The Storm came for Jimmy last Tuesday. Me, Cal and Ralston were
sitting on the porch, drinking beer, watching the street like usual,
when it appeared ’cross the way in front of Jimmy’s house.
It was just like we’d seen on the news. Just like all those videos on YouTube.
My favorite video is one of the first ones. You know the one that was
took in the subway in New York. Some tourist was shooting movies of his
family when the cloud appeared, that dark familiar cloud, a thunderhead
in a bottle. It just oozed out of the ceiling and hovered there for a
moment, growing larger, blocking out a couple of the fluorescent lights.
There’d been some reports by then, so folks knew what was coming and
they started screaming and running, but they’re on a subway platform, so
there’s really no place to go. This was before we all knew running
didn’t make no difference. The tourist kept rolling, though his wife
told him to get the hell out of there and his kids were crying in the
background. He just keeps shooting, steady as a government job, keeping
the Storm in his sights, even as it moves toward him, then over him,
then past him. It stops over this young guy with scraggly hair on his
face and none on the top of his head. Now we all know what’s coming, but
he didn’t really, not then. So, he moves left and the cloud stays over
him and then he moves right and it follows. The rain starts down on him.
Everyone else has scattered away, so he’s the only one getting wet. And
he stops fighting it, just stands there, soaking in it, as the tornado
drops down around him and the lightning starts crackling inside it.
After a minute, it all just disappears, the tornado, the lightning, the
cloud, the guy, gone.
Turns out the cloud is really small. No bigger than a Buick. And in
person, it ain’t that big a deal, just hanging there, threatening to
rain on someone. For a moment, before it headed toward Jimmy’s front
door, I wondered if it was gonna come get one of us instead. You do feel
that in your throat, I have to admit, the possibility of it.
“Should we call Jimmy,” Cal said, not really a question.
“Nah,” Ralston said, reaching down for his spare bottle. “Wouldn’t matter none.”
He was right about that, of course. When the Storm comes for you,
there ain’t nothing you can do about it. Just let it take you. That’s
why me and Cal and Ralston sat on the porch and drank a bit in our spare
time, rather than hiding like some folks. Folks like Jimmy who didn’t
go to work no more and stayed in their basements all day and read the
websites trying to figure out how to outsmart the Storm. I like some of
the websites, the one with the ticker in particular, that one that tells
you how many people the Storm’s gotten so far. Don’t know how the guy
knows how many have disappeared – the Storm’s popping up in more and
more places these days – but he claims to know and it’s more interesting
than the sites that want $19.95 to tell you how to survive, more honest
I think. Last I checked, the Storm had taken nearly ten thousand, but
that was a couple of days ago, before Jimmy.
People been praying a lot, saying this is the apocalypse. The End
Days, one person at a time. Others think it is aliens or maybe the
government or maybe someone else’s government. No one really knows.
The lights went out in Jimmy’s house, all of them. That’s one of the
first things the websites say to do, like the Storm has eyes or
something, like it can’t see in the dark. Those sites are full of it –
no one knows what the Storm is. No one knows why it comes for some or
who’s gonna be next. No one knows. Jimmy must’ve figured out it had come
for him – maybe he heard the rustling of the wind or felt the change in
air pressure. So what’d he do? Turned out his goddamned lights.
The Storm disappeared through Jimmy’s front door. So much for all
that security we saw him installing a couple weeks ago. For a few
minutes, nothing happened and we thought maybe Jimmy got this one
covered, maybe he’s got this rap beat, maybe he’d be a celebrity living
through the Storm and all, and folks would want to talk to us and put us
on the news because we were there when it happened.
No such luck. We saw the flashes through the basement windows. One
two three, then gone. Then, silence and darkness from Jimmy’s house. Cal
took out his cell phone to call the hotline just like they said to do
on the TV. Scientists and government folks will come out and check out
Jimmy’s house and take some samples that won’t help much. No one needs
to get the body – there ain’t none to be got.
I reached into the cooler for another beer and listened to Cal call in the sighting.
“Jimmy oughta known better,” Ralston said, handing me the bottle opener.
I cracked the cap right off and took a long, deep swig, knowing without a doubt that that was the damn whole truth.
Michael Landweber’s stories have appeared in Fugue, Fourteen Hills, Gargoyle, Barrelhouse and a bunch of other places. His first novel, We, will be published by Coffeetown Press in September 2013. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor at Pop Matters. He won’t find it at all creepy if you follow him @mlandweber.
See Michael’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.