Thoughts on the Mountain Pass, Flash Fiction
"The decision took less than a second, maybe half a second, but it would change so much." - Writer's Prompt
If she continued at the speed she was traveling down the highway, the car would strike an enormous flock of geese that had landed on the road for a migratory rest. Turning the wheels right would send their car careening off the cliff, a vertical drop of nearly two thousand feet straight down. Veering left, they would impact the rocky cliffs of Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains. Either choice would bring instant death to her husband, herself and the two children who slept soundly in the back seat. Her only remaining choice would be to plow straight into the gaggle of geese strewn across the road.
There was no way she could intentionally hurt these elegant creatures meandering about the asphalt feasting on grain scattered from a transport truck. Her childhood pet was a parakeet that was a valued member of the family, celebrating holidays, birthdays, even eating meals at the table with her sisters and brother.
She glanced in the rear view mirror for a microsecond, wishing for once she hadn’t insisted on driving. Her husband, slumped in the passenger seat next to her snored rhythmically in sequence with the classical music drifting from the compact disc player. He'd driven most of the day before. After hiking the mountain trails carrying the younger of their children, he deserved a break.
She and Brad were on the first vacation they had taken in the years since the children came along. There was always some excuse, some other priority that took not only their time, but their limited finances.
In the span of less than a second, her life flashed like a PowerPoint presentation on speed. She thought about the breakfast they’d shared earlier after checking out of their economy motel. The children crunched their fruity “O” cereal while she and Brad ate a cinnamon roll from the pastry bar. They'd splurged on a cup of gourmet coffee with whipped cream, shaved chocolate and a dash of sprinkles, an expense they usually passed up out of economy.
She thought about the years they'd spent, trying to conceive while she and her husband worked their mundane, joyless jobs. Her mind flashed to quiet evenings spent at home, a casserole in the oven, watching television with the kids. Their lives were ordinary, yet valuable to them; every moment, a shared essence of their time spent here on this earth. And now, it was about to end, or was it?
A bead of sweat trickled down her neck while her foot moved as if it had a mind of its own from the gas to the brake pedal. The front of the minivan dipped radically in response as it slowed, still moving closer too fast for her to calculate in her mind the distance and velocity. What a time to think of math and her ineptness in that subject.
In her mind's eye she saw the aging professor who tried without success to explain the formula in a tutoring session. At sixty miles per hour she would travel how many feet per second? The answer wouldn't matter. His repeated definition of inertia came through clearly: "The tendency of a body in motion to remain in motion unless acted upon by some external force."
She knew only that the car would never stop in time no matter how hard she pressed on the brake or how much she willed it.
Velocity Formula. Velocity is a measure of how quickly an object moves. So, the velocity is the change in the position of an object, divided by the time. Velocity has a magnitude (a value) and a direction. The unit for velocity is meters per second (m/s).
Another furtive glance in the mirror revealed the children’s bodies shifting forward, doubling over, straining hard against the seat belts that held the car seat for little Janie and the strap holding Johnny in place. Their bodies slumped forward as the tires gained traction against the inertia. Still, the vehicle barreled onward toward the unsuspecting birds, little space remaining before the impact of two tons of metal in motion would decimate the creatures. She had no choice in the matter. Her destiny was ahead as she pressed all her weight against the pedal and whispered the most pleading, intense conversation with God in her life.
“Please save us, Lord. Protect your creatures from my careless haste. Amen.”
Her words were no quicker spoken than a shotgun blast sounded somewhere off on the distant wooded mountain top. Without hesitation, the flock took wing and flew away, safely out of the range of her bumper as it crossed the spot they just vacated.
“Everything OK?” her husband's groggy voice asked. He'd been roused by the sudden change in the rhythm of the car's motion.
“Better than ever,” she responded whispering a prayer of thanks and wiping a tear from her cheek as his snores resumed.
If You Lift Me Up
© 2018 Peg Cole