J Whitworth Hazzard’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Born From the Center of a Storm
The blades of tall grass whipped her bare legs as she ran from him. Her wedges and sundress weren’t helping the escape, but she’d dressed for a nice picnic in the park.
A muscled arm snaked around Alice’s waist from behind and lifted her from her feet. One sandal flew off into the grass and Alice screamed.
“Gotcha!” He growled in her ear. “I’ll teach you to run from me.”
Alice snaked her fingers into the man’s silken ebony hair and tugged him close to her ear. Her legs melted under her as his hot breath filled her ear and his lips caressed the exposed skin of her neck.
”Is that a promise?”
The tall man dropped her into the grass and she squealed in surprise. She rolled onto her back and he trapped her between chiseled arms; a lion eyeing a piece of tasty meat.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, betraying the modesty of her sundress, and tried to pull him down to her. She alternated between a nervous smile and biting her lip in anticipation. His eyes bathed in her youthful beauty, until she thought her face would burn from blushing.
“Please? Come on…” Alice begged.
He grinned, a bright toothy affair that lit up his gorgeous face. “Not yet. I have something to ask you, first.”
Her breath caught in her throat. Had he finally made up his mind?
“Alice Piercy, will you…” Zach paused. “Eat with me?”
Alice groaned and punched him feebly in the chest.
“You meanie. Fine. We better eat quickly though,” Alice said. Her eyes scanned over the darkening skies. “It looks like rain.”
Zach helped her up from the grass and turned her around before scooping her up with one arm. He threw her over his broad shoulder and retrieved the picnic basket with the other.
Alice squawked when his shoulder cut into her soft belly, but she loved the way he took charge. She loved being with him, even if he was difficult.
Zach walked to the clearing at the top of the hill and set her down with a gentleness that belied his size and rough appearance. The five o’clock shadow, wild hair, and tattoos were an act, a rebellious dig at his overbearing parents. Alice sat in silence as Zach laid out the blanket, poured her a glass of wine and made a plate of food for her.
The first tiny raindrop fell on her plate and Zach swore. “Dammit. This was supposed to be perfect. Sunny skies, my ass.”
“Forget about the rain. What were you going to ask me?” Alice couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. In her head, they were already running back to the car, smiling, drenched, and hot, for an afternoon spent steaming up the car windows.
Zach pulled her to her feet—all 5’ 2” of it, and kneeled. She covered her mouth as he pulled a little black box from his pocket and opened it.
“Alice…” Tears welled up in Alice’s eyes. She was nodding her head before he even finished. “Will you marry me?”
“Yes!” Alice launched herself at Zach and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him fiercely between exclamations. “Yes! Yes!”
Thunder rolled behind them in the valley and the drops of rain picked up speed. Zach slipped the ring onto Alice’s finger and gently pushed her back.
“There’s more, Alice. I’ve made a lot of big decisions this week. I want us to be together, but I have to tell you…”
“Just tell me,” Alice said. “Whatever it is. We’ll deal with it.”
“I decided on Harvard. My parents are going to pay for Med school, but only if I move back.” Alice’s tears of joy vanished, replaced by the drops of rain from the freak storm. “What about Stanford? You promised…”
“I know what I said, but that was before. It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, Alice. If I went to Stanford, we’d be in a deep hole that would take years to dig out of. There’d be no money for a wedding, and barely enough to make ends meet.”
“I don’t care!” Alice barked. “Jessica is going to Harvard. She’d be in your class. I’m not stupid. Your parents are still trying…”
“Jesus, not this again. Jessica isn’t going to be…”
“What? What, Zach? She’s not going to be fucking you? Again?”
Zach grabbed Alice with both hands and shook her, a little harder than he meant to. “Listen to me. I just proposed to you for Christ sake.”
Alice shook herself free from his grip and ran. She felt like an idiot for saying yes so blindly.
There was always a catch with Zach.
“Alice!” Zach yelled after her but she was gone.
The skies opened up as the swirling black clouds reached their picnic, pouring cold rain down on Alice. She kicked off her sandals and sprinted through the grass, panicked that she screwed up. Between the tears and the rain, Alice was blind. She didn’t slow until she felt the slap of bare feet on the pavement .
The wind rose to a howl and Alice’s flimsy dress plastered itself against her body. She tried to pull the ring off her finger when the pickup truck’s lights froze her in place.
The Ford slammed on its brakes, but the slick road overwhelmed friction. Somewhere behind her, Alice heard Zach scream, “No!”
All 110 pounds of Alice’s petite frame was lifted into the air with a sickening crunch. The air sizzled around her and a giant flash of light exploded, enveloping Alice in a lightning bolt that ripped through the concrete and sent the truck skittering like a matchbox.
When the concussive waves of thunder quieted, Alice’s body lay utterly still in the wet grass. Zach sprinted to Alice and slid to the ground. The roiling clouds above receded and a tiny ray of sunlight covered her body, almost as an apology for the storm.
“Alice! Please be alive. Please!” Zach turned her over expecting the worst.
Alice’s body was untouched. No blood, no broken bones, not a single mark on her unblemished skin. She lay staring at the brightening sky, like a china doll newly unwrapped. She was alive… but Alice was gone.
The beeping of the heart monitor was the only sign of passing time in Alice’s hospital room. Zach and Alice’s Aunt sat in silence while the Doctors performed the GCS test for the fourth time, whispering over the results.
“Mrs. Piercy, I’m afraid there’s been no improvement. Her brain function is minimal. There must be some trauma that we can’t see in the PET and MRI scans.” The Doctor said. “It’s not a normal vegetative state, but it’s close.”
“Will she? I mean…” Alice’s Aunt exhausted her tears hours ago. “There’s got to be a chance, right? Some hope.”
The Doctor folded her arms over the tablet. “It’s possible, but she’d need massive rehabilitation. It’s like her brain was erased; shocked into some kind reset mode by the lightning. Honestly, it’s a miracle she’s alive.”
Zach got up from his chair and walked out, with a disgusted look on his face. When he got to the coffee machine in the lobby, the cop was still there waiting. “Mr. Hawthorne, I’d like to go over your statement again if you don’t mind.”
“What do you want to know?” Zach could barely contain his bubbling anger.
“You had a picnic, you asked her to marry you, the rain started, she ran to the car and got struck. Is that accurate?”
“That’s what happened.”
“The driver said she was crying. Just want to make sure everything adds up here.”
“Okay. Well, I’m glad she’s alive. I’m sure when she heals, you two will have a great wedding.” The cop patted Zach on the shoulder.
Zach turned and headed for the exit, “There’s not going to be any wedding. As far as I’m concerned, Alice died today.”
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Trained in science and critical thinking, J. Whitworth spends his leisure time writing fiction that would make his former professors cringe. Dr. Hazzard’s PhD in molecular biophysics is used to figure out how to scientifically justify the existence of mythical creatures. Follow him at Twitter @Zombiemechanics Facebook Blog Zombie Mechanics