Three miles left to regret.

Thanks to Chuck Wendig over at www.terribleminds.com for the writing prompt titles list this week.

I chose ‘Three Miles Left to Regret’ by Jason Heitkamper as my jumping off point for this piece of flash fiction:

It was such a short journey we could have all walked it – a nagging truth that was hitting everyone hard now, right in the guts. We were all young, all in pretty good shape, none of us had gone mad crazy with the drink, so it would have been no big deal for just one of us to have abstained just for that one night if driving back had been the only choice available.
It hadn’t even been raining, wasn’t cold, the roads were pretty well lit.
There just wasn’t a single excuse that any one of us could have offered up if asked as to why, just why it made sense for us to all be in that car, to be going that fast on a winding country road, to have swerved, to have struck the log at the roadside, to have turned that car over into the ditch.

Just three miles. That was all that Martin had said, just those three words as justification as to why it wasn’t a problem for him to drive. He’d juggled his car keys from one hand to the other as though to prove his sobriety and we’d all gone along – ‘for the ride’, to coin a phrase.

It didn’t matter that we’d seen her.
Nobody would take that as an excuse.
She was often there. The phantom who strolled the woods and surrounding roads of Kingsville was a familiar enough legend to so many that she had become a reason, an alibi, for the slightest scrape on a car door and for many a late night returning home from the village pub or snooker hall.
So it was of little comfort that we had all seen her – her face in the headlights as we’d rounded the bend, her mouth open as though torn wide in a silent scream as the car veered down upon her, the brakes seeming to cause the car to accelerate rather than slow as Martin stamped on them.

Just three miles – it would have taken us no time at all.
Fuelled with high spirits and fortified with alcohol we would have covered the ground in no time and probably would have shared many laughs along the way. Sure, it would have taken longer, but we would have made it, we would have had stories to tell.

The pain of the glass splinters appeared to ease with a little time.
The white of the bone I could see protruding from my jeans just below the knee no longer gave me so much discomfort. I could see that the others seemed to also be adjusting to their injuries. Martin wiped at the large wound around his neck where his head had snapped back when the car had hit the roadside on its roof, smearing blood down the front of his already sodden shirt.
Almost as one we were able to emerge from the wreckage of the car, not speaking to each other but sensing in unison that all we could do was to set off walking the rest of the journey home on foot. After all it would be less that three miles to cover now.
Without words we shambled off into the darkness of the country lane, leaving the glow of the upturned car headlights to cast our shadows before us.
We didn’t look back, not once, not any of us. Not wanting to see the car or our other selves staring dead eyed as we moved away from them, not wishing to feel the regret.

Keith

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