Lightning flashes over the shining city as the car approaches it. Stuart yawns and hopes they find lodgings before the storm bears down on them. Gloria doubts it, eyeing the laden thunderhead with alarm.
Stuart speeds up the car.
“I hate driving in the rain,” he groans.
Gloria nods, but says nothing. Stuart loves driving, and she suspects he gets a little sadistic thrill in dangerous conditions.
They enter the city, Gloria gazes up at the looming storm cloud, which casts a lingering gloom over the city. Gloria shudders as streetlights flicker and buzz.
“Something’s wrong,” she says, and goosebumps crawl on her arms.
“Where is everyone?” Stuart echoes the sentiment.
They drive through deserted streets though it is midday. Papers whirl across the road like dust devils, and debris lies scattered on the street. Gloria feels the desolation deep in her bones. She focuses on the parked cars. They are rusty, banged up and broken down, lying on their bellies with their flat tires peeking out from under them. Like dragons sitting on their loot.
The stoplights blink red, and Stuart crawls across the intersection, but no one awaits at the corner. He glances at the store windows and sees only cavernous darkness. Buildings gape in toothless screams, and a shiver runs down his back.
Thunder rumbles overhead as Stuart dares to speed up the car.
“We’re not staying here, Glo,” he states.
“I second that,” Gloria reaches for the map in the glove compartment.
The guidebook falls out with its pages splayed open to the picture of a bright, bustling city. She scans the caption; it mentions the supposed never-ending wealth of the city built beside an enormous gold vein. Gloria glances out the window — of these streets of gold, only rubble remains.
She opens the map and directs Stuart to keep going straight. Thunder rumbles, and Gloria shudders.
“That sounded like a growl,” Stuart says, apprehension quaking in his voice.
Gloria says nothing, but looks at the thunderhead. The cloud shifts and meanders like a cat. No, a snake. A boa slithering across the sky, surrounding and squeezing this city.
“Hurry, Stu,” she pleads, and Stuart steps on the gas.
They speed through deserted streets, flanked by crumbling buildings. The storm cloud seems to glide towards them, and Gloria fears they will never leave if it catches up to them.
Lightning flashes across the sky, and Stuart thinks it looks like fangs, but he says nothing. From his quick glance at Gloria’s ashen face, he knows she agrees.
At last, they reach the city limits. Stuart sees the bright day ahead and wills the rumbling engine to go faster, though the speedometer is at its wits’ end.
The storm cloud roars as the car dashes out of the city into the blazing sunlight.
Gloria turns in her seat and stares behind her. The cloud twists into the shape of a dark snake-like head. It opens its mouth and spits fire into the shining city of eternal wealth.