The static levels were too high. The hairs on his arm not only stood on end, they were vibrating. Something was coming.
Roger manned the little weather station alone. The meters fluttered then stood in the red zones. He frowned. Cold logic told him it was impossible. It told him there was some explanation. It told him to sound the alarm. He froze until sheer panic slammed the alarm button. It echoed through the building. He felt more than heard the oncoming storm. Storm? He’d never heard of readings like this.
He ran to the window in the cinder block wall. The thick cloud in the distance made his hands shake. It was viciously dark. Like a buzzing, snapping beast, it ate its way over the horizon. Tendrils reached down, each ending in an explosion of damage as it reached the ground. The carnage was hideously precise. The city, destroyed. Suburbs, gone. His own town, shattered in a whirlwind of dark lightning. Each exploding, drawn up and spit out as the heartless cloud moved closer.
The thin remainder of cold logic told Roger he had to warn others. The equipment was useless. He grabbed the phone. Crackling and a shock threw him across the room. He slammed against the wall and crumpled, arm shooting pain to its shoulder. Biting his cheek, he dragged himself across the floor and up using a chair. Back to the window, arm hanging useless. Every muscle reverberated. The machines popped and sizzled. Get out, they said. It’s coming, get out.
He darted from the building. Run, logic said. No, not the car, useless in this storm. In this thing. He made the mistake of looking up. It stopped him in his tracks. The cloud blotted out the sunny day, spreading across the sky. The onrushing sound was deafening. The pressure began to crush him. It shocked him into moving again. Running. Running away from the weather station. Running toward nothing.
Roger’s entire body quivered, throbbing. He cried out, the sound echoing in his head. The explosion threw him off his feet. He landed amid broken cinder blocks and a tire that rolled on its rim. A flash of time to marvel that he survived. Enough time for his pulsating body to ache and roll over. Time to shriek as a thin, dark streak of lightning speared him.
It lifted him up. It held him fast, his body stiff. Pain screamed through him. It was abruptly shut down. Everything was abruptly shut down. The lightning dropped him. It moved on. It took the fear and pain away. It took Roger away. What was left rose awkwardly. It slammed its shoulder into its socket. It began to walk along with the broadening darkness, pausing while the creature above destroyed the amusement park, stopping while the creature exploded the little town beyond it.
Others were stabbed by the dark lightning. They were lifted, dropped to the ground. They stumbled out of the wreckage and joined what was left of Roger on its pilgrimage. It saw blood spurting from a damaged drone. That drone won’t last long, came a thought. A thought. A sliver of Roger hiding within tried to contact the thought. The sliver was cold logic. The sliver faltered, fearing for Roger’s brain functions under the control of the sparking, crackling creature.
The drone that was once Roger stumbled. The sliver observed the effect. It reached, experimenting. The drone stopped. It tilted its head. It resumed shambling with the cloud. The sliver grabbed and clawed. The drone fell to its knees and held its head between its hands. There was a moan deep in its throat. The sliver, now rippling and waving through pathways, forced its way into lobes, touched sensitive places, retreated when the drone spasmed. It was on the ground, twitching, hurting. Roger’s sense of self took painful hold. It heard the humming in the remaining part of the drone’s brain. It forced Roger to work past the hum.
Get up. Walk. Don’t let it know. The thoughts formed with great effort. Each one made the next easier. Each one made him more Roger. Ahead in the distance, the darkness reached down and wove a wall. The cloud poured into it, leaving daylight. Roger shuffled along with the others, stepping through and around the rubble of a small town. He peered ahead. Drones walked to the wall. It reached out and grabbed them, impaling them on dark lightning and pulling them in.
There was a truck ahead on its side. Cold logic and panic combined. Roger stumbled to it and crouched in the upturned bed. Drones passed him in crowds, a horrifying, silent parade. When the last of them had gone, Roger dared to peek through the cracked windshield.
The cloud became a viscous, roiling black. It coalesced into a roaring sphere. He watched as it lifted from the dust, leaving a whirlwind behind. It shot up, soon a black dot in the clear sky.
Panic and relief overwhelmed logic. Roger lay in the dirt, whimpering and shaking as the sun set and the moon rose.
“We got a survivor over here!” Roger heard. “You’re lucky, buddy. First survivor in all these tornadoes.”
“Not a tornado,” Roger shook his head. It poured out. “Not a tornado. Not a tornado.”
“Right, buddy. Not a tornado. Don’t worry. We’ll get you patched up.” Roger felt a sharp sting in his arm. As he slumped, he heard, “Sure, not a tornado. Like anything else could do this.”
Thanks to @Selorian for the first lines, a post on #storystarters on Twitter.
© 2010 Jessica Rosen