Michael saw it first. The bolt of lightning cracked the sky in the west, and for an instant made the otherwise dusk-hazy silhouette of Snake Range clear and sharp as if it was day.
“Look, Em!” Michael cried. “Did you see that?!”
“It’s just lightning,” his big sister said and tried to suppress a shudder. She was 10 years old and the eldest by two whole years, so there was no question of the indifference in her voice, as she awaited what she knew must follow lightning.
The thunder rolled over the desert and reached them after several long heartbeats.
“Oh – wooow!!” Michael blurted and pulled a shadow-punch with his fist, as if he was cheering the thunderstorm to pull an even bigger punch next time.
The storm obliged. Only minutes after the first rift had been torn in the sky, new ones opened up over the mountains. It was odd, though, Emma thought, that they could be sitting here, under the big truck and there was still no rain out on the parking lot or anywhere near the Border Inn. But she knew it must be pouring over the mountains now, like a flood.
“Thunder is cool,” Michael said, a big grin on his 8-year old face.
“It’s very natural,” Emma said. “There’s el-electricity in the sky. It comes out when the clouds clash together, like sparks.” She tried hard to remember what Ms. Peregrine had said in class and at the same time not to think about how loud the next rumble of thunder would be.
Or when it would reach the Inn.
It was already late and the desert was a carpet of shadows, the occasional bump of a stone or bush no longer visible; it was all slowly being absorbed in the grey, chilly dusk. Emma strained and tried to see more, but she knew it would only be possible when the next bolt of lightning shot through the distant sky, and then only for a little while, near the mountains.
Where they were, everything would soon be shadows.
“I’m hungry,” Michael suddenly said. “Do you still have the Snickers?”
“Yes,” Emma said and fished the chocolate bar from her small rucksack. “There’s only one, so we have to share.”
Normally she would have insisted they eat dinner first, as she knew mom would say. But right now Emma Sawyer Reese felt okay about letting her little brother eat that chocolate bar. Then at least they wouldn’t just sit – and wait for … something.…