Suddenly, she heard the gut wrenching squeal of breaking wheels and whining tires. Another car, also flying down the road toward her sideswiped her, sending her car sliding down the embankment on her right. Desperately, she tried to control her car, but soon she began to roll. The speed which the earth came toward her terrified her. An involuntary scream escaped from deep within.
After an eternity of seconds, the car stopped. She realized she was lying against the door alive, though breathless, thankful her husband had insisted on having a rollbar installed. She detached her seat belt, and struggled to get out of the car, but found she was jammed tight in the seat. She felt no pain, but she could not move her legs, and the discomfort of being stuck was almost more than she could endure. Her heart beat hard, the blood thumped loud in her ears. As she struggled to free herself, she became aware of the car shifting. She stopped struggling, grasping the implications of not being on solid ground. A feeling of panic rose like a storm in her soul, she could hear the river somewhere near, and wondered how far away it was.
She needed to relax. It wouldn’t do her any good to panic. She knew if she was able to control her fear, she’d be able to think clearly. She prayed for protection and to be kept safe, breathed deep, and looked ahead of her. She could see how far she’d rolled. Exhaling, she realized the miracle of her survival. The ridge she’d slid from was above her, but the road seemed to disappear in the mountainside. She wondered if the driver of the other car was hurt, and if he was able to find help.
Far above her, a gust of wind whipped a tree and for the moment the sun shone, unobstructed, in her eyes. She glanced down, and saw her cell phone still in its holder. She picked it up, hoping the mountain didn’t interfere with the signal. “Hello?” she asked when she heard the dispatcher answer her call.
“I’ve just had an accident.”
“Are you hurt?”
“No, but I’m trapped in my car, and it’s on a hill…” suddenly Aubrey’s stomach lurched as the car began to slide and did not stop for several feet. The helplessness of not being able to stop the slide almost made her sick. When the car stopped moving and her stomach stopped churning, she gave the operator her location, “You guys better hurry, I don’t think the car is stable. I just slid a long way.”
She hung up the phone, not feeling reassured by the operator. She dialed again. “Mark? This is Aubrey. I got sideswiped, and I’m waiting for some help.”
“Are you hurt?” her husband asked, his voice immediately on the edge of panic.
“I’m fine, but I’m stuck. I’ve already called 911, but I’m not sure how long it’s going to take them to find me. I’m between Mount Haven and ten miles outside of Wildwood, off the road. Hurry, would ya? I’m on a hill, and the car keeps sliding.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Call me again if you need to.”
Mark hung up, rushed to his boss’s office to let him know he had to leave. Soon he was on Highway 9, while praying that the Lord would keep her safe. Going back from Wildwood ten miles, usually such a short distance, seemed to stretch to infinity.
Now Aubrey had to wait. It was all she could do. Even in the best of situations she hated waiting without something to keep her mind occupied. Frustrated, she tried to focus on something besides her difficulty. She looked into the trees. The light and shadow shifting patterns began to help calm her down and she began to feel a peace she didn't understand. Humanly speaking she should be near panic, but she'd never experienced such a deep and calm reassurance.
It was beautiful out here. It occurred to her that she hadn’t enjoyed the forest for a very long time, and that seemed a shame. She thought of Mark and their boys. They hadn’t gone camping together for a long while.
The cool breeze continued to blow, keeping her from getting too hot. The music of the nearby river and the hypnotic shimmering caressed her soul. She yawned. After the fright from the accident, the warmth from the sun and the cool breeze she was soon asleep.
Arriving at the location Aubrey had given, Mark slowed down and parked when he saw the wreckage of the car that caused the accident. He looked in, but could see the driver had not survived.
He began to search the road for a sign where Aubrey had gone over the side. His emotions told him to hurry, his heart, too afraid to think of what might happen. Not far from the accident, Mark saw skid marks on the road, and the gashes the car made through the plants and earth as it toppled over the edge.
He looked over the side, “Aubrey!” There was no response. Carefully, he began to descend, following the ripped hill. He saw the car, lying on the driver’s side, with its front pointed up and could see Aubrey, but she was lying very still. His heart almost stopped beating.
“God,” he prayed, “please, I don’t want to loose her.”
“Aubrey!” he called, shaking her, slightly reassured by the unbroken windshield. Suddenly, he slipped as the car slid away, then stopped. He crawled away from Aubrey’s car, arose slowly, and carefully walking around. The car was close to the edge of a cliff. He knew now that he’d been hearing Wildwood River rapids boiling and churning far below. The noise of a rushing river had always been pleasant to him before, but now the roar was ominous. He warily walked back to the front of the car
“AUBREY!” he yelled as loudly as he could, almost in her ear. Afraid to touch her, he sank to his knees. “Dear God, please save her. I don’t know what the boys and I will do without her.”
“Mark,” she yawned, “I’m alright, I just fell asleep. Has the rescue team come out yet?”
“No.” Mark said, thanking the Lord, as relief almost made him cry.
“I don’t think I’m very secure. Can you tell?”
“Aubrey, you’re close to the edge of a cliff. Wildwood River is below you. You need to stay still.”
“That’s what I was afraid of, but I’m not scared. I was praying before I fell asleep, and I think the Lord has helped me be calm, but I’ll be glad to be out.”
“Aubrey, I think I hear sirens. I’m going back up the side. You gonna be okay?”
“Okay, hurry back.”
Mark scrambled back up the hillside and found a tow truck, fire truck and ambulance just parking. “Hey! She’s down here, her car’s resting on the edge. You guys need to hurry!”
A rescue team member came to Mark, “I’m Jim. How close to the edge is she?”
“Her back tires are, maybe ten feet, and I’m not sure how stable the ledge is. The car seems to slide if she moves.”
“Hey, Kevin…” Jim called toward the trucks, “bring a tow line we’ve got to secure the car.”
“Right!” Kevin called back. Five men hurried down the hillside to Aubrey, who was beginning to grow anxious again. Kevin dragged the tow cable to the axle of car, working carefully so that he didn’t upset the car any further.
“Jim, Look at that axle. There’s no way it’s gonna hold if the car slips over the edge. I don’t think I can attach the line to the back. Do you have any suggestions?”
“For goodness sake,” Mark said nervously, “you’ve got to do something quick. She’s gonna go over any minute.”
“Listen, Mark,” Jim explained, “the situation’s pretty bad. If we attach the cable to the front axle, it may break, if we attach it to the back, the ground might fall out from under us. We have to think carefully for a minute.”
“What if we go ahead and attach the cable to the front axle,” a man named Shawn suggested, “then attach a second through the roll bar. It’s held up to the rolling of her car, it should hold when we pull the car away from the edge. After we get the car somewhat secure, we can attach the cable to the back axle as well.”
“Mark, there’s a chance the car might go over the side while we’re attaching the cables, but we’ve got to do something. Is this okay with you?”
“Do it, just hurry. We’ve got to get her out of there.”
“Okay, guys, but be careful, and secure yourselves.”
Slowly the rescue team worked with the cable attached to the heavy, rugged tow truck, which sat on the road above. Several men worked to wrap the cable to the front axle of the car. After securing the axle, they began work on the roll bar.
Aubrey tried to remain calm, but fear began to overwhelm her. “Please Mark, tell them to hurry. My feet are beginning to tingle.”
“They’re doing their best, Aubrey. Sit tight, and pray. I’ll pray too.”
Suddenly, the car slipped, Aubrey screamed as the ground broke beneath the weight, sending the car, Aubrey and one of the rescue members hurdling toward the raging river beneath. Above, on the road, the tow truck began to slide and was dragged over the edge. It slid several feet, before stopping full force against a giant boulder.
Mark, in misery and pain, stifled a sob, not knowing whether the tow ropes had been fastened in time. All rushed to the edge. As they looked, they could see the man dangling by his security rope, and lower down, they could see the car, nose pointed toward the river. The tow ropes held, and both man and vehicle dangled like two pendulums swinging in opposing directions. Quickly, they pulled on his rope and brought him up to the edge, he was taken to the ambulance.
“The tow truck isn’t going to be able to pull her up, like we wanted. It’s insecure too.” Kevin commented.
“Do you think we can crawl down to the car and get her out?” Jim suggested.
“We don’t know how she’s wedged in. Shouldn’t we try pulling her up first? The truck may have only fallen because of the road collapsing.” Mark suggested.
“I don’t know. We’ll just have to give it a try.” They began pulling the car on the line. The cable creaked and groaned while the winch whined; an acrid, burning smell filled their nostrils. Suddenly, the truck lurched again, they stopped the engine.
Aubrey blacked out when the cliff collapsed underneath her. Now conscious again, she tried wiggling her legs. Amazingly, she was able to move them, but now the tingling was worse as the blood came surging back down the veins. Her skin began to itch intolerably, unable to reach them, she moaned miserably. The river seemed to wait for her, she felt dizzy watching it roll and froth.
After what seemed a long time, she could feel the car being pulled upwards. Anticipating the end of all this helped keep her courage. Soon she’d be back on solid ground, and when they got to Wildwood, she’d tell Mark she wanted a banana split. She wouldn’t care about the fat. She whispered a prayer of thanksgiving, but as she prayed, another lurch interrupted her prayer, the car stopped ascending.
Frightened, she yelled, “What’s going on up there. Lord? Can’t they hurry, and where are you? Don’t you care?” Aubrey became aware of a feeling like invisible arms wrapped around her to calm her. From somewhere deep in her memory, an obscure verse she’d once heard came to mind, “He will quiet you with His love.” She concentrated on the words like a frightened child holding a teddy bear. Each time fear tried to take hold of her again, she repeated those very comforting words to herself. They were all that kept her from panic.
Soon the car began to jiggle. “He will quiet you with His love,” she repeated again. Looking back, and above her, she could see a man coming down to her, as if he was a spider on the string of its web.
“I’m Shawn, are you okay?” the man asked when he reached her.
“Well, physically, I think I’m okay, but emotionally I’m a wreck. Can you hurry?”
“We’re hurrying. They’ve lowered a harness; I’m supposed to help you into it so that they can haul you up. Can you get free?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t tried since the car went over the edge. My legs can move now, they couldn’t before.”
“Try to get out of your seat, hold on and I’ll get the harness on you.”
Aubrey struggled, jiggling the car more intensely. The roll bar, which saved her skull, now hampered her efforts to climb free. Several times she tried to pull herself out, several times she stopped, exhausted.
“Come on, Aubrey, you’ve got to try harder. Think of your family.” Shawn encouraged. Five agonizing minutes went by, but Aubrey could not free herself. Shawn was getting worried. The cable creaked loudly, Aubrey was becoming exhausted.
“Aubrey, if you can’t pull yourself out, we’ll have to cut you out. I’m worried about bringing anything else down here, or taking more time. Try again.”
She tried again, somewhat irritated by Shawn’s insistence. Finally, after a great heave, and something sharp digging deeply, painfully into her leg, she pulled herself out, scrambling out of the seat. She leaned on the roll bar while Shawn helped her in the harness.
Shawn spoke into his radio, and soon Jim and Kevin slowly pulled her and Shawn clear of the dangling car. The cable holding the car creaked, groaned loudly, and then with a sickening snap, the car broke away from the roll bar. The axle split, and the car and roll bar fell. All were swallowed in the river, Aubrey looked down, horrified.
After a few moments the team above hoisted Aubrey and Shawn toward them. Aubrey, still in shock from watching her car fall, began to feel a burning pain in her leg. Looking between her knees, she saw a bleeding ugly gash in her right leg. She felt sick.
Shawn, who noticed her turning pale, asked, “You okay?”
“My leg’s bleeding pretty badly. I’m not good when I see blood.”
“It does look pretty bad, but we’re almost at the top. Your husband’s still there and there’s an ambulance. We’ll get you taken care of as soon as we get there. Try to hang on.”
As soon as they reached the top, they bound her leg, loaded her in the ambulance, and rushed to the hospital in Wildwood. Mark followed in his car.
At the hospital, Aubrey was taken to emergency. There she saw a doctor, who bandaged her leg. Afterwards, she was released to go home with Mark. The doctor gave Mark instructions in the care of her leg, and they made an appointment to see him in a few days.
“Mark,” Aubrey said as they drove home, “just before you came, I was reminded of how much I used to enjoy the woods. It’s been a long time since we took the boys camping. I know you’ve been wanting to. Maybe we can when my leg gets better.”
“That would be great Aubrey. I know they’ll be looking forward to it.”
“I don’t remember where it is, but I was thinking of a Bible verse when I was so scared. It said, ‘He will quiet you with His love.’”
“That’s part of Zephaniah 3:17.”
“Zephaniah? I knew it was in the Old Testament somewhere, but I don’t remember reading any of it.”
“That’s the thing about the Bible. Verses that are stored in our brain come to mind when we need them.”
“Mark, do you think we’ve grown apart? It seems like you and the boys do things together, but I’m always busy.”
“Maybe.” Mark replied carefully.
“Something like this makes a person think, I guess.”
“I think I need to cut back on the time I spend working.”
“Aubrey, you love your job. I’d hate to ask you to give it up.”
“Mark, going through that just now has made me appreciate what I have with you and the boys. The career can wait until they’re older. I want to enjoy you guys now. I almost lost you and we both know it.”
“I love you, Aubrey.”
“I love you too, Mark.”