"Razor" Prologue 1982
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Many thanks to Minisinoo, Donna Maynard and Epona Harper for betareading
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WESTBOUND I95, BALTIMORE: 1982
"You'd think that they at least would know which side of the road to drive
on." Nate groused, and his wife laughed delightedly beside him. The velvet
darkness of the water caught the flares from the lights as they sped down
the highway. The traffic was light, uncommonly so for the busy road, and
the car seemed wrapped in a bubble of silence; isolated from the world
beyond the windows.
"Nate, you're such a snob sometimes."
"Beck, if they feel the need to reverse perfectly sensible driving laws to
suit their colonial tastes, then they could at least have the common
courtesy to follow them." Nate grinned, his teeth very white against his
short black beard.
"Of course, baby." Rebecca twisted in her seat to look at their son, locked
into the carrier in the back seat of the car. "He's asleep."
"Considering the amount of crab he inhaled, it's not surprising." Nate
grinned again, easing his new Corvette around a lumbering Buick and leaping
forward to pass it.
"The fresh seafood food was lovely. Certainly better than Dover or Brighton."
"True." The young couple had spent the evening at a small restaurant on the
Chesapeake Bay, gorging themselves on the steamed soft-shelled crab for
which the region was famous for, and celebrating their move to Maryland
from their cramped flat in North Camden. Nate's appointment to a research
position in the genetics labs at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore had been the
break that they had both worked for so long.
Nate patted his wife's leg, then smiled as she snatched his hand and moved
it up to her crotch.
"Beck, the baby "
"Might want a little sister." She grinned mischievously. "What do you
think, Doctor?" Her curly dark hair tumbled around her shoulders, and when
he looked over at her, Nate thought his heart would burst, loving her so much.
"I think I need to schedule an examination." He pronounced it shed-dual'
with the crisp Oxford accent that was calculated to make American nurses
melt. "A very thorough examination, I think."
"Ooh..." Rebecca mock shivered. "I can't wait."
"I just hope our Adam decides to sleep through the night." Nate said,
motioning with his chin to the slumbering child strapped into the car seat
in the cramped rear of the car.
"He'd better." Rebecca said, releasing Nate's hand.
Nate smiled again, mellow from the two glasses of wine, and exhilarating in
the speed and power of the car. After endless hours on country roads in the
cramped minis England was famous for, it was like the opening a new world
to fly down the wide American highways in the overpowered Corvette. It was
dark on the highway, only a smattering of traffic on the way into one of
the largest cities on the east coast of the United States.
Nate slowed the car slightly, preparing for his exit into the north east of
the city, towards their home near the water. As he did, he caught sight of
an erratic stutter from a set of lights heading towards him. Nate's
deceleration had robbed him of a few precious miles of speed, and he
watched with horror as the lights suddenly lurched right and jumped lanes.
Both beams now bore down on the Corvette.
Had Nate kept his speed, he might have been able to clear the car by
swerving to the outside lane, but slowed as he was, their car lay directly
in the path of the on-coming vehicle. Desperately, he wrenched the wheel to
the left, trying to snake the car clear of the one bearing down on him,
escaping across lanes before it could reach him.
"Nate " Rebecca cried out, before shock closed her throat and strangled
any further screams. The Corvette snapped to the left, angling away from
the oncoming car. Again, the deceleration before the exit had robbed the
car of just enough speed to prevent Nate's desperate gambit to clear the
other car. Nate saw the vehicles positions in a shutter-fast picture, just
a few feet too close to escape.
The heavy-bodied Oldsmobile slammed into the side of the Corvette,
crumpling the side panels with ease. The sports car buckled, and lifted
under the impact. The front heavy body of the car lashed the Oldsmobile
sideways, even as its own weak frame crumpled, wedging itself atop the nose
of the other car. As the Oldsmobile fishtailed sideways, the Corvette
separated from it, flung off at an angle towards the verge. The car touched
down once, twice, smashing both the nose and the tail on the unforgiving
asphalt as it cantered end over end sickeningly. It came down on its side,
skidded sideways and fell back on its wheels just as the right side of the
front clipped the barrier. The shuddering impact stove in the right front
of the car, spinning it sideways to a halt on the edge of the highway,
wreaked and burning.
The frying crackle of flames erupted in the night as burning flickers
sprouted from the hood and along the front of the car. The torn fuel line
had sprayed an arc of flaming gasoline across the side and top of the
mangled vehicle, lit by the showers of sparks. The driver's side door
opened, and Nate half stepped, half fell out of the car. His nose was
broken, and he was wiping away the shattered glass that had cut his face in
a dozen places. He stumbled on the verge, trying to find his feet and clear
away the pained fog that gripped his mind.
"Nate!" The single cry cut through the pain, and Nate's head whipped
around, spraying droplets of ruby blood. His wife and child were still
trapped inside, and he could see the orange flashes of fire along the body
of the car. He rushed back, pulling the twisted door wide and leaning in. A
wash of heat nearly drove him back. Flames were licking the roof, spreading
in wide curtains between the seats. The impact had driven part of the
engine back into the front seating area. The heavy block had missed cutting
his wife in half by less than an inch, but the buckling had pinned it
between her and Nate, making it impossible to free her from his side. She
screamed again as the first brush of fire caught her legs, and the sweet
pork smell of burning flesh gagged Nate.
Adam! Get Adam! His mind screamed as he peered through the flames to the
back seat. His son was in his carseat, screaming from the heat and the
nearing fire. Nate thrust his hands through the fire, only to yank them
back as the heat scorched him.
"Adam!" His wife screamed again, trying to reach him from her trapped seat.
Nate tried to close his ears as he reached again for his son, and again the
flames drove him back. Tears running freely down his soot blackened cheeks,
Nate ground his teeth together and dove back over the seat, screaming as
the fire tore at his arms. His eyes were watering, almost blinding him as
he fumbled around at the carrier, trying to pull his son free. The flames
leapt to his arms, burning, and Nate's nose filled with the copper-bitter
smell of blood from where his teeth bit through his lower lip. Blood
dripped and sizzled on the leather as he fumbled at the clatch. The metal
was hot, searing his hands. He dropped it once, cried out and grabbed it
again, ignoring the wrenching pain as he pulled the lock free. Nate grabbed
his son under the arms and pulled him out, over the flames along the seat.
They reeled drunkenly out to the blissfully cool air on the verge, and Nate
set his son down before collapsing to beat the flames out on his arms.
Nate pulled himself back to his feet and turned back to the car. His wife's
cries had turned to a single long undulating keening; wordless and ancient.
He stumbled around the car, to the shattered and buckled side door. The
metal was rent and twisted, screwed up in an impossible shape against the
ruined frame. Through the shattered window, Nate saw his wife, frantically
beating at the flames on her legs and torso, watching helplessly as they
spread to her long hair. Nate smashed the rest of her window with his
elbow, Rebecca shrieking as the glass sprayed her. He reached in, trying to
pull her through the opening, to get her out of the makeshift crematorium
she was trapped inside. The smell of her burning enveloped him, gagging
him. His ears were filled with the crackle and pop of burning fat, as the
flames savaged her body. He pulled, his ruined hands screaming in pain and
threatening to overwhelm him. Her body wouldn't move, and sickeningly, Nate
realized that the frame had crunched down to trap her legs. He pulled,
fighting the pain and the fire and his own weakness, trying to defy the
fate they had stumbled on. Rebecca's eyes, insane with pain caught his one
last time, and she mouthed his name in a wordless scream.
The gas tank of the Corvette sat at an odd angle on the driver's side the
body. The impact had wrenched it towards the passenger side, and torn a
deep rent in the top, opening it up like the top of a can of beans. The
flames had danced around the metal, heating it and licking the edges. Even
as Nate struggled with his wife, a spark touched the fuel inside, and the
gasoline inside ignited. The fuel spent its energy through the rent,
exploding upward like a giant flame thrower. The furious blast blew Nate
from his feet, sending him tumbling back several feet as the fireball
engulfed the car.
Nate saw his wife immolated in the front seat of their car, now a fiery
tomb. He screamed through a throat burned raw, and tried to reach her, but
the heat drove him back. Her wail was cut off, the aftershocks of it
trailing away in Nate's ears. Nearly blind from the heat and smoke, he
crawled to his feet, and stumbled around the car, where his son lay on the
grass at the verge.
Adam lay in the cool grass, unmoving with the inferno beside him. Nate fell
to his knees beside his son, touching his chest and throat, searching for a
pulse. Fire hadn't touched his golden haired child, but he lay still on the
grass, his heart stopped. Bending down, Nate opened his son's mouth and
breathed in, then moved to the chest to palpitate his heart. One, two,
three, four, five. Breathe. The taste of ashes in his son's mouth. One,
two, three, four, five. Breathe. Skin already cold in the night air. One,
two, three, four, five. Breathe. The sick wet crack of the sternum.
"No...." Nate moaned, tears making light furrows through the black mask of
his cheeks. He kept up the CPR, feeling the chest heave under his hands,
not willing to believe his son lost. "No.." He sobbed again, letting his
hands fall to his sides, blood seeping between the cracked flesh, his skin
burnt black. The fire guttered in the car beside him, and in the distance
he heard the howl of sirens. The charred scent of his wife hung on the
breeze, and he vomited, retching across the road. In those terribly scarred
arms, he gathered his son, weeping. The crackle of the fire kindled his own
soul, and a long keening cry broke from his throat. It rang in the night,
mimicking the dying fires as the life and passion and love burnt themselves
out with it. The flames slowly died, and with it, the dreams of a single man.