It is pitch black. The air suffocates.
The sound of the engine has stopped.
It is eerily silent; no, there are voices coming from afar. The darkness overwhelms.
Where am I? Where are the others? What has happened?
The warmth of the night air seems to breathe in through the neck, crawling its way down the chest and to the feet that felt numbed. The front light of the vehicle is fixated at a brown object that looks like a beaten-up pulp.
Perhaps we had ran off the road and hit a tree.
How far are we from the main road? Is the tree before us blocking our fall further? Can I get out of the vehicle?
I try to move in the darkness. My neck is sore. As I sit up, I am aware of thick, warm fluid flowing down from the left side of my head. At the same time, I can feel the woman sitting beside me turn towards me.
So I’ve hit my head somewhere.
The smell of my warm blood fills my nose which leads me to the realization that my nostrills are caked dry. Without another thought, I dig my little finger inside my right nostril.
“Are you awake?” my fellow passenger asks me, a note of worry in her high pitched voice. I turn to her, finger still in the nostril. There is a look of horror in her eyes as we face each other.
Oh. I’m more hurt than I think I am…she looks scared of whatever she’s seeing.
I can hear the muffled sound of the girl at the back seat weeping in distress.
“Am I bleeding much?” I ask her, while looking at the wax my little finger has dug out from my nostril. The wax is broken into tiny scraps on the finger, and I realize that it is the crust of my congealed blood. As I speak, I can also smell my blood inside my mouth.
“Lie down, darling,” she says to me, moving sideways so I can have more space. She helps me lie down on the seat.
“I might have internal bleeding as well,” I tell her, as I make myself comfortable on the seat. “There’s blood in my mouth.”
“Let me see you,” says the girl at the back, leaning in from the back seat. I see the cut on the bridge of her nose, and as our eyes meet, I see her fear which makes me feel pity for her.
She’ll be having an ugly scar the rest of her life, poor girl.
“Oh, is she worse than me? Is she?” she begins to wail.
“Don’t worry, we’ll all be fine,” someone tells her.
I take a deep breath, listening. I try to put pieces of the night together but my mind isn’t working. I can hear a raspy breathing coming from the front seat and someone’s faint voice outside, saying, “No, she has woken up just now.”
Oh, I must’ve passed out for quite a time.
“Are you feeling better?” the woman beside me is asking someone. “I can breathe better, but I’m still stuck,” she is being replied to.
It’s the driver, he’s hurt as well.
“Where’s the vai passenger we picked up on the way?” someone from the back seat asks.
“That zawngsen ran off,” replies the driver. “Typical.”
I want to ask so many things, but I have no energy. My eyeballs feel dry as sand. The smell of my fresh blood is sickening. I dig my nostrils clean of congealed blood.
“Do you want to drink water?” someone asks me.
“No, there’s blood in her mouth. She might be bleeding inside,” someone else says.
I cough, and there’s a worried silence. “I’m fine. No blood spurting,” I report to whoever care. “I’d really like to drink water, though.”
“Best not to,” the driver says from the front seat, in a raspy voice.
“Best you don’t talk either,” I say to him, and the ridiculousness of our exchange make all of us break into laughter.
“Are you two going to argue, out of all of us here?” the woman beside me laughs.
“Let’s leave them behind to argue,” someone says, and we all laugh again.
“There are two sumos coming our way, they’re telling us to wait for them,” the same voice I had heard just a minute ago says, sounding much nearer now. “Might be another hour or two.”
The girl at the back seat breaks down again. “Why can’t it be sooner? I can’t wait for that long. I’m bleeding and I’m in pain.”
No one speaks. There’s silence for sometime till the driver speaks up. “There’s biscuits at the front if you’re hungry.”
“I’m just warm, not hungry,” someone replies him with.
“Ahhhh…..it was just a split second!” the driver sounds sorrowful.
“It’s okay,” the woman beside me comforts him, which is to little effect as the girl begins to wail again.
I ignore the irritation that creeps in my mind at her constant wailing. Her face is ruined forever, I tell myself.