Something was very wrong. She realised that almost instantly. She would understand later, with some surprise, exactly how close to instant that thought had been.
It had been an unremarkable day up to that point, she was returning from the supermarket down one of the many windy country roads that lead to her house, as she had done hundreds of times before. Then, as she rounded one of the last bends, everything seemed to stop.
No, not stop. She noted with interest that the car had moved several centimetres while she was having those thoughts. Time had just slowed down. Just slowed down? She was a rational woman, time doesn't just slow down. She tried to get out of the car, it seemed to be crawling slowly now. Safe enough. It was here she realised she couldn't move. A wave of claustrophobic nausea washed over her, she would have yelled, but couldn't. She fought back the rising panic attack. She'd always prided herself on being strong, she resolved to cope with this, this what? What was going on? It was almost supernatural, but that was mad. Supernatural phenomenon were invariably explainable, this must be too.
Her thoughts were spectacularly diverted by a new realisation. Through the apex of the bend she saw a good two feet of white truck. As she watched, more emerged, it was moving at the same speed as her, in the middle of the road. It was a simple realisation to see that they were going to collide, she finally started to panic. A natural reaction to the insane world she now found herself in, a reaction which manifested itself only in her mind. She was being defeated by a situation far beyond the realms of normal comprehension.
No. She was better than that. She let go of the urge to scream and looked to the pavement where an old man was walking his dog, or rather, had been, before time had slowed and virtually paralysed them.
Virtually paralysed. She ran that thought through again. She looked at her hands on the steering wheel, she could move her eyes at least. Though... There was something strange there too, her vision was panning around her view in small jumps, not instantly as usual. She tried to move her hands again, this time examining them closely, sure enough, they were moving, but slowly. Far to slowly to do anything before...
She looked up at the truck. It was three metres away now. As she stared her eyes settled on the driver, his expression was half way through moulding itself into one of shock, as she suspected her's was, but, as she stared at his eyes she saw he was going through the same experience. The questioning terror portrayed in the eyes and the muscles round them, which were far quicker to react than the more sluggish facial muscles around them and the lumbering limbs below that.
That was the key. Time hadn't slowed down, otherwise they would have just been able to operate faster in a slower universe. The rate of time was more or less, a constant, which man would never witness change to even a tiny fraction of the degree of the change she was witnessing now. It was her perception of time which had been altered. She could readily accept the human brain working at the rate she was experiencing, particularly in times of stress. Only in times of stress. To do so all the time would be intolerable, the conscious brain would have too much to process, it would overload. If it didn't go mad with frustration first. But the subconscious, that was supposed to take in and store almost everything humans ever saw. Somehow her brain was accessing the subconscious. This didn't make sense, if humans experienced this heightening of awareness in times of great stress, why was it not documented? Although... She wasn't in great stress when it started...
Then the answer hit her. She was experiencing what she had always experienced, but in normal operation the brain must find a way of limiting memories so as to avoid overload. A bit like a time delayed delete command. So she would never remember or be aware that she was experiencing this unless it was never deleted.
She realised she was right, it was something she'd always known, every human knows, subconsciously. She then realised she was going to die.
The vehicles connected, and she watched in fascination as the metal of both crumpled as designed. Chips of paint and small pieces of plastic began to rise slowly into the air. The low rumble in the background, her only sonic accompaniment for this time, grew. Rising in pitch briefly as the glass of the windscreen cracked. The cracks travelling just too fast to determine which end was the start and which was the end. She noticed her body was sliding forwards on the seat, her right hand, which she'd finally managed to remove from the wheel was moving toward the dashboard, far faster than she was able to pull it back. Then the pressure from her seatbelt started to apply and her head started to tilt forward. It was some moments before she registered the pain. She saw in the periphery of her vision, the smashed and jagged perspex of the instrument panel carving a long scar into the back of her hand. Then her head was tilted too far forward to see anything but her own lap. The rumbling had risen to a mind-breaking volume, but seemed to be reaching a crescendo as her chin buried itself in her chest, forcing her mouth shut and cutting her tongue with her teeth. Then, as the noise started to fade, the cushioning of her chest started to force her head back up again.
This didn't make sense, the crash was ending and she was alive, not even badly injured, she began to doubt her theory, to think that this might not be the end, she might live through it.
Until her head had risen enough for her to look up through the windscreen and see a dozen scaffolding poles coming like javelins over and through the truck's cabin towards the front of her car. She could see two protruding from the driver and, more inevitably, one precisely in line with her forehead.