I am driving a truck. It rides high. It’s a country road. I have a wife, and there are two young children in the truck. It is a small truck. It has a sort of half back seat in which the children are crowded. I look over to say something to my wife. When I look back a young boy on a bicycle is directly in front of me, peddling toward me. There is no time to swerve. I hit the brakes hard. But too late. I hit the boy, driving over him completely. I pull over, and as I do I see his body in the rear view mirror, mangled on the road. I rush out of the truck to his side. People are gathering near. I am on my knees looking at him seeing if he is alive, if there is anything I can do. He is not responsive. People are talking excitedly. I cannot understand what they are saying. They are not speaking English. I yell for someone to call 911. Call an emergency vehicle, an ambulance, something. They do not acknowledge me. I start to weep. Deep sobs. The boy lifts his head and seems to convulse. I run back to the truck and cry out for my wife to call for an ambulance. I don’t know where I am; it may not be where I live, or even in America. I hurry back to the boy. The people have lifted him onto a table set up next to the road. There is blood, a lot of blood. I hurry to his side. He rolls his head and looks at me, seeing me certainly. He says, “Thank You.” And he is gone.
The people gathered step back. They continue to surround me. They are silent. I see them now for the first time. They are haggard and old, all of them, but not aged. I realize they are erect, solid; thin, too thin. But their skin; faces, hands, necks, are ashen, old. Each in his turn looks from me to the boy on the table and back to me. I am saying, “I am sorry, so sorry,” many times. I keep repeating it, turning around to see them all, imploring with my hands outstretched and trembling. They are mute, staring back empty.
Suddenly they are murmuring to each other, gesturing with small movements at something behind me. I turn, fear welling in my heart at what might be there. I see the boy, torn and broken, still bleeding, standing, bent oddly, one leg supporting him and the other precariously maintaining a balance, his head lulling in small arcs, his muscles struggling to support the crushed vertebra. The pallor of his face is white, almost blue. He reaches with one bloody hand and touches my arm. A scream works up into my throat but does not come out. He looks at me, his head drops to one side and then seems to balance erect. He tells me to come with him. He somehow hobbles with his crushed legs toward my truck, guiding me now, my hand in his. The people part as we pass. I can see my wife’s head through the rear window of the small truck. She is not looking back to see what is happening. She is looking out the front window. The two children are piled together leaning out of the driver side window and watching the boy and I approach. They are not saying anything. They look very frightened.
The broken boy reaches up and touches the check of the oldest child, a girl with red hair. The child does not move, horror passes over her face. The touch leaves a small reddish mark of drying blood. The broken boy turns to me.
“You will give us this one.”
I woke. Anxious, confused for an instant, “Where was I?” I’m home, my apartment, in my bed. I take a deep breath, realizing I had stopped breathing. I shook my head and looked around the dark room. I remembered, I was out tonight, a party, a birthday party, a friend. I left pretty wasted. As I scanned the familiar room I noticed, there at the end of the bed, a foot, then a leg piled over my thick comforter. I smiled and followed the leg up to the thigh that disappeared under the comforter. My dream receded from recall. It was Lauren, I thought that was her name, she had offered to bring me home when I was too far gone at the party. I vaguely remembered her struggling to get me up the stairs to my bedroom before I dropped into the bed. I realized I was naked and my smile broadened. I leaned over to see her very pretty face, framed by auburn hair, soft into the pillow and covered partially by the loose comforter. She lay on her side. I pulled the comforter away from her body to reveal her naked beauty, my eyes following the interruption of her thigh up to the narrow triangle of her groomed pubic, pausing, imagining, then up the perfect waist to the profile of one enticing breast half obscured by her arm raising past to rest hand on pillow. I moved past her shoulder, to her neck and the fine jaw line, seeing her lips, wanting them.
And there it was. My dream came screaming back.
On her cheek, was the exact reddish mark left by the touch of the broken boy.