Her small toy flashlight dimmed again, now barely illuminating her feet much less very far ahead. Soon, the only light she would have to see by would be the occasional flash of lightening, and that blinded her more than helped.
Even as she jumped at another deafening roar of thunder, she shielded her eyes from the rain in hopes of seeing the end of the road when the lightening flashed. In the brief illumination, she could see nothing more than the high dirt road turning through the swamp.
Over the roar of the wind, she heard another sound coming from behind her. Shaking from more than the cold, Daisy forced her numb legs into a half trot, half run.
"Get to Grandma's, get to Grandma's." She chanted to herself between chattering teeth. If her stepfather caught her now, she might never see the light of day.
Looking behind her she caught sight of the faint glow of two lights. In that moment her foot caught in the mud, and she plunged head-first into the road.
As Daisy got to her feet, trying to push aside the hair plastered to her face, her right ankle started to throb. She took a few limping steps forward and then stopped, knowing it was no use. Shutting off the light, she took one gulping breath as she considered her options. On either side of the mounded road lay the swamps that she had been tormented with all her life. No way out. Only the road. Snakes, alligators, and all sorts of other creatures that would just love a tiny morsel like her...
In another few seconds he would surely see her in the headlights...
In the next breath, Daisy plunged down the embankment of the dirt road and found herself in a tangle of grass and brush, with cold water reaching up to meet her. She pulled her feet back out of the water and grabbed onto a handful of branches and froze, looking up at the road, waiting.
The truck slowly approached, and she had to avert her eyes to avoid the glare of the headlights as they became brighter.
Her heart thudded in her chest as the truck slowly crept by. She waited for it to stop, and to hear the familiar yell that always came before the beatings.
A sheet of lightening briefly lit the sky as the truck passed, blinding Daisy. When her eyes cleared, she could see the red tail lights of the truck slowly dimming as they moved farther away.
Tears intermingled with the rain as Daisy slowly crawled up the embankment back onto the muddy dirt road. Not daring to bring out the valuable flashlight, she continued walking down the road in the same direction as the truck, feeling her way.
Another sheet of lightening lit up the storm clouds, and in the distance she saw that the truck was in the process of turning around using one of the few pullouts on the road.
Her heart stopped. Surely he saw her in the same flash of light that she had seen him!
Daisy made her decision to be bait food first before she would go back with the man who her Mother had described as the light of her life, but for Daisy was the darkness in her heart. As she prepared to dive off into the waters of the bayou, she heard a long high pitched scream.
Looking above and behind her, the storm briefly lit up a horrifying monster of tentacles and metal. She screamed herself and dropped into the mud as it screamed past her.
The ground shuddered, and she felt the explosion travel through her body as the nightmare creature crashed into the bayou with a spectacular multi-colored explosion. The mud splashed up over her face and body. Her ears filled with a ringing that echoed through her head.
Starting to pick herself up, she rubbed the mud out of her eyes and tried to see where the truck was. The fire of the metal creature illuminated the trees, shrubs and long grass of the swamp, but she couldn't see the silhouette of the truck in the light. In fact, she couldn't see anything on the road.
A low roar descended out of the clouds, and Daisy stopped in the process of getting back to her feet. A graceful winged creature of gold briefly illuminated the bottom of the storm clouds before it faded into a graceful creation of blue and red metal. The ship flew over the crash sight. Fire appeared below the ship as it stopped to hover. A moment later it shot forward and then back up into the clouds.
In that very moment, the clouds seemed to lessen. The rain grew lighter, the wind softer. Daisy slowly crept forward, wondering how she could get past the turnout where she had last seen the truck without being seen herself.
A break in the clouds cast the full moons light into the bayou. In the light, Daisy searched and searched but couldn't see anything even resembling the truck, only the metal tangles of the ship that had crashed.
She moved down the road, parts of it now scarred and cratered, as fast as her aching ankle would let her. Even after she had passed the turn-out, she continued at the same pace, gritting her teeth at the pain that was shooting up her leg.
The light from the moon increased as the clouds continued to disperse.
Daisy almost screamed at the shadow that rose up before her. A low chuckle emanated from the bird-like shadow.
"What is a young thing like you doing out in this storm?" said an unfamiliar voice.
"The storm is over." Daisy said immediately in a squeaky voice. She stood completely still, hardly breathing.
In the moonlight, the shape became clearer, and now she could see a smile on the face of the stranger as he looked out over the fire in the swamp. "Yes, it is now, isn't it?"
Behind him she could now see the shadowed shape of the blue and red ship that had once been the glorious golden firebird. This man must have come from it. With the one part of her brain that wasn't frozen, she remembered hearing on the radio about some young people who were helping to protect them from evil ones that came from the skies. He had to be one of them. Suddenly, she was sure of it.
He looked back at her and asked, "And where is your home?"
Taking a deep breath, hoping the trembling in her whole body wasn't obvious, she said bravely, "With Grandma."
The man slowly nodded and held out a hand, "Then let's get you to her."
Daisy took a deep breath and took the hand. Yes, the storm was over.