The lash of the rain was harsh against her face, the droplets like needles against her skin as she ran. Knee-high streaks of wheat, drowned in the downpour earlier, lolled via the rushing she made as she slipped on fresh mud, white sneakers dipped from sole to laces. She battled her way through the bleak grounds, cowering away from the grey clouds and the low rumble hidden within them waiting as if to unleash full power, a thunderous roar to echo through the empty unobstructed air and space above and around her.
Her eyes managed to spot a wide patch bald with the lack of useless crops swaying. It seemed to hover with low settled fog on what appeared the edge of the field. She went to it and took down from mud to asphalt darkened by the rain in one swift step. Then there were lights approaching fast without the alert of a signal. The shift from dreary dark to illuminating xenon turned her to a frightened deer staring at death. The signal finally came and her teeth began chattering, a previously unknown cold settling in her bones and weakening them.
The entire torso of the car took to the left, the screech of tires against the slippery road canceling the rain fully. Acceleration carried the car and it zigzagged towards her unavoidably. Her eyes blinked away the seconds of artificial blindness, the deer becoming a rabbit hurrying to escape. She feared, blood pressure rising, ears burning. Her knees buckled and she tumbled backwards returning to mud, grabbing fistfuls of it amidst bouquets of wheat cutting through her fingers.
The rain was light, a pitter-patter on her face as she lay in the soft bed of earth, her form sinking into it, molding with it. In her eye, the sky previously one equal gray horizon to horizon, was now curling up, rolling onto an invisible spindle layer by layer of white, gray and black. It reminded her of cotton candy heavily colored by those inks the Japanese use to make their burger buns and ice creams black. But it was a cell storm consuming the sky, sucking each and every cloud into its gaping hole to spin and spin and spin it until there was no sky and it was a storm on a spindle the dome above. Against it a voice shouted trying to overcome the winds that picked up to rotate this heavenly carousel.
“Are you alright? Can you stand up?”
She spotted a man hovering above her but his face was blank and his voice was low and gruff. He put out a hand for her to take.
“I won’t hurt you. Please, take my hand.”
Just like that she was stood up from her bed of earth and took back to the road where the car stood sideways, an ugly skid mark marking its dangerous path.
“You jumped out of nowhere. I nearly ran over you,” the tall stranger said. He stood at a careful distance shadowed by his headlights, the voice of a silhouette and waited for her to speak up, to explain.
“I suppose I did. Sorry, I didn’t know whether it was a road or more wheat. It was hard to see.”
“I startled you.” It wasn’t a suggestion and she confirmed it with a slight nod. Her hands went to her hair, messy and tick with mud. She dropped them to her pockets instead unsure of what to do.
He pointed at her arm and she found a skid mark all of her own, red and raw under the torn cloth on her elbow.
“Do you want to go to a hospital?”
The pain was absent but it would come soon enough, she knew. It was quickly ignored as there was a greater need tugging at her from the depth of her being, a destination more alluring than any other. “I want to go home,” she told the man.
He slipped off his coat and passed it on to her. She breathed in a distinct tobacco soaked in chocolate and underneath it a lingering scent of earth, pines and ash mixed with the man’s own cologne. She pulled it close against her damp body.
“I see. That’s alright, that’s fine. I can drive you there if you just tell me where you live.”
The where was nonexistent in her mind for moments that made her feel light-headed and distant. She looked frantically about at the nothingness stretched from where she’d emerged to where to road disappeared in fog and darkness. Home was a place that she needed to find and it existed in her consciousness but its shape and form were gone. The man caught on her confusion and gestured for her to enter the car sealing his intentions to bring her back to where she belonged. The leathery interior was instantly warmer and the soft tap of the windshield wipers against the steamy window and the low volume rumble of the radio slowly drifted her back to her own world.
“Lowview. I live in Lowview.”
He had climbed beside her, shaking the rain and cold away. The doors were closed and the dark interior lighted up. She waited for his reply, to confirm that the destination she had named was a real one. He slicked back his salt and pepper hair and tucked strands behind his ear. His eyes, perhaps dark brown were soft and friendly.
“Lowview is about a four-hour drive from here. If we head there now I’ll be able to drop you off early morning but with the weather forecast…I don’t know. There’s more of this storm to come and we might end up getting trapped on the road. These country roads flood in the blink of an eye dragging mud and branches, whole trees too and sometimes dead cattle. Lambs, I’ve seen. Chickens too, poor things.”
“There was a cell storm,” she said trying to imagine the Biblical flood it would cause. It would swipe them where they stood into a vortex of limbs and roots. Her head throbbed. The clock on the dashboard blinked and the digital numbers told her it was nearly 2 A.M. and the night was just getting dark and darker for the lack of stars and Moon.
“Listen. I have a house nearby. If you want you can spend the night there, get yourself cleaned up and get some rest and in the morning I’ll drive you to Lowview.”
“I should be home.”
But she wasn’t. She gazed out the window steamy and spattered with raindrops. The world had disappeared completely and its bleakness was renewed with the start of fresh rain of rounder, heavier droplets which began to rattle against the hood. There was only her and the stranger, a proposition awaiting a decline or an acceptance. He would go and she with him, or she would exit the car and start up or down the road seeking the way home.
“In the morning you’ll drive me to Lowview,” she repeated his words at him to seal the deal. He drew a cross, ghosting his fingers against his chest.
“You have my word.”