It was an atypical storm, even for springtime in California. Rain had been pouring steadily all day and now it slashed angrily from the sky, slamming against windshields and windows like angry fists.
Conal Benjamin squinted through the downpour, nose inches from the dash as he tried to see beyond the wall of water. Headlights from the other cars slid toward him and a knot in his gut kept him tense. This was a bad one.
As a result of the storm, the shop had only seen two customers all day long. Customers were staying inside and that left the garage Conal worked at empty most of the day, giving him plenty of time on his own to think. That meant a bad day at work.
The other guys had learned pretty quickly Conal liked to be alone. Unlike the rest of them, who liked to sneak peeks at Playboy on the job, go for beers after work, and dreaded going home to their wives, Conal preferred solitude. At work, he liked to stay busy, his hands and mind covered in grease and car parts, no time for thinking about anything else. At home, he was alone. Conal had no wife to hate and didn’t care to look at Playboy. There had been only one woman in his life, but she had disappeared and he missed her. Even if his heart had been able to get over her, his guilt wouldn’t let him get near anyone else. After what he had done, he didn’t deserve a wife. He deserved to be alone, spending his lifetime trying to fix this one mistake.
Thunder rolled across the sky, booming as though Thor’s hammer was being slammed down on top of him. Conal wasn’t ashamed to admit that part of him hoped there was a giant hammer that would turn out his lights permanently. An end to this monotony and grief would have been a gift. But he didn’t deserve that, either. And again, his guilt forbade him from swiftly bringing that end. If there was anyone who had even a hope of making it right, it was Conal. No one else. So that had become his life.
He embraced the fury of his surroundings, daring the other drivers, the elements, the universe to come at him. The bad weather was his respite. Nature was affording him a distraction and he was going to relish it tonight.
The other people on the road were driving like frightened rats abandoning a sinking ship. Blasting their horns; swerving in and out of lanes without a thought to use turn signals; drivers nearly killing themselves just to get somewhere five minutes sooner. The irony of five minutes saved. Conal laughed. A little more care could save their lives, but what did they know about that? No one ever knows that until it’s too late.
It had always been like this, Conal going one way, the rest of the world the other. He buried himself in his studies. Ever since he was a child, Conal had loved to read. He devoured every book, every newspaper article, every text that was put in front of him. What he read took him out of his mundane high school existence and opened his mind in ways his classmates’ surely were not. By the time he was halfway through high school, Conal had trained himself to more or less ignore the world around him. He often preferred the one inside his mind, anyway.
It was ironic, he often thought with a sardonic smile. He had built a world for himself inside his head so he could avoid much of what was around him, and the one person who had made him want to come out of his own head was the one who it seemed would keep him permanently inside it.
There’s a woman on the road!
“What the—!” Conal slammed his brakes to avoid hitting her, hydroplaning for what seemed an eternity before smashing into a nearby tree. The squealing tires, his head smacking the window, the jerking of the car as it settled. The blood dripping down his face. This was all unimportant to Conal. He needed to see for himself if he had seen a ghost or some kind of hallucination.
He swung the door open, practically falling out of the truck’s cab. He had to know if the woman was all right. The rain showered him, clothes and all. Rain mingled with the blood streaking his face as he stepped outside. The woman turned to him.
Her face was twisted by terror and agony but there was no mistaking it.
Conal began to run toward her and suddenly the street was full of people. Running, screaming people in strange dress, horror in their cries.
Abby didn’t move. She stood still in the pouring rain, white as a ghost, her gray and red floral dress clinging to her soaking body. Her hair was matted down to her shoulders. Conal pulled his eyes from Abby for just a moment and felt sick. The screams, the cannon fire, the explosions in the distance. Abby was standing in a warzone.
“What in the hell is happening?”
He tried to reach Abby, but the faster he ran, the slower he seemed to move. Time seemed to drag Abby backward, the entire scene was being sucked away from him as though by a vacuum. The realist inside him told him it was another ‘damned hallucination’ but all his remorse, anger, and more importantly, love, for Abby wouldn’t let the realist get a word in.
Conal tried to yell but the words were stuck in his throat. A man grabbed Abby by the arm and dragged her away; she screamed and thrashed in his arms.
“Conal!” Her voice caught in the explosions and just like that, she was gone.
No war, no people, no screams. No Abby.
Conal sank to his knees in the rain, sobbing. He wished he was dead.
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Genre – Paranormal Fiction
Rating – NC17
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