In spite of the load in front of her she found herself running as if in a dream. It seemed so unreal, so silly, to keep running into the rain falling harder on this warm July night, away from her car, the sound of thunder in the distance. Yet it was hopeless to keep staying in the car. Dareen had waited an hour after the engine cut out and nobody had driven by on this old highway. She had had a feeling it was dumb to take this back road home, after that long day at the new library out past Alpharetta. So out the middle of nowhere, this area. Just hills and trees and endless farms. And now in the darkness it was hard to make out even those. She had to call her roommate Elly to come get her, take her back to their apartment in Peachtree Heights. But the battery in her cell phone had run out, and there was nothing to do but go out and find a house with a telephone.
Beginning to get soaked, she stopped under a tree, where the raindrops were at least intermittent. She really couldn't run, she had to hold her breasts in front of her, something that shamed her and looked ridiculous, but otherwise these big loads would yank painfully at her chest as they bounded up and down. She’d hated these oversized breasts ever since they began sprouting from her thin frame when she was thirteen. She’d had to give up sports, had to dress in ugly clothes like this brown floppy sweater. Thank God the insurance company finally approved the breast reduction operation. They said it would be scheduled probably in two months. Thank God!
Now a gust of wind and an almost deafening rush of rain. She clutched her breasts into her crossed arms as she looked at the thickening downpour. She would be here for a while, it seemed. Not being able to make out anything through the dark curtain of rain she thought, for the thousandth time, of what her life would be like with manageable breasts. She toyed with the hope of wearing spaghetti strapped dresses without needing an industrial strength bra -- yet, maybe after all these years of covering up, Ms. Dareen Alkaras had simply become a modest girl. It just suited her temperament. Maybe she was a throwback. She had spent all but the first two of her 24 years in this country, was totally Americanized -- her father had shortened their name from Al-Kharras -- yet she thought of her relatives back in Syria, especially her grandmother whose twinkly eyes looked at her from her black-clothed face in the photo in her bedroom. And who’d worn a head-to-toe burka all her life. Dareen wouldn't want to do that, and definitely was opposed to all that oppression of women that went on in Muslim countries, but there was something about the burka and being covered up that appealed to her: a kind of dignity and maturity, maybe.
Now a bright vague blotch at the horizon and a few seconds later, muffled thunder. Dareen had to get going. She didn't want to be under a tree when the lightning got close. She ran forward, going on pure impulse, knowing in the back of her mind that this was stupid, she should go back to the car. But if she did that she might be stuck there all night!
Panic pushed her from behind as she clutched her breasts and ran out, her poor two-inch heels a mess as they poked through the muddy grass. On and on she went, wishing she had a third hand as she tried to wipe the rain from her eyes. There seemed to be no end to this field -- she zigzagged trying to find some shape in the dark white shower of rain -- shit! One of her heels snapped. Finally, a light! She ran faster -- damn that broken shoe just flew off -- must get it later -- yuck, the squishing of mud through her pantyhosed foot. The shape of light was getting nearer...
A small house, like a trailer that had been built onto and was now a house in its own right. The front was dark; the light was coming from the back. Dareen slowed down, took her hands down from her breasts, and in spite of the rain still pouring down, crept carefully around to the back. She was already soaked; a couple of seconds more didn't matter. . .
To her surprise the back of the house was open, with a kind of overhead garage door that protruded like an awning and kept the rain out. She dearly wanted to seek its shelter but was intimidated by what she saw. For a moment she leaned in from the side, the rest of her body except for her head still getting deluged.
It looked like a rocket, or a ray gun from some old science fiction movie. As big as a car, a fat clunky metallic bullet bolted together, pointing upward with a kind of antenna at the end. In the pale fluorescent light it looked so otherworldly yet so much like your typical mad scientist contraption; that part of her, way in the back of her mind, felt like laughing. But she was wet and beginning to get chilly even though the night was warm; and she was more intimidated than amused.
A feeling that suddenly increased when a short, balding man in wire glasses and a mechanic's monkey suit appeared behind the big bullet, carrying a kind of diagnostic meter from a workbench in the rear. He screwed it onto something in the back of the giant bullet and turned some dials. Then he looked up. Dareen yanked her head back out of sight.
She stood there miserably in the downpour thinking of her options. This man was a whacko, yet she was wet and far from home and needed to call someone about her car. There was only one thing to do.
She placed herself well within the awning, dripping all over the floor, and was opening her mouth to say "Please" when she was met by the man's startled gaze. She immediately crossed her arms over her breasts, feeling the squishing of her sopped sweater.
"What? Who are you? Who sent you?" He looked about 45 or so, she noticed as he came closer. He brandished the little meter thing like a gun.
"Please," she bravely continued, "my car stalled and do you have a phone?" She withered under his gaze. Looking down at her stockinged foot where the shoe had flown off, wet and muddy, she saw the outline of her toes and moved her shod foot over to cover it.
To her mortification, the man saw this. "Quite a modest one, aren't you? . . . Well, O.K., you can use the phone, but . . ." He passed near her and looked out into the rain. Another dull flash of lightning came from far away. The wind died down for a moment. The man looked at her. "You don't know what I'm doing, do you?"
The wet, miserable, frightened girl shook her head. He looked at her skeptically. Then drew back to take a full length view of her. With a playful smile he said, "You should get out of those wet clothes," then went back to his work bench. When he came back he had a white lab coat and he threw it to her. "Take those clothes off and put this on."
She looked around for a door to a closet or someplace, not that she intended on doing what he said. "Yes, right here," he said, and she looked at him in shock. "I'm packed to the rafters here, there's no extra room for you to go to. Go ahead. Take them off."
Dareen clutched the robe to her chest for a moment to more completely hide her breasts that were already shielded by her wet sweater and her crossed arms. "Come on, Miss. Let's get to it. I'm a very busy man."
A flash of lightning, followed by thunder. The man looked out, startled by its ferocity and closeness. He raced back to the dials at meters. Not that Dareen noticed; she had dropped the robe and gotten the hell out of this bad place and this leering whacko.
The wind picked up. Now there was another sheet of light, covering half the sky. Two seconds later, thunder. The girl screamed. And turned impulsively, not back to the house, but in a zigzag to the left. Her breasts bounced crazily as she sprinted clumsily with one shoe. She prayed, "please Allah, please Allah, save me..."
Now, no wind. The hair stood up on her scalp. It felt like ants were crawling all over her body. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth too. She knew that this meant. This really was the end. She was about to get struck by lightning! A -- llah...
She felt herself being raised from the earth, then a tremendous bang like a cannon and blinding light, then a hammer blow from behind that pounded her into the ground face first.
For a second she was dizzy and could not think. Had she been killed? No, she was still alive -- and aflame!
"AIEE! AIEE!" She frantically rolled around in the wet grass. Then she got up.
Her clothes were ablaze. Running aimlessly, she tried with desperate and ridiculous motions to pat the flames away with her hands. It was no use -- to avoid being mortally burned she was going to have to rip off whatever was burning. Barely thinking, her mind on auto, survival instincts taking over, she ripped off her sweater, then her blouse. For a moment she reached behind to fumble with the six clasps of her bra but then just grabbed it from the front. Surprisingly after only one tug it came off. She threw the burning white thing down and it continued burning on the wet grass.
But her skirt was burning too. She hoped she could keep something on, but her pantyhose were on fire too and her remaining shoe. She landed her butt onto the grass and pulled them off. Then up and jumping. . . "No, no, please no. . . " But her modest mind was just a spectator to the primal motions of self-preservation. The panties were a ring of fire around her most private places. Whimpering and crying, she tugged them off and kicked the last of the burning things away from her.
Dareen crouched down, her toes in the wet grass, hands across her shoulders, feeling the rain beat down. Her body felt scorched but it was not aflame. As far as she could tell she was not burned, a miracle she should be thankful for. The wind had died down. She looked at her clothes lying here and there, still oddly aflame even though they were soaked with rain. Maybe it had to do with the lightning. She was in some weird terrestrial other universe now. Her skin still felt buzzy all over, like it was stuck into one big light bulb socket.
Then she looked down at her toes. They had a dull glow to them. In fact her feet, her knees -- as she stood up her entire body throbbed with a weak fluorescence. St. Elmo's Fire? She had heard of it.
And her breasts.
They stood straight up and out, round and firm, without a hint of sag. She had never seen them like this -- as if they were in an invisible push-up bra. Her nipples were erect and hard, the aerolas huge. "What are these?" Though no one was around, she was so embarrassed by them that she crouched down and covered herself again.
Then the glow went away and her skin was its normal dusky brown.
As the storm gradually left and things quieted down she duck-waddled forward to what remained of her clothes. She picked at them. The flames had gone and what was left was mere ashes that fell apart at her touch.
"DAMN!" Dareen yelled, slamming her hand onto the ground, which must have been very soft because her hand forced it several inches down. She was not one to curse or yell, but she couldn't help it. Naked in the middle of nowhere -- except for that crazy pervert.
Still crouched, she looked around. She couldn't see the house. Being naked she certainly had to avoid it now. She duck-waddled in what she thought might be the opposite direction, then realizing it was slow and silly to move that way, reluctantly stood up and walked, one arm over her breasts. It was odd -- her breasts stuck out so much now that her arm was well in front of her body as it crossed to cover her nipples, now huge and rock hard, poking into her forearm. They still bounced as she walked but more tightly now, not wobbly and jumping all over as she might have expected. What had happened to her?
At the top of the rise she saw the dull glow of the back of that nut's house. She turned in the opposite direction and, still with an arm across her breasts, started running across the dark wet fields, looking down to be careful where she put her bare feet that squished in the grass as she went. She had to find something, somewhere.