There was something about lightning.
He didn’t know what it was, but it was something soothing. Maybe it was the fact that the sky itself was tearing apart in its own rage and sorrow, such a tempest maelstrom that whatever was wrong in himself was banished for the duration of the storm. His own problems—everything about him—seemed so small and pitiful in the face of the thundering bellows of the gods.
It was cathartic. It was peaceful. It was beauty in chaos, in the utter madness that was the all-encompassing storm.
If anything could survive such an event, it would be cleansed and washed way, and no longer would his problems seem so terrible. At least for a time.
Sitting beneath a tarp, listening to the screaming whisper of raindrops on canvas and leaves, moss and rock, leaning against the warmth of another person whose breaths came gentle and slow as the thunder ravaged the lightning-torn sky, as if each cloudy drumbeat eased a grip on his heart—well, that was ecstasy. Or at least as close as he would ever get.
Rain dripped down his nose from being caught in the downpour earlier, and soaked his hair to his head, made his clothes stick damply to his skin. The air was chilly, but not cold; not with someone next to him, someone else who could draw calm and strength from the power of the storm. Breathe deep the surge of lightning, the crisp perfume of ozone ripping the clouds asunder.
And simply wait.
They said there was no such thing as magic. They said it couldn’t be possible. They mocked and teased and flung so-called scientific facts in your face until you could no long bear it, then they laughed and pointed when the tears leaked free and you ran away to safety.
Physics, they said. Math. Universal constants. Gravity.
There was no such thing as magic!
After so long hiding in bathrooms, sobbing until your lungs hurt from their cruel jests and open stares, you knew it was time. They would see. You would make them.
No such thing as magic.
Soon they would see. You would harness the power of the dark forces beyond their ken, and they would all see!
Of course, hindsight being 20/20, blowing up the competitors’ washrooms at the Olympics was probably not the best place to start. Handcuffs are tight, and nobody believes you when you claim it wasn’t a cherry bomb, it was the dark forces beyond their ken!
… no such thing as magic. Hrmph.
The sun has no business shining so brightly. Not now. Not today.
Chewing the inside of your lip until your mouth floods with the sharp tang of blood, you turn away from the window and tug the heavy curtains back into place, cutting off the pale morning light and shrouding the room in darkness once more. Each step across the floor feels practiced and carefully chosen, and yet you plod. Your bones are like lead, your skin stone. An effigy come to life, pulled free of its tomb to walk the earth among the mortals.
In the safety of the darkness, you walk across the room, arms outstretched to feel for sporadic furniture and pillars of priceless art. The wood is polished and smooth under your fingers; the marble cool and impersonal.
When your hand grazes the engraved doorknob, you hesitate, hearing muffled voices down, down through layers of wood and brick and stone. Your next breath is heavy, rattling, as if through a skeleton’s loose ribs. It will take courage to leave the dark. Courage you don’t think you have.
It would all be so easy if only you could blow out the sun.
“Leave me alone!”
“No! Come back here!”
“I don’t wanna! Go away!”
“But, honey, we’re looking at the gorillas.”
“I don’t wanna look at the gorillas. I wanna look at the badgers.”
“They don’t have any badgers at the zoo, honey. Come here, see what the gorillas are doing.”
“Can we see the badgers?”
“I wanna see the badgers. Let’s go see the badgers. Gorillas are stupid. Badgers are cool. I wanna see the badgers!”
“Honey, I don’t think—hey, where are you going? Get back here!”
“Looking for the badgers!”
“Excuse me, ma’am, but is your child looking for badgers? We don’t have any of the kind he probably wants, but we do have honey badgers. Would you like to go see those?”
“Only if we can feed him to it.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Honey, did you hear that? There are badgers. Now stop pestering me and let’s go.”
Full and red and perfect, not waxy or lumpy in the slightest. The inside would be crisp and white and juicy. It was her greatest creation yet, and she had to share it with the world. The single mother down the street—she might appreciate it. She always seemed to buy her seven kids McDonald’s and Kraft Dinner. She might not even have the money for proper fruits and vegetables. She would appreciate it more than anyone. She deserved it more than anyone.
A glance out the window showed a light smattering of rain. Donning her black hooded shawl, the old lady placed the perfect specimen in a cloth-covered basket and left the house. The young mother was home; her rusted minivan was parked on a driveway strewn with broken bicycles and chipped digging toys. Stepping around a jumble of plastic diamonds, the old lady ducked beneath a low porch roof and knocked on the door. The echoing shrieks of so many children echoed from within.
After a long wait, the door opened and the weary eyes of the young mother stared dully at her.
Smiling, the old lady pulled back the cloth. “A gift for you.”
The mother looked in and her face crumpled in a stormy glower. “An apple? A fucking apple? I don’t want your charity, ya old hag, and I seen Snow White!” She spat on the porch at the old lady’s feet and slammed the door.
With a sigh, the old lady set down the basket after removing the perfect apple.
She hoped those vile children got scurvy. It was just an apple.
He could hear the taps running, slowly filling the tub with cataracts of steaming heat, and laughter bubbled up his throat like the soap she was surely putting in he water. Soon! So soon! It was going to be a great joke. His best yet. She would love it.
Besides, it had been long day. She could do with laughter.
Within minutes, the pipes shuddered as she turned off the taps.
Gripping his surprise in his palms, he waited until he was certain she was in the tub, then crept up the stairs, slowly so his weight didn’t creak creak creak.
She was humming. The water splashed as she moved, and billows of steam belched from beneath the door.
Carefully gripping his prize, he opened the door.
She looked up and wiped sticky hair form an already sweaty face, and her brow crumpled in a frown. “I told you to leave me alone. I’m in the mood.”
Her eyes narrowed as he turned his back to her to prepare the surprise, then widened in time with her mouth as he turned and tossed the toaster in the tub.
Kneeling on the floor, he cackled and clapped.
“I only wanted to shock you. Get it? Get it?”
Can you hear it?
Growls of thunder—a thousand soldiers’ feet marching across a slate battlefield, rent by mires of dust and bone.
Use your ears, not your eyes,
For these are not soldiers who can be seen.
Torrential rain, weeping from the battles, a reminder of the loved ones lost and still to leave, faces melted by the poisonous clouds of war.
Fingers of lightning wrenching the sky asunder, jagged, pulling, sudden. The cries of generals; the tattoo of the drums, sharp and bold among the footsteps of thunder, the wail of dearly departed joy.
It’s all among the rain.
A call to arms.
March to victory,
Across a sky split by war.
Can you hear the fearful drums a-beating?
In the rain.
All you have to do is listen.