This idea has been bubbling around in my head for a little bit, maybe as something to submit to a Black Beacon books anthology. But this was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds challenge; 1000 words in 10 chapters. Different! Hope you enjoy it!
Brave the storm
Rolling in like the surf, the storm darkened the sky and electrified the air. Liesel could feel the clouds drawing in the static as the wind whirled sharply. Above her head, spindly eucalypt branches were snapping back and forth as she walked down the steeply sloping Milton street. Tonight’s storm was going to be a typical Brisbane summer storm; hot and heavy and a little overdone. She had to get inside before the storm broke. Over her shoulder, thunder rumbled threateningly and Liesel picked up the pace.
The door tore from her hand and slammed, reverberating the light wooden walls of her Queenslander. Fat drops of rain splattered noisily against the window pain in a tattoo, ringing in the gutters and on the roof, the tang of fresh rain filling the room. It was so dark for 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Liesel sighed as she shed her wrappings, coat, bag to the hook by the door, and walked to the kitchen. A steaming cup of tea later, and she could enjoy watching the storm roil o
outside her window.
With an hissing bang, the house plunged into shadows. Flashes of lightning picked out the crevices and nooks of the darkened inner rooms. Liesel ran from room to room, fastening wooden shutters to protect the windows from the now wildly swinging branches. She found her back-up candles and lit several, their tremulous light giving her back a little calm. That was when the dripping started.
Rivulets of dirty water ran down the walls, pooling against the sills and slipping to the floor. What started with gentle rivers became a flood, the water splashing everywhere. The cacophony of the storm outside, it’s swirling branches and debris, tattooed against the wall and windows. It grew so loud that it became almost a knocking, but Liesel ignored it. She grabbed old towels and shoved them under every streaming wall. As suddenly as it had started, it stopped, leaving her with only the echoing drips. She stood in the middle of her house, catching her breath.
With a loud bang, the door flew open and Liesel shrieked. A gush of air quenched the flames and the dim rooms lost all light. Almost above Liesel’s head, the thunder crashed and she screamed as the bright flashes of lightning lit up a figure standing in the entrance.
She was soaked to the bone, a pastel summer dress plastered against her dark skin. Each burst of light picked out the edges of her face, the fearful whites of her eyes. A black trickle of blood ran from her templed. Outside, splashing in with leaves and twigs, the boiling air howled and Liesel was terrified.
“Hello?” she shouted over the din. “Can I help you?”
A silent scream formed on the woman’s lips as she held out a hand to Liesel. The blood circled into a curl, lost in the black tangles of hair. But she did not answer.
“Tell me how I can help, please.” Liesel’s voice started to crack with strain.
The woman advanced in the moment of darkness, and the next flash found her right in front of Liesel, her eyes pleading, hand grasping. Liesel gasped and stepped back from her, raising arms to protect herself. But the woman didn’t come any closer, just stood, dripping on the floor. Liesel looked down for just a second and could see the skirt moving, as if a heavy material floating in a current. She looked back at the distressed girl’s face and knew that she had to help her.
“I’ll follow you,” she said.
8. Tightly zipped in her rain jacket, Liesel braved the street. Her stairs were treacherously slippery in the monsoonal downpour and she gingerly took her time with each one. She looked down the street and could barely see the girl or her shuddering movement. As she left the protection of her house, green matter dislodged by the storm slashed at her eyes and face. Still she walked on, trying to focus, peering through the misty grey to the end of the street.
She could hear the little stream before she saw the mess it had become. Brown and churning with detritus, it swamped over its little banks. Shadowed by the hill of Paddington and great groaning trees, Liesel found it impossible to see or distinguish any detail. She stood at the edge of the park, beneath a pair of jacarandas, buffeted by the storm.
Appearing out of nowhere, the girl stood in front of her again, a frantic edge to her motions. Liesel followed, trying to ignore the blood pounding in her ears. Up a small, worn-in path, pushing aside some dilapidated ferns and pieces of an old fence, they climbed toward what Liesel could see was a crossing. The stream now rushed over bigger, flatter boulders. Liesel couldn’t see anything.
“Where?” she called out, but the girl had stopped beside the boulders.
If she hadn’t been looking directly at the girl, she wouldn’t have seen the upsurge of pale material in the river. What she thought was a root was a hand, caught and curled in a larger gnarled mess of roots.
Her feet were slipping in the mud and rocks as she ran. “Hold on!”
Tucked into a back-eddy beneath the big tree, the girl had been suspended, but Liesel could see the water was getting higher and more violent. Liesel had to lie on the ground, around the roots, to lift the girl’s head up, to stop her drowning. With one hand she held the back of the dress, bunched tightly, and the other was trying to work the caught hand free. She felt it slip, and all the girl’s weight bore down on her as she started to float. Liesel wrapped her arms around, trying to lift her out, but she was heavy and slippery. Her finger’s dug into the girl’s wrists and with a tug she managed to get her partly on to the bank. Liesel dragged her further out, weeping with joy and fear and elation, before she caught her breath.
Turning the girl into recovery, Liesel was checking her breath when she started to vomit up murky water and cough. Saying a silent prayer, she waited for the stranger to recover enough to walk. Enough to brave the storm.