They told Victoria that she should go to see the child. That he could help her with what she was going through. Victoria didn’t believe them. No one could help her now. But she went anyway, because this child, this nine-year-old, was a miracle worker. He was the miracle itself. His name was Tobias.

“What should I do?” Victoria said.

It was just a room with chairs. Not even a table.

“Who am I?” Tobias said. He had the wisdom of an eighty-year-old gleaming in his eyes.

“You’re my son, Barney,” Victoria said.

Tobias nodded. He wore a Pittsburgh Steelers football jersey. “Where are we?” he said.

“Down on Main Street,” Victoria said. “7:36 a.m. November 2nd. It’s snowing.”

Victoria could feel the connection beginning to form. She didn’t fight it. She didn’t welcome it. She didn’t care.

Tobias stood on the street corner with the other children. Except Tobias was Barney now.

The school bus approached. Skidded a bit as it came to a stop. Classes should’ve been canceled. But they weren’t.

Victoria sat behind the wheel of her car, moving toward the intersection just as the light turned yellow. The bus had its flashers on.

“You shouldn’t even be here,” Victoria spoke in the empty room to her son. “You’re at home, sick. I just left you half an hour ago.”

Tobias stared at the girl, as Barney had. The girl was everything. She could make you come to school sick just to catch a glimpse of her in the morning.

“This is the important part,” Tobias said to Victoria. “Pinpoint your emotions. Describe them to me.”

“The road is covered with slippery snow,” Victoria said. “If I hit the brakes now to stop for the light, I’ll go sliding out of control. But if I run the light, I’ll have to brake even faster, because the school bus is right there, stopped.”

“What does your intuition tell you to do?” Tobias said. He sat down upon the chair next to Victoria, as if he were her passenger.

Victoria tensed. “Crash,” she said.

“Crash where?”

“Into the plate glass of the jewelry store. It’s just a flash in my consciousness. I barely hear it.”

“But you do hear it?” Tobias said.

“I do,” Victoria said. “But I don’t listen.”

“What happens if you do?” Tobias said.

“I steer into the crash. The only one who gets hurt…is me,” Victoria said.

“It doesn’t happen that way,” Tobias said.


“But it should,” Tobias said.

Victoria hesitated.

“What did happen?” Tobias said. He saw the familiar car lock up its brakes through the intersection. A long, sideways skid toward where he, Barney, is standing. The other kids scatter. Why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he run?”

“Don’t just stand there!” Victoria screamed. “Get out of the way!”

Perhaps recognition played a part.

“Mom?” Barney said.

A car with your mother at the wheel can’t harm you, can it?

Tobias waited. He could not be harmed. But Barney…Barney could be killed.

Victoria screamed. It didn’t help. The car skidded. Victoria went out of her mind and didn’t come back.

Tobias waited. “You understand,” he said, “what you were supposed to do.”

Victoria sat in the chair. It took all her effort.

“It’s not too late,” Tobias said. “Just swerve. Into the jewelry store. Do it. Now.”

Victoria turned the wheel. Glass shattered. Necklaces flew. Alarms rang.

Barney ran over to the car. Victoria had a steering wheel where her ribs should be.

“I’m okay, Mom,” Tobias said. “You saved me. Everything’s okay, now.”

Victoria died. Then she opened her eyes.

“I killed my son,” she said. “I made the wrong decision…and Barney died.”

“Yes,” Tobias said.

“I feel…free,” Victoria said.

Tobias rose from his chair. He was still nine years old. But he wasn’t Barney.

“You were stuck in that moment,” Tobias said. “Maybe for the rest of your life. Now you’re not.”

“I want to die,” Victoria said.

“Of course,” Tobias said. “Survivor’s guilt.”

“What do I do now?” Victoria said.

“Go live somewhere else,” Tobias said. “You’ve worn that moment out.”

Victoria felt abused. Children can be so cruel.

“You’re still punishing yourself,” Tobias said.

“I killed Barney!”

“Yes,” Tobias said. “But not the way you think.”

Victoria tried to find her madness again.

“Barney is in the next room,” Tobias said. “Waiting for you.”

“Barney died on November 2nd at 7:36 a.m.!”

Tobias shook his head. The car skidded again. Barney saw his mother at the wheel. The other children…did not scatter. Did not even see the car. Until it was too late.

Barney was the only one she missed.

Victoria screamed again.

“You made a choice,” Tobias said, “to save your son.”

Victoria twisted madly a steering wheel that wasn’t there.

“Barney lived,” Tobias said. “Everyone else died.”

“I killed my son,” Victoria said.

“Yes, you did. But only in your mind. A fitting self-punishment: robbing yourself of the very person you had sacrificed everyone to save.”

Victoria stood from her chair. “Barney…isn’t dead?”

“He’s waiting to see you,” Tobias said.

Victoria saw the faces that were no more. They came at her: through the windshield, over the hood, off the side window. Snow that had color to it.

Barney ran up to her anyway. Victoria didn’t see him. Her son had died in the crash.

Except that he hadn’t.

Tobias brought Barney into the empty room, then left him there. Victoria could only look in so many directions without finding him.