She woke up before sunrise, startled awake by a sound outside the car. Squinting through the rear window, she scanned the horizon with one eye. Nothing. She rubbed a hand through her hair vigorously, like a dog scratching its ear. Then, in one loping motion, she shot an arm up to flip off the universe and flopped back onto the vinyl.
She didn’t know how long she’d lain there—half a second, fifteen seconds, ten minutes—before she became aware that her eyes were open. She stretched her neck just enough for the outside world to come into view upside down. She stared for a moment before grasping the headrest and pulling herself up. Feeling for the release lever in the dark, she gently pushed on the driver’s seat until it gave and slid forward. The door handle felt surprisingly cold. The shock tensed her muscles and sent a wave of ache through her. I must have been shivering for hours, she thought, and then realized that she’d spoken the words aloud. She hadn’t heard words in three days. Her own sounded flat and thick.
Stepping out of the car, she heard the gritty crunch of sandstone beneath her feet, just over the low ocarina of the wind. Was there always wind here at night? She wished the wind blew like this during the day. Her car hadn’t had air conditioning in four months and she didn’t have the money to recharge the Freon. Actually, she considered, she didn’t have the money to do much of anything. Maybe she could find a job at a gas station somewhere nearby, maybe Tuba City. She’d only need to make—
But she forgot what came next. Instead, her mouth dropped open an inch or so. She moved a hand to the car, tracing her way around to the front before she hopped onto the hood and settled her feet on the bumper. Her eyes remained fixed on the band of light in the sky surrounded by infinite pinpricks of winking white and red. It was like the vertigo she felt once at the top of the Sears Tower when she was six. She leaned back onto the windshield and beheld the Milky Way for the first time in her life.