I once won a game of hide and seek because I crushed myself under the only car in a gravel parking lot.
I tucked my hands and face behind the passenger-side tire, heart booming in my ears like a timpani drum, exhilarated every time feet stalked past, close enough I could have grabbed them, the claw-handed monster from the shadows, and they never saw me in the middle of the night. No one ever saw me. I held my breath and froze when heavy strides approached from the other direction, and had no time at all to understand my grave miscalculation before someone who never saw me sat in the driver’s seat, huge, bringing the great mechanical terror to bear down on me, adolescent me, pinned to the gravel. My cheek was pressed to the treads on the tire and I felt the gust of my own gasp when I discovered the wheel well had sunk and I was caught by the size of my own skull with both paws in the jaws of the trap. I don’t remember thinking. I twisted, spun, panicked, got my hands free, had nothing to pull at to release my head, open-palmed the stones, helpless and ineffective.
The engine roared to life above me and I couldn’t hear it over my pulse. I don’t remember hearing it. What I do remember is lights everywhere, flickering on one at a time as methodically as the switches on a pilot’s dashboard, cabin lights and headlights and then the blinding red of blood in my eyes and brake lights, somebody’s foot on the brake, somebody about to put the car in gear and reverse away from the curb, blinding red.
A moment later I was standing in the headlights, just for a moment, long enough to register that I was standing after all. I don’t know how I got there. I felt red streaks all over where I’d torn through the claws of death, most of them still so fresh the blood hadn’t had time to well in: my heart hadn’t yet beat three or four times to push red through my skin. I only felt raw, half-flayed, cold where the wind blew deeper into me than it was ever meant to – felt exposed to the invisible weight behind the windshield, anonymous to me, while all I could see was light.
I must have astonished both of us. It could have been any normal night until I appeared like a wild thing, transfixed: bare arms and legs and shoulders and chest and face sliced cleanly, shock white and blooming with injuries – hair blowing, tangled – eyes huge open, deep black, dilated and frantic. I had an instant to notice I was still alive before a man’s voice started cursing at me from inside and I was gone, a bolt flashing over the yard, running faster than I’ve ever run and dissolving into trees.
I never screamed. I don’t know why. If I had, or hit the sides of the car, anything, he might have known I was there, might have spared me. But that didn’t occur to me. I didn’t trust the might in that.