What I’ve Been Writing

This is the beginning of a five-page short story I wrote one morning when a thunderstorm woke me.

It’s working title is “Thunderstorm.”

Light flashed. Chris’ eyelids flew open and every muscle tensed, listening for the explosion. His heart pounded. After a deep lavender-scented inhale, he held his breath, glancing around.

The shadowy form of his travel trailer’s closet reminded him that he was safe. Not in Afghanistan. Not in the Saudi Desert. Home. Or as close to home as he had found.

Thunder rumbled, a long guttural sound, distant. Just a storm.

He pushed onto his elbows and swung his legs to the floor. The twinge in his left knee informed him that the career he’d chosen rooting out enemies of the state was over. It ended with a bang as his convoy ran over a buried mine. Three of his teammates paid the ultimate price that day, but he and the LT only sacrificed their field readiness.

Shaking off the old thoughts, Chris leaned on the wall and ran his hand along the surfaces as he hobbled the few steps to the kitchen. He filled the cup waiting on the counter with water and chugged it. Before he finished, brittle white light flashed illumining the interior through the drawn shades.

As he’d done as a child, he counted out the thousands. Thunder rolled just as he reached five. Was that sooner than the flash that woke him?

He filled the glass again and slid his bare feet into the sneakers beside the door. His finger flicked the lock and he shoved the door open. The scent of smoke and ozone and wet earth filled his senses. With a small snarl, he grabbed the metal cane propped beside the door and side-stepped down the metal stairs.

In the darkness, he closed the door and let his gaze sweep the horizon. In a few blinks, his eyes adjusted to the dark. His cousin’s over-grazed pasture stretched in front of him on the opposite side of a barbed wire fence.

Memories of barbs embedded in hands that he’d snapped with wire cutters dogged the corner of his mind. He pushed the past away, trying to lock it back in the closet of his mind. It wasn’t as easy to do in the middle of the night.

He lifted the cup for another sip of water. Blue-white light flashed, blinding him. His eyes closed, and he began the automatic count once again.

This time, he didn’t even make it to four before thunder growled, rolling its way from his right. The storm was coming closer.

The water tasted metallic. Rain pattered on the awning above his head.

When lightning strobed again, he’d prepared with squinted eyes. In the distance, near a lone fruit tree, he thought he glimpsed a figure. He blinked, willing his eyes to adjust to the dark, not making it to three before a boom of thunder shook the ground beneath his feet.

Strange tingles rose through the soles of his shoes.

What had he seen? None of the white-faced cows his cousin ran on her acreage were in this field. He’d helped herd them through a flimsy gate into a verdant pasture with a small pond near the copse of trees marking the beginning of the neighbor’s spread.

As he blinked, he replayed the image. It has been a tall, willowy figure. Cloth had flapped around it. If he believed in the paranormal, he’d say it was a ghost, but his experience facing the ugliest of realities wouldn’t let him entertain such fancies.

With his face turned away from the distant tree, Chris squinted, preparing for the next flash of lightning, and employing the techniques used during Ranger missions for spotting irregularities in the field of vision. Don’t stare directly at the object that seems off. Let your glance play around it to locate what seemed wrong about it.

He shuffled forward to set the cup in the holder on his camp chair. If there was someone out there, he’d need both hands free. To do what? It wasn’t like he could run them off with his bum leg and busted knee joint. And he wouldn’t be reaching for his weapon. That’s not why he was here.

Surely, he’d imagined things.

The sky flashed with another burst of light. In the field, a figure stood near the fruit tree. Wind lashed robes around its body and rain pelted the upturned face and outstretched hands.

Darkness returned. Chris blinked, unable to process what he’d seen. His internal count didn’t get to two before the thundering boom rolled through the ground, resonating through his lower legs. He slapped hands over ears. At this rate, the lightning would strike nearby on its next appearance.

And that woman—he was certain it had been a woman in silver robes, although he couldn’t fathom why someone would be garbed thus and standing in the field—would be in danger of becoming the electricity’s target.

He’d used a taser on someone before, and that had led to convulsions. The weapon had not even a fraction of the voltage of wild lightning strikes. It would stop the woman’s heart for sure.

He thumped the cane with each step toward the fence.

“Get down!” He shouted into the howling wind that lashed him with pellets of warm rain. Now he would be a target, too. But what great loss would it be to the world if he were electrocuted?

That’s not the end. It’s about the first third of the story. Would you keep reading?

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