I couldn't sleep. I sat next to the window in our small, cramped car, staring wide-eyed into the mess of black outside that seemed to be collapsing in on itself over and over. My hands and knees trembled in time with the bats clawing at the inner lining of my stomach like synchronized divers, but much less graceful and much more painful. Fireworks popped faintly behind us and for a moment all I could think of was peroxide on a cut, fizzing until there is nothing left to clean.
Vacations were meant to be enjoyed, treasured the way that pirates treasure their ships. But those exciting times were found in places like Florida and California where the weather was always a constant seventy-five degrees. I was in Kansas, home to Dorothy and Toto. Believe it or not there was actually a museum dedicated to the Technicolor duo; my mom had dragged us there to buy magnets and a cheaply made snow globe that whirled poppy seeds around when you shook it. But I didn't care about the Asian looking Dorothy in the clear ball, forever frozen in her unnatural pose; I was more worried about how she had gotten to Oz. Kansas wasn't exactly an ideal place to stroll when you were bored. Pretty as it was with its lack of mountains and excessive amount of cattle on either side of the highways, it was also right smack in the middle of Tornado Alley. Which, to me, meant only one thing; my great-grandmother had been crazy.
I couldn't fathom what went through her mind when she decided that Kansas, of all places, would be an excellent place to raise my grandpa and his siblings. And when the lightning lit up the night, I started to resent her for it.
I pressed my face and hands to the icy glass as thick, pebble-sized hail began to pelt our car. The sky looked like a bruise, purple and swollen, pulsing with each strike of lightning that came every few seconds. My chest tightened and I counted silently, trying to measure how close the storm really was. I got to two. The storm was right over head. The bats in my stomach turned into raging bulls stampeding down the streets of Spain, angry and vengeful.
It was then that I saw it, funnel clouds stretching down like fingers reaching for the last pringle chip in the can. I moved away from the window and sat back, pressing my body into the seat as deep as I could. I caught my mom's reflection in the mirror when the night became day for a brief moment. She was smiling.
Rain came down in sheets around us, reducing the visibility to probably less than five miles. Our car started to rock from side to side the closer we got to our hotel and I bit my lip hard. We entered the parking lot of our hotel and parked right in front our room. Which would have been okay if our room had been on the first floor, but we were on the second floor. That meant running up slippery stairs while rain, wind, and torn twigs pummeled our back until we were inside the room. I groaned out loud.
It took five minutes for the rain to calm down just enough for us to be able to run to our room. It had felt like an hour. My mom counted to three with her fingers, giving us the go ahead with a nod of her head. I was the last one out of the car because my legs were jelly and my hands had fumbled around with the door handle, unable to find the lock faster than my siblings. I ran as fast as I could taking the steps two at a time then sprinting to our door, which was open and waiting for me. I rushed into the warmth of the room and slammed the door shut. My mom gave me a look and I shrugged my shoulders apologetically. I wasn't really sorry, I was just glad that we were safe again, far from the funnel clouds and potential tornadoes.
In the morning the skies were clear again and the only sign of that the storm had even existed was a turned over plane on a local airstrip and my solemn vow to never, ever, step foot in Kansas again.