The air was cold against her skin but her insides burned. She was lost. Outside her rolled-down windows Amanda could hear children playing and people talking in the dark. Most of the houses she passed were lit up. Porch lights illuminated these homes, creating deep shadows within every crevice and around every corner.
Her headlights shone onto the asphalt in front of her. Her hands shook as they gripped the steering wheel. She breathed through her nose, heavily. She saw the addresses slowly pass her by, but had no idea what street she was on.
Amanda looked forward again, in time to see a ball bounce in front of her car. The red, rubber ball was a sign of something sure to follow.
She slammed on the brakes as a toddler entered the street. The girl ran barefoot, wearing nothing more than a diaper. Her dark hair covered most of her upper body and lightly billowed behind her as she chased after the ball.
Amanda watched in awe—foot still clamped onto the brake—as this little girl picked up her ball a few feet from the unforgiving frontend of her SUV. The girl lifted the ball and held it in front of her with both hands. She looked up at the headlights, her mouth agape. She clumsily brushed some of her messy hair away from her face as she stared directly at Amanda.
All at once, the street lights and homes went completely black. The only light remaining was that of Amanda’s headlights, which were still pinned on the little girl.
At this point, Amanda was gulping for air. Her heart busted against her ribcage.
After her headlights lay an abyss, total darkness.
The little girl stared at Amanda with wide eyes. She seemed to take a deep breath then took off running in the direction she had come.
Amanda sighed and waited a few seconds before releasing her break. She slowly rolled forward and just got her foot on the accelerator when she heard a thump under one of her tires.