Short story 'Battery Low'

10 Apr 2014

Just a quick short story, based on something that actually happened to me a few years ago. Luckily my ending was different.

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The car finally rolled to a stop. Alice switched off the engine, as she'd been taught to do in an accident, and pushed the door open. It was difficult, as the side of the car had buckled somehow as it had flipped over. She eventually got it open though, and staggered across the grass blindly in the dark.

"Why did I agree to go and collect him at this time of night?" she said frantically to herself. "And in this weather too. I'd better phone him and tell him I've wrecked the car." She pulled her mobile out of her pocket and found her dad's number. Before she could dial, the phone bleeped at her, with a message saying 'Battery low.' Thinking she would have enough to last for a quick phone call, she pressed dial.

"Alice? What's up?" her dad said when he picked up the phone.

Alice took a deep breath. "I'm not going to be able to pick you up, dad. I've had an accident in the car, I think I've rolled or flipped it. I'm in the field somewhere," she said, feeling her way around in the dark.

"Are you alright?" her dad asked straight away. "I'll get in the work's van and come to find you."

Alice checked herself quickly. "I think I'm alright, I'm walking and nothing feels broken or anything. I'll try and get to the road, I seem to be in the middle of a field," she tried to find her way back to where the road was, or had been. "I'm in some trees, and I've just found a barbed wire fence, I can't find where I went through it. I'll climb through, hang on, I'm putting the phone in my pocket so I can get through easier," she slid her mobile into her coat pocket and clambered awkwardly through the fence, ripping her jeans. She stumbled over a little more grass before realising she was getting further from the road. She headed back through the fence.

"Alice? Alice are you there?" her dad's voice came from her pocket. She took her phone back out. "I'm heading down the road now, I've just hit the crossroads… ah. You skidded on some ice, didn't you? I've just hit some myself."

"Yeah, I just lost control. I'm heading back to the car, I was going the wrong way before. I'll try the other way, I think the car's facing backwards." Reaching the car, she tripped over a big lump of something on the ground, and flung a hand out to steady herself against the back of the car. Her hand went straight through an empty space where the back window had been. "The back window's gone, I've just put my hand through it. And there's a big spring thing here, I think it's from the car," she told her dad, picking up the thing she had tripped on.

Her dad kept talking, reassuring her. "Don't worry about the car, the insurance will sort that out. Just worry about you. If you can't find the road, stay by the car, I'll find you. Where exactly are you?" he asked.

"You know the corner, just after where the speed limit changes, I'm just past there from home. So just before there from your direction," she said. "I've got to the road, it's really icy."

"Okay, I'm almost with you. I'm going slow because of the ice, I should be there in about five minutes. I've just gone past the level crossing," he replied. "I'll put the orange lights on so you can see me coming."

A few minutes passed, and Alice saw some flashing orange lights coming over the slight hill. The van from her dad's garage followed shortly after, and stopped a few feet away. "Christ, you did lose it," her dad said over the phone. "I can see the car, whereabouts are you? I can't see you anywhere."

"I'm standing a few feet away from the front of the van, dad," Alice told him. "You should be able to see me, I can see you fine," she said, as her dad got out of the van and slipped across to the car.

"Whatever road you're on, Alice, it's not this one. If you're standing in front of the van you must be invisible," he said. "I'm going to head to the car, if you head back the way you went we should meet by the car. Don't worry, I'll stay on the line."

Alice watched her dad walk across to the car, and followed him. She thought he might be playing one of his silly jokes, to relax her a little. It was the sort of thing he did sometimes. She stood behind him, and said down the phone, "Turn around, I'm behind you."

He turned. "No you're not."

"Dad, you're staring right at me. This isn't funny, stop messing about." She stared into her dad's eyes, and he seemed to look right through her. "Dad!" Alice tried to touch his shoulder, to get some kind of reaction. Her hand went straight through.

He turned back to the car, and seemed to look at something in the driver's seat. "Alice?" he said softly.

"Dad, I'm scared. I'm right next to you and you can't see me," she said, almost crying.

"Oh Christ, Alice, you can't be talking to me. If you're there, you should come and look at this," he said, moving away from the driver's window.

Alice moved forwards, and looked through the window. She saw herself reflected back, except it wasn't quite right. Her head was at the wrong angle, and there was something running down her face. The car door was closed, and she was sure she'd left it open when she got out. The Alice in the car window was very still, and didn't blink at all. "Dad," she whispered down the phone line.

"Alice," he started to say. There was a beeping noise in Alice's ear. She looked down at her phone, to see the message 'Battery dead.' The screen went black, and Alice heard no more.

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