The wheels of Loca's car skidded sideways, plumes of water arcing into the air. Even with the windshield wipers doing double time, the fearful view ahead on the highway, and to her right over the lake, was obscured.
“Thor’s hammer,” she swore, reducing her speed to a crawl. Worst storm of the year, and this was the night she'd chosen to catch a late movie by herself.
In the elemental illumination of lightning bolts outlines of massive clouds towered on the horizon where sky met water. Thunder drowned out an oldies station that had been playing Led Zeppelin.
She was going to have to pull over.
Loca tried to judge her location by clumps of sparse trees along the narrow margin of the highway skirting Lake Michigan. Her first instinct was to park on the wrong side of the road, away from the lake.
But that was probably as dangerous as pulling over lakeside. The highway was a series of sharp and gentle curves, and Loca didn’t relish the idea of some idiot in a pickup truck plowing into her head-on.
She shivered involuntarily as a faraway lightning strike connected on a jutting piece of land. Visually as thick as her arm it shimmered and pulsed with multiple strikes for several seconds. Thunder rolled without stopping.
Shit. Something had definitely got fried over there.
The verge of the road was very narrow here, old wooden posts staggered like ancient, ineffectual warders along the curves. The banks were undercut and steep below, miniature cliffs. Rain continued to pour in liquid waves over her car windows.
Loca had never seen those particular colors in a storm before. Boiling clouds, in strange hues of green and pink, flowed around each other like a nightmare lava lamp. She tried to keep her eyes on the road instead of the sky, and forced her hands to relax against the steering wheel.
A gust of wind like a giant’s hand slammed into the car. Loca's punched down on the brake and held the steering wheel steady. Light burst overhead, and a sound like the birth or death of a universe left her momentarily blind and deaf.
The car coasted to a halt.
Her heart was racing. Loca rolled her window down a crack and took a deep breath of wet air. The white balls in the center of her vision faded. Gradually the highway centerline reflecting her headlights returned to partial view.
Not hit then. Loca's foot trembled as she touched the accelerator and moved back into the right lane. Her stomach muscles were clenched. The skin on her bare forearms prickled and crawled. She glanced at her left arm. The fine hair was standing straight.
Thunder rattled the car windows again, but the strikes were on the horizon.
A few miles and she would be away from the lake, nearly home. A few more miles and minutes, and her damp clothes would be replaced with an old bathrobe. She'd be drinking hot tea with a side of Drambui. There would be four walls and a roof between her and the weather.
Loca felt the skin on her face tighten and prickle. She risked a look in the rear view mirror. Her hair was writhing, feathering toward the ceiling. She looked like a Tesla experiment.
Weird, it looked so weird . . . and the smell. Loca sniffed. The air smelled like a new monitor when it was first used. Ozone. Bitter. A little hot and acrid against her deeper nasal tissues.
The highway curved more sharply. Loca inched ahead, straining to see anything through the waterfall on her windshield. When something exploded in her car's trunk, and the world tilted violently to one side, Loca braced her foot against the brake and tried to wrestle against the kick of the steering wheel.
It seemed unfair that her vision of the next few moments should be so clear and unobstructed. Her car seemed to leap forward, off the highway, through the guard rails, over the verge, and launch itself into the air. Loca saw water rushing up to meet her, then an atomic explosion of hot, pink light.