Everything stops at the moment of impact. There is a sheer, eternal moment of weightlessness then reality comes down like a wave and smothers the world.
She was aware she jerked the wheel, about second before she heard the sheik of the tires skidding across the ice, followed by a hiccup in time. The car crash was like a skipping disk in a C.D player. Blink, terror, blink, rolling, blink, silence.
She came to with the sounds of the automated distress system dialing. The operator on the other side sounded weirdly panicked, but professional.
"Ma'am, are you alright." She said. "Ma'am, your on-board emergency system has registered a car crash. Ma'am, can you hear me? Help is on it's way."
Elaine wanted to speak, to tell her everything was alright -- that she was alright -- but she couldn't. The seat belt around her chest was too tight and she found herself choking. She lipped her hand under the strap to pull it free. That's when she first felt the blood. Her blood, a rivulet of red coming from her throat.
She felt up her neck until her fingers grazed the jutting obstruction in the side of her throat, where the clavicle met the gullet. She was surprised to find the point still maintained it's sharpness. As she laced her fingers carefully around the edge of the cold metal sticking out from inside of her, she felt the sting of the blade edge as it slit open her finger.
Elaine took in her breath in ready swallows and she looked at her head now painted burgundy with new blood and she made peace with herself. I'm going to die here in Iowa, she thought to herself.
There are worst places to die.
Elaine closed her eyes and waited for the rest of her death.
"You'll never speak again." The Doctor said. He was a Pakistani man with moosed black hair and bristling mustace. He held a clipboard in his hand and he spoke in a pursed, accented English.
"Your vocal chords were damaged beyond repair by the piece of shrapnel that punctured your larynx. The surgeon removed all they could, but it wasn't enough to save your vocal cords. You can still ingest food orally, but you have to be careful for the next months when you eat, drink or swallow saliva. You will have to learn a lot of things because of your new condition. It will be best if we start with your rehabilitation right away, have you drinking and eating again. We've scheduled an appointment with your physical trainer for later today. If you don't feel up to it, we can reschedule of course."
The doctor, call him Kunal but you probably won't see him again, turned to go and then paused.
"I'm very sorry." He said, absently, and then he left.
Elaine's room was the lemony yellow of a starburst. The sun bled in thorough the half opened blinds and she spent a good part of her morning tracking the progress of the light across her bed. Soon, it would be at her toes. She didn't sleep comfortably, accustomed to sleep on her side, but what with a grievous neck injury stymie old habit, she found herself coming awake at intermittent times during the night. Since sun up, she watched the life, wondering where her life would lead.
She had survived, which was certainly as a surprise, but now she was a crippled kind of. She couldn't talk, but she could gesture and make motions and be understood, though with some difficulty. Already she was adapting to it, letting gestures do the talking and taking liberties with the nurse call button. She began to think back on her voice and if she'd ever really used it. After a while, she came to the conclusion that "No. She never actually need to speak in her day-to-day".
She was an accountant by trade and practice. All her business was conducted by email. She rarely talked on the phone. Most of her socializing was done via text and IM chat. She wasn't much at parties, being always uncomfortable in groups of more than three. She didn't sing unless she was drunk and even then her voice was awful. She had ran the problem of No Voice thorough her mind-filters and came to the idea that it was no real problem at all.
Despite this, the depression had set in bad. She was missing a part of herself, a part she would never get back. She imagined all new hassles; the difficulties of carrying around pens and paper everywhere she did, the stumbling thorough learning sign language, the unspoken worry of something happening and her being unable to speak. She would be the perfect rape victim, now that she thought about it. She wouldn't be able to scream.
When she felt herself about to cry, she noticed the man at the door. He was small and not handsome, but he wore a visitor badge and a confused expression. He held flowers in his hands and looked around the room expectantly. Eventually, he looked at her and he smiled nervously.
A moment passed where they stared at each other.
She thought You must be lost
He said "Excuse me?"
She looked at him and then she thought Okay, that's strange.
"Uh...what's strange? I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"I can hear you. Are you talking?"
She thought No and then she realized she was wrong.
I'm thinking, I think. I can't talk anymore.
He moved into the room and across the bed and he looked at her. "Say something."
He said "Oh my god. Your lips aren't moving. How are you doing that?"
I don't know, she thought and then she watched the man leave, his expression more bewildered than before.
She laid in bed for a while, thinking about what just changed about her and decided whether or not to let this bit of madness continue.
As the sun settled on the peak of her foot, she reached for the call button.