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The cold brought Megan Archer back to herself. At first it was confusing, then terrifying. Her situation returned to her in flashes: the feel of the car losing control as it hit a patch of ice, her feet stomping with the full strength of her body on a brake pedal that produced no response, the alien scream of metal as the car slid along the guardrail and the explosive, bewildering impact of the air bag. And now, water. Cold water, seeping into the car, up to Megan's calves already, and even deeper in the backseat.
She broke out of her daze and scrambled madly, but she couldn't get anywhere, and it took her far too long to realize that it was her seat belt that restrained her. She tried to control her rising panic, and forced herself to move slowly and calmly as she unbuckled herself and reached for the door handle. The handle gave, and she pushed the door open about an inch, just enough to let in an extra gush of cold, muddy water, and then it stopped moving. She pushed harder, threw her shoulder against it, but there was no give.
"Help!" she screamed, but it was pointless. She was on a deserted stretch of mountain highway. If there was anybody close enough to hear her, they'd already have seen the situation and come to her assistance. She fought free of the deflated air bag and shifted across the bucket seats just as the car lurched, settling deeper into whatever pond or river it had found. The water began pouring in faster. She jerked the handle of the passenger door. Locked. She hit the button to release it, but nothing happened. The knot of panic in her gut twisted and tightened, and she jammed her fingers down on the lock release, then slammed it with her fist. Nothing.
Her whole hand was trembling as her fingers moved to the window button. She took a moment to collect herself, to will the car to work. But when she hit the button, there was no response. She scrambled across and frantically turned the key in the ignition, couldn't remember which way it was supposed to go and so tried all the options, her fingers bearing down on the window button the whole time. The key turned, but there were no engine sounds, no lights on the dashboard and no movement of the windows. The water was up to her waist.
She pulled her legs up onto the seat and crouched there for a moment, trying to find a plan. She needed to get out. Oh God, she needed to get out. Doors and windows wouldn't work, so she needed to find another way. She whirled around to look at the backseat. It was a two-door car, but maybe she could get out through the trunk somehow. The hatchdid it have a release on the inside? She couldn't remember, and the water was deeper behind the front seats, but she scrambled back anyhow. She took a deep breath and plunged her whole body into the water, half swimming, struggling toward the back of the car. The water was so cold it hurt her face, and seemed to slow her brain, but she needed to keep going. Her fingers found the release for the seat, and finally something worked. She was able to pull the seat forward, but then had to pull away, bringing her face back to the front seat for a desperate gasp of air. The water was halfway up the steering wheel, but she couldn't take time to think about that.