Storm Watch

by Alyx Barter

The storm begins with a question. Drip? asks the sky. Drop, comes the reply, and then the rain comes. Cautiously at first, and then with increasing confidence, the clouds opening up like great doors and washing the earth below, scrubbing all color from the air until the world is wet and gray. You’re looking out the window. There’s not much to see.

Not all storms begin that way. You’re out in the garden, weeding beneath deep purple clouds, when the sky seems to shatter above you. Lightning tears through the clouds, and through that tear, the rain. You stay outside, letting it batter against your face, letting the rain drip down your cheeks and your collarbones and into your shirt like a hungry hand.

Some storms last all day. They’re not storms, really, just a mass of gray drizzle that permeates the air and chases us all inside. Across the city, yellow lights flicker on in the windows, behind each one a person trapped by the weather. You sit softly by the fireplace. He’s in the next room over, and you stay silent so you can hear the rain gently drumming against the roof.

Not all storms begin outside. Some are inside, and they begin with a shouted accusation, a raised hand, and fear tears a jagged hole through your heart. The question is this: why?

Some storms you can see coming. They lurk offshore, creeping ever closer, and you know they’re coming, but you’re not sure when they will get here. You don’t know how furious they will be when they arrive. Sometimes, they strike, and the damage is minimal. A blown-over lawn chair, frail branches in the driveway. They move on, and instead of relief, you think, next time may be worse.

Occasionally, a storm is devastating. “This is bullshit,” your neighbor declares, surveying an oak tree that has punched its way through their roof. “I don’t have to deal with this.” And they don’t. They pack their things and rent a truck, and send a postcard from Vermont. You dig your toes into the storm-soaked soil and watch that oak. You feel as sturdy as that oak had once been.

What speed will the winds have to reach to topple you?

Some storms choke back their rain, and they roll across the sky, black and bright with lightning. The ground rumbles with the threat of thunder, and there’s a dry electricity in the air. Everything is still and watchful and heavy with humidity, but the storm moves on. It’s a long time before you reconcile that there won’t be any rain tonight. You fall asleep feeling like you’ve forgotten something.

There are other storms on the radio. Firestorms that people cannot outrun, and snowstorms that shut down entire roads and freeze waterpipes and knock out electricity. Duststorms, too, choking the air and hiding the sun beneath a gauzy layer of stirred-up dirt. You listen, and you watch the news, and you thank the lord above that at least you don’t have to deal with those storms.

Your cousin calls, and she says that there are no hurricanes in California. The next day there’s an earthquake, and the day after, a mudslide, and she calls you back and says, “well, never mind that.”

The front door slams shut with a force that shocks the house with its anger. You hang up the phone and creep through the backdoor and step out into a sunshower. The garden is sparkling with the light spray of rain, and the sun filters through the air in a blinding burst of white and yellow. Painted across the horizon, like with a child’s watercolors, is a rainbow. You’re wet, but not soaked, and when the storm moves on the air seems a little cleaner, the sun a little brighter.

The storms all begin differently. They all leave behind their own damage. But there is one thing they all do: end.
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Alyx Barter, currently a student at the University of North Florida, has been writing for over ten years but only in the past year and a half has found herself writing short stories. When she is not working on schoolwork or various writing projects, she is working at a local equestrian facility where she keeps her two horses.

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