The only thing worse than being cooped up in a mini van with my family for three days was knowing that I would soon be trapped in a three bedroom bungalow with my cousins, who were a bunch of Bible thumping Jesus freaks. In the meantime, if my mom and sister sang, "Open the Eyes of my Heart, Lord," one more time, I swore I would open my door and fling myself out onto the highway.
I thought about the pot in my suitcase and craved a hit. I fidgeted with my CD player, wanting to crank up some Metallica tunes but the batteries were dead and daddy dearest refused to stop and buy more.
I wished I were dead about now.
I stared out the window toward the sky and watched the black clouds swirl around furiously. Supposedly there were thunderstorms up ahead and the possibility of tornadoes. I smiled to myself for the first time in three days. I hoped we got sucked up in one. Now that would be cool. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the image of it.
"Are you guys excited?" Mom was asking. "Judd, remember how inseparable you and Mark were when you were younger? Aunt Jen says he's really anxious to see you again. She said he prays for you every night."
I rolled my eyes. "Whatever." I laid my head back against the seat and closed my eyes, trying to shut out my mom and her stupid talk about prayer and God. I'd heard Dad say a million times that no matter how hard you prayed for someone, they still had a will of their own. And believe me, I would do everything in my power not to let anything - or anyone, especially my wussy cousin, Mark - break mine. The only one I could count on was myself. Everyone else could go to---
The sound of rain pelting the window made me open my eyes. The rain turned to marble-sized hail and the winds picked up. My dad struggled to keep the car on the road and my mom and little sister were screaming hysterically.
Suddenly the car was being pushed and pulled by an unstoppable force. I watched as a funnel cloud ripped toward us. It was too late to outrun it! Before I knew what was happening, we were being swept away! Scenes from the movie, "Twister," flashed through my mind, where cows were tossed like salad through the air and dropped to the ground below. I remember ludricrously wondering if we'd end up in Oz.
And then everything went dark.
Was I dead?
I didn't feel dead, although I didn't feel alive either. I recalled dad saying that when you die, angels come and carry you away. I looked around frantically in the darkness, willing my eyes to adjust. I didn't see any angels, or anything else, for that matter.
Someone - or something - grabbed my hand and I let him lead me forward. There was a light up ahead and we started toward it. A sound like a waterfall grew louder as we neared the light. Then I realized it wasn't a waterfall at all, but a gazillion voices singing, "Open the Eyes of my Heart, Lord."
Then I heard a familiar voice call my name.
Could it be?
Grandma! Wow! She looked great. Not at all like the wrinkly old hag that I remembered. And Grandpa - he looked so... angelic or something! They were waving to me but their faces looked sad. Was that a tear trickling down Grandma's face?
I wanted to stop and say, "hey," but the hand forcefully dragged me on, despite my protests. I looked behind me and watched my Grandparents, still waving sadly...
As the light grew dimmer, the temperature began to rise, causing me to sweat profusely. Hey - there was my former dealer, Doobie! But wait - Doobie had died of a drug overdose two years ago! And there was my buddy Frank, who got killed while drinking and driving a few months back. Their faces looked hideous, as if they were being tortured. Their fingers were clawing at their skin as though trying to break free from themselves!
They were shouting something and I strained to hear above other unseen moans.
"Go back! Go baaaaack!"
Confused and in a panic, I struggled to break free from the deadly grip of the hand. "Let me go! Let goooo!" I screamed.
"Judd? Wake up, buddy. We're here."
I opened my eyes to dad's hand, shaking me. Sweat trickled down my face and I swiped at it as I whipped my head toward the window. It was still raining but the clouds were breaking up.
"The storm?" I asked.
"Oh, it passed right over us. It was nothing."
But I knew better. It definitely wasn't "nothing."
I groggily climbed out of the car. My cousin Mark was there and he held out his hand. I pulled him into an embrace.
I looked at my family, who stood gawking with open mouths. "What are you looking at?" I demanded.
Then I slowly made my way into the house that would be my home for the next several days, feeling my family's eyes still on my back.
At the moment, I wanted to be alone; I had this strange feeling that the eyes of my heart were beginning to flutter.
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