Torrents poured from the black sky. The turbulent rain wove a seamless curtain of haze. Streetlights were absent. Garish bolts of lightning provided the brief moments of luminosity. Such dire conditions rendered any hopes of visibility futile.
The lonely, winding road stretched for hundreds of miles. Its rocky path slashed through the Andes Mountains with the course of a jagged blade. Thunder reverberated jolting the desolate corner of the world.
Pebbles crashed loudly against the Renault 18’s windshield. The clatter from the falling rocks against the opaque glass could have distracted the most skilled of motorists. Despite this, the driver’s attention never wavered from the treacherous road ahead. The man knew he had chosen a route clogged with natural obstacles. The alternate way consisted of a mostly straight highway which would have reduced his trip from an eternal sixteen hours to a mere nine. His motives for selecting the rougher road were clear though. He needed to protect himself; above all else, he needed to protect her.
The sleeping toddler lied across the backseat. Brown curls bounced on her soft cheeks as the car trotted along the rugged path. A pink blanket fostered the girl’s small body from the cold night. She enjoyed a peaceful sleep unaffected by the perils her father battled just to ensure her safety.
The man silently cursed the adversities posed by both of the routes. While one was mountainous and desolate, the other was smooth yet brimming with threats. The government’s feeble political control allowed for traffickers to dominate the country’s best highways. Had the man chosen the seemingly simpler route, they could have faced a band of armed, ruthless criminals. Instead, he elected to navigate through one of the most dangerous winding roads in the country. He had hoped in vain for clear conditions and was punished instead with the most powerful of deluges.
Fatigued as he was, the father did not entertain any idle ideas of sleep. More than anything else, he longed to reach their tropical Caribbean destination soundly. Never had a road trip been so forlorn. Never had a destination been more elusive.
The sultry scent of the sea teased his nostrils; he could almost feel the saltiness tangled in the breeze. All he had to do was think of his wife patiently waiting for her family to arrive. Halfway there, he told himself. Part of him hoped she could feel his thoughts, distant as they were.
For a moment, the man was certain his exhausted mind was bewitching him. Two fluttering white lights marked their presence in the far distance. Their intermittent flicker baffled him. One thing was for certain though; the distance between his Renault and those lights lessened quickly. The lights' blazing brightness blinded the man in the contour of a traitorous curve.
Images raced through the man's mind during those sightless instants. He saw himself as a boy playing soccer in the streets. He saw young figures dancing to rhythmic tunes in his adolescence. He saw his wife's fair curls adorning the frame of her beautiful face on their wedding day. Yet, it was the last image which forced him to open his eyes despite the blinding glow. Five miniature fingers wrapped around his thumb with remarkable force for their tiny size.
The urge to protect his daughter was greater than his urge to succumb to the ominous lights.
Once focused, the father realized the lights belonged to a semi-trailer truck. He used every ounce of strength within him to force the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the truck. Whoever was behind the truck's wheel had no intentions of slowing the vehicle's destructive course. To the man's absolute horror, his efforts to lure his car away from the truck seemed hopeless. The slick, wet pavement prompted the small car to hydroplane in swift motions. Screeching tires confirmed the man's worst fears: impact was inevitable.
The truck's trailer struck the Renault with a bang forcing it off the serpentine roadway. Rocks made the steep descent even rougher. Amidst the commotion, the man heard a loud thump followed by a pained cry coming from the backseat. Horrified, he questioned the safety of his daughter.
The car's rugged course halted upon collision against a thick tree branch. Shattered glass rained onto the panting man's lap. Despite his hyperventilating, his rear-view mirror allowed him to see the distant tail lights of the semi. The coward escaped.
Fatherly instincts propelled him out of his seat. The man pulled the backdoor open in a violent swoosh. There, lying on the floor of the backseat, was his terrified toddler. Her expressive, almond-shaped eyes gawked at him through dark eyelashes. Shaky hands betrayed the immense fear she felt. He let out an alleviated breath at the sight of the unharmed girl.
The father then pulled his daughter into his arms with a silent promise to always guard her with his life.