"We're gonna crash, you maniac!" Mom shrieked hysterically. "Slow down at once, or I'm gettin' out, see if I don't."
Dad grinned. "Relax, Ginnie. I'm only going seventy-five. Don't be a back seat driver."
"Don't be ridiculous, John, you know perfectly well I'm sitting in the front seat."
Luke Whittaker, meanwhile, was surveying the seemingly endless panorama of rolling hills and farmland. A red barn in the distance displayed the now-familiar hex sign. It had been miles since they passed through the last village, stopping briefly to buy gas and a couple of cokes. They were really and truly moving, he reflected with dismay. Left behind forever was the Midwestern city where he had been born, along with his school and his friends and their modern, streamlined apartment facing the park.
Jessica sat rigidly, her intelligent brown eyes turned inward. She gazed listlessly out the window of the minivan, seeing but not consciously registering a billboard inviting tourists to "SEE INDIAN CAVE... A NATURAL WONDER!" She was dark and petite for a thirteen year old, her lustrous black hair cut short so it wouldn't get in her eyes when she did her gymnastics. She was not pretty in a conventional sense, yet her appearance was striking, her fluid features reflecting the passing shadows of her inner brooding.
At the moment, her mind was consumed by a sadness which had plagued her for as long as she could remember. She was incomplete, one half of a whole which had been shattered, or so her parents claimed, when her twin had died at birth. But she knew this was a lie. Her twin lived... somewhere, somehow... and one day Jessica would find her. Then finally her tormented mind would find peace.
"How long till we get there?" Luke snapped impatiently, tired of his parents' constant quibbling. They had been on the road since the crack of dawn, having traveled all day yesterday, with only occasional rest stops. Everyone was bored and cranky, but Dad was obsessed with the idea of getting to their new home as quickly as possible.
Mom squinted wearily at the map, a false smile frozen on her face. "Probably another half hour, if we don't crash. John, the turn off for the township road should be just ahead, if we haven't missed it already. There'll be a sign for Schultzville."
"I know, Ginnie, I know," Dad said irritably, hitting a pothole and nearly veering off into a ditch, regaining control at the last moment. Luke heaved a sigh of relief, but said nothing. Dad was in no mood to listen to advice.
Suddenly, like an ominous omen of things to come, roiling black clouds began to fill the previously clear blue sky. Brilliant flashes of lightening were followed by rumbling thunder.
"The turn-off's just ahead to the left!" Luke yelled. "You'd better slow down, Dad."
Dad slammed on the breaks and careened around the corner, the tires squealing in protest. "They could give a person more of a warning," he said gruffly as they ascended a steep hill. Massive oak trees on both sides hemmed them in, forming a canopy above them.