The accident report says that my dad fell asleep at the wheel. It says he was overworked and overtired, and he drove off the road and into a ditch. The car flipped over. He and my mom were killed instantly by the impact.
I should remember it that way, too, but only because I’ve been told it that way since the moment I woke up in the hospital, an IV in my arm and my skull flap removed to allow my head to heal.
In my dreams, the memory is different.
In my dreams there is a man in the street. He doesn’t move. His thin frame is wrapped in a black funeral suit. His face is nothing more than a flat slate of skin where eyes, a nose, and mouth should be. I can tell he’s smiling at us anyway. I can tell he wants us to see him there, idling beneath the pale moonlight. I hear my mom cry out to my dad. The wheel jerks hard to the right. The car rolls across asphalt. There is a blinding flash and then excruciating pain as my world fizzles into silence.
Beyond the splintering glass of the windshield, I see the man squat down. This time, he has a face and it is the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen. This time, his crimson eyes stare right into my own. His ivory smile splits his face in half. It is the last thing I see before the lights of emergency sirens shatter the darkness. I do not hear them, of course.
I’ll never hear anything again.