In a World of Second Chances

Kerstin N

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Paige could feel the impact coming before it even hit. She felt it in the way her body had braced itself, in the adrenaline sent through her nerves, in the way her mind imagined the consequences of running the red light a split second before they came to fruition. It was in the way Gwen had screamed next to her, and in the motion in her periphery that revealed it was too late to avoid the minivan barreling right into her side. It was hard to tell whether the crunching noise was coming from the car or her own body. Shattered glass was propelled into her face. Her phone, which she had been looking at only seconds earlier, was knocked from her hand. It fell to the floor, its screen still displaying the unsent text midsentence: Be right there <3 I only-. Paige couldn’t distinguish the voices of her friends from the cacophony of the crash; a terrible orchestra of destruction. She was met with an all-consuming white light, and then nothing. It was the beeping noise she heard first—quiet, but insistent. She cracked open her eyes, wiping the bleariness from them, and pushed herself up from what she realized was a bed. She examined her arms and stomach, confused to find no cuts or bruises. She looked around the room, except there were no walls, or doors. Just open, white space, filled with beds like hers. “Hello!” The chipper voice said near her. Paige flinched, before noticing the woman standing next to her. The name tag on her scrubs read “Jenny”, and she seemed to radiate light. Not like she was glowing, exactly, but like energy was visibly radiating off her. “I know you’re probably confused, but it’s going to be okay. You had quite a crash there.” Paige’s mind flashed back to the scene, the crunching sound still echoing in her eardrums. “Am I… dead?” she asked, afraid to know the answer. Jenny pursed her lips. “The short answer is yes. And no. Let me explain,” she continued as Paige’s eyes widened, “You were killed in that car crash. You ran a red light and were directly hit by an oncoming car going 45mph. One of your friends was also killed, and the rest, including the mother and son in the minivan, were badly injured and hospitalized. “But,” she said, “It’s not your time yet. Neither is it your friend’s, or the time of those in the hospital. You all still have so much life ahead of you. You can fix this, Paige. All you have to do is one thing.” She held up Paige’s smartphone in her hand, the screen uncracked. Paige nodded, strangely calm despite the shock of her current state. “I know,” she said. Jenny held out her smartphone to take it. Paige reached for it, but paused. “Thank you. You know, for a second chance.” “Don’t thank me, honey. Thank yourself when you get home.” Jenny squeezed her hand briefly, before placing the phone in her palm. Paige instantly was brought back to moments before the crash, typing the partially written text on her screen. She looked up to see the car closing the gap between itself and the intersection, the light turning yellow. She slammed on the brake, her friends lurching forward in her seats. The car stopped just before the intersection as the light turned red. Paige could even see the minivan go by, passengers safe and sound. “Gwen,” she asked, shaken, “Turn off all my notifications, please. And hold onto my phone, for good measure.”