STORMCHASER  

 

Thunder rolled in from the northeast as day quickly became dark as night. Inky black clouds boiled and raced across the sky, attempting to outrun the jagged forks of lightning streaking across valley.  Rain began to lash down in never ending sheets as I ran to greet the storm in all its fury. Rain streamed down my face and hair constantly blew across my eyes, obscuring my vision. I had always loved storms, preferring to be outside chasing the wind and rain while others stayed at home, safe and dry within their walls. The wind began to howl down the valley as I ran across the meadow to join in its game.  Turning, I ran along with the wind, wild and free. Racing through the trees, I jumped a small stream, scrambling madly up the other side. The latent power of the building storm filled me with wild exaltation. Nothing could stop us we were as one!

 

The raw viciousness of the howling wind and driving rain was like nothing else I had ever experienced. I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me but on I ran, glorying in the unabridged fury Mother Nature was handing down this day. Reaching the edge of the field, I jumped the fence and continued along the road, heedless of the path I was taking. Hither and yon, over fences, through turbulent streams, and down through the valleys I ran screaming at the top of my lungs, joy coursing through my veins. The storms' fury continued to build as I careened through thickets and woods, past farms and isolated homesteads.

 

The light was hazy with a strangeness about it, not daylight and not yet night. I could see a farmer trying to close his barn door, while the rain lashed in a wild frenzy and the grasping fists of wind fought him for the massive wooden doors. The streets of the village were slick with rain, children's faces peered through windows, noses pressed against the glass, eyes wide with awe and fear. Firelight flickered upon their walls, keeping them warm and dry while the wind and rain thundered by, leaving their little corner of the world in peaceful oblivion. Little did they know of the joy to be found in the power unleashed from the skies. Ditches came and went, houses flew by the wayside as I ran with the wind, the storm's fury unabated by distance or time. Over hills, through fields of summer grass, splashing through the creeks, I continued on, going where the wind blew me. The moment of night's arrival slipped by unnoticed so dense was the fog and rain.

 

I stood in the middle of a dirt lane, legs spread, heart pounding as the storm raged on past. Head hanging, my breath came in great heaving gasps as I swayed on my feet. My lungs felt like they were going to burst. I could no longer keep up with my wild dreams. Looking around me, I realized that nothing was familiar. I had no idea where I was or what direction I might find my home! Suddenly the night no longer seemed to wrap itself so gently around me. The sense of oneness with nature was fast disappearing to be replaced by creeping fingers of fear. Lightning struck an old maple tree, splitting it down the middle in an ear shattering blast.  The acrid scent lingered long after the strike, burning my nose and bringing tears to my eyes. Coughing, I cautiously moved away from the still burning tree. The loud snap of breaking branches sent me running down the hill with a last burst of energy. There I stood, shivering and shaking, unable to calm my fraying nerves. The fire raced up the tree trunk with a roaring hiss, lighting up the ground with an eerie orange glow that seemed to have a life of it's own.

 

I stood in the bottom of a deep gully, choked with brush, rocks and shrubs. I just about jumped out of my skin when, off to my left, I heard rustling noises coming from a patch of shrubbery. Standing perfectly still, I turned my head scanning the stunted trees for whatever had made the noise. An owl hooted from his perch on scraggly old Oak tree down the lane, the sound echoing eerily off into the night while the sounds of crickets filled the air. They seemed to follow my stumbling footsteps, quietly passing on their news from aunts to cousins to sons and daughters.

 

I slowly wandered on, dazed and confused. The menacing blackness pressed in on me, changing what I knew I saw, into something that I thought I saw. I jumped as a ghostly howl echoed through the darkness. What was once a blanket of cozy familiarity had become a shroud of deceptiveness. The darkness closed in around me, not even a faint glimmer of welcoming light was allowed to penetrate the thick mantle of ominous silence. Exhaustion was taking its toll as I wandered in search of something familiar. Shivers began raging uncontrollably through my body as I stumbled through thickets, around ponds and over fences. I knew I could see the mountains from home, but where were they?  No matter what direction I turned, the forbidding sky hid them from my sight.

 

As I wandered up the side of a ravine, the mountains rose off to the east, still shrouded in morning fog. It took my exhausted mind a while to comprehend what I was seeing. Finally it registered, I could find my way home. Keeping the mountains before me, I struggled down a track through the woods. The rising sun ever so slowly began to warm my stiff, cold muscles leaving me with the knowledge that my night's play was going to extract a heavy toll. As the hours dragged on, my body began to ache as never before, I had never felt such pain. My knees were on fire, my head throbbed and pounded like a deep bass drum I heard once and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I hobbled shakily down the trail, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, weaving from side to side like a drunken old man. I tripped and stumbled to my knees again and again; raw and bleeding, the skin hung in filthy tatters. Time lost all meaning as I struggled to make it home. 

 

The familiar rumbling sound of an old farm truck came unexpectedly from over the hill. Struggling up the embankment, I topped out on a grassy knoll, off to the east a ribbon of asphalt stretched out along the edge of the forest.  The sight of that old truck stopping on the side of the road and Jenny standing up on the running boards was more welcoming than you can imagine. I heard my name borne on the breeze, an echo of times gone by.  With a grateful neigh, I headed down towards her beloved figure.  Looking up at my call, she ran towards me with arms outstretched.  Loving arms embraced me as her voice whispered soothingly in my ears.

 

"Well Chaser, what have you done this time? I thought I had lost you and you were finally off chasing lightning storms across heaven's meadows. Come on Old Friend. Let's go home."  

(c) S.Satel 2000

         

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