Illustration: Manjil Rijal
Illustration: Manjil Rijal

Accident zone, drive slow

A short story

And then there was another.

This time, it happened in the sharp heat of midday, just after she had finished the day's cooking, sweeping the house, and throwing seed out for the chickens. So it was easier to manage. There were many other people too, especially from around Spices Mall – just a small shop with that name, really, for the tourists – to help make calls, bring water, and gape. Earlier, they would have shifted the debris and moved the mangled flesh to the side of the road until the police came. But these days, that is not allowed. Everything had to remain right where it lay – body, metal, money, ID cards, everything. "108," she muttered under her breath. She knew the total instinctively now, so frequent these accidents, so often the urgency to get the ambulance, the police and sometimes the fire services. Her little daughter liked the bright red fire engines that made a wuyy wuyy wuyy sound. The sirens of the police and ambulances were harsh and desperate, they both thought.

Someone had already made the calls. On that hot afternoon, the police arrived quickly enough. Among the survivors, a woman, 45-ish, bruised and thoroughly shaken, quiet. Her screams were yet to begin. The bodies of two men – husband? son? nephew? distant relative? – lay behind their once-fancy car, hidden from her view, while she sipped the water someone had handed her. Another day, another accident, thought the woman from the house below the road. She had seen too many now to stay on. Plus, this was a family that lay dismantled now, and she was not interested in what happened to families.

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Himal Southasian