by a contributor
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.