THE ROAD HOME
Wind-driven pellets of rain pounded furiously against my windshield. Even with the low visibility, I could barely make out the winding stretch of lonely highway that snaked before me like a luminous black ribbon.
I was exhausted! I had been driving for hours, but not at all by choice. I was being chased; I didn't know by whom. All that was certain was that here I was speeding precariously down this long, dark stretch of highway on this frigid and rainy night. I was cold and scared. How long had I been driving in this relentless downpour of rain?
The bright headlights from the pursuing vehicle resembled two small diamonds glowing in the darkness, assaulting my eyes in the rearview mirror. In the past hour, I had managed to widen the gap between us. Just as I felt it safe to do so, I slowed and pulled over on the side of the road. I so desperately needed to rest, if not but for a few minutes.
My eyelids were so heavy I could barely keep them open. Maybe if I just sat here in the dark camouflaged against the immense sheets of falling rain, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't see me . . . I did the inevitable. I closed my eyes for a brief second, just to relax them a bit; to relieve them of the gritty feeling that had overtaken them. But it would be for just a second . . . for only a brief while . . .
[[[[[The little girl was frolicking through a splendid field of sunflowers, playing tag with the
butterflies. If she so happened to catch one of these lovely creatures of nature, she would
gently blow on its wings, then let it go. It was one of her favorite games--playing with the
butterflies: 'Chase them, catch them, let them go.' Such a sweet, precocious child of three,
far intelligent beyond her years--me as a little girl running freely through a Kansas field of
golden sunflowers shortly before dusk. I loved my life as a little girl. I remember it so well.
Free as the wind, I'd sail through the field . . . From a distance, I could hear my mother,
"Rachelle!" she was calling, "It's time to come home now." "Okay, mommie," I reluctantly
replied. "I'm coming, I'm coming . . . I'm coming, mommie." ]]]]]
Something violently jolted me awake. I banged my head on the steering wheel. FLASH! CRACK! BOOOOOM! Roaring drumrolls of thunder. My heart raced as I tried to get my bearings straight. A bright light was coming from somewhere outside the car. Just then, I remembered where I was. Alert now, I glanced around feverishly. Where was the light coming from? I peered up at my rear view mirror. The headlights! His car was parked right behind me! But where was he?
It was then that I caught a glimpse of a tall, dark figure coming up on my right. He was moving quickly toward the passenger door. In a panic, I grabbed for the keys in the ignition, hurriedly put the car into drive, and slammed on the pedal. The car fishtailed out into the road just as the man's long, black-cloaked arm reached for the door. I bulleted down the road faster than I dared on the rain-slick pavement. I frantically checked and rechecked my rearview mirror. No headlights. He wasn't following me . . . at least not yet. Maybe I could lose him. But how? Where would I hide? Ever since I'd been traveling own this road, I hadn't seen a single road sign; no exits; no crossroads; no intersections; nothing. Just this long, endless, nondescript stretch of road flanked only by the tall silhouettes of pine trees on each side. I tried to catalogue the events that had led up to this senseless chase, but the effort was futile. Where was I? Where was I going? Who was this person chasing me? And why?
The digital clock on the dashboard read 3:45 a.m. God, I was tired. I needed so desperately to sleep! I peeked up at the rearview mirror once more, just to reassure myself I wasn't being followed. Good. I was safe . . . for now.
The speedometer registered 85. I eased my foot off the pedal. I think I may have lost him. I didn't want to risk driving at such a fast pace. It was too risky on this slick road. I cruised for a while at 50. Still, no sign of my pursuer.
4:20 a.m. I could afford to relax a bit. The pounding rain and the swishing sound of the windshield wipers had a lulling effect on me. In the rearview mirror, the lane behind me stretched emptily for several hundre yards. I caught myself nodding off a few times.
'This is insane!' I scolded myself. I had to get some sleep! Maybe, just maybe, if I pulled over again . . . just for a couple of minutes so I could ease the crook in my neck. I was so tired of driving; I must have covered a hundred miles of asphalt, and certainly I must be miles and miles ahead of him by now.
I slowed my car to a crawl and parked alongside the road. The rain hadn't eased up one bit. I made a furtive glance behind me. No sign of him. I made sure all of the doors were locked before killing the engine. God, but it was cold! In an effort to buffer myself against the damp chill, I curled up into a fetal ball in the passenger's seat and immediately fell asleep . . .
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