TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The air pressure changed suddenly and the wind began to wail. Yawning to pop her ears, she glanced out the cabin window, and saw dark purple storm clouds racing over the hill. It looked like a bad one. Remembering the puppy was still outside, she ran to the door, and called him. He didn’t appear. She quickly walked outside, and found him frantically digging at the dirt near the rickety fence. She called him again and he looked back, whined, and continued digging. A blast of ice cold air slapped her in the face and then…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Ra’yah shifted her Jeep into drive and blasted out of the university’s maintenance-garage parking lot. She pressed her light frame against the unyielding leather seat in a futile attempt to soften the coming impacts. Against all common sense and campus speed restrictions, Ra’yah continued to accelerate down the narrow byroad that led to College Drive and the highway beyond.
The first warning of danger sounded as the Jeep’s tires crossed a patch of randomly spaced idiot-bumps. Under night conditions the reflective squares warned students visually about the intersection immediately ahead. The second warning was silent. Sinusoidal mumble strips, experimentally installed recently by engineering students, quietly rattled the speeding Jeep and projected eighty-percent less “rumble” sound than the traditional cattle-crossing variety.
Ra’yah considered the mumble-strips at the very outer periphery of consciousness. Instead, she focused on bracing her shoulders and hips against the spine-jarring pitch and plunge of successive collisions against six-inch high speed-bumps.
The Jeep became airborne several times before reaching the swale seconds away. The third and last danger warning. Reaching a swale at the junction where school and town borders met, Ra’yah slowed only slightly for the dip. She pulled down hard on the vehicle’s powerless steering, careening hard to the left as she entered the thoroughfare.
The Jeep fishtailed as Ra’yah merged into heavy traffic. Horns honked as other storm-panicked evacuees expressed frustration and fear at the Jeep’s sudden appearance.
From the Jeep’s passenger seat came woeful cries of annoyed confusion as Ra’yah sped pell-mell away from the normally sedate college town. On the seat beside Ra’yah lay Beautie, a five-month-old Bulldog puppy. Temporarily forgotten during their swift campus exit, Beautie had been rolling on her seat, belly to back to belly to back, again and again during Ra’yah’s hasty escape.
Beautie ultimately landed, with a plush plop of fur and soft puppy fat, against the paneled passenger door, and became wedged between the seat’s belt and cushion.
“Sorry, Beautie,” Ra’yah called over the roar of the big engine.
Scrabbling up to the top of the seat cushion, Beautie rested her soft frame against the door. She stared as though “indignant yet patient” in Ra’yah’s general direction. Beautie’s exaggerated underbite projected her exposed canine teeth effecting the faux ferocity attributed to English Bulldogs.
While Beautie remained oblivious to the dangers her mistress was facing in Ra’yah’s attempt to escape a train of tornadoes churning directly towards them, Ra’yah watched the sky for any sign of funnels projecting down from the inky cloud mass.
Ra’yah sped northeast, drawing deeper into the Great Smoky Mountains. Ra’yah’s eyes flitted from mirror to mirror, gauging the distance between her and the darkening purple storm clouds. Jagged thunderbolts burst forth in skeletal-like golden arrays, crisscrossing the sky behind and to her right.
Suddenly, a microburst downdraft from the line of thunderstorms to her right lifted and thrust the Jeep just enough to direct it into the oncoming traffic lane.
Ra’yah gripped the wheel with such force her fingers cramped. Fortunately, no-one was venturing into the storm. The road carried fewer vehicles the closer she approached the forest. Ra’yah tuned the Jeep’s radio to the university’s station and listened for updated reports on the string of tornadoes that had been scouring the narrow valleys just a few miles behind her.
Ra’yah and Beautie had been driving for thirty minutes. Following the directions given her by Rupert, her friend and occasional mechanic, Ra’yah had raced down Highway 64 towards Ocoee Lake. Rupert had written directions to his family home on Parksville Road, ensuring Ra’yah that she would be safe from the approaching system of tornadoes that had demolished whole towns across neighboring Georgia and Alabama.
Pulling Ruperts handwritten map from her brazier safe-keeper, Ra’yah mentally checked off the roads and trails she and Beautie had passed, while watching intently for landmarks Rupert had noted on the hastily drawn map.
Ra’yah had the wipers swishing at full speed against a sudden onslaught of torrential downpour. The Jeep’s tires slipped against thick mud that had washed across the road. Seeing the sign for her last turn before reaching the cabin, Ra’yah loosed a long, slow breath, and silently thanked God from deep within her being.
Ra’yah parked at the end of a dirt track that led to a small, quaint cabin. She set Beautie on the ground to do her business, and half-jogged to the cabin’s rustic door. No answers came to her shouts and Ra’yah entered the small building.
The large living area looked like a storm had already passed through. Empty cartons of batteries, candles and ammunition lay strewn throughout. Cabinet doors were left open from a seemingly frantic departure of the residents. From outside came the sound of barking.
Remembering Beautie, Ra’yah glanced out the closest cabin window and saw a vile-looking mass of dark purple storm clouds racing over the hill in the distance. A few miles beyond the roiling mass came a sight that caught Ra’yah’s breath.
A massive cumulonimbus cloud was forming against the horizon. Lightning flashed high up in the hail bearing cloud. Ra’yah could make out multiple funnels projecting from the base of the cloud.
Retracing her steps, Ra’yah called out for Beautie, but the puppy had disappeared. Ra’yah jogged across the yard and found Beautie frantically scratching at the dirt beyond a rickety fence, immediately recognizing the door handles of an earthen storm shelter. Beauty saved the day.