Helen noticed James, her husband of thirteen years, glance lovingly in her direction. He was the strong silent type, a big man, even for Helen’s five-foot-eleven, admittedly large-boned frame. He watched the road ahead as he leaned forward to change the radio station back to the original soft rock.
Shaking her head, Helen smiled. She knew he wouldn’t tolerate her new favorite gospel station for long. This time she had timed him, and he’d made it all of…she glanced at the digital hologram on her arm…approximately five-and-a-half minutes. Her thick black cropped hair shifted slightly with the force of the wind as the car moved along. She never wore much makeup—always making do with a subtle tint to her full, well-shaped lips. Her clothes were understated and easy because she hated frills and fuss of any kind.
Few people owned or drove their own vehicles anymore. Most made their commutes through air shuttles, free transportation services for people who worked at least twenty-hours a week. The air shuttles zipped through the air on hidden railways, commissioned and supported by the national government’s alliance with major advertisers.
“We interrupt this broadcast with an emergency message from—” The announcer’s voice was abruptly cut off by more static, heavier this time.
“Wonder what’s going on now?” James asked.
“No telling. Always something. I don’t know what this world is coming to.”
Helen closed her eyes, unconcerned about the interruption. Enjoying riding with the top down in their long, antique Chevy convertible, she reminisced about her life with James. It seemed only yesterday they had met at the small teachers’ college in Gainesville. She had been in the middle of a heated argument with a chauvinistic male classmate who did not believe a woman should be head of the athletic department. Her classmate was slowly backing down, but she would never forget the way James stood beside her with his muscular arms folded, quiet yet protective.
Her smile broadened as she considered the many changes that had taken place in her life. Once married to James, she had set yet another precedent by opening her now-successful sports bar that doubled as a homeless shelter. James assisted her every evening after work except Fridays in the fall and winter months. His Fridays were usually filled with coaching high school football games. It was hard to believe thirteen years could pass so quickly.
The couple had been accompanied by static for the last five minutes, but Helen didn’t mind. She was so happy James had suggested the country drive, no destination in mind. She opened her eyes, enjoying the breeze and the closeness of her James, feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. Better yet, she knew she had to be one of the most blessed.
Closing her eyes again, she immersed herself in her own private praise session, but in the middle of her silent prayer of thanks, she heard James’ voice louder than she’d ever heard him yell before. His alarm registered inside her, and a heart-wrenching scream began to explode between her ribs before she could open her eyes to witness what appeared to be Hell opening to devour them. Debris flew at them full force, seemingly in slow motion and from every direction.
Overtaken by dark, violent clouds, she saw the air shuttles and rails fall from the sky, the heavy metal train cars flying helplessly through the air like paper on the wind just before the sun completely disappeared, abandoning them to complete and utter darkness.
Helen heard rubber fighting to maintain position as their large vehicle screeched and turned, trapped in the sudden, ungodly storm. James’ voice crescendoed to summon non-existent assistance, lost in the howling wind, and metal clashed to meld and change form as the car skidded, levitating on a heavy dark cloud. Finally, the car rolled aimlessly, colliding with everything in its path. The last thing she remembered was reaching for James as she called out, “Oh, Lord, please have mercy!”
Helen tried to open her eyes, but they seemed to be welded shut by some unknown force. She could no longer hear James, nor could she feel him. A powerful sense of foreboding overtook her, causing her normally strong heart to palpitate wildly. Someone else was there, had been there through the storm. She heard the whispers that seemed to emanate from a source connected to her heart. “Be quiet. Be still. It is out of your control, and all will work out as it should.” The voice was not one, but two—male and female speaking as one—as if unsure which would comfort her most.