4.01.2016

American Samoa

It was true what they said. His entire life did flash before his eyes as his car spun wildly out of control in a blizzard on the New Jersey Turnpike.

He hadn’t been focusing on the road, but was instead lost in wishful imaginings of basking under the South Pacific sun. I wonder what American Samoa is like? He wondered in the seconds before the accident. It’s got to be better than this.

In fact, he was so lost in thought that he wasn't aware of pressing his foot gradually harder on the car’s accelerator until the whoosh of an oncoming minivan jolted him back to attention. But it was too late. He jerked in surprise, the small movement of his arm turning the steering wheel just enough to nudge the tires off their path through the tracks in the snow left by the cars ahead of him. His car skidded left, then right, then left again as he overcorrected each time. After the third attempt, he gave up, relaxing his grip and letting fate take the wheel.

When the car self corrected, its new path was directly into the headlights of a semi truck coming the other way. He gripped the wheel hard then and screamed, partly in terror, mostly in frustration.

When they said accidents happen in slow motion though, that was false. His perception of time, the fourth dimension, barreled rapidly toward its terminus. In the final quantized instant, the entirety of his life was condensed into a timeless 3 dimensional singularity, a continuum along which he could rewind and fast forward, from the final scream and his white knuckle grip on the steering wheel back to his first memories as an infant. In the momentary infinity, he saw all the things he thought he had done right, getting good grades in school to get into a good college, wisely studying finance so he could get a high paying, albeit mind numbing, accounting job, instead of following his heart into American Literature, marrying young and sticking out an awful marriage, because that’s what he’d thought successful people did.

Nowhere on the slide rule of his 32 year life did he see himself writing the novel he had fully completed in his head. He had told himself over and over he would write it when he retired, somewhere with palm trees, sometime in the distant future.

The moment of his death appeared to him as a black abyss into which spilled the first half of his last scream on that dark, snowy stretch of highway a few miles from Newark, like a freight train engine going over a cliff in slow motion before pulling the rest of the cars, his life, over with it. It happened a few milliseconds before his brain was consciously aware of being liquefied on the truck’s chrome Mack logo, his unwritten novel disintegrating into bits of blood, bone, and grey matter.

The remainder of his scream drew startled looks from the other patrons of the Deluxe CafĂ© in Tafuna, Western American Samoa, including the angelic brunette with penetrating green eyes sitting across from him. He’d been daydreaming between episodes of journaling for the novel.

“Are you alright?” the woman, his girlfriend, asked.

Carl looked left at the other patrons in the restaurant, then right out the windows, where bright sunshine fell on a palm tree lined road. His fists were still clenched.

“Heavenly,” Carl replied, slowly unfurling his fingers.

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