“You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don’t want to face.”
— Bai Ling
“Y’all aren’t from around here, huh?”
A smile tugged at the side of Lindsay’s mouth as she placed two wrinkled five-dollar bills on the counter. “That obvious, huh?”
The cashier gave a casual shrug, even as a tinge of red crept up his neck. “Just sayin’, I ain’t seen either of you ’round here before.” He glanced out the window of the small store. “And y’all don’t seem like you’re vistin’ family.”
Lindsay followed his gaze to see Michael standing on top of the pickup truck, a pair of binoculars to his eyes and his long coat waving frantically in the wind. She turned back to the cashier, rolling her eyes, though her smile widened.
“Not exactly, no,” she conceded.
Lindsay tossed the bag of snacks and soda into the front seat. Michael was still standing on top of the truck.
“You’re an embarrassment, you know that?” she yelled at him over the roaring wind.
“About 11:30,” he called back, not removing the binoculars.
She shook her head and got into the truck. After a few minutes, she heard creaking on the roof, an oomph, and then with a burst of wind, Michael nearly fell into the passenger seat, wrestling a couple seconds with the door to get it closed.
“So, how is it?” Lindsay asked through a mouthful of cracker crumbs.
Michael’s eyes were wide and feverish with excitement. “Huge. Lindsay, I think this may be the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen.” He rammed his hands through his hair, making it full of static and sticking up on all ends. He gazed out his window. “A killer storm.”
“So glad we’re out in it, then,” Lindsay muttered as she started the engine.
The sky had been dark before, but as they neared the storm, it was positively black. The rain had gone from a light drizzle to an absolute torrent, and Lindsay had to slow the truck down to a crawl, the windshield wipers useless. Luckily, there was no one else on the road; all wiser people were likely tucked away safely in their homes.
“I don’t know if we can get much closer,” Lindsay said grimly. With lightning flashing every few seconds, thunder rolled continuously in great, cascading booms. The truck rattled alarmingly each time, and it was difficult keeping the vehicle straight with the shoving wind. “Michael?”
He was out of his seatbelt and practically on top of the dash, his face pressed up against the windshield as he watched the sky. “I think this is the one . . . ” he murmured.
“What?” Lindsay wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly.
He turned to look at her. “Just a little farther.”
Lindsay was about to object — she could barely see the road — but a flash of lightning lit up Michael’s face, and she had never seen such an expression: desperate, wild longing. It made her heart twist.
She bit her lip and nodded. She gave the steering wheel a fierce tug, attempting to assert control at least over the truck, if not the elements.
They trundled along. The storm had to be practically on top of them, Lindsay realized. The thunder was deafening, the lightning blinding. If they weren’t careful — if she wasn’t careful — they could get hit by a stray bolt. She wiped away some of the condensation forming on the inside of the windshield. The rain didn’t look so much like rain than like a waterfall pouring over the top of the truck. This was it; they could go no farther.
“Michael, I’m sorry, but . . . ”
He didn’t seem to hear her. He was still staring at the sky. His face was pale and drawn, but the expression on his face . . . was euphoric. He whispered something Lindsay couldn’t hear — then he opened the door.
“Michael!” Lindsay screamed as the howling wind rushed into the truck. She swerved to keep on the road as they pitched to the side. The change in pressure made her ears pop painfully, and the rain whipped around the cabin. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t hear. She slammed on the brakes, feeling them slip as the tires tried and failed to grip the water-soaked road. She had been going so slowly, though, the truck only slid a few meters before coming to a jarring halt.
And Michael was gone.
“Michael? Michael!” Heart pounding and soaked, Lindsay looked around frantically. The truck door was still hanging wide open, the storm still trying to get in. Lindsay kicked open her own door, yanking on her windbreaker. Her hair started slipping out of its bun as the rain pounded on her head. She ran around the truck, calling Michael’s name.
It was impossible to see anything through the rain, and the noise from the thunder drowned out her shouts. But she yelled anyway. She went back to the truck and grabbed a flashlight from the back. She waved it around as she shouted and ran down the road, though only a short distance, not wanting to lose sight of the truck.
But Michael didn’t appear.
Instead, the wind seemed to take issue with her disturbance, for it grew even stronger, and Lindsay could actually feel it tearing at her clothes, pulling her away from the truck. She fought it, crouching down and inching her way back. She kept one hand waving around the flashlight.
Something, some sort of debris, came sailing from behind and struck her elbow. Lindsay screamed. Her whole arm went numb, and the flashlight flew out of her now useless hand. It disappeared into the black sky. Biting back tears, Lindsay crawled into the truck’s passenger side, which was closer, and with difficulty due to having only one functional arm, she closed the door. Her hand was starting to tingle, but she still couldn’t grip. Before she could reach across the console to close the driver’s door, it suddenly slammed shut. And the sound of the storm was muffled, able to be drowned out by Lindsay’s sobs.
She lay there on the sopping seat, cradling her injured arm with the other. Feeling began to return, and she didn’t think it was broken. But she didn’t move. The truck was still idling, stale but warm air blowing in her face.
Michael would appreciate the warmth.
When he got back.
If he got back . . .
Lindsay closed her eyes.
That was how they found her the next day. The truck had eventually run out of gas and shut off. Someone had called in a battered truck abandoned in the middle of the road, and Lindsay woke up to a police officer gently shaking her shoulder.
“You okay, miss?”
The sky was clear and almost painfully blue. If not for the felled trees and debris scattered everywhere, it almost seemed like there hadn’t been a storm at all. Lindsay shook her head — then rolled her neck and followed the paramedic’s penlight with her eyes.
“You seem all right,” the paramedic said with a smile, making a note on her clipboard. “Just a bruised elbow for all that.” She gave Lindsay a stern look. “You were very lucky.”
She moved away, calling for someone to bring more blankets. Lindsay was already wrapped up in three, but she still felt chilled. She sat at the end of the ambulance, looking at the blue sky.
There were still a few officers around, waiting for AAA to come with gas and a fresh battery for the truck — Lindsay’s truck now. Her stomach clenched.
“Excuse me,” Lindsay said to the officer nearest her. “You haven’t found anyone else, have you? A man wandering around?”
The officer shook his head. “Sorry, miss. Just you.”
Lindsay swallowed hard. “A body, then?”
He shook his head again.
Lindsay sagged into the blankets. Michael was really gone. After all his years of chasing storms, one had finally caught up to him. She wasn’t sure if it was ironic or just plain sad. Either way, she missed her friend.
As she let tears roll silently down her cheeks, she thought back to his last moments in the truck, the last time she had heard his voice. He had said something . . . something that Lindsay thought she hadn’t been able to catch . . .
Lindsay gave a little gasp. She had heard. She remembered. He’d said:
“I’m coming home.”
It’s been raining a lot here in Southern California. It makes the grass so green and the sky so blue . . . and it’s also really cold and I miss the sun! But I do like storms. I have a healthy appreciation of them, anyway. If you’re going to go out in the rain, it might as well be in a huge thunderstorm. Fun!
This prompt can be found in this book: 400 Story Seeds to Crush Writer’s Block.