Christian Inspirational Suspense

“Hey honey, can you drive for a bit?” James touched Liz’s knee and she jerked to attention. “I have a bit of a headache coming on and I’d like to close my eyes.”

“Of course.” Liz closed the laptop she had perched on her crossed legs as he pulled the blue Chevy Trax into the gas station just outside Childress, Texas. She was so focused on the story she was typing that she didn’t hear his request until she felt this hand on her knee.

He stepped out and moved to the back of the Trax to refuel while Liz headed for the bathroom.

She returned with a bag of Skittles dangling from her right hand. She opened the driver’s side door, climbed into the wide-open space, and began to readjust the seat and mirrors to fit her 5-foot frame. Liz set the Skittles in the center console as the buzz of the seat sliding forward vibrated the stirring wheel. She released the telescoping mechanism and pushed the stirring wheel to the dashboard. She triple-checked the mirrors one last time before she buckled her seatbelt and restarted the engine. James reclined in the passenger seat beside her, head back and eyes closed.

She pulled back onto the main road running between towns and headed north toward Childress. With her favorite holiday playlist on the radio, she tapped the stirring wheel and sang along to all her favorite tunes alternating handfuls of Skittles between songs. She savored the sweet chewy delicacy, and it helped keep her awake for the long journey ahead. James shifted in his seat, so she lowered the radio volume.

Several minutes passed. “Thank God” by Kane & Katelyn Brown played on the radio. She couldn’t help but sing along. Playing air guitar on the stirring wheel, she noticed the Childress city limit sign. She didn’t get more than the first verse out when she breathed in, and a piece of Skittles lodged in her throat.

James sat up in his chair. His eyes locked on her. Several seconds passed, “Are you breathing?”

She raised her right hand as tears streamed down her face. She shook her head and pulled the Trax into the middle turn lane, never making a sound.

His stare bore into her soul. “Are you okay?” His voice was on the edge of panic.

She shook her head. Still no sound.

He pointed to the left.

She followed his finger and saw a gas station and no oncoming traffic. She pulled into the station and placed the Chevy Trax into park next to pump#4. “Thank God, Thank God, Thank God for giving me you. “Kane continued his ballad to his beautiful wife. Liz pressed the power button to off.

“Are you breathing, do I need to perform the Heimlich?” Panic was pushing James to the edge of his seat.

Tears clouded her vision and snot fell like snow off the roof. Thud. Thud. Splashing off the stirring wheel and onto her jeans. Liz remained calm. She couldn’t breathe. In or out. Nothing. No sound. “Is this it, God? Am I coming home? It this how You’re taking me, death by Skittles?” She glanced in James’s direction and could see his lips were moving but she could no longer hear sound. She tightened her eyelids and felt more tears escape down her cheeks. They hit her jeans like water balloons dropped from the Empire State Building. Splat. Kerplat. Everything was heightened and done in slow motion.

2 seconds passed. She could feel her heartbeat. Boom Boom

It’s so quite here, God.

4 seconds passed. Boom Boom

How peaceful…this feeling. Her thoughts trailed off before she could finish her thought.

Boom Boom. 6 seconds passed. She looked at James, still moving his lips without sound. Boom Boom. She had a perspective shift. Was she moving away from James?

8 seconds. More tears streamed down her face. God, will James be okay?

She glanced at the clock on the dashboard. 10 seconds passed. Was the dash getting further away? Boom Boom

She closed her eyes again. More tears crashed to her jeans. More snot dripped to her lap. Boom Boom. She saw movement on her right and watched James lift his right hand. She squinted through the tears and noticed 12 seconds passed.

Boom Boom. Liz moved her hands to the stirring wheel fearing she may lose consciousness. 14 seconds passed.

16 seconds passed. Everything was moving fast forward. A blur of memories whizzed past her head. She placed her forehead on the top of the stirring wheel.

Before James reached for the door handle, Liz wheezed.

  He froze.

She wheezed again. This time Panic threatened Liz. She clasped the stirring wheel and tried to breathe again. Like breathing through a flattened straw, she took shallow breaths until the minute Skittles piece finally freed its death grip on her windpipe.

James slowly released the breath he didn’t even know he was holding and leaned back in his seat. His head pounded even more than before they switched seats. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. He massaged his temples, eyes closed.

Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Wheeze.

Liz couldn’t speak, but the sheer fact she was making noise was music to his ears.

Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Wheeze.

“Thank God, I didn’t lose you.”

Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Wheeze. Thank God. Liz thought about those words between coughs and wheezes. “Thank God” was playing on the radio and the story those lyrics tell. She reached over and grabbed James’s hand. She shook her head in agreement with his spoken words. Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Wheeze…

…Several miles down the road, they pulled up behind a line of cars on Interstate 40. Debris decorated the highway for several 100 feet. They saw chrome fenders, red plastic taillights, glass, and tire shreds scattered down the road. Over an hour they crawled along Interstate 40 at a snail’s pace.

Liz looked up to heaven as they passed the wreckage, “Thank God.” She whispered as a tiny tear ran down her cheek.

James reached for her hand, “Thank God.”

They finished their journey in silence.

December 24, 2023 18:31

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19:36 Jan 04, 2024

I love the way you applied the phrase "Thank God" throughout the story and balanced the inner dialogue with the dialogue of the characters externally. A dynamic short story.


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Kevin Marlow
03:16 Jan 04, 2024

I realize it is not the point of the story, but the line "Is this how You’re taking me, death by Skittles?" made me chuckle.


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Timothy Rennels
17:06 Dec 31, 2023

I was distracted by the frequent use of "stirring" instead of "steering" wheel.


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