I dream about an accident: Jackie and Kyle and I in the car, the car upside down and Jackie hanging limp beside me. My ears are ringing. Sirens and screams blend into static. Amber lights. Heat wavers above the concrete and road gators are scattered across the freeway. But all I comprehend is Jackie unconscious and Kyle behind her. Warm blood trickles from my ear into my hair and onto the roof below me, layered with shattered glass. I unbuckle and fall, crawl through the empty windshield and I know as my weight lurches to the side that my leg is broken.
This is partly memory. Only here, in the dream, it diverges.
Here, I don’t pull Jackie from the wreck. I don’t give her chest compressions to the tune of Stayin’ Alive until her ribs are broken and she’s coughing up blood on her own. Here, I take Kyle’s crumpled body from his car seat. I heave myself against his sternum. His ribs crack. He coughs up blood. This is a dream, I know, but now he won’t fall into a coma, now in the dream and if I stay asleep for long enough he will wake and I can hear his laugh again, his tiny toddler giggle, where spit bubbles out the side of his mouth. And maybe Jackie will survive on her own, maybe the three of us will find ourselves on the beach after all.
I continue compressions and check his breathing, again and again and again.
Cole Meyer studied creative writing and classical humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He reads slush submissions and writes editorial letters at The Masters Review. His writing appears at SmokeLong Quarterly, SAND, Aquifer: The Florida Review Online and elsewhere. “Nightstands” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2017 and “Vesuvius” was a finalist for The Best Small Fictions 2018. He lives in Saint Paul with his fiancée and their dog and cat, and works in IT at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.