Vasant 2024 Stories - Alice Baburek

 

Guardian Angel

By Alice Baburek

 

The treacherous road zigged than zagged. Thomas Sech gripped the cold steering wheel tighter. His wrinkled knuckles turned white. Blinking feverishly to try and eliminate the down pour on his windshield.


“Slow down, Tom!” cried his wife of fifty plus years. Flo grabbed the door handle. “I don’t know how in heaven’s name you can see.” Just then the backend of their 2009 Hyundai hatchback slid. Immediately, Thomas eased up on the gas to regain control. Several semi’s barreled past them in the left lane causing a tsunami of backsplash across the already wet windshield.


“I’m going almost 70 miles an hour and these huge trucks are passing me like I’m sitting still,” he mumbled. The tension inside his chest kept growing. He had to somehow relax. The situation, if bad enough, could cause a mini heart attack. What if his pacemaker decided not to work. Tom glanced over at his wife. She was mumbling—no doubt a prayer.


The sudden storm intensified as the gloomy day dropped into night making the drive on the impossible freeway even worse. But as they climbed through a slick mountainous pass it became apparent there were no exits in sight. Nor was there any room to pull off the busy highway and wait out the impeding storm.


“We should have gotten off at the last exit,” said Flo. She shook her head slightly. Tom gritted his top dentures against his yellowed bottom teeth. Pain seared through his jaw.


“Why can’t you just trust me?” The light weight SUV swayed in the violent winds. He struggled to keep their older car within the designated lane.


“I’ve driven in the rain before…maybe if you would stop nagging me…” his voice trailed off into the sounds from the pounding wind and rain. Flo instantly closed her eyes. If they were heading into an accident, she didn’t want to see it coming. Her husband’s incessant on driving instead of staying overnight at a hotel, obviously was a huge mistake. Saving money on this trip to visit their daughter in Canada was not a top priority for Flo—but it had been with Thomas. He
thought if he could save on a hotel bill, he’d be able to afford a round of golf at one of the most prestigious golf ranges in Ontario. But his wife knew exactly what he was trying to do. And with this horrendous weather increasing, he wished he had listened to her—if only this once.


Reaching the top of the mountain, the tedious task of coming back down on the other side proved to be much worse. Trucks and vehicles whizzed past them making it even moretreacherous. By gravity alone, his speed intensified. Flo opened her eyes in response to the immediate fluctuation.


“Please…slow…down,” begged Flo. She quickly checked her seat belt. Tom mumbled unintelligible words. A loud blast bellowed from behind. Flo jumped startled by the intensity of the sound. Bright lights filled their SUV.


“What the…?” Tom shouted as he tried desperately to hold on to the wheel. The enormous double loader swerved dangerously close to the small SUV causing a blinding wave of water. Within seconds Thomas over compensated.


Flo cried out as she braced against the spinning vehicle which instantly hydroplaned into the darkness off the side of the flooded road. Tom, with all his strength, yanked the steering wheel. But it was too late. The plunging SUV rolled. Shattered glass burst from the side windows. Metal moaning in protest as it crushed easily against the rugged terrain. Flo managed to twist her face away from the imploding air bags. But Tom was not so lucky. The white balloon slammed against his aged chest. Immediately his damaged heart skipped a beat sending a desperate message to the pacemaker deep inside. Electrical impulses surged through his tumbling body. Darkness scattered with tiny bright stars filled his subconscious.


What seemed like hours in actuality turned out to be just minutes. The crushed Hyundai landed on its flattened tires. The storm raged on. Bouts of rain hurled through the open windows. Slowly, the deflated airbags receded. Flo tried desperately to catch her breath. A warm, sticky substance dripped slowly down the side of her face. Her shaky hand reached up to touch it. Her blurry eyes tried to focus. Blood. Her blood. Suddenly, the surrealness of what just transpired, seeped into her foggy head. Accident. The beating of her heart accelerated.


“Tom,” she whispered. “Tom…can you hear me?” she asked in between breaths. Tom’s head laid on top the steering wheel. He did not stir. “Tom…you need to get up. We need to get out of here and get help.”


Flo tried to unbuckle her seatbelt. It would not budge. Carefully, she tried once again but this time using both her trembling hands. The locked mechanism unleashed. Flo tried to find the door handle. She could not help her husband if she remained within the vehicle. The smell of gasoline permeated the inside of the battered SUV. Her body ached with pain all over.


A headache crept slowly across her injured skull. Finally, with a shove from her bruised shoulder, the passenger door creaked open. Flo fell onto the wet, soggy ground. Rocksand gravel stuck to her damp clothes. With all her strength, she picked herself up and leaned against the dented metal. Inching around the back of the crushed car, she could hear Tom moaning. Slipping and sliding on the muddy, wet rocks, Flo eased herself by the driver’s door. Her husband was sitting straight up and mumbling.


“Tom!” called Flo as she grasped the outside handle and yanked the bent steel. Little by little, it opened enough for her to pull Tom to safety. Tom, regaining a bit of consciousness, realized his wife was talking to him as she used her willpower and determination to get him out.


Tom yelped as he dragged his right leg out only to collapse taking Flo down with him. The elderly couple laid on the soggy ground for a few minutes holding one another. Tom’s nose filled with the stench of burning rubber and gasoline.


“We have to get away from the car, Flo. It’s going to blow.” He dug deep inside and through the thickness of his foggy mind managed to lift himself and Flo. Hanging onto one another, they stumbled through the darkness of the night across the low sodden landscape.


“We need help,” said Flo. Tom gave a slight nod. Her husband was in bad shape. He struggled to catch his breath as the rain poured down in streams across his battered face. No doubt the accident triggered a heart attack. But thankfully, the pacemaker did its job or he wouldn’t be standing next to her—alive.
Suddenly, Tom dropped to the ground. He pointed up the side of the hill. Headlights continuously scattered. Apparently, no one had witnessed the accident. They remained alone at the bottom of the deep ravine.


“Can you believe this?” Tom wiped his face. His hand came back bloody. “The trucker who ran us off the road didn’t even have the decency to pull over and render us help.” Flo searched the pocket of her jeans. Her cell phone was still intact. She opened it up. NO SERVICE.


“Damn!” she cried. “Can you believe this? No cell service. We’re out in the middle of nowhere and there isn’t one person who stopped to help!” Tom leaned forward. For a brief moment, he felt like he might pass out.


“I don’t think anyone knows we’re down here, Flo.” Tom’s head began to spin. Bile inched its way up his throat. He felt like throwing up even though his stomach was empty.


“How are we going to make it back up to the road?” She asked while still trying to punch numbers onto the key pad. “This is ridiculous…no cell service. What are we going to do?” she mumbled.


Flo’s voice faded in and out. Tom laid back onto the rough ground. Rain water pelted his face. With any luck, it would revive him from the darkness which was encircling his awareness.


“Tom! Tom…get up! Come on. I can’t carry you up the hill,” shouted Flo. She knelt down next to her unconscious husband. “Tom…” she cried gently shaking his relaxed shoulders.


But it was to no avail. Thomas did not move. Flo immediately leaned down to listen. Between the thunder and pouring rain, she could barely hear him breathing.
“I’ve got to get help,” sobbed Flo. Once again, she looked up. Headlights from the traffic above bounced off the surrounding hillside. She tried to focus her blurry eyes. Not sure if it was from her tears or the rain. Slowly, she desperately tried to climb the slippery embankment. For every step Flo made, she slipped back two. Her back ached. But she knew the only way to help Thomas was for her to get help. Inch by inch, she clawed her way.

 

As she reached the brim, a large hand reached down to pull her up. Startled by a presence, Flo almost fell backward. Suddenly, two large hands grabbed heroutstretched arms. Gently, the silhouetted figure eased Flo up onto the narrow margin next to the roadway. He stood at least six feet—if not more. Wet, thick hair stuck to his oval head. For a brief moment, Flo could not see the stranger’s face. Once she was steady, he released his grip.


“Thank you,” said Flo in between breaths. “I didn’t know if anyone saw us go off the road. A truck sideswiped us.” Flo pointed to crushed vehicle below. “Thank heavens you stopped. I can’t get a signal on my cell phone and my husband needs help.” Flo immediately yanked her phone from the inside of her coat. Again, no signal.


The mysterious man remained silent. Flo glanced up at him and noticed a slight glow around his image. It was then she could see his angelic face. His features looked soft even in the pouring rain. A slight smile spread across his face.


“I’m here to help you, Florence. And as for your husband, Thomas, he, too will be fine. An ambulance and tow truck are on the way as we speak. Your faith has saved you.” The mysterious stranger turned to leave.


“Wait!” called Flo. She felt confused. “How did you know our names? And how did you call for help when there isn’t a cell phone tower anywhere around here? What is your name? How can I thank you?” Flo kept rattling off questions. The tall man stopped. He turned to face Flo once again.


“You called for help, Florence. And your cries had been answered. The important part is that help is on the way…thanks to you!” The strange man pointed his long index finger at Flo. Flashes of headlights bounced off the side of the road. And yet, not one person stopped.


“Where is your car?” persisted Flo. “I don’t see one anywhere.” Flo looked the other way. When she turned back to face him, there was no one there. “Hello?” she called out. “Where are you?” Frantically, she swirled in a circle. Flo was standing alone on the side of the road.


“Hey,” called a familiar voice. “Did you get through to call a tow truck?” asked Thomas. He was hunched near the top of the incline. Flo’s heart skipped a beat. “You’re awake…thank the heavens above!” Flo shouted as she hurried to her shaken husband. Instantly, she wrapped her thin arms around him. In response, Tom did the same.


“I’m fine. A little shaky and a slight headache, but I’m fine. Are you hurt sweetheart?” he said releasing his grip. She nodded quickly as tears filled her damp eyes. The rain had slowed to a mist. Suddenly, a siren could be heard off in the distance.


“That’s for us, dear,” said Flo. “I’m just glad you’re alright.” Tom hugged his wife again.


“I’m glad we’re both alright,” he replied. “Can’t believe no one stopped to help,” said Tom.


"But someone did,” responded Flo. Tom’s eyebrows crunched together.


“I don’t see anyone.” Tom looked down the road at the darkness. “There’s no one, Flo.”


“It…it was a strange man. He told me an ambulance would be here shortly. I asked his name and he just…just vanished. I even asked him where his car was…and…when I turned to look around…I was alone. How can that be?” questioned Flo.


“He didn’t give you, his name?” asked Tom. Flo shook her head side to side.


“No, in fact, what was even more strange was he knew our names, Tom. Both our names!” Tom remained quiet.


“Honey, are you sure you’re alright? You did whack your head,” replied Tom. Flo’s hand instantly went to the top of her head. A large lump was forming on the backside. “I’m fine. And if you’re implying, I imagined it—you are wrong. I talked with the stranger and he talked back to me.” Suddenly, red and yellow lights bounced against the sides of the hills. “The ambulance is here.” Several minutes later, both of them had been checked out by the paramedics.


“Ma’am…I suggest you and your husband be taken to the hospital. It wouldn’t hurt for a doctor to look you both over—especially your husband. His pacemaker probably saved his life,” stated the middle-aged male paramedic.


Tom closed his eyes. “Well, I do have a headache. I guess it wouldn’t hurt for them to take a gander at us since we’re not going anywhere soon.” Flo’s thoughts rushed to the stranger.


“Alright we’ll go get checked out,” answered Flo. The paramedic helped the elderly couple into the back of the ambulance. And as they were just about the leave, a tow truck pulled up.


“Can you wait a second, please? I want to talk with the tow truck driver a minute,” said Flo. The paramedic gave a quick nod.


Flo scooted out the back door of the emergency vehicle as the short, stocky man headed over to the incline.


“Hello? I’m Florence Sech. Thank you for coming out on this awful night. We had an accident. A semi sideswiped our SUV and we hydroplaned off the road down into the ravine.” The thick neck man wearing stained overalls peered down into the blackness.


“You should thank your lucky stars your still around, lady. Your car looks like a pancake,” he said.


“My guardian angel must have been working overtime this evening,” replied Flo. The truck driver glanced at Flo.


“I think you might be right. I’ve seen many horrible accidents and this one…” Silenced briefly filled between them. “I better get to work.”


“Wait…can I ask you a question? Did a man call you and tell you we needed help?” asked Flo.


“Nope. No one called.” He stood staring at Flo. The rain had slowed to a mist. “Well, I better get to it. I’ll tow it to the junkyard off of Exit 10 in Cedar Falls. I’m sure your insurance will total the vehicle,” explained the tow truck driver.


“Wait! If you didn’t get a call, how did you know to come here?” she asked. The driver stopped and turned to face her once again.


“Honestly, I don’t know. My wife thought I was nuts going out in this weather. I had this gut feeling…silly, right? Who knows maybe it was divine intervention?”

 

The man chuckled.


“Thanks again. Here’s my cell phone number.” Flo rattled her number off as the truck driver tapped the information into his cell phone.


“You and your husband were lucky,” he said. And with that the tow truck driver returned to his truck. The paramedic opened the back door of the ambulance and waved for Florence to return.


As she boarded the back to sit next to Tom, who by now was lying quietly on the gurney, she smiled at the male paramedic.


Could it be possible the strange man she encountered was truly indeed her guardian angel?


“How did you know there was an accident?” asked Flo. The paramedic was checking Tom’s vitals once again.


“An anonymous call came over the dispatch service. No explanation—no information except the caller said ‘Route 75 south side.’ We took a chance and well…glad we did.”

 

As Florence contemplated the impossible, the ambulance slowly edged itself back onto the wet road with the siren blaring and flashing lights.

 

Alice Baburek from U.S is an avid reader, determined writer and animal lover. She lives with her partner and four canine companions. Retired she challenges herself to become an unforgettable emerging voice.

 

Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occasionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.