The Lightning People – story

The day changed. Changed in a matter of moments, seconds, the sun being eaten alive by a rolling mass of clouds that stained the sky and changed day to night. The day was stolen and replaced by night’s grim façade but the two girls, like night and day themselves, are ignorant to what is happening outside the house they play in. The dark gray belly of the sky rumbles with thunder, a deep resounding bass that shakes the windows of the small yellow house and raises a startled cry from the girls within. An instant later and the sky’s seams are burst and a shard of lightning cuts through the humid darkness and makes a jagged cut towards the ground. Within a moment there is a nearby explosion and then all is black, all lost to the grim nothingness of the storm. The entire block severed from the twenty-first century. The girls shriek again in horror.

“The…”

“No!”

The darker girl-shaped darkness barking at the other girl, not even wanting her to utter the words, to name the terror that lives in that storm; things that lurk in the lightning. Suddenly both girls feel hot, burning up, their guts twisted over and again, their mouths suddenly deserts, feeling so very alone and desperately wanting their parents. The silence between them weighs a ton and each feels it on their budding chests. The silence is broken by another ominous roll of thunder and the spell of the darkness is broken, replaced by an icy panic. One girl shaped dark form moves to the door in a blur, her shadow stretched and crooked in a sudden spark of lightning. She grabs the door and throws it open and is about to exit the room when her friend’s voice stops her cold

“No, Maizey, don’t, please…don’t leave me here, don’t let them get me…”

“I can’t, my brother’s home alone, all alone, I gotta get to him, I gotta go. Now. I’m sorry…”

She takes the stairs two at a time and has to wipe the tears from her eyes as Cammie screams after her, pleading with her, desperate to stop her. Maizey swings the heavy main door open and looks back up the stairs and sees a small shape standing at the top, its head in its hands, sobbing. Maizey steps out the door, pulls it closed and scans the yard and street wearily. Both are empty but there is a feeling of unease in her belly that can mean only one thing and her heads begins pounding with fear and paranoia. Another slash of lightning splits the sky and on its heels is another crash of thunder. Above her Maizey hears a high pitched shriek that is cut off too abruptly and that is all she needs and she is off at a run down the street and toward her house and Marcus, the tears running down her face lost to the night air.

“Cammie, I am so sorry Cammie…so sorry…”

As she runs she watches her neighborhood flash by her, the hard bullets of water battering her as the world blurs by. She can see the Anderson’s, the Matz’, the Lipnoli’s, all these houses she had been in, all those people she had known and had spent time with, and all she could wonder was did they know? Did they know what was happening? Who was coming? Were they hiding? Scared? Her tiny frame is another shadow in the darkness, her shirt starting to cling to her as the ever-increasing rain soaks it through and blurs her vision even more. There is another thunderclap and lightning lights the night and street up as if it is high noon and Maizey shrieks as she sees what lies before her. Them – The Lightning People. Their frames dark shadows, their forms nothing but vague outline, not even the glimmer of an eye to delineate one from the other. They stand in a row less than fifty yards before her, their arms outstretched as if awaiting a hug. She cannot tell how many there are because before she has any chance to try to see more any detail the flash of lightning is gone and the darkness has returned, hiding them again. Maizey is frozen, her heart almost as loud as the thunder itself, her eyes scanning the houses, the yards, desperate to find a safe path. More thunder and the rain falls harder still, hammering against her small body, soaking through her shirt, her jeans, pasting her hair to her head, flooding her senses. She can sense the lightning about to strike again and sets out before they can close in on her and is off across the Rillin’s lawn, the rain standing in pools in their yard. This time the Lightning People are behind her, standing where she had just stood but a moment before, their arms not out now, but at their sides, knowing she has eluded them. Maizey turns away from them and in the brief glimmer of light that sets the night ablaze sees a shadow in the Rillin house become engulfed in the embrace of a darker, larger shadow that was waiting in the darkness for it. Maizey turns her head away as the darkness descends again and tries to pick her course. She can’t be far now can she?

NO!

Maizey looks up in time to see the Rillin’s newly installed fence and smashes full-tilt into it, her head suddenly enclosed in fog as she falls hard to the muddy ground. As she lay there dazed more thunder rolls and there is another flash of lightning and god she has to get out of there, and now. They will know where she is and come, and when they come they will take her away. Take her where all lost people go. To the darkness. To whatever place they come from. She tries to sit up but falls backwards onto her back hard, the thunder in her head rolling now. Her head is pounding in time with every heartbeat and her nose is radiating with pain. She puts a hand to her face and can feel something warm coursing from there down her face to mingle with the rain and mud and grass. More lightning and she can sense them, almost to her, atop her. With a grunt and a struggle she tries to sit up but falls back again. NO! Her entire head is on fire with pain and god, all she wants to do is sleep, to let the darkness come and to ride it out to sea. To let the Lightning People take her with them, to see what lies beyond the lightning, beyond the thunder, beyond the beyond.

“NO!”

And she is up, rising to her feet slowly, her hand on the fence, a bright red stain being slowly washed from the it, the image of her brother at home alone flashing through her head. She was supposed to be there. Was supposed to protect him. Watch over him. But she just had to go to Cammie’s to see her new dresses, despite her mother telling her she wasn’t supposed to, and now it was all her fault. Whatever happened to him, to them both, it was her fault. She had been selfish and she just had to go, to show her parents they couldn’t tell her what to do, but now… And now she prayed for him, for them both, prayed for the storm to pass and the sun to shine again. She had to get moving. But before she could move the lightning gutted the sky and there before her stood the Lightning People. How many she couldn’t tell, they were linked together, one organism, one shadow with many heads, all of them reaching for her. She saw no eyes, no mouths, just the hands. They were only feet from her and had surrounded her and their darkness seemed to glisten, to sparkle within, calling her. Her heart sank for beyond the ones directly in front of her there were more, so many more, standing in groups, watching her from their darkened shapes. And there was one that stood apart from the rest, one with brilliant white eyes that seemed to sparkle like stars, and it was that sight that sank her heart completely.

“Oh Marcus, oh Marcus no…”

But just as they were about to touch her, to embrace her and swallow Maizey body and soul they were gone. The lightning flash that had lit the world of Krane Avenue up nothing but a memory on her irises. But they weren’t gone, not really, and she knew it even though she couldn’t see them any longer. They were there in the darkness, between moments, in the world of nothing, waiting for her. She ran. She punched through the space where they had been standing, still were standing in some other place and moment, and when she did her skin crawled. Ran with goose bumps as if she had stepped through a cobweb. She ran on though, feeling their eyes on her, feeling their arms reaching for her, she ran.

She passed the Dawn house and more lightning rained on her and there they were, to either side of her, in the houses, on the street, in the parked cars, they were there waiting, watching, reaching. And so was the one with the eyes. And god did her heart sink when she saw that one, saw it and thought she saw it smile as it stood in the doorway to her own home, the door flung wide. And she ran at it as hard as she could, the rain splattering against her, determined to, if nothing else, destroy this thing with whatever strength her poor body could muster. But she knew in her heart her fight wouldn’t last long because her chest ached from running so hard for so long, and her nose hummed with anger, but she ran on, hate replacing her fear. Her dread. And from her mouth rose a war cry, a rant, a rage against all of these things that had come for she and her brother –

“You motherfuckerassholedickassshitbuttfucktitscockpussyfart…”

The words flew from her mouth in a spray of spit and as each one passed her lips she picked up a little more speed, balling her hands into tiny fists, almost within range of the thing. But just as she was about to throw herself at the thing standing before her the darkness stole through the night again taking the thing and its legions away. Maizey slowed and then stopped, slipping in the mud, twirling in a circle, searching for the Lightning People, knowing they were still near. Sensing their eyes on her, their hate of her. Hating her for her life, for having what they had lost. Remembering her grandmother’s words too well as she had told Maizey of the Lightning People, about where they came from, where they went to, who they were, and what they wanted, and thinking this a chill ran down her spine. Marcus.

Maizey pushes the door open completely and searches the darkness for any sign of her brother, anything. She sees nothing. He was probably hiding, that was it. Yeah, hiding. “Marcus, Marcusssss?” She calls, hearing nothing save for more thunder. Her heart jumps, they are here, in the house with her, now, oh god… Maizey ran deeper into the house, to the kitchen, and threw open the utility drawer. She pulled the flashlight out just as the lightning struck a tree nearby, maybe in the yard, and turned it on. Nothing. The batteries were dead. Oh god no. The lightning flashes and there they are surrounding her, the one with the eyes in the lead, its eyes a beautiful shade of jade now, twinkling as she looked at them, feeling herself going numb as she did. Wanting suddenly, strangely, to go to them, to their embrace. She dropped the flashlight and took a step forward, then another, and another, and she swore she could almost hear them calling to her, inviting her to join them. Her eyes feel heavy and she can smell their ozone stench as she comes within their reach. The one with the jade eyes reaches for her and she can feel its touch on her arms, burning with cold as it pulls her to it and was just about to embrace her when the lightning was gone and darkness bleeds in again. Maizey stands dazed a moment before falling hard onto her ass sitting there motionless, the eyes still in her head, burned into her, the touch burned onto her.

She shook her head to clear it, trying hard to concentrate on Marcus, on something. She pulls herself up slowly and looks down at the flashlight – no good. More thunder rumbles and she turns and stumbles to the stove and just as the lightning blazes she turns the stove on and up rises a single flame. She hears a hiss from behind her and turns to see a pile of ashes fall to the linoleum and what looks like three forms burned onto the wall. She smiles and pumps her fist in the air once. She stumbles to the drawer again and this time pulls out her dad’s old lighter, flicks it, and up rose another flame. The lightning ends and she moves from the kitchen and makes her way slowly out into the living room again, the lighter held near, shielded from any breeze. The lightning flashes again as she makes her way into Marcus’ room, toys littering the floor like shrapnel, and as soon as it comes she can feel them behind her and turns to face them, her back to his little bed. They arere there, at the door, but as soon as she faces them three of them hiss and disappear into ash. The Lightning People step back and put their arms down. There would be no asking now. There would only be taking. The one with the eyes steps forward, unafraid, its eyes now a deep crimson, and Maizey holds the flame out even further, but this time to no effect. She steps closer but still nothing. She imagines the laughter in its eyes and hates it more than anything. She waits for the lightning to end but it doesn’t, and the world is lit up in a brilliant white – she was in their place now, in the in-between place. A chill ran through her and she said a silent prayer, holding the flame in a little closer. The shadow with the eyes turns to its companions and they all nod slowly, in unison. God there are so many of them. So many…

The one with the eyes turns back to Maizey and points to the bed, Marcus’ bed, its eyes now white, empty. Maizey stands frozen a moment, not sure what to do, worried it’s a trick, but unable to resist the curiosity, needing to know what it was pointing at, and so she turned. And there, on Marcus’ bed, the bed still unmade, lay his favorite bear…surrounded by three tiny drops of blood. Maizey’s eyes fill to overflowing with tears and her stomach drops into nothingness. She feels dazed. Dead. They had gotten him. Oh no, oh nononononononononono… She spins back to face them again, to make them pay, but they are gone. Gone.

NO!

Maizey runs out into the house and after them, sensing they are still near. She enters the living room and sees them on the lawn, moving away, fading away, the lightning almost spent now. She runs to the door and screams at them, rages at them madly. The lighter at her side now, the flame licking at her hand unnoticed. They fade away, their mass slipping away to nothing. All but the one with the eyes, that one is standing on her lawn, facing her, watching her, its eyes blue now. Serene. Sad. It weakly holds one hand out to Maizey, holds it there a moment and then disappears as well. There comes a loud crash of thunder that shakes the house, the world, and then a lightning bolt tears through the night and splits the driveway in two, sending snakes of electricity along the ground that die within a few seconds.

And they were gone.

And the rain slowed to a drizzle and then died. And the thunder moves noisily away. And Maizey stands alone in her doorway, the lighter falling to the ground, her hand blistered and bleeding. Down the street there come screams and cries for help but Maizey doesn’t hear them. She hears nothing, her ears ringing, her eyes burned with the image of those blue eyes, of the teddy bear, of the blood, of Marcus. Maizey falls to her knees, her body aching, her heart turned to ash, and then her rains begin.

Do you wonder where the Lost go?

Ask the Lightning People for only they know…

…csr…9.11.00…

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