Her name was Kairetu, and there was a dead man in the backseat of her car. That was all she could think, over and over. It was like her mind had shrunken in size, leaving space only to accommodate those two things. My name is Kairetu, and there is a dead man in the backseat of my car. She gripped her steering wheel tightly, her hands slick with blood and sweat. Her eyes went again to the rearview mirror, where her mother’s rosary beads swung back and forth like a pendulum. She looked at herself, at her windblown afro and crazed, bloodshot eyes. Then slowly, she looked at him. The dead man looked strangely alive, slouched against the window like that. He had died with his eyes open and now they stared back at her, glassy and emptied of life. Blood from the gash on his head dripped steadily unto the worn leather seats like water being squeezed from a sponge. Outside, the wind still howled.
The sky was almost pitch black now but when she left her apartment complex that evening it had been a vivid scarlet. She had never seen a sunset so red. It made her think of ghastly things, like zombie apocalypses and angels bleeding all over the clouds. The wind had been so strong and cold that it stung-a sharp contrast to the warm crimson of the sky above. She had not wanted to leave her apartment at all that evening but Spicy had called asking for a ride, so drunk her words slurred together like alphabet soup. Of course, Kairetu could not say no and leave her friend stranded so she obliged, grabbing her car keys and forcing her old, tired Honda back onto the road in that dreadful weather.
And so began the series of ill-fated events that ended with her on a lonely road in the dead of night, drenched in a stranger’s blood.
She decided to take the alternative route because it was often free of traffic. The road was long and narrow, with many sharp hairpin turns and tall trees on either side. All the sharp turns made the route a little dangerous, because you never knew what was waiting for you on the other side. The only other vehicle on the road was a small orange pick-up truck, which swayed from side to side like a drunken man as it staggered round the bend. The way the trees moved in the gale reminded Kairetu of those ridiculous inflatable sky dancers people used at parties, with their tall, slender bodies and flailing arms. It would have been a comical sight if the sky hadn’t looked look so menacing.
She realized too late that choosing that route had been a mistake. The wind was like a little boy making a game out of smashing toy cars together-reckless and wild. It made what was already a treacherous road to travel even more dangerous. Kairetu struggled to keep her car from spinning out of control, so preoccupied with the losing battle she was fighting against the wind that she never saw him coming. He had been on a motorcycle, driving towards her at breakneck speed on what was supposed to be a one-way road. There was nothing she could do to stop it. The wind was too strong and he was going too fast. Her car crashed into his bike and he went flying, landing on her windscreen with a sickening crack. There was blood, so much of it. She didn’t have to check to know that he was dead. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. It was like her limbs had turned to ice. The nauseating realization that this was a grown man and not some pesky insect she could just swipe off her windscreen made her head spin. What was she going to do? She couldn’t just leave him there.
She could barely remember how she got herself to move, or where she got the strength to drag his body off the hood of her car. All she remembered was the gore and the uncontrollable shaking, the weeping and the violent retching. He must have wanted to die, she thought now, as she looked at him. Why else would he be riding a motorcycle with no helmet on, in this kind of weather and on this kind of road? He must have wanted to die. That was what she told herself over and over, like it would somehow absolve her.
She looked away from him and kept driving, wondering what Spicy would say and what she would say to Spicy, about the dead man in the backseat of her car.