Bolt from the Blue by David Macfie
It all started with a severe thunderstorm, with bucketing rain and lightning, the like of which was completely new to me. There was the routine forked stuff all over the place, but there was also sheet lightning, which I hadn’t seen before. And, to add a little extra zest, ball lightning rolled here and there through the other pyrotechnics. The impromptu performance began mid-morning and persisted all day and into the evening. I’d heard the expression ‘bolt from the blue’ before but never seen such a massive example of it. To be truthful it, was more bolts from the dark grey and black of the lowering skies, but I won’t nit-pick that small detail.
Afterwards, there was a lot of talk, in the media and in social conversation, that the storm was unnatural and even supernatural. And there were the inevitable doomsday predictions about the end of the world. But, since the weather for the next few days was perfectly well behaved, I shrugged it all off and got on with my routine activities.
However, perhaps there was some sort of cosmic upheaval, because at the end of the following week a wished for, but completely unexpected event took place. I won twenty-five million in the lottery. That was surely a sign that all was not as it should be. I’d always had a conspiracy theory that the bloody thing was rigged in favor of friends and relatives of the management of the company running it and government employees and their friends and relatives. Perhaps I’d been wrong from the start. Perhaps?
Of course, this good fortune put me into a complete spin. What was I going to do with all that money? Then, despite my request for no publicity, the word got out and I was inundated with people, all of whom were trying to get me to give them a slice. You can’t believe the pitches I had to put up with and the offers of sexual favors from both men and women, in exchange for a permanent relationship with me. It got so bad that I left town for a while, telling nobody where I was going.
I hid in Monaco for a while. I chose the place because now I could afford it and because I wanted to be present to watch the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix. I stayed there for three weeks, sometimes travelling along the coast to the south of France. I had a great time and on my last night. On a whim, I went to the casino. Another complete surprise was waiting. A win at roulette inflated my bank account by a million US dollars.
Now I was really spooked. This was all impossible. It didn’t happen to guys like me. I went into a blue funk and hid in London. There I tried to stay away from anything that could continue this trend of unexpected events. I took cheap lodgings a in a middle-class area, fed in unfashionable restaurants, avoided the public eye and generally kept a low profile. I was relieved when absolutely nothing happened.
Finally, after a month of no stimulation whatsoever, I got bored and returned home. I was relieved to find that my sudden fortune had died the death of all seven-day wonders, and I was back in the crowds of the faceless people.
Maybe I could now begin the rest of my normal life.
Having resigned when I hit the jackpot, I began to look for a new career. There was nothing interesting for a guy with no qualification, so I enrolled for a BSc degree, in Chemical Engineering, at the local university. Then I looked for a company bursary. I was accepted as an intern by an international oil company, who agreed to pay for my fees and books in exchange for a commitment to work for them for at least three years after qualifying. Of course, I’ would have to pay the money back if I didn’t pass. But all went well. I enjoyed the subject matter and easily got into the studying routine. I passed the first year with distinction and, thankfully, no unexpected events marred my progress. It was the same in year 2 of the course.
I was lulled into a false sense of security.
Mid-way through year three, I fell in love with the girl of my dreams. The timing was terrible. I needed this sort of distraction like a hole in the head. But love at first sight does sometimes happen. And it hits you like a bullet between the eyes. My studies suffered. Then I got lucky. Maddy was also a student and she realized what was happening. She suggested we should move in together and help each other to focus. This arrangement worked splendidly. We both got back on track and both passed with flying colors at the end of the year.
I became a daddy in the fourth year – another unexpected event. We were stupid really, and the year was made much more difficult. But we managed it like a well-oiled machine and survived. Both of us passed with first class honors and I started work at the oil company. Maddy was still at home with little Benjamin, but she did lessons for struggling students to keep busy. I hadn’t told her yet that we wouldn’t struggle for money. I don’t know why I hadn’t. It was instinctive. I thought it might spoil things. So, we were still staying in the same place we had as students. I knew I’d have to say something sooner rather than later. We hadn’t got married yet and I just wanted to choose the tight time. Bad decision as it turned out.
On Benjamin’s first birthday, Maddy got a call from a company that had got her details from the university. They said they wanted her to join them. At the interview, she was intrigued with the job and accepted at a generous starting salary. We had to scramble to find day care for Benjamin, because her new employers wanted Maddy to start as soon as possible.
This opportunity for my wife turned into the worst possible disaster. She met and fell in love with a co-worker. Within months she had moved out with Benjamin and our relationship was over. I was reminded of the other unexpected events that had come at me from nowhere and I remembered my feeling that they couldn’t be real. The breakup through me off and I began to perform badly at work. Within a few months, I offered to buy myself out of the contract and the oil company agreed.
I went away to try to get back on an even keel. I stayed in a guest house in the mountains and did day trips to places of interest. The roads weren’t great, and in many places, there was only rudimentary fencing between the tar surface and dizzying drops into deep valleys Constant vigilance was essential. One evening, while I was returning to the guest house, a monster storm broke out. The lightening was reminiscent of the unnatural storm of years ago and the rain was torrential. I was tempted to pull into the side and sit it out but rejected the idea. The visibility was so bad that any other vehicles coming along wouldn’t see me and an accident was inevitable.
I crawled on, wipers at full speed and engine almost idling. I could only see about two meters ahead and I knew we’d reached the most dangerous stretch of this road. On the left the incline rose steeply to the crags above and on the right the land fell away at a slop of eighty degrees. My hands were holding the wheel in vice-like grips and my eyes were gritty with the strain of peering into the rain. Lightning flashes came more and more frequently, and their intensity seemed to be building.
I never saw the lightning bolt that hit my car. I just felt the massive impact that lifted the vehicle as if it were weightless. The next thing I knew the car pitched through the flimsy fence and sailed through the air.
My last conscious thought was that this bolt from the blue had killed me.