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He knew by the cry of locked wheels on tarmac, by the sting of rubber smoke in his nostrils, by the core of silence in which he found himself despite the noise—and perhaps mostly by this stillness—that he was not going to make it.
He knew as he rushed towards it, or it towards him—for he felt stationary; knew as he saw the number painted on the undercarriage and looked again to make it out, 486 it said, paint peeling, or fading, no, it was peeling; he knew then, in the near timelessness of this immediacy, and with astonishing clarity, that he was going to die.
The tractor-trailer had just overtaken him. It had come up from behind, speeding surely, had blasted its horn once, then again—he had almost sensed the irritation, this was a vehicle used to being heard the first time—had then swung left and rumbled past him like an indignant mountain on the move. That accomplished, the eighteen-wheeler, without signaling, simply taking what was rightfully his, had steered right again, back to the slower lanes, its proper territory.
But a small foreign car, new and blue or blue-green and perhaps three car-lengths ahead, was in the rig’s way. This driver either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Neither did the rig.
The collision wasn’t much at first, just a touch, a scraping. But then the rig, as if suddenly aware, convulsed and slammed on the brakes. Smoke streamed from the locked wheels as it began skidding to its right.

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