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They rushed out of the house into the gathering storm. There was in the air a sense of impending battle. Johnny knew it like he knew the scent of napalm. The world was conspiring against them, gathering forces, preparing to strike. The wind was the first line, whipping up the light snow from the ground and sending it, stinging, into their faces as they struggled through the drifts towards the car. Johnny took the lead and Michael brought up the rear. It was not snowing yet, but Johnny could taste it in the air and he did not like it. The storm was moving much too fast.
He pulled open the passenger door and helped Linda in while Susan moved around the front of the vehicle towards her door. Michael stumbled next to him, fumbling for the handle.
“You’re right,” he said to Johnny, raising his voice to be heard above the wind. “Let’s get out of here before a tree falls.”
There was an audible sigh of relief when the doors were shut. After turning over twice, the engine started. Michael shifted into reverse and pulled backwards as the wind, roaring in defeat, slammed into the side of the car, causing the entire vehicle to shudder.
“Good grief!” Linda said. “What is with the weather today?”
No one answered her. Michael had gone too deep into the drifts behind them and was gently trying to ease the spinning tires back onto pavement. Susan looked ill again. Johnny found himself sitting at attention as though expecting an attack at any minute.
Stop it, he told himself, and then said aloud to Linda, “It’s just the wind coming off the river, that’s all. Want me to get out and push, Mike?”
Even as he said it, the tires caught traction and they began moving towards the road.
“We’re on our way now,” Michael said heartily. “Just a little bit of New England weather.”
His white knuckle-hold on the constantly shifting steering wheel belied his confident tone. They knew better than to reply. Even the backseat passengers could feel the shift of the slipping tires while they were still on flat ground. All around them, the wind whipped up the sugar-like snow, casting drifts and fresh layers onto their path.
The driveway was only a few hundred yards long, ending in a sharp downslope to the road. Michael slowed as he reached it, until the tires caught ground and held.
“It’s slippery,” Susan warned.
Michael said, “I know, honey, I know,” as he eased the car forward. They reached the lip of the incline and the car tipped.
“Easy does it…” Michael said, just before the tires touched ice.
The car hurtled down the slope, picking up speed and twisting as Michael fought for control. Johnny braced himself and reached out for Linda, who had one hand clasped to her mouth. Susan was climbing up into her seat, bracing her legs against the dashboard, repeatedly crying, “Michael, the tree! Michael, the tree!”
The car turned despite Michael’s frantic struggle with the wheel and pounding on the brakes. They slipped down the end of the driveway, slid across the road and tipped over the edge into the ditch. Susan’s scream was cut off abruptly when they hit the trees with a crescendo of breaking glass and the bone-crunching sound of metal wrapping around wood...
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