A booming clap of thunder shook the car. Lyric Sage jumped in her seat and, realizing what the sound was, relaxed. She glanced at the sky and scowled. It wasn't raining yet, but soon, very soon. She looked back at the road and a burst of panic flooded her.
The rear of a teal sedan quickly approached her front end. She stomped on the brake and a loud, drawn out squeal exploded from her tires. She barely missed the sedan. In fact, she could have slid a piece of paper between the two bumpers. She exhaled, feeling a strong sense of relief that she'd managed to avoid a wreck. "Great, how come I didn't see that coming?" she muttered.
Rain poured from the sky. It fell in a heavy curtain as if someone had dumped a bucket of water on her windshield.
Lyric squinted through the glass trying to see the road ahead. She was sure the driver of the sedan was giving her a reproachful stare through his rearview mirror. I should have taken surface streets.
She leaned forward and wiped the steamy glass with the back of her hand. Thick sheets of rain coated the windshield making visibility close to impossible. She swore under her breath and turned up the speed on her wipers. They sped up, beating a frantic rhythm across the glass. The hazy outline of taillights moved away, then glowed brighter. She applied the brake again until her car came to complete stop.
Looking at her watch, she wondered how long it was going to take to get home. The sedan in front of her was moving again and she accelerated to keep up. As she fought traffic, her thoughts wandered to the National Security Agency entrance exam she had taken yesterday. What a great job that would be. Intelligence Specialist Sage, she liked the sound of that. Unfortunately, very few people scored high enough to get in. Besides, she'd had such bad luck finding a job since college graduation, she was beginning to think she would be working for the Ready Hand temp firm for the rest of her life.
She sighed. One could always hope a good job would come through.
The taillights ahead shone red again and Lyric strained to see what was holding the driver up. The sedan's distress lights flashed. Great, now I'm going to be stuck here behind a disabled car. She twisted around in her seat to see if she could change lanes, but traffic was backed up for miles.
A moment later, the sedan pulled out of the lane and drove to the shoulder of the road. As Lyric passed, she could see he'd gotten a flat. That sucks. Maybe I can improve my job hunting karma if I give him a hand. It's not like we're going anywhere fast. She pulled over in front of him.
Popping the trunk, she draped a jacket over her head and rushed to the back of the car. She grabbed the new electric jack from her trunk and carried it to the sedan's window. The driver rolled the window down and Lyric felt a wintry chill creep over her skin. The driver had a worn handsomeness to him, with heavy wrinkles around his eyes. He had blonde hair and intense brown eyes made more striking by the dark circles that surrounded them. She guessed him to be somewhere in his mid-fifties. A strong, muscled jaw hardened his look.
Lyric's mouth went ash dry. "Hi," she said, trying to shield herself from the downpour. She held up the jack. "I thought this might help."
He smiled, showing tobacco-stained teeth. It sent a shiver through her. "Why don't you come in out of the rain?" he said, gesturing to the empty passenger seat next to him. He had a slight accent that sounded Russian. A vision blinked through her mind of a small, dingy apartment in a snowy Russian city.
"No thanks, I think I'll just wait in my car. Will you return this when you're done?"
"Sure," he said. He reached out and took the jack, innocently touching her fingers as he did so. A charge burned through her hand and halfway up her arm. A sense of violence filled her, nameless and deadly. It left a film on her flesh like motor oil. She stifled a gasp and pulled her hand away. Without another word to him, she turned and rushed back to her car.
Settling back in, she tossed her soaking jacket on the passenger seat. A frosty sense of dread moved through her like a winter mist. She ran her hands up and down her arms trying to drive the cold away. Her skin was covered with gooseflesh. What a creepy guy. Leave it to me to stop and help the only weirdo out on the road tonight. Maybe I should just leave. I can always get another jack. She stared into the rearview mirror. The rain had let up and Lyric watched him through the slow drizzle as he fixed his flat. She shivered and turned the heater up. Come on, come on, hurry up.
After what felt like an hour, he finished replacing the tire and walked toward her car with the jack. Lyric plastered a smile on her face and rolled down her window. "Thanks," she said, reaching for the jack. She was careful not to touch him.
He handed it to her, but before she could roll the window up, he grabbed her hand where it covered the jack. His hands were cold and wet. Her mind immediately filled with strange, disjointed images of a dark room with soiled walls. A woman was bound in the center, naked to the waist. She was bloody and bruised like she'd been beaten. This man caused everything in the vision and his touch felt like a murdering criminal.
Panicked, Lyric pulled away from his grip. She dropped the jack, and stomped on the gas. The jack clanked loudly on the asphalt as she pulled away. The car lurched forward, kicking up some wet turf on the side of the road.
Forcing her way back into traffic, Lyric struggled to control her breathing. An ice-cold charge moved down her body, making her shiver uncontrollably. She looked in her rearview mirror but saw no sign of the sedan. I'd better turn on the next street just to be sure he doesn't follow me.
Biting her lip, she turned the wheel and took the next side street. She kept an eye out for the sedan, but it looked as though she'd lost him. She didn't understand why the gift had come over her when she'd touched him. She hadn't had visions like that in years, and now she'd had two major ones in less than an hour.
The gift. How long had it been since she'd thought about it, acknowledged it? Months, years, maybe? She couldn't remember. She tried to forget about it, but it was always there, lingering in the back of her mind like a mugger. She hated how out of control it made her feel when it took over.
It's nothing. You're just tired and jumpy. Maybe I'm getting sick or even imagined the whole thing. Now let's get home and get some rest, everything will look different in the morning.