Carrie and I crawled out of the broken back window of the minivan. Carrie looked up, for the first time, at the hill that the car fell down the night before. She stared for a while, examining the muddy path that our car slid down. She took off her glasses, cleaned them on her shirt, and looked back up before saying, “Whoa. How did we live?”
“Look at the car,” I said. We both looked at the minivan. It was dented and scraped and broken all over. It looked nothing like the car that we left Lake Tahoe in the night before.
“Go on, guys,” Dad said from inside the car. “I’m going to try and see if I can’t get my legs out. And see if the phone is working. Don’t forget a water bottle, in case the driver of the other car needs it.”
“Got it, Dad,” Carrie said. “We’ll be right back.”
I led Carrie around the hill to see the little red Bug at the bottom of the hill. “I think you’re right,” she said.
“There does look like someone is in there!”
“Hey!” I called. “Anyone there?”
“Can you hear us?” Carrie yelled. “He’s not moving,” she said to me. “He can’t hear us.”
We walked over to the car, slowly. Water was still dripping in huge drops from the pine trees around us. The only sound was the birds and the dripping water. The driver of the other car was absolutely still, probably still sleeping. I had no idea what time it was.
We got closer and looked up the hill. There was no muddy path that it slid down, like on the hill above our car. “How did it get here?” Carrie said. “If it didn’t fall down the hill? Wouldn’t it be great if there is another road nearby?”
“Maybe it’s a camper!” I said. “He could have spent the night in his car when the rain started coming down so hard last night!”
We were getting excited and we were running faster over the rocks and branches toward the car. As we got closer, I saw that the little car was filled with flowers. Big, tall, yellow flowers like little sunflowers.
“Why do you think he has the car filled with flowers?” I said to Carrie.
We got to the car and stopped just a few feet away. “Hey,” Carrie yelled. “Hey in there, are you okay?”
“Wake up!” I yelled. “We need help! Dad is stuck in our car! We had an accident!”
We waited a second, but the man or woman or whoever that was in the car just sat there, not moving, leaning against the car door, his red hair pressed against the window. Carrie finally walked up and grabbed the door handle and pulled the door open.
We both screamed.
The man fell out of the car and onto the ground right in front of us. We looked down and saw that he was dead and had been dead for years. His face was a skeleton face—just deep, dark circles where his eyes used to be; two narrow holes where he should have a nose; a grizzled red beard circled his teeth, and another patch of hair fell off of his skull when he rested fully on the ground. His clothes were rags and we could see bones and dried, dark skin in the holes of his shirt.
The flowers in the car were weeds that had grown up through the floor of the car over the years.
I never thought that I would hear screams as loud as the ones we had made the night before as the car fell down the hill into the forest. But Carrie and I screamed and screamed, falling down backwards at the sight of the dead man on the ground. We scrambled backwards, our legs pushing us back as fast as we could go until our backs were resting against a tree trunk.
“Oh my god!” I yelled. “No! No! No!”
“How long has he been here?”
“Carrie,” I said. “He’s been here forever, and he’s never been found! No one is going to find us! No one knows where we are!”