There was a car accident. A bad one. I was unharmed, but my wife died on impact. My son, Cam, made it out alive. I guess you can call it alive. He was pinned by a piece of metal through his groin.
Someone at the hospital said it was a miracle he didn’t bleed out. I would’ve believed them if he didn’t burn while he was pinned.
Trapped in the backseat, watching the flames come toward him, Cam's skin started to blister. He screamed and screamed. Some of it was unintelligible, but a good portion was him begging me to help.
I couldn’t reach him. So, I watched him burn. His skin steamed as the moisture inside boiled. His hair ignited in a white flash, burning off in seconds. The clothing was next.
It was cotton, so it went quickly enough, but his sneakers smouldered and melted, coating his feet with molten artificial material.
I didn’t hear the fire trucks arrive. Firefighters pushed me to the side as they doused the car and its occupants with flame retardant foam.
Cam had lost consciousness, but I’d just assumed he was dead. When they found a pulse and sawed open the car to get him out, I couldn’t comprehend how he’d survived.
But I felt something like joy. I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital. It was while he was in the burn unit having 90% of his skin debrided that a nurse told me how lucky he was.
It’s three years later and Cam is 14. His body is a perverse canvas of skin grafts and amputations. His arms and legs were burned to the bone and had to be removed.
While in the burn ward, a staph infection developed in his lower jaw, which also had to be amputated.
His tongue and teeth were taken from him, too, and a large flap of skin was sewn from his chest to the area right below where his nose used to be. Now his neck is forever craned downward.
His eyes were unscathed, though. He had the presence of mind to cover them with his hands before they could be destroyed by the fire. Must be that luck they said he had.
Now I can feel the heat of his glare whenever I’m nearby. It’s as if he wants to tell me something. But that’s supposed to be impossible.
He hasn’t demonstrated the ability to communicate at all since the accident. I know differently. I think he’s just biding his time. For what, though, I’m too frightened to imagine.
But the signs are there. Every day, I have to remove the charred carcasses of birds and squirrels from the area of the yard that Cam can see from his propped-up position in bed.
I keep thinking back to how he must have felt as I watched him burn. His glare tells me he hasn’t forgotten.