. Black ice.

I began to lose traction and slide forward.

It was nothing I couldn’t handle, of course. I pushed on the break harder, my ghost white hands gripping the steering wheel for leverage. The sliding didn’t stop. I was already coming dangerously close to skating right into the intersection. In a last-ditch effort, I pumped the breaks to prevent them from locking up. Nothing.

I had a split second to decide between three paths.

Going to the left would put me directly through a fence and into a ditch. A guaranteed crash with injuries. If I continued straight, I would be getting t-boned by at least two different cars in the street. A guaranteed crash with injuries and lawsuits. Possibly even worse. Going to the right would put me over the curb and into someone’s yard. Much less risky. I quickly pulled the steering wheel to the right, hoping the curb would be able to stop the car.

It didn’t.

I was barreling towards a mailbox.

I braced for impact.

With a forceful crunch on the right bumper, the entire car took momentary flight. In slow motion, the world rotated to the left, and everything inside seemed to float for a few moments. The sound of solid metal colliding with the ground exploded into the air. I slammed hard onto the left side interior and watched as my window shattered right next to me. My face was met with sliding pavement mere inches away. The seat-belt held me just far enough from the sharp mess that would’ve ripped flesh apart.

The car was still sliding sideways towards the intersection.

Traffic was moving in both directions.

They wouldn’t see me coming.

This was it.

The metal death trap skidded to a halt.

Then there was nothing.

The world and I simultaneously froze. Nothing moved, no sounds were made. It seemed everyone and everything besides me and this vehicle had vanished from existence. Paralyzed by shock, I was unable to move. My heart was beating into my throat. I couldn’t really feel my body, but by some miracle there weren’t any visible injuries. I needed to call someone. My parents were probably still home just down the street. We could figure this out. We could just push the car back onto its wheels. I didn’t want EMT or police. I really didn’t. That made it real. Reaching for my phone with shaking hands, I called both of them multiple times. Nothing. I was on my own.

Suddenly, I came to the realization that engines were not made to sit sideways. Especially damaged ones. A simple spark would probably be enough to go up in flames.

I needed to get out.

Survival instincts kicked in quickly. I reached down and undid my seat-belt, pushing myself out of the sideways position. I stood on the driver side door, the remaining glass from the window crumbling under my boots, and looked for the nearest exit. The car wobbled with my every movement. The doors below me were held shut by the street and the sheer weight of the car. Reaching above me, the passenger side doors were too heavy to be held open from the inside. I was trapped.

Just as I was thinking about kicking through the windshield, I heard the door above me pop open.

The concerned face of an older man peered through the doorway and offered his hand. He was trying to talk to me, but it sounded like gibberish. I didn’t have the ability to form words or understand them. I grabbed his hand and climbed up through what was essentially a vertical, shaking obstacle course. Jumping out of the car, I landed hard onto the cold street shaken and disoriented.

The man started asking me questions, and all I could do was shake my head. My mind raced through a million thoughts trying to piece reality together. How did this happen? I wasn’t speeding. I wasn’t distracted. I simply lost control.

Dying for an explanation, I turned to see the oddly deformed mailbox. It was solid metal and had bent at just the right angle to flip the car. A perfectly dangerous mix of thin ice and melted snow was right where it needed to be. I was not.

Sirens rang in the distance.


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