Survivor, flash fiction by L.C. Ahl at



written by: L.C. Ahl



I woke up with my face against the cold window. I couldn’t recall falling asleep, let alone being in a car. As I came to, I didn’t make a sound, hoping the other occupants in the vehicle wouldn’t notice. The smell of exhaust and the sound of a gentle engine rumble seemed so familiar of a time forgotten.

I let my eyes adjust to the darkness. I could see only stars and the occasional porch lights sliding past the car. A familiar smell of perfume, cigarettes, beer, and Old Spice in the car reminded me of my childhood. I felt safe. But where the hell was I, and who was driving?

The dashboard lights revealed a man in a flannel shirt and a ball cap. At this angle, I couldn’t see the man’s face, but I knew him; I’m not sure how, but I knew him. His left replaced his right hand resting on the steering wheel as he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a soft pack of Marlboros. He tapped the top of the pack on the dash, and when the butt of a cigarette presented itself, he brought the pack to his lips and drew it from the pack. As he lit the cigarette, I glimpsed the man’s weathered face. The gray hairs in his 5 o’clock shadow shone like silver mirror shards.

The pressure changed as the window was cranked down with one full turn of the knob. As the chilly night air roared in, the woman in the passenger seat directly in front of me turned up the radio. An old country song. The smell of wheat fields after a rain came along with the cool air. I must be in the country. I stared out the window, trying hard not to move. The moon was crescent, and the clouds in the sky dampened the already dim light it had provided. The road rose and fell like swells in the ocean, and the car’s suspension glided over every hump and dip.

I couldn’t focus my vision of making out any details about the car or my surroundings. My heart raced and breathing quickened. Had I been drugged and kidnapped? Was I drunk? The taste of alcohol or any drug was absent from my tongue, but I was missing teeth. I panicked.

“Where the hell am I?” I muttered under my breath. The man driving looked directly at me over his shoulder. His ash flew out the window and broke up into a hundred sparks.

“Hey pal, is it too cold in here? I didn’t mean to wake you up.” He smiled at me, and I stared at him in shock.

“What? How?” I couldn’t get the words out.

The woman reached around the seat and patted my leg. “We’ll be home in a few minutes, hun.”

“What the fuck is going on?!” I snapped. The man driving turned to me. His face was full of rage. He flicked his cigarette at me and started swinging his hand at my face.

“You better watch your goddamn mouth, young man! When we get home, you’re getting soap in your mouth, you hear?” he screamed. He stared at me for a brief second. The woman let out a blood-curdling scream. The headlights revealed a fast-approaching oak tree for a fraction of a second.

“Dad!” I screamed.


30 years ago, my parents died in a car accident on our way home from a Christmas party. Police said that my father was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel. I was the only survivor. When I woke up, my face was against the cold window. A familiar smell of perfume, cigarettes, beer, and Old Spice in the car reminded me of my childhood.

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