📅 Published on September 2, 2020


Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.67/10. From 9 votes.
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Debbie Sanderson was a dream come true at five-foot-nine with a quick wit, perfect smile and the deepest brown eyes I’d ever seen. We’d met on a discord server about two months back and really hit it off. Our conversations evolved from messaging to phone calls and video chats. She seemed like everything I’d ever wanted.  Our only obstacle was distance. She lived in Colorado and I didn’t. I’d always wanted to go but I could never justify the trip—I hated to travel alone—but when Debbie invited me out to visit I couldn’t help but jump at the opportunity.

My motives weren’t all of a romantic interest, though. I knew Colorado had some of the finest “recreational activities” that aren’t what you’d call “legal” where I’m from. My friend Colleen recently moved there and said there was everything you could imagine—cannabis popcorn, gummies, brownies, basically, anything and everything you could ever want to put pot in had… well… pot in it. GPS would take me anywhere that I needed to go hotel wise and such.

After a lot of research, extra shifts to save up money, and planning with Debbie, my room was booked and my itinerary planned. I wanted to be as best prepared as I could be given the spontaneity of my new surroundings and people.

It was about an eight-hour drive, and though I disliked solitude, I could handle road trips or a weekend by myself if I knew there was company at the other end. Even so, I was anxious about the solitary venture until I crossed the border into Colorado and the landscape changed. Then I was thankful for my decision.

The view outside my window was utterly breathtaking and the time spent alone in the open air on I-70 was just what I needed. The windows were as far down as I could stand, the air freezing on a level I simply wasn’t used to, but the cold made me feel alive.

I listened to my Best of the Oldies playlist on the drive, and as the last notes of “Good Vibrations” faded out I’d reached my destination. The timing was perfect, as if the Beach Boys were foreshadowing a life-changing experience.

But the Beach Boys hadn’t met Debbie.

Despite having the body of a goddess and eyes like midnight, the poor woman ended up being a total dud. She introduced me as an old family friend to her neighbors, her house was an ungodly mess, and she actually jumped the first time I put my hand on her leg. Around the time that I started to wonder if maybe I’d been catfished, I also realized that, in the end, it didn’t matter. There was no chance we would ever work out.

But that didn’t mean we couldn’t have some fun before I left. She took me to her favorite dispensaries and restaurants. We drove about seventy miles out of town so she could take me on the road that the opening to my favorite Netflix show was filmed on.

So many edibles were sampled, popcorns, brownies, candy, you name it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get her to break out of her shell, even after elevating our minds. Out of all the things in God’s universe to talk about, we ended up discussing climate and gas price differences. She was a pretty woman, and online she had one of the deepest minds I’d ever spoken to.  I really tried to ignite a spark before I finally cut my losses. But in the end, it was like lighting a match underwater. I was grateful for the trip in more sense than one but sadly, if I never saw Debbie again, it wouldn’t make any difference to my life whatsoever. She was nice and all. She was polite and interested in what I had to say.

I could tell a few times she attempted to be flirty, but it just wasn’t fully executed for whatever reason. By the time I left, I could tell that she fully understood, possibly even felt the same as I did. I could tell in her movements that she couldn’t wait to get away from me at the end there.

So, once I’d made adjustments to my trunk and purchased a few new things from the closest dispensary for the ride home, I was ready to go. I’d accomplished all I had set out to do, except fall in love of course. There was nothing left for me in Denver now that I was done with Debbie.

I checked out the next morning, returned onto I70, and headed towards Summit County. There was only one more thing I had to do before I left the state for good.

It was early morning, the first blush of sunlight just yawning in the sky, and Copper Mountain towered over the horizon. It looked just like a Bill Alexander painting. I remember promising myself I was going to try to paint it the first week that I was home. Pictures certainly wouldn’t do it justice, but it was impossible to behold and not capture on film. As soon as I saw it, I was instantly in love.

Snow kissed mountain peaks rose higher than the clouds, their tops kissing the sky in private where no one could see. I’d toyed with the option of taking Debbie with me before we’d actually met. I dodged a bullet on that one I guess. After the first evening, I’d made my mind up not to mention it at all.

Deep in the mountain’s shadow, I pulled over, turned the car off, switching the camera over to the music app on my phone. I wanted to remember this vision till the day I died, absorb every feeling, emotion and smell. I felt so small in the grand scheme of things compared to this massive landscape. I’d truly never seen anything like it.

I queued up my Mountainside Playlist and spaced out, floating on the lingering waves of my last buzz. I leaned back in my seat and stared at the mountain as the vibrations of the music carried me away to the meditative beating of my own heart. A soft and peaceful rhythm comforted me as I reclined my front seat to get a better look at the sky.

I ashamedly must have dozed off because according to my phone, about an hour later. A sudden shockwave had jolted me out of my trance. The percussion of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” flooded from my phone’s speakers, warping the flow of my thoughts until my pulse became anxious and erratic.

The mountain had disappeared beneath a growing cloud of thick white flurries. The snow was so pure and the movement so immensely consistent that it was hard to see at first. Snow rained down the crags of the mountain like waterfalls, and an alarming amount of it was invading the road faster than I could process.

My fingers yanked the handle to raise my front seat back up. I fumbled with my keys in an attempt to reverse my car and get out of the path of danger. I was pretty sure the avalanche wouldn’t reach me, but I wanted to be safe. The engine responded with a string of disheartening clicks.

The siren at the end of the song reached its crescendo right as the avalanche caught up with me, slamming into the car like a wall of pristine, white cement. My head bounced off the driver’s side window and then there was nothing. No sound. No light. Only the thick, black emptiness of my unconscious mind.

I awoke sometime later to a plaintive beeping sound in the darkness of my entombed car.

My phone.

Low battery, it was at an unhealthy three percent.

I didn’t care. My head hurt too much. I pressed a hand against the throbbing pain and my fingers came back red.

Once again fighting with my keys, I attempted to restart the vehicle but was met with the same result as before, each empty click of the engine inching me closer towards a panic that cut through the fog of my injury.

I frantically pulled at the door handle, beating the paneling with frustration until my hands were numb. Absolutely nothing happened. It felt like the entire care itself was locked in place. Like the cuts had never been made for the door panels and it was a solid piece.

There was no way out.

Intrusive thoughts began to rain down on my anxious mind. I was alone. I was trapped in a dead car and no one knew where I was, but I had hope. I wasn’t the only one to have traveled that road. I just prayed the county would come out soon to close the road and clear it, digging me out in the process.

Hours passed. Silence pressed against me, as physical a presence as the cold itself, and the air only grew colder the longer I sat there. Before I knew it my breath was visible to the eye, even in the dark, and I’d started to shiver uncontrollably. The snow must have buried me deep to have turned my car into this sensory deprivation chamber from Hell. With no external stimulation but the cold, it didn’t take long before my heart was racing and my thoughts were spiraling into a pit of negativity and death. The frozen sweat of an anxiety attack was approaching fast, so I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I packed a pipe I had hidden away in my glove compartment. Upon meeting flame to glass, the red hairs of the nugget danced in anticipation. I inhaled in an attempt to push away my rising panic.

At first, it worked. The smoke was warm and it didn’t take long before I found myself caught up in the flowing upholstery on the ceiling, my trembling worries replaced with a newfound confidence of a rescue assured. The snow couldn’t be this thick forever, I thought. Eventually, it would thin out enough for my car to be visible and then I’d be saved!

But then it started to wear off and paranoia set in. I was too keenly aware of my solitude. Everything around me was so still and quiet. The only thing I could focus on was the deafening beats of my panicked heart. It was just me, my breathing, and the silence. The isolation tested my sanity, gripping my heart with a sudden terror I didn’t know could exist. A familiar discomfort churned in my stomach.


I realized it wasn’t cold anymore.

There, in the depths of my icy coffin, a surge of warmth had enveloped me. It started at my toes and steadily made its way up through my body. Before long, I was burning up and the urge to take off my clothes was irresistible.

My mind quickly lost all semblance of rationality after that as song lyrics echoed through its recesses:

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one

* * * * * *

It had to have been at least twenty-four hours since I’d been trapped in the car, not that there was any way to tell. My car was dead. My phone was dead. The only thing left with any life in it was me, and that wouldn’t be true for much longer if no one found me in the next twenty-four hours. I was trying my damnedest to keep it together while the claustrophobic confines of my prison ground away my sanity.

And my feet were on fire.

I couldn’t feel my toes themselves, just the licking of phantom flames tempting me to remove my socks. Luckily my fingers were past the point of cooperation, but I still couldn’t tolerate the heat. It was a struggle, but between fear and panic, I’d eventually lost the fight against rationality.  I removed my shoes and wrestled off my socks.

Then, just on the edge of my perception, I heard something.

A series of whirrs and whips or air sounded through the layers of metal, glass and snow. My heart leapt at recognizing the sound of tires on pavement. Hope reinvigorated my spirit more and more with each car’s passing.

The road must have been cleared! I thought, and leaned closer towards the frozen window to listen.

Instantly, I recognized the scraping sound of steel against pavement. My eyes filled with tears, bringing the unexpected comfort of warmth to my cold eyes. It was the sound of a snowplow approaching rapidly in the distance, and I realized that it was closing in on me. To them, I just looked like a clump of snow, accumulated from the earlier avalanche. They’d have no idea of knowing a car was underneath there until it was too late.

I held my breath and braced myself for the impact.

A torrent of force rocked my vehicle, then I was moving. But not forwards or backwards. The car was traveling down, falling. I was fortunate enough to have it land right side up. A rush of heat flew to my brow and a crimson liquid trickled into my eyes as I rushed to wipe it away.  A smear of blood shone on the steering wheel, letting me know I must have whacked my head when the car hit bottom or wherever the hell I ended up at.

My temples throbbed as multiple thuds of snow pounded a few feet outside my window before going distant again as the snowplow drove past, abandoning me and all hopes of immediate rescue. I must have gotten turned sideways in the avalanche and was probably buried even deeper with the snow piled up by the plow. If so, my thinking is that this would most definitely be the last thing my eyes saw before I died.

That was it, then. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but sit and hope the snow would melt enough for my car to be visible before I became hypothermic and either froze to death or died of exposure.

No. No!

After a few moments of self-pity and awaiting death to get it over with and take me, I decided to refuse to let this be how it ended. I needed to think. This shithole car was not going to be the last thing I saw in life. I looked around, desperate for an answer. But between the constant throbbing and the rising panic, thinking was hard, so I reached for some comfort to make it easier to focus.

The zipper of my backpack filled the silence of my would-be-tomb with a thunderous growl. No matter how slowly I pulled it jarred my senses, but a cautious swirl of my hand inside the bag, careful not to make too much noise, brought me the container I sought.

The label read “Jedi Haze”.

This oughta be good, I thought.

Despite the warmth I felt, my hands shook from the cold, spilling some herb as I tried to empty out the dead embers from earlier and pack the glass pipe.

Lighting it was agony. Each tiny spike of the wheel felt like needles jabbing in my ill circulated skin.

However, the more I smoked, the more scenarios leading to my death faded from my mind. It took a few minutes, but eventually, my mind cleared and I knew I needed to get it together and come up with a plan.

If I was going down, I was going to go down swinging.

However, I was overconfident, and ignorant that I’d been slowly running out of air. My lungs burned as they filled with smoke and soon, I was hacking up a storm; Jedi Haze wasn’t very smooth for something so expensive. But who cares about money now. If this is the last thing I do in life, then I guess it was worth it.

I needed a drink. When was the last time I’d had something to drink?

I did a quick mental search of the contents of the car. Why didn’t I keep bottles of water with me? Then I remembered Debbie always had a bottle on her, which meant there should have been a bottle still hiding in my trunk.

I carefully crawled into my backseat, releasing the seatbacks slowly to avoid making any unnecessary sound as I accessed the trunk. I searched briefly, sliding my hand under and between the contents, and was relieved to find one glorious bottle, the water still unfrozen, trapped under the stiff, insulating mass atop it. I pried it free without making too much noise and held it close as I returned to the front seat. It was the most beautiful bottle of water I had ever seen in my life.

I downed the water way faster than I’d meant to, my cracked lips and heavy tongue yearning for relief, and it hit the bottom of my stomach like hot grease in a cold pan. I doubled over, my stomach cramping and threatening to empty itself in retaliation to the frigid invasion. I took slow deep breaths, as deep as I could, until the cramps released me, but the air seemed to be getting thicker inside my car, my breath coming shallower by the minute.

I looked to the air vents and could have sworn I saw a luminescent mist coming through. My eyes followed as it danced peacefully in the front seat. I ran my fingers through it, giggling silently as it swirled around them. The multicolored, pearlescent vapors swirled and mingled with my skin.

Then a sudden, paranoid thought occurred to me. This playful, pearly mist might have been toxic. I yanked the collar of my shirt up over my nose in a panic, my giggles quickly giving way to terrified, whispering sobs. God knows how much of it I’d already inhaled.

At first I had wondered if it was maybe a lingering cloud of Jedi Haze, but the color and texture were wrong. I closed my eyes, trying to remember any reference to glowing avalanche mist I might have read about, and when I opened them the mist had disappeared.

That’s when I knew I was delirious. I was hallucinating. I hadn’t eaten in more than a day, I’d barely had water, I was freezing, and I was breathing less oxygen than I needed. I had to get out of there. Then I remembered my book bag on the floor. I quietly pulled it up, careful not to let the fabric scrape too loudly, and started delicately rifling through it. What I needed had to be in there somewhere. I’d bought it specifically for this trip.


My hand emerged with a solid mass of metal about the size and shape of a hockey puck. The grinder wouldn’t be perfect, since smashing a window wasn’t grinding flowers and stems into a smoke-able mix, but it would do. I didn’t relish the cacophony of glass and snow it would create inside my car, but if I could just break the window I might be able to burrow my way out through the snow. I figured it couldn’t be that thick if I could hear traffic through it.

Winding back my arm as far as I could, I slammed the grinder into the window.

The sound was blinding. It assaulted my ears just about as much as I had assaulted the window. It reverberated throughout my car, and I wanted to cover my ears and hide. But my adrenaline was high, and if I stopped now I might not get the chance or courage up to start again.

I pounded at the glass. My hand ached from the impact and I swore my ears would bleed from the sound, but I pushed through the pain and the terrible noise until there, just in the lower right corner, the smallest crack appeared. I concentrated on that crack for dear life until, eventually, the window shattered. Safety glass consumed my entire face and neck. I didn’t care though; freedom was almost tangible.

At that moment I decided that once I’d made it out, I was moving somewhere without snow.

Thoughts of tropical winters and warm sunsets fueled me as unwanted black lines writhed at the periphery of my vision. Everything felt like it was tilted sideways, and though I knew it had to be from lack of oxygen, I swore the car was getting smaller with every increasingly shallow breath I took.

I jammed my fist into the snow outside my window to scoop it out of the way and screamed as searing pain exploded in my hand.

There was no snow outside my car. Only a hardened wall of solid ice.

Tears of hopelessness cascaded down my face as my hands flew randomly around the floorboards of the car, further injuring my already battered fingers, not that I could feel them anymore. There had to be something else I could use to protect my hands.

That’s when I spotted them, the socks I’d discarded earlier when my feet were on fire. They were covered in bits of glass or ice, but I didn’t care. At that point, it didn’t really make much difference. Both were freezing cold and razor-sharp.

For protection, I wrapped my hands in my socks and resumed my attack on the ice with my grinder. Maybe the ice was thin. Maybe all I had to do was break away the first layer and it would be snow the rest of the way out.

I hoped, but it wasn’t that easy.

I kept going anyway. I had to keep going. I had to get out.

My arms were numb, my muscles weighed down from exertion. My head was fuzzy and a suffocating heat began to consume my body with every labored breath.

Then I felt a hint of fresh air hit my face and almost screamed with joy. The ice was stained a darkened red by then and I couldn’t bear to think of the state of my hands.

I knew peeling back the socks to peek would only make me panic, which might use up the rest of my crucial oxygen, so I left them where they were. I wasn’t done digging.

I blindly hacked at the ice, my muscles renewed with hopeful vigor as each chunk of ice chipped away. I was caught up in a frenzy, blindly stabbing away at red ice and snow. I didn’t stop until something hit the floor at my feet. My heart stopped as I leaned down to retrieve what had fallen, a shattered, bloody finger with the bone protruding at the knuckle break. My biggest fear was the grinder had broken and I was left with nothing to dig my way out. The grinder was fine but, what was I supposed to do about my hands though.

After retrieving it, I knew my attempts at escape were fucked. Cold air kissed my cheek through the tiny air hole leading to the outside world as darkness overwhelmed me. With freedom so close, and yet so far, I slipped into the void.

* * * * * *

A loud and persistent beeping pulled me back to an alarmed consciousness. When my eyes fluttered open again my mind was still hazy and exhausted, my body didn’t feel right, and the lights were killing me. As I got my bearings I realized I wasn’t in my car anymore. It looked like I was in the hospital and the room was blindingly bright. My heart dropped a little when I saw I was alone, though I don’t know why I should have expected anything different. I was in a strange city, far from home with no one here that knew me. Still, despite being alone and hurt, I had to tell myself to just be happy to be out of that damned car.

Layers of skin ground against each other painfully in the back of my throat as I tried to swallow.  I saw they were hydrating me intravenously but it was still so dry.

I looked for the call button on the rail of my bed and attempted to press it, only to see both of my hands heavily bandaged. A sickening dread of realization invaded my mind as the memories trickled back. I rammed the button with my elbow and a young nurse came rushing in.

She told me to hold on for a moment and she’d grab the doctor to speak with me. Her voice was grating, but I nodded.

An older doctor came in wearing a long white coat and a threadbare smile. He pulled up the stool next to my bed and sat down to explain.

He said a Good Samaritan had seen my antenna poking up through the snow and called the police. They dug me out and found me unconscious, clutching a frozen finger in my hand.

When they found their charger fit my phone, they plugged it in and called the top number in my contacts, my brother Jason. He stuck around the first few days of my coma, but when the hospital said I’d probably need to be there for a while, he headed home; he couldn’t afford the time off. The doctor said he drove my car back. It had taken quite the beating, but was still in drivable condition.

The Samaritan stopped by every couple of days to check on me. I couldn’t wait to thank them. That simple act of kindness saved my life. The doctor said if I’d been in there even half an hour longer I wouldn’t have made it.

I tried leaving after a few weeks in the hospital—I still have things I need to do—but they keep denying my discharge. Honestly, I’m less bothered by it each time.

I suppose my new home is the Chestnut Ridge mental facility. They say I have to stay. I may even begin to like it here. They kept the lights turned down and gave me a special set of earphones that block out sounds, but everything still seems so loud.

My doctor told me to write all this down as best as I can with the remaining fingers I have. I lost three altogether, along with half my left foot.

My body still feels cold all the time. I go into an inconsolable panic during snowstorms to the point where I need to be sedated.

I haven’t spoken a word since I woke up here. I can’t handle the volume of my own voice.

I honestly wonder if I’m still able to speak at all, though I don’t try. Even if I could, I’d never let them know why I was all the way out at Copper Mountain in the first place. Not that they’re asking.

No one has mentioned anything, or even tried to question me about the discarded body in the trunk, her dying skin still fresh from the cold.

I’d like to keep it that way.

Debbie had really been a dud, but I wasn’t going to let her ruin my vacation.

Rating: 9.67/10. From 9 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: N.M. Brown

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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