Volume 3 Number 2


Spring 2005

Tempest Inamorato

T.J. Starbuck

"Poor dear. Vernon, it don' feel right leavin' her here all alone," Molly muttered as she flicked a grasshopper off the seat before sliding her firmly packed frame into their new 1939 Packard.

"Molly, we have ta respect her wishes! Ya made her dinner and I got her last will and testament leaving all ta her niece." The lawyer gingerly touched the searing metal of the car door. Through the open window, his wife handed him a flowered handkerchief. He wrapped it around the handle and opened the door. "Aurora said her niece was comin' and she made it clear further fussin' over her wasn't welcome. We was ta help out her niece once she gets here and that's all. It's time ta go home." He slid in and wrapped the handkerchief around the steering wheel.

Molly sighed. "I suppose yer right. Old Aurora's lived a good long life. What is she, eighty-four? And her niece, poor little mite, will need our help, her losin' 'er 'usband in a farmin' accident and all. When's she due in?"

"Aurora said a friend was drivin' 'er in. She said it could even be tonight. That's why she's so adamant that it's okay for us ta go on home." He wiped the sweat off his forehead, placed his straw hat on his head and stared at the blood red sunset. "I pray ta God it actually rains this time. None a us can hold out much longer." His wife's reply was lost in the roar of the engine as they pulled away from the dried up old farmhouse, dust spinning into the orange sky.

The sun slowly settled and Aurora watched with tired hollow eyes as dark shadows covered her few possessions, wiping them from sight. The constant droning of the cicadas bored into her brain. The fan oscillated back and forth, blowing dead air over her prone body, barely ruffling her thin hair. She tried to breathe it but the air was dry and thin, barely enough to sustain her. With a thin boney hand, she grasped the glass of water, the kind Mrs. Carr had left on her bedstand before she and her husband had left. She drank it all, feeling the cool of the liquid spread through her stomach and into her chest, but there it stopped. It wasn't enough to reach her limbs or her face. If there wasn't a storm soon... She pushed the thought out of her head and prayed for sleep.

Finally, her emaciated body gave in, allowing her to drift in and out of sleep. She saw bits and pieces of her life since moving out here to the prairie last year. She had thought the move would save her but it seems she may have been wrong. She had made few friends on purpose and worried that even this peaceful place would soon become too crowded for her to live comfortably.

A flash of light played over the clock on the wall. The hands showed 11:30. A minute later, a rumble of thunder followed, rolling across the sky, still muted by distance.

She sighed and smiled. Yes. Finally.

Her bare feet scarcely touched the wooden floor as she ran from the house into the backyard, still clad only in her white cotton nightgown. She was just in time to catch the first sweet breath of the storm as it sighed across the flat prairie. The trees stretched up with a rustle of leaves: first the majestic cottonwoods, then the venerable oak, finally the smaller apple trees. Then came a polite rattle of applause from the dry cornfield surrounding the yard.

The first taste was always so luscious. A tantalizing aperitif, heady and honey-flavored. She breathed it in, pulling as much of it as possible into her lungs. The breeze curled around her body, tentatively at first, then tugging at her nightgown with a boldness, as if gaining courage from the knowledge of the looming mass that was following it.

Then it died, and all was still for a moment, mourning its loss.

Her ears caught the distant throaty roar first. It sounded as if the ocean itself were rushing to crash against her frail body. Its crescendo built as it drove across the vast flat emptiness of the prairie, catching only briefly on the occasional house or tree. It broke over the homestead, flung itself beyond and then continued to race across the expanse to areas beyond.

The oak groaned against the rough handling, and the cottonwoods hissed in protest, but Aurora let out a laugh and flung her arms out wide, embracing the onslaught. She took in another breath. This wind was thicker in substance, more robust. Slack muscles began to firm, pulling the paper-thin skin out of the hollows of her face, and she laughed again, a high sound, free with delight.

The lightning flashed across the sky again, the rumble following closer this time. A strong wind twined up her legs, flaring out the thin fabric of her nightgown and pushing it up to her knees. Aurora laughed and planted her feet more firmly as another blast of wind almost blew her over. The trees sighed in ecstasy and began to twist their limbs as the wind danced in and out of their branches.

The temperature began to drop and the faint smell of rain reached Aurora's nose. The moister air was heartier and even thicker still. It coiled through Aurora's nostrils and plunged down into her lungs, plumping up depleted organs. Aurora groaned and closed her eyes. She ran her fingers through her now-luxurious chestnut hair and the wind followed suit, blowing it out like a banner behind her.

The lightning flashed out again, bright and consequential, the blast of thunder encompassing the area in a cacophony of sound. Another flash followed immediately, and another until the thunder could no longer be matched with its parent. The wind whipped furiously around Aurora, nearly tearing off her nightgown, angry at being replaced as Aurora began to watch the white spiking iridescence crawling across the sky with a growing hunger. The wind howled down on her but she kept her face turned to the sky, her body now youthfully slender and nubile.

A spike of lightning hit the ground amongst the dry corn, causing a combustion of flames. Her pulse quickening, Aurora slowly walked further out into the yard, away from the trees. They were in the throes of the storm now, diving and weaving, small branches and twigs becoming separated, lost and on their own. Aurora raised her hands to the boiling clouds.

A flash hit the ground, blowing up dirt, but Aurora didn't flinch. Instead she breathed out a single word, "Please."

The wind stole the word as it left her lips but then a lightning bolt skewered through it, crisscrossing the lawn in a lattice of flame, highlighting the savaged trees and the steady form of Aurora.

Her breathing labored, Aurora closed her eyes again. A bolt boldly blasted from the sky, slamming into her tiny frame. Her breathing stopped as the energy coursed through her veins and flickered across her ivory skin. She stood frozen for an eternal moment, mouth open, as fingers of fire caressed up and down her body.

Then it was gone.

Aurora collapsed to the ground as the first fat drops of rain began plopping to the earth. She gasped and coughed, trying to find her breath. Then the rain began coming down in earnest, soaking and wrapping her nightgown around her body. Slowly she gained her feet, stumbling across lawn to the back porch, only to collapse again. The lightning flashed again and she looked up, but the following roll of thunder was seconds after. The storm was moving on.

Back in her bed, Aurora slowly stroked her abdomen. Many times had she fed off the storms but never had she been chosen by one. Already, she could feel her body changing, adjusting to the new life that pulsed within it. She would have to add a pregnancy to the story of the niece with the dead husband, but that wouldn't be a problem.

Aurora smiled again.