The Alpujarras

The rain was getting heavier. Still reflecting on her pleasant afternoon near the mountain village of Capileira, Gina put on her headlights and switched the wiper blade of her Mercedes 500 SL to a higher speed.

Just outside of the city of Granada, Capileira crowns the Poqueira Gorge, an area in the heart of the Alpujarra Alta where the last Andalucian Moors sought refuge after their expulsion from Spain at the end of the sixteenth century. Those areas of Spain, where Arab and Spanish cultures and architecture mixed, exuded a magic and mystery to Gina, and the villages in the Alpujarras still preserved their Moorish character—whitewashed, cube-shaped houses, clinging to mountainsides—very similar to the villages in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The wind picked up as dusk descended, and the road became more challenging for the old 1986 convertible Gina had purchased in Switzerland a few years ago. She had loved driving up the curving mountain roads to her afternoon rendezvous, top down and enjoying the cooling breeze, which grew ever cooler after each ascending curve of the road. Now, returning home in the rain, she just looked forward to seeing signs that would guide her to National Highway 323 and back to her apartment in Granada.

She felt a sudden queasiness in her stomach as she rounded a sharp, descending curve and the brake pedal went soft. The car made the curve, but she felt the centrifugal force take her much closer to the edge of the road than she wanted to go. Let’s slow it down, baby, she said to herself and started to pump the brakes, easy at first, but then harder, faster, and with greater anxiety. That queasiness now permeated her whole body as the car continued to accelerate down the tortuous road, made more treacherous by the steady rain. What the hell is going on? her mind screamed as she wove left and right, faster and faster down the mountain. The brake pedal now went all the way to the floorboard without effect.

Huge pine trees and a wall of boulders lined the road to her right, but she had to make it to that side of the road—quickly. She tried to fight the forces that were sliding her to the left on a long, winding curve. Night had quickly fallen; beyond the road, she saw nothing but blackness, save the tiny lights of the villages in the distance. She turned the wheel hard right toward the trees and ominous rocks and fishtailed violently. Four thousand pounds of silver-blue metal strained against the wet road, sliding toward that black nothingness.

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