Ataraxia

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ataraxia

  1. a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquillity.

The wind picked up, pushing the small red Fit toward the rumble strips.

Patricia gripped the wheel tighter, glancing in the rearview mirror. Cherubic cheeks and a wide grin greeted her from the back seat.

“Are you okay,” she yelled over the wind within the car.

Peyton nodded, strands of blonde hair blowing around his head.

Patricia surged ahead on I-64 enjoying the deserted patch of highway, while reminding herself that she didn’t need a speeding ticket. She sighed happily, realizing that even if she received a ticket, this would be the first time in years she’d actually be able to get one without it causing her forego food or beg for more time to pay the rent for their crummy efficiency.

After too many years of broken promises and more years of overwhelming fear, Patricia had finally taken Derick to court and actually won. Now she and Peyton would get child support regularly. It would be more than enough to get a decent apartment and keep food on the table and Peyton in clothes that fit him. He was growing so quickly, Patricia could tell he was going  to be tall like his father.

The temperature dropped suddenly as they headed west, giving Patricia a slight chill unexpected for August.

She rolled up the windows, observing the darkening sky.

Heavy rain drops began to land on the windshield distorting her view of grey asphalt. Within second they seemed to move from a slow descent to a pace worthy of windshield wipers as droplets fell in rapid succession.

She couldn’t remember a forecast for rain, but turned on the radio, hoping to hear a weather update or at least drown out any thunder. Peyton was still scared of storms. He was only 6, but ever since he was young, he’d burrow into her side, seeking safety from the sound, often crying incessantly–something that always enraged Derick.

Patricia shook away the memories. That was the past. Now, there future would be completely different.

Nothing was going to taint her newly-won season of perpetual ataraxia. And she wasn’t going let a small storm scare Peyton.

“Hey, Peyton! Let’s play a game! Some ‘I Spy’ maybe?”

“Mom, what’s that?”

Patricia peered threw the rain on the windshield.

“What’s what?”

“Over there,” Peyton said.

She glanced at her son who was pointing out the window.

Patricia quickly looked to her left across the plains. She looked again. In the distance she could see the ground being inhaled into quickly-rushing winds above. Her blood cooled within her veins. A silo caved to the force of the air, like it was made from aluminum foil, spilling its grain into the vortex.

A high pitch rattle blared through the car speakers, warning them to what they already saw. Patricia pressed harder on the gas pedal, willing the tiny Honda to go faster.

“Peyton, let’s see what we can spy,” Patricia said, her voice sounding hollow to her own ears. “You start.”

A robotic voice came across the radio calmly advising people to seek shelter. Patricia decreased the volume, refusing to panic. Sweat pooled beneath her palms as she gripped the steering wheel, straining to read highway signs.

“Mom, you look sad…”

Peyton’s face was marked with confusion and worry.

“It’s okay…we’re going to be okay.” Tears pooled in her eyes as her voice cracked.

The needle of the speedometer was above 100, but the heavy pain in Patricia’s gut told her that wasn’t going to be fast enough.  She heard it, the roar of wind as it moved toward them.

“God, help us…” She breathed the only words that came to her.

The car lurched to the left and upward. Everything felt weightless and small compared to the strength of unseen air. Like two magnets attracting each other over a distance, the car continued to spiral as the cracks ran across the windshield.  Peyton’s screams pierced the howling winds.

And then everything went black.

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