For nearly a year now I have been living a lie. My husband Jack and my two daughters Lucy and Sam believe that I am dead.
It all began as I was driving to visit my parents. I went alone because Jack and I had an argument. He said that we visit my parents all the time but not his; but that’s because his mum is a bitch.
So I went alone, me and the Range Rover, on the road in the dark.
Glowing stars looked down from the skies. A gentle breeze sauntered across the land and families sat in their warm homes, staying out of the cold on that Sunday evening.
My rage took control of my driving. Fifty in a thirty, sixty in a forty and however fast I could go in the national speed limit.
The twisting and turning country roads tested my tyres’ grip and my handling of the car.
I reached one hundred miles per hour on a straight road. My dim headlights hardly penetrated the blanket of night ahead. Clicking the stick of my headlights forward onto full beam, I saw movement on the road. I do not know what it was, an animal? A human? A child? It was moving, so it was living. I had to steer hard to the left, directly into the tree line. I smashed in between two trees. My body lunged forward propelling my head into the windscreen, creating red tinted streams on the glass.
In a daze, my foot pushed harder down onto the accelerator. I saw branches battered aside, peeled leaves caught on the wiper blades and the high-pitched screeches on the silver paint work sounded distant.
The bumpiness of the surface worsened; I saw glints of light ahead of me. The lights faded and shone through the night. The car sped up and leapt into mid-air. Turning nose down, it crashed into the freezing water, smashing the windscreen. My trousers soaked within seconds, taking my breath away. A cold weight rested on my stomach, then my chest and then crawling up my neck. I gulped both air and water. The urge to choke was there but I did enough to disarm it.
My movements felt like slow-motion.
I floated off the seat, my head patted the roof. I tried to swim through the smashed windscreen but I couldn’t, something had my leg firmly gripped. I fought it off but as much as I did, the grip became stronger.
Looking back into the car, I saw my kids’ toys floating in the green, gloomy water. Looking down to my ankle, I saw the seat belt tangled around my leg. Arching over my leg, I began to prise my ankle out of the knots of nylon belt, but it was too late.
I breathed under the water, the more I breathed, the more I choked.
An image of a family photo entered my mind. I saw the four of us smiling in the sunshine. Mine and Jack’s noses and cheeks were red and Lucy and Sam’s were smothered in blobs of sunscreen.
I felt someone grab me; I felt the water brush through my hair, my clothes clung to my back and loosened from my chest.
I watched the Range Rover shrink out of sight with only its headlights visible, my eyes closed.
My chest was pressed a number of times, bruising my skin. I wasn’t fully awake but I could feel someone pressing on my chest, whispering into my ear. ‘Wake up. Wake up.’
The pressure on my chest gained more weight, the whispering became louder. The breeze was a strong wind, pushing the trees and making their leaves rustle. It felt colder than I had ever experienced, I felt like I was shivering but I was physically not moving.
I heard a voice in my ear again but I could not understand what they were saying. It could have been a foreign language, it was a rhythmical tone, a roll of the tongue and elongated words.
I heard “AWAKEN!” bellowed into my ear, making my eardrums ring. They continued to shout into my ear until my eyes opened. Looking up into the overcast night sky, I choked. I sat up, and as I did, I began to choke up all the water mixed with vomit.
I looked around for the man who saved me but he was nowhere to be seen. I got up off the ground and looked around. I saw the lake I crashed into; I saw the road where I was driving. I studied the path that I took from the road leading into the lake.
I heard whispering next to my left ear, I turned my head sharply to look to my left. Whilst stepping back, I tripped over my weak feet and fell onto my backside. As I looked up, I saw the surrounding trees and night sky. Hearing sounds of the rippling lake, I stood back up, turning wildly again. I listened for footsteps or heavy breathing but I heard neither. Instead I heard whispering in the distance again, but instead of panicking I tried to listen.
It wasn’t just one person whispering, it was a group of people; women and men. Their language sounded foreign to me; like a ritual or a spell. One of the whispers began to stand out from the rest of the mumbles.
‘I miss my love, I watch over her every day.’
“Who are you?” I said out loud, followed by silence.
There was definitely no one nearby. I was not dazed; if anything, my mind was clear. My sight seemed clearer than ever before, I was transfixed on the blades of grass below me and the thick, peeling bark of tree trunks above and around me.
I heard the whispering again ‘The dead.’ The overlapping whispers entered my mind again.
“You’re… a spirit?” I shouted.
The spirits’ voices grew louder and louder, changing from a whisper to a shout and a cry. As the jumbled language in my mind pained me, the voices became synchronised.
‘No one can know your secret, we need you. You are our only link. No one can know your secret.’
I tried to ignore them. The more I tried to think of Jack and the kids, the louder they became, the fiercer their voices became. I told them to stop, to shut up, to leave me alone but they wouldn’t. Instead they repeatedly told me ‘No one can know your secret.’
That is when I decided to fake my death. I left the car and my belongings at the bottom of the lake.
Miles from home, I walked away from my life.
My near-death experience changed me. I don’t know how or why but it did. The only way to quieten the spirits in my mind is to do what they wish.
I finish their unfinished business, I show their loved ones their secrets and I tell them the goodbyes the spirits never got to say.
No one can know that I’m alive.