Heart pounding so hard, so fast, you'd think there's more than one inside me.
How long can a person be terrified out of their mind before they officially break down? I suppose I'm about to find out.
I focused on the road before me with difficulty. Staying in one lane was even more complicated with my clammy hands slipping off the steering wheel.
I glanced furtively into my review mirror. The black Honda trailing behind mine almost blended in with the night. Almost disappeared…but, no. It was still there. And the vague outline of a person in the driver's seat still raised my blood pressure.
I breathed deeply, attempting to regain the composure I am notorious for. In the most horrifying situations, I've been known to find an immediate solution, and scoff at those who were any less brave.
But just as my heart rate slowed, I glimpsed a second figure rise from the backseat of the Honda and climb into the passenger seat. My eyes nearly rolled into the back of my head. All alone on the road, in the middle of the night. What was I thinking? I was being followed by somebody who obviously wasn't looking for directions. What would they want with me, though?
With that thought, I began hyperventilating. With one hand gripping the wheel, I clumsily tugged at the latch of the console. Pulling it open, I fished around for one thing that could reassure me. No cell phone, no way to contact anybody…way in the backwoods of Nowheresville…
What kind of protection could a girl like me possibly have? Standing at a whopping 5'3" with nothing but lipstick and a measly can of mace in her purse…right?
No. I pulled the revolver out of the console, not bothering with the paperwork for the CHL, and placed it in my lap. With both shaking hands -I'm not quite stable at this point- I steer the car into the other lane, without a thought on what damage could be done to the car from the debris in the middle of the road. The Honda guns it's engine, catching up with me, as if to say, "Yeah, little girl. You know we're not friendly."
The driver's side window rolls down, and my right hand automatically clutches the gun. A man's face appears in the window, wearing no expression. He gestures to the back of my car, motioning for me to pull over. Suddenly he looks concerned, like he's just a helpful citizen trying to tell me there's something wrong with my car. What he doesn't know is that I've seen him before. In a different car, on a different road, I was followed by this man, with this license plate. I wasn't a fool then, and I won't be one now.
I turned my face into a mask, so I didn't look like easy prey. Keeping one eye on the road ahead of me, I raised the gun so that I could steer with both hands. The man immediately faced the road and rolled up the window. I floored the gas pedal and swerved into the next lane, right behind the black Honda. Keeping the gun in hand, one finger on the trigger, I tailed the car until took a sharp turn at a red light. I slowed my vehicle with relief and rolled into a gas station just up the road.
Slipping the gun into its holster and strapping it around my waist, I stepped out of the car with three quarters and my keys, glancing around nervously under the cheap, florescent lights.
The bells above jingled cheerfully, setting a deep contrast between this brightly lit convenient store and the dark road I just came from.
The tattooed cashier smiled at me, and I smiled back, because it felt good to see genuine helpfulness in someone's eyes after you're chased down by psychos in the middle of the night. Scanning the shelves of alcohol for something that might settle my nerves, I looked up, startled at the sound of the bells, and the cashier saying, "Yeah, she's right over there."
I peered over the shelves with growing terror. As if my mind was making visions of anything that could scare me, I saw the man in the Honda standing at the counter with a dark-headed companion. Both wore baseball caps and sunglasses.
I squatted down in the isle, as if I was a kid again and they couldn't see me if I couldn't see them. Taking one shuddering breath, I thought to myself, there's no way to get out of a situation if you aren't calm.
With that, I crept from my position to the back of the store where a molded sign read, RESTROOMS. Scurrying down the poorly lit hall that reeked of cleaning supplies, I locked myself into the grubby little bathroom and curled up on the floor in a fetal position. I knew I couldn't stay there forever, and eventually they would think to look in here. I pulled my gun out of the holster and clutched to my chest like it would tell me what to do. Just as my breathing was getting under control, a gunshot rang out. Then another. Then a third. By the sound of them, all three made contact with something.
I stood up, lowering the gun to my waist. That's when I saw it. The tiny, filthy window just above the third stall. I could make it if I-
Something heavy banged against the bathroom door, once, twice…
I scrambled up to the window, balancing myself, one foot on the stall, the other on the sill.
The banging was heard repeatedly, and I tried harder than I ever had, at any soccer game, at any physics exam, to get through that window. But I couldn't.
Not before the door swung from it's hinges with an awful crashing noise, and the two men rushed through and spotted me.
The frighteningly inhuman expressions they wore froze me to my spot at the window, and they seemed satisfied somehow. Like they've won. Like they've caught me doing something amusing, trying to get away from them. Approaching me quickly, the driver man pulled a shiny little gun from beneath his coat, and the dark-haired one reached for me.
It was that moment in which I regained every bit of composure I lost on the drive here. My heart froze in it's frantic beating, and my eyesight cleared.
In one swift movement, I threw myself at the dark haired man, and whipped my gun from my waist, pointing it at the driver. With this weapon in my hand, I wasn't in the least afraid of what they could do, because now I could do it, too.
The driver swallowed painfully because my hands were on my gun like an expert, because I really did know what I was doing, and the most dangerous thing in the world is someone who is frightened, but has the knowledge to do something about it.
He dropped his own weapon, because my finger was already on the trigger, and my careful eye did not allow for his one movement to bring us to a tie. The dark-haired man on the floor groaned.
I backed out of the bathroom, and the men watched me go, not knowing what would happen next, because they were foiled by this unexpected turn of events. Watching the hall carefully as I exited the gas station, I prayed the emptiness of the store meant the cashier had gotten away.
Once I was in my car, safe and sound, I drove like a bat out of hell. I laughed hysterically on my way to the police station, ready to tell the tale that would possibly save other's lives, or at least their sanity.
I laughed and laughed until my sides hurt and I had to stop so that I could see the road. Perhaps I was laughing because of the overload of adrenaline. Or perhaps I was laughing because there were never any bullets in my gun.