By Martin Falatic
The stunning blue-white bolt shot from the tree, attendant thunder ripping through his bones. “Jesus!” he exclaimed, backing away from the smoldering wreckage of the old maple, thin streamers of lightning dancing eerily over the ground around it. The cold night sky was boiling with strangely ruddy clouds, appearing as if backlit by a great fire. He ran for shelter but found none, the barren slope devoid of protection. No rain, just the strong, changing winds and the terrible, terrible sky. The lightning struck again, throwing him to the ground. The earth shook under the blast, and added to the growing sense of a world gone berserk. Lifting himself, he continued his run, until good fortune found him at his own doorstep. He raced into the house as thunder crashed nearby.
* * * * *
The house was strangely quiet as he made his way to the basement. He flicked the light switch… a weird dim glow from the bulb cast long shadows down the stairs. As he reached the foot of the stairs the light failed, trapping him in darkness. Terror took hold, and he stood frozen. He sensed something was behind him, vile, malevolent, and fearsome. He could hear nothing, not the sound of his own heart, nor that of the storm raging outside. Only the awful silence filled his ears. He became dizzy and fell to the floor. Before he blacked out, he noticed the light pulsing on and off , again and again…
* * * * *
The branch he held in his hand was slippery, as the pine needles formed a slick mass under his grip. He dared a look down the short slope behind him. At that moment he lost his hold, falling spread-eagle on the slope. He tried to crawl up, but the rocky soil gave way easily, and he found himself sliding down to the edge. He dug his bloodied fingers deep into the dirt, to no avail. He saw the misty land far below, felt the relentless wind on his face, pushing him. The terror knotted his stomach, wrenching only a gasp from his lips, as he slipped off the edge of the cliff. His last thought before passing out was simply, “Mom!!”
* * * * *
The sirens were a steady wail as he approached the ambulance parked outside the house. His father was shaking his head sadly, and he knew immediately that something terrible had happened to his mother. Grief-stricken, he ran to the ambulance, only to have the doors close in his face, as they had that day, that terrible day when… (no I won’t I can’t I can’t! I can’t!! Why her? Why now? Why God why oh why? oh why?!) He hauled himself up and peered through the glass. He watched for some time as the paramedic worked feverishly to save his mother. Shaking his head resignedly, the man stopped, and reached for a clipboard on the far wall. Johnny watched as the other medic pulled the white sheet carefully over his mother’s face. “She looks asleep, she’s not dead!” he wanted to scream. He felt a sudden, deep pain in his gut, and he began to sob uncontrollably. He felt himself being shaken by the shoulders, being pulled back from the ambulance, away from his mother hidden inside. “Johnny,” his father said gently, shaking the boy again. “Johnny…”
* * * * *
His father watched as his son dabbed the tears from his red, puffy eyes. He put a hand on his small shoulders, to comfort him in some small way, understanding the pain etched on the boy’s face, mirrored in his own. “Your mother…” he began, and stopped. He wished so much that he could take the pain away, could erase the memory of that tragic night, could make the family whole again. “Why did she hafta die?” the boy sobbed, fresh tears rolling down his cheeks. The father opened his arms and held his son close, letting the tears wash the pain away. The boy’s nightmares were less frequent now, another sign that his son was healing, slowly but surely. “I love you, daddy,” the boy said finally, wiping the tears and the last crumbs of sleep from his eyes. His father smiled and hugged him. “I love you too, son.” The boy smiled back, feeling better. Behind them, motes of dust circled in the morning light, dancing like tiny spirits in the warm sunbeam.