196 - over
bump, and then another. Jessie vaguely recalled feeling these things, but they came quickly before the blackness. The pebble her car had rolled over was the size of a peanut, but it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The tiny stone had created a vibration in the wheel in just the wrong way to pull the axle in just the wrong spot. Weakened severely by rust, the metal gave way and snapped. Jessie never had a chance to notice that, despite both hands on the wheel, she was no longer in control.
She had been driving too fast, true. But she had good reason. The speed hardly mattered. Smashing into the narrow wooden bridge's support beam even at the speed limit would have been quite disastrous. At least she spent no time in dread of what was coming.
Jessie opened her eyes and pulled her head up from the steering wheel. Her hair was matted to her forehead. Touching it, she pulled her hand back and examined how it was covered in red. Observing the blood with her eyes was the first indication to her that something had gone wrong.
One of the car's headlights was still working, but the night felt impossibly dark. Jessie could hear the river flowing underneath her. The car was pinned up against the bridge's guardrail on her side. Until now, she had been trapped by her own bewilderment, but the solid object on the other side of the door now played a hand in keeping her immobile.
There had to be a way out. She looked to the other side of the car, and was suddenly reminded of her passenger. Peggy was slumped over, her blonde hair completely blocking her face. She did not appear to be moving.
Jessie outstretched her bloodied hand, struggling to make contact with Peggy's shoulder even though they sat next to each other. Jessie shook her as hard as she could, but got no response from her companion. "Come on, Peggy! Wake up!" Jessie implored.
During this time, Jessie remained oblivious to the smell of gasoline. The spark finally came from the car's damaged electrical system.
The night suddenly grew much brighter. Jessie was forced to give up on Peggy. Her survival instincts took over as the car was surrounded by flames. Moments ago, she had been stuck, but aided by adrenaline, she managed to push the driver's door open.
Still, she had nowhere to go. Just the river below. There was little time to contemplate her choice of burning alive or drowning in freezing water. She pushed out into the darkness.
The plunge from the bridge was not a long one. Though Jessie had not particularly noticed the heat from the fire, the icy cold of the water shocked every sense in her injured body back to life. She struggled back to the surface, hoping her muscles could afford her at least one more gasp of air.
Her head breached the waterline. She took in a few awkward breaths, catching a glimpse of the accident site. It wasn't hard to see in the middle of the night. The fire had spread quickly, and now the entire bridge was aflame.
Whatever trouble she had been in before could not compare to the hell she would face now. Jessie considered giving up the battle with the current. It seemed to be winning anyhow as she struggled to merely stay afloat.
An arm wrapped around her body. Stunned, Jessie turned to see Peggy, somehow, holding her. Peggy's swimming ability was much better than hers. She pulled both of them to shore. They collapsed, entwined and soaked, on the river bank.