Why had Dodd been standing in the middle of the road like that? Why wasn’t he helping?
Allen tried to push the safety belt release button, but his fingers had no solidity to them. It was like pushing with fingers made of water. “I can’t save you this time,” he moaned to the unconscious Shelly. “I’m trying. I’m really trying.”
Allen’s nose twitched. “I smell something,” he said. His mind told him it was gasoline.
An image flashed into his brain sending an electric shock through his being. He saw a car suddenly burst into flame. He could not have told you what kind of car it was, its color, or if anyone was seated in the front and back seat of the car, but the image was real enough to shock him away from all his distracting thoughts, just enough that he was able to concentrate on his right hand. If only I can make that one small part of me real, he growled, focusing all his strength on making his hand visible, palpable. He saw it first as a grayish mist, and then slowly taking physical shape. It was forming so slowly…too slowly. The gas puddle was reflecting small
dancing flames…Allen forced the nearly formed hand to reach for the release button. He strained every shred of whatever power he had left to push the release button again. “It still won’t move,” he moaned.
Desperately Allen searched for something or someone that could help Shelly. He saw the man with the smirking face a short distance from the driver’s door as the sparks from the
sputtering engine finally set the gasoline alight. The man appeared fascinated by the tiny flame that seemed to be dancing taller, wilder, bright orange, on the plume of fluid leaking from the car. “Save her, damn you, Dodd,” Allen screamed, and then he saw the flames rise higher and move with more violence toward the front of the van. “Why the hell aren’t you saving her,” he screamed at the statue-like figure. “I’ll let you have her,” Allen promised in one last effort to make the man move.
“She’s out of time,” Allen murmured. Never once tempted to let her die even if she would be his ghostly companion for eternity, he spotted her fingers still automatically pressing down on the stalled button. She didn’t have enough strength.
Dodd felt strange. He had heard someone calling his name, but who? There was nobody here except Shelly and she could not have seen him. She was almost gone. The threat was over.
“Please, Dodd, she’s a good person. Don’t let her die? It’s not too late for you.” Allen was focused on making Dodd hear him. “All she wants is to be free of me. Help her? Dodd, you love her.”
Dodd stared at the van. He saw Shelly, flames melting her flesh. He heard a voice crying that he loved her. “I can’t do this,” he shouted and ran toward the driver door.
Dodd pulled hard at the door handle and it swung open. The seat next to Shelly was
already in flame. He could feel the intense heat as he reached over Shelly’s jeans for the seat belt release. Shelly’s hand seemed frozen on the red button. He pushed her fingers away and slammed his thumb on the button. It was stuck. He tried again, pressing down as hard as he could, his eyes on Shelly’s face, and the belt finally was released.
Smoke was filling his lungs and he coughed hard. It was difficult to see with the smoke and the flames were licking at the back of the seat. Dodd reached under Shelly and with all his strength he pulled her body off the seat and fell backwards with her clasped in his arms.
He clutched her as he pulled himself away from the truck. He could hardly see, and he was coughing from the smoke, but he had succeeded in getting her out of the van. Then he heard a rumble and he had a vivid vision of the van exploding. He saw Shelly lying on the grass, blood covering her body, a large piece of metal sticking up from her chest and her eyes gazing at him in mute accusation. He tried to move, but he was exhausted from pulling her away from the van. “Too close. Too close,” he murmured as the flames were roaring just overhead. He closed his eyes.
“Help her, Dodd,” Allen shouted again.
Dodd heard the voice calling and opened his eyes. He did not want to see what he knew was about to happen…what he had made happen. “I can’t,” he whispered, “It’s done.”
“Damn you! Help her,” Allen screamed, unable to materialize enough to roll Shelly down the grass-covered slope, away from the car.
An explosion sent metal flying toward them. Allen threw himself over her, but a slab of metal from the roof struck her on her back. He realized he could not materialize again, not so soon after trying to release her from the van.
“Oh god,” Dodd moaned, as something tore into his leg, the pain causing him to scream out. Tears were streaming down his face and his eyes were still blurry. “What have I done,” he asked, searching for Shelly.
Dodd saw blood oozing through her shirt. “I can’t let her die”, he said, rising weakly to his knees and then falling flat on the ground again.
“Get up, you useless piece of shit,” Allen shouted. “This is your fault!”
Dodd rose again. “Who the hell are you,” he asked, unable to see anyone near. “Help her, damn you,” Allen said. “She needs you.”
Dodd turned toward Shelly. “Shelly, you’ve got to move,” he shouted, shaking her, wishing he could have protected her from the pieces of glass and metal that were falling on her clothes and hair. “Come on, Shelly, get up?”
Shelly’s eyes were barely open. “Who are you,” she said, unable to see anything but the smoke and flames from the van hanging halfway over the slope.
“Dodd. Remember? You’ve got to move now!”
Shelly forced herself up on one knee and then fell back down.
Allen shouted, “Damn it, Shelly! Are you going to let someone kill you like this?” Shelly’s eyes opened and she began to cry. “I’m hurt. It hurts so much.”
“I know,” Dodd said. “Honey, I know. But you have to move. If you don’t you’ll die and I can’t let that happen.”
Shelly saw the fire and smelled the smoke reaching toward her. “I don’t want to die.”
“I know.” Dodd heard another explosion. “Roll down the hill. Just let yourself roll down the hill.”
“I can’t,” Shelly said. “It hurts.”
Allen focused on Shelly’s face. It was covered with blood and black grease stains. Her hair was wild and blackened. He felt scared for her and sad that Dodd could want to do this to her. He felt his anger rising and suddenly he was on the ground, his feet pressed hard against her, pushing her, but still unable to move her. “Help me roll her down the slope,” he urged Dodd who was staring at Shelly’s face. “I won’t tell her it was you if you help me now.”
Dodd wondered who was urging him to help her. Was it his conscience? Had one of his voices finally overcome the others? It didn’t matter. There was no time. He forced himself to crawl to her side, the pain from his leg excruciating. Knowing it was going to hurt horribly he braced his legs against her. The sharp metal shaft was still in his right leg. He tried to reach it. His hand clutched the thin shaft and he pulled hard. The sharp metal cut into his palm and he had to release it. He saw blood dripping now from his hands. He had caused this pain. He had caused Shelly to feel this pain. He wished he had something to protect his hands, but there wasn’t any time left. He locked his hands on the sharp metal shaft and pulled. He let out an agonized scream as he finally dislodged the piece from his leg. He felt faint, blood gushing from his hands, but braced his legs against Shelly’s side. He heard someone shout, “Now,” and with what little strength he had left pushed his feet hard against Shelly. “Harder,” someone screamed, and with his eyes squeezed shut and pain shooting through his body, he pushed as hard as he could and finally Shelly began rolling down the slope.
“We did it,” Dodd heard someone gasp. He looked around, but there was nobody near.
There was a loud explosion again as what was left of the van seemed to jump into the sky. A large slab of metal came rushing toward Dodd and he threw himself down the hill. The car door slammed into his back and he let out another cry of pain.
Allen had rolled down the cliff holding onto Shelly. He was exhausted, unable to do one more thing to help her. He suddenly understood that each time he tried to save her, he was not only remembering something of his former life, but was also losing some of his strength. He gazed up at the flaming van and saw it was teetering over the edge of the cliff.
Shelly was unconscious. He couldn’t even materialize enough to shake her. Where was Dodd? This was his fault!
The noise of the van tumbling down the hill was like the roaring of a train, but it did not wake Shelly.
Allen crawled toward her and covered her body with his own, but knew that unable to materialize, he could not protect her. Suddenly he saw Dodd pulling himself up the hill. He watched silently as Dodd reached Shelly and covered her with his body.