One Stop, Part 3
One Stop, Part 3
The wipers sighed a steady rhythm across the windshield, each pass of the blades flicking a shadow over the hulking figure in the passenger seat. John’s eyes flitted to the place where the grotesque fingers had circled his wrist. Everything inside told him to rub the spot, to grab the phone, to punch the guy–was it a guy?–in the throat, to open the door and run. The skin where the fingers had pressed burned with cold, and a dull ache marched slowly toward his elbow. John’s thumb twitched once. That was all his muscles, frozen with fear, would allow. A single twitch. The wipers stuttered as they swept across the glass again, this time catching with a thuh-thuh-thuh before reaching the end of their half-arch and speeding back for the return trip. The rain had slowed. On their next pass, the blades moaned, shifting something in John’s mind, breaking something lose.
Of all the passengers traveling that night, only he’d noticed them. The flight had been delayed almost three hours, taking off well after sundown. Here and there a reading light broke through, but for the most part the cabin lay in darkness. John had a window seat, starboard side. Always a window seat. It had to do with his hating cramped spaces. Somehow seeing the ground thirty thousand feet below made it all okay, even when that ground was cloaked in black. Even when that ground was the sea. He sat close to the wall, his face inches from the window.
Condensation–or was it rain?–trailed across the outer glass, pressed along by the force of five hundred plus miles per hour. His staccato breaths clouded the inside. What was that? He pressed the blade of his hand against the window and wiped down. His dry skin sliding along the cold surface made a sound like a moan. He moved his face even closer, his eyelashes brushing the glass, his mind puzzling.
In the darkness far below, a flash of light had caught his eye. A single bolt shooting up, rocking up into the sky. He blinked, thinking it was a trick of the eye or fatigue. The nonstop had carried them through the night. They had to be somewhere over the Pacific. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. And that’s when he saw them. hundreds of white lights bubbling up through the dark. Dazzling. Mysterious. His breath caught. And in that moment, he knew. He simply knew.
The figure in the passenger seat drew a raspy breath and the wipers moaned. “Choose.”
John blinked. The places where the blades didn’t reach were still dotted with rain, each drop carried a miniature moon. Back in the darkness his brother stood by the side of the road. Back home his wife’s contractions grew closer together. John’s breath caught and he set his hand on the gear shift. He knew.
With a quick glance in the rearview, he threw the car into drive and pressed his foot to the gas.