Note: I’ve sometimes thought about the chain of events it takes for something bad to happen to someone. This is/was my take on a story involving a chain events leading to disaster (including the topic I frequently like to write about).
Because they needed a second vehicle, Todd went out and bought a used car for himself so that his wife wouldn’t have to drive him to work all the time. It was cheap enough for their budget, but it needed some brake work.
Because their credit cards were maxed out and money was tight, Todd kept adding brake fluid to his car rather than taking it in to the shop and having the leaking brake lines and worn pads repaired.
Because his wife was a worry-wart, he didn’t tell her about the brake, other than to say that his vehicle had little quirks that he knew how to deal with.
Because Connie trusted her husband, she never pressed him any further about his car’s quirks, figuring he knew more about vehicles than she did.
Because traffic was a nightmare the night before, and they had to be at a friend’s party within the hour, Todd decided not to pull in to the service station and fill up his nearly empty gas tank.
Because they were up all night at the party, Todd woke up late for work.
Because he was running behind and his fuel tank was empty, he borrowed his wife’s car and left her a note that read… “out of gas… took your car… please fill my tank… watch the brakes…”
And because she had no idea how bad the brakes were in her husband’s car, she took it out for a drive that day…
…and never came home…
It was her first time behind the wheel of her husband’s car.
‘Not bad,’ Connie thought as she headed up to the lake for a short sight-seeing excursion after pausing to put a few dollars of gas into the tank. ‘The brakes seem a little mushy though. I wonder if that’s one of the quirks Todd was talking about. He really should get them looked into. I don’t want anything happening to my husband.’
She stepped on the gas and powered through the curves of the winding road, enjoying the vehicle’s horsepower. She understood why he’d decided to buy the car. It was fun to drive.
She remembered the pullout with the boat launch was up ahead. She had always liked that place with its scenic view and little picnic area. She decided she’d pull off there and stretch her legs.
Connie saw the convenience store she usually frequented whenever she came up here. But this time she decided to motor on by, choosing instead to stop in on her way back for a soda and snacks. This way she wouldn’t be tempted to pull in and spend even more money on a picnic lunch.
Because she chose not to stop on her way through, she missed her opportunity for the attendant to notice what would have been a growing puddle of brake fluid on the ground under her engine and warn her about it.
Because she drove on by, she missed her last opportunity to pull over and bring the car to a complete stop with what brakes she had left.
Connie topped the hill and began the long winding descent toward her destination. She eased her foot off the gas and used the brakes to decrease her speed. But she misjudged a corner and had to brake harder than she intended.
Because she had to stomp on the brakes, she lost most of what little brake fluid she had left.
Her heart beat fast as she eased off the gas. ‘I’d better slow down a little,’ she thought. ‘These brakes are really getting mushy now. I’m telling Todd when he gets home. I wish he would’ve told me more about his car. But I guess he had to leave for work in a hurry.’
She took the next turn well enough. But the one after that required her to slow down again. So she put her foot on the brake.
The pedal went clear to the floor with no significant decrease in speed…
She looked down in alarm and pumped the brake pedal. The car slowed grudgingly, but only a little. Because she pumped the brakes to slow herself down, she pumped out the last of the brake fluid.
She felt her heartbeat increase as she eased down on the brake pedal for the next corner. It went clear to the floor without any decrease in her vehicle’s speed. She pumped it several times, but the car kept rolling along. In fact it felt like it was picking up speed as she went downhill.
She went through the corner and drifted over into the other lane. Fortunately for her there was no oncoming traffic. That’s when she realized her brakes were gone.
Fear swelled inside her as she considered her options, mainly… ‘Where can I get off without crashing and rolling over or running into oncoming traffic?’
She thought of the pullout looming ahead. As she recalled it should be right there once she took three more curves, based on where she thought she was at on the road at this very moment. If she could get there she might be able to get off the highway without hitting anybody.
She went around the next curve, swerving dangerously close to the guardrail that separated traffic from a quick drop down to the lake. The car held the road, but she heard a faint screech of tires.
She felt a lump in her throat as her heart pounded furiously in her chest. She swerved through another corner, praying she wouldn’t lose control and plow into the side of the hill. There was no one coming so she allowed the car to cross the dividing yellow lines. Then she swerved back onto her own side of the highway.
Yes! She recognized the landscape. One more curve to get through and then she’d be at the pullout. She only had a few more seconds to decide if she would pull off or take her chances farther down the main highway.
She entered the curve, hugging the center stripe as close as she could without driving into the other lane. She heard the squeal of tires as her rear-end started to slide toward the guard rail. But she kept sliding…
She heard tires squealing…
She was getting dangerously close…
Connie anxiously held her breath…
The rear wheels grabbed pavement at the last second. They pulled her out of her skid and propelled her forward, just missing the rail. She breathed a sigh of relief as she stared ahead toward the pullout.
Her eyes went wide in horror as she realized what she’d end up doing if she took it. She would roll off the highway onto the paved strip to her right. She would go right down an incline through the parking area. Then she would plow straight down the boat ramp into the lake.
She had a split second to decide to risk going on, hoping she didn’t blow right through the next curve which made a sharp left-hand turn. Even if she made it through that she would probably slam into the hill farther down the road and roll her vehicle. Worse yet, she might slam head on into a motorist coming up from the opposite direction.
Connie figured there were no other options. Sharply turning the steering wheel right now for any reason would simply cause the car to roll over and over. That too was out.
Because she couldn’t stand the thought of running head on into someone and risk killing another human being… and because she was a decent swimmer… Connie turned the wheel, left the highway and nearly flew down the incline toward the parking lot.
She scanned ahead, looking for cars or trucks with empty boat trailers… someone who might witness her speeding through. But there was no one in sight, no one to see her heading toward the lake at a high rate of speed.
“OH MY GOD…”
Her bumper slammed into pavement as the incline leveled off, causing the car to bounce up from the impact. Her body jerked forward and was caught by the seatbelt. The vehicle leveled out, blew through the empty lot’s marked parking lanes, and then became airborne as it soared straight out over the boat ramp that dropped sharply below her into the water. Connie screamed out her husband’s name in terror.
The car dipped down and hit the water with its front end, causing a massive wave of water to sweep up over the windshield. It plowed a furrow into the surface as momentum carried it further out into the lake. Then it settled with a gentle bouncing motion as it headed farther out into the water.
Connie gasped for breath, surprised to discover her seatbelt had kept her in place. She didn’t seem to be injured other than a bruise or two. Strangely, the airbag had not deployed. She didn’t know the previous owner had deactivated it and that her husband hadn’t bothered to turn it back on.
Water rapidly filled the front of the car as it poured in through the vents. Connie inhaled sharply as the cold liquid climbed up her legs and reached the bottom of her seat. Her mind kept telling her, “Gotta get out – gotta get out!”
She grabbed her seatbelt and yanked hard, rather than calmly hitting the release mechanism. Because she panicked, she jammed the release switch. The belt didn’t come loose.
Oh god – oh god – oh god…
She struggled with her belt as the water climbed higher inside the vehicle. It covered her thighs and climbed up her waist. ‘At least I’m still on the surface,’ she thought desperately, momentarily reassured by the sunlight streaming through the windows…
…which promptly turned a murky greenish-blue as the vehicle settled under the surface and began to sink rapidly toward the bottom.
She cried out in horror as water reached her chest. She gasped fearfully as she yanked harder on the seatbelt in her growing terror. Then she thought of the window…
“THE WINDOW! GOTTA OPEN THE WINDOW!”
She reached for the electronic switch and pushed on it. But it was too late. Because she’d waited too long in her panic, the electronics had gone out, making the windows inoperable.
She looked out through the windshield and watched as the lake darkened outside her vehicle. The water was up to her neck and rising fast. That’s when her mind screamed, “THE DOOR! OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!”
She tugged on the handle and tried to push it open, even as the seatbelt dig into her stomach. The pressure hadn’t equalized yet between the inside of the car and the outside. She couldn’t force the door open.
Connie tried to cry out in growing horror. Water rose up past her mouth and nose before she could get a good breath. Instinctively she yanked on the seatbelt again before trying the release mechanism. But in her panic she had thoroughly jammed the damned thing.
She turned and pounded on the side window in primal panic. She screamed, air bursting out of her mouth in a torrent. As the front of the car touched the bottom of the lake, she took in a huge lungful of water.
Connie’s eyes snapped wide open in shock. She coughed… inhaled… coughed… gurgled. Then she began thrashing wildly in her seat as everything inside her screamed to get out of the car and get up to the surface.
Her head twisted back and forth as air spewed freely out of her mouth. She weakened, spasming painfully as water filled her lungs. She turned toward the driver’s side window and gurgled as she weakly pounded on the glass once more.
She hitched as her lungs forced out a flurry of bubbles. She looked up and opened her mouth to scream again. She spasmed once more before finally relaxing with a gurgle and a sigh as stray bubbles trickled out past her parted lips.
Because of the strange coincidences of life, there was no one on the highway at the time she entered the lake. Thus, no one saw her vehicle enter the water.
Because the vehicle had settled so far under the surface, no one could see the car sitting on the bottom through the murky water.
Because she and her vehicle disappeared so completely off the face of the earth, her husband went into a deep depression that took years to overcome before he was finally able to find another woman to love and marry.
And because some gadget-happy boating enthusiast was trying out his new sonar equipment, Connie’s car was finally located 11 years later with its occupant still belted into the driver’s seat…
2004 (written Aug 6 ’04 by riwa)