This is it, your final sneak peek. I do have to finish writing it, you know. Can't spend all my time cutting and pasting!
Last night I hit the hundredth page. It felt like such a huge accomplishment. The story still has so far to go, but there's something magical about that number: 100.
So while I go back to work, you should read on to see what happened to our main character, Renee, on the night when the world changed...
While that night's thunderstorm didn’t start the end of the world, it did herald its coming. Wind whipped through the trees, tossing the branches into the power lines as carelessly as a teenager tosses his clothing to the floor. The lightning came in steady flashes that lit up the entire town. Each bolt was brighter than the previous one, and soon, it seemed that the entire sky was on fire. At a few homes, startled faces could be seen peering through the windows, staring in shock at the fury outside.
Renee slept through the beginning of the storm. When she woke up, dazed and unsure of where she was, the thunder and lightning were nearly constant. The thunder was at such a constant rumbling roar, in fact, that part of her tired brain wondered if one of the local trains was barreling toward her apartment. The lightning had her room so brightly lit up that part of her feared it might be morning already. The rain was pelting against her bedroom window, as if it were begging to be let in, to be saved from the rest of the storm.
Groaning with exhaustion, she rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but the fury of the storm kept intruding on her attempt. Finally, she sighed and pulled herself free from the tangled sheets of her bed. The bedroom was muggy, the humidity pressing against her so hard that it felt like she were walking through a wall of warm gelatin. The light cotton t-shirt she had worn to bed was stuck to her back and she could feel strands of hair sticking to the nape of her neck. She lifted it and twirled into a loose ponytail, holding it in place with her hand as she walked over to the window.
The air conditioner was silent. She punched the button on its face. Nothing. She unplugged it and plugged it back in. Doing so, she looked over to her nightstand. Her alarm clock was blinking a red "12:00" over and over. Figures, she thought. She again hit the button to turn the air conditioner back on. Nothing.
Sighing with exasperation, she grabbed her pillow and a blanket from the bottom of the bed. Dragging them behind her, she padded out to the living room and out through the French doors that led to her side porch. It wouldn’t be the first time that a blown fuse had driven her to the porch, seeking respite from the intolerable heat of her apartment. Pushing the door shut behind her, she turned to look out toward town. The wind was fierce and nearly drove her back inside. She squinted into the rain that hit her face like small daggers. She and her makeshift bed were getting soaked, but at least the rain felt cool against her sweaty skin.
The entire street was lit up. There wasn’t even a lull between flashes of lightning. The thunder was still roaring like a freight train; even the solid brick construction of her apartment building was shuddering with each crash through the electrically charged air. Renee looked to the sky, wondering if she should be watching for a tornado. Tornados were unusual for Pennsylvania, but with how bad the storm was, Renee was really expecting to see the dark mass of a funnel cloud forming in the angry sky.
What she wasn’t expecting to see was some idiot standing right in the middle of that chaos, and an idiot she assumed him to be considering his choice of nights on which to take a leisurely walk through town. She didn’t notice him at first; she was too taken in by the angry green cast of the turbulent sky, the forked trails of fluorescent lightning, and the frantic shudder of the building around her. A sheet of rain pelted the porch where she stood, startling and further soaking her. She stepped backward, prepared to open the door, and glanced at the rain-soaked street
A bolt of lightning that seemed to rise in front of her illuminated the man. He was tall. That much she could tell from her second story vantage point. And he was just standing there, right on the yellow line separating the two lanes of traffic that traveled the main street. He was unmoving except for a barely perceptible swaying. A second bolt of lightning seemed to get his attention. He looked around him and slowly began to move in a shambling gait down the street.
Stupid drunk, she muttered under her breath. Still, it was strange behavior even for one of the local drunks. Pelted by another sheet of rain, Renee scurried back into her apartment and locked the door behind her. Though her side porch had offered her respite many times before, the rain was too unruly for her to stay out and attempt to fall back to sleep. I’d probably drown first, she thought as she spread out the blanket to dry. Before returning to bed, she checked the locks on her front and back doors.
She couldn’t say why, but she was unnerved. As she peeled off her drenched t-shirt and tossed it in the wicker hamper in the corner, Renee found herself suppressing a shiver. It was far too hot to have been a shiver from the rain. Convincing herself that the combination of the late hour and the raging storm were simply sending her already overactive imagination into overdrive, Renee crawled onto her bed wearing only her underwear. She spread herself out as much as she could, trying to keep one sweaty body part from coming into contact with any other sweaty body parts. Within minutes, she was asleep.
Renee’s sleep was restless at best.