Hello everyone! I’m excited to share an excerpt from the beginning of P.J. Byer’s novel, Collision, with you today. After you read these first two chapters, please go check it out on Amazon. Without any further ado:
Collision by P J Byer
I crouched in the ditch, panting, heart pounding. The gash on my leg seeped blood into the muddy water. I heard his footsteps as he stumbled through the paddock. He was drunk, breathing in raspy gasps, boots squelching in the long, damp grass.
‘I’ll find ya,’ he growled. ‘Just wait…’
I forced myself lower into the mud and slowed my breathing. A weird image of my drama teacher with his deep ‘meditation’ voice flashed into my mind. I shook my head to clear it. Concentrate. Tears stung my eyes. He must be – what? Ten, fifteen metres from the ditch now. Dark clouds scudded across the sky, and now and then a beam of moonlight lit up the earth.
Please – don’t let him find me.
He was making ground, zigzagging around the rusting farm machinery that I’d dodged. There was a yelp as he bashed into something – a stump? some metal? More swearing and groaning…I guessed he’d fallen and was heaving himself up.
Groping around in the muddy ditch, I felt for a weapon, any weapon. My trembling hand curled around a large, smooth rock.
‘Where are ya?’ he snarled, ‘I’ll smell ya out–’
Yelling with fear, I climbed out of the ditch and ran towards him. He stopped, and swayed, surprise creasing his face. I hurled the rock – there was a crack as it collided with the side of his skull. His solid body crumpled forward, and crashed like a tree trunk.
He lay motionless, his head a few centimetres from my feet.
I ran back to the slushy ditch – was it a dam? – and fumbled in the mud, hands shaking. Where was my black school bag, and the small knapsack clipped to it? I’d managed to grab both out of his ute, but only the black backpack appeared from the sludge. Shit. I clambered out, and paused beside his body in the moonlight. With a grim smile, I saw the deep scratch marks I’d left on his face and arms.
I took off.
I veered across a paddock to the road and avoided barbed wire that’d gashed my leg. The lights of his ute glared at me. When I’d wrenched open the door, he’d swerved the truck to a sudden halt, and hit a fence post. Apart from the dented bonnet it looked okay to me. Hell, if only I could drive. I turned the lights off, quietly shut the passenger door, then the driver’s, and leaned my forehead against it.
Panting, fast and shallow. Stella! Breathe deep.
I held onto the door, and through the cabin window I saw keys in the ignition. I grabbed them and chucked them as far away as I could into a field. Two houses further down the road were in darkness. Had anyone heard me yelling when he attacked? His body, a lump in the distance, hadn’t moved.
Was he dead? Unconscious?
I crouched under a huge, spreading tree at the side of the road. A glance at the sky reassured me that the rain clouds had gone. I had to get away.
A wide river shimmered in the moonlight, sliding silent to the sea. In the opposite direction was the road back to the highway. I decided on the river.
I adjusted the shoulder straps of my backpack and sprinted, a silent shadow following the curves. I crept past houses set close to the road. Once, a dog barked furiously, its chain rattling. Only two cars passed, and I dived out of sight into bushes. Ignoring the pain in my leg, I got into a rhythm as I ran. My breath came more easily, but my chest was tight from all the smokes.
A small bridge curled to the right, where the river narrowed. By the faint early morning light, a signpost announced: South West Rocks 10 km…that name was a faint memory. On the breeze, an echo floated, drawing me on to the sea. What was this sound, this memory? I had no idea – all I knew was that I had to find a hiding place before sunrise. Fear crawled in my gut like a nest of spiders.
I jogged along, the salty wind my friend.
Sand drifted on the breeze through the open door of the public toilet block. Seagulls squawked and a boat motor burst into life. The person staring back at me in the mottled mirror was a shock – blue eyes dull, mascara streaked, long, black hair matted, shirt ripped, cuts on my chest caked with mud. Bruises on my arms were turning various shades of purple. I gingerly felt between my legs and winced. More bruises. At least I’d got away before the worst.
Tears stung my eyes. There was no way I could think about last night…and that limp body in the mud. The gash on my leg had stopped bleeding, but as the adrenalin slowed, my body ached. I needed pain killers.
I gritted my teeth. I was on my own now, until I could call Jessie. When she hadn’t answered yesterday, I reached Drew. He told me she’d lost her mobile, and something about her dad in hospital – but he’d had to ring off.
Everything was turning to shit.
At the end of a line of toilet cubicles was one shower stall with rusty taps. I grabbed a used cake of soap out of the bin and a smelly beach towel from the floor. Yuck. They’d have to do. I closed the cubicle door, placed my bag on the narrow bench and undressed, hanging my torn shirt and dirty jeans on the back of the door. The cold water startled me, drenching my hair and skin. It took everything I had not to cry out with pain. I clenched my teeth so I wouldn’t whimper, soaped up my hair and body, and washed away the blood and mud as well as I could. The barbed wire cut started to bleed again. I slowed the flow with the towel, and dried myself.
Emptying the contents of the backpack onto the bench, I weighed up the damage. Mud had oozed onto my blue jeans. The rest was dry – shorts, bikini, t-shirt, long sleeved top, warm zip jacket and black ankle boots. In another section I found my black skirt rolled up, undies, bra, some socks, hairbrush, sunglasses, a small toiletries bag, a pen and notebook…purse with some cash. But no wallet.
In the outside pocket, my lighter and cigarettes were drenched. Crap. I was hanging out for one. I reached inside again to check for the other packet – it was there, empty – and felt a small, round shape. I pulled out a gold ring, with a heart design. What was it doing there? I hadn’t worn it for ages – Mum had given it to me when I was little, just before she died. I put it back in the pocket.
Anger bubbled inside. My lost knapsack had my wallet and keycard, mobile, iPad, make-up, clothes – all gone. Stiff with fury, I kicked the door and it banged on its hinges.
‘Hey!’ a female voice croaked. ‘Careful, missie!’
I hadn’t heard anyone come in. ‘Piss off,’ I snarled and kicked it again.
Feet shuffled, and I peeked around the door. A silver-haired woman dressed in bright blue knee-length shorts disappeared out the door.
Another voice, distant and accented, wafted on the wind. I strained to listen, then nothing.
I was hearing things. I had to calm down – I didn’t want to draw attention. The police may have found the body by now. I hated him – but did I want him dead? Or was he coming to, with a massive headache? And when, or if, he woke up, what would he do?
I dressed fast, brushed my hair, squashed wet, dirty clothes into the front pocket of my bag and opened the door. There was a discarded plastic bottle on the sink. I filled it with water and took a few sips. As I left, a green shopping bag was set against the outside wall, a wallet peeping from the top. With a quick glance around, I grabbed the wallet. Inside were some twenty dollar notes and a pension card. I took forty dollars, threw the wallet back in the bag, and strolled across the headland.