Lightning Rod

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2001

By Valerie Gill, Illustrated by Abram Shanedling

I love storms. Especially electrical storms. The only downside is that I can’t use the computer. I still love storms.

This was a big one. I watched the lightning reach down with long, slim fingers. I counted the seconds until the thunder came. It was still far away. I was sitting on the back of the couch with my hands pressed up against the window. My breath fogged the glass. It was so dark outside. I’m glad we live in the country, so the streetlights could not take away from the glory of the storms.

There was a flash, and my crude shadow was cast back into the living room. In the brief light the sky seemed purple. It was gone so quickly, leaving the image jumping on my retina. The darkness was all the blacker for the brief illumination.

It was coming closer with every strike. The wind raged around the old house and drove the rain hard against the window.

One . . . two . . . three . . . fo- . . . the thunder rattled the windows. Soon it would be directly over the house.

I was waiting for it. I could not have waited more than twenty seconds, but each second was an hour. And then it came, bright and blinding. The purple light filled the house, pouring in the windows. I savored the adrenaline that washed downward to my feet. The crash deafened me.

Then the lights went out.

I got a flashlight from the closet. It was dim, but I couldn’t find any new batteries. I checked the woodstove, and added some old two-by-fours. I like power outages. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship, power outages and me. They prevent me from using the computer, the so-called “love of my life.” An accurate description. There is something about the loss of electricity that appeals to me. I have heard it is that way with many people.

Lightning Rod using the computer

I sat down at the keyboard and clicked the mouse

Lightning lit up the house like a strobe light. Thunder made my teeth rattle. It rang in my ears and made me dizzy. The storm was stationary. I wondered why.

The human mind can become accustomed to almost anything it encounters, if exposed to it long enough. The thunder and rain became background noise. I walked down the hall, thinking about my computer game. Only twelve levels to go until I entered the chamber of the warlord Zanegus. I had been thinking to try a new strategy tonight. But my plans were overthrown by the forces of nature. I pushed open the door to the computer room, aka “Raquel’s lair.”

Nero, the white cat my mother named, shot out the door. I wondered how he got in.

The computer was on. Its bluish glow filled the room. It was on screen-saver. The one called “Mystify Your Mind.” I flicked the light switch on and off. Nothing happened. Too weird.

I sat down at the keyboard and clicked the mouse. The screen showed that I was online. An instant message filled the screen. It was blank. I typed,

“Hello? Anyone there?”

“Yes.”

There was no screen name.

“Who is that there?”

“Not who, why.”

“OK, why, then?”

“To show you.”

“Elaborate.”

There was a roll of images on the screen. A spiderweb laced with dew. A drop of water falling on a still pool. Sunlight through green leaves.

“I don’t understand.”

“The world is old. It dies. See?”

“No.”

“It is like yourself. It can only live for so long. It will die, like you.”

“When?”

“Eventually.”

“When exactly?”

“Long after you die.”

“So why do I matter?”

“Everyone matters.”

“Why are you telling me?”

“Because you have a job to do.”

“And what is that?”

“Learn. Learn about the moon and the stars and the breath of the earth. Know the parasite and the host.”

“The parasite. What is . . . ?”

“The human race is the parasite to the earth. The galaxy is the host to the earth. The universe is the parasite of something much grander.”

“What?”

“That is not for you to know.”

“Then what am I to know?”

“The earth.”

“Everything about it?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t. It’s too much.”

“You will find it is not.”

“Why?”

“Somebody has to know.”

“But why me? I have a life. I go to school and play computer games and watch TV. I can’t just become a recluse and cram my head with facts day and night. It won’t work.”

“Just try. It will come.”

“Who are you? How is the computer on when there is no power? I don’t understand.”

“I am the sun and the moon and the planets, and I am you.”

“Wait a sec.”

“You are looking in a mirror. You are speaking to an echo. You know me very well.”

“And how?”

“That is not for you to know.”

“Why not?”

“As the human brain cannot comprehend infinity, so you cannot understand certain facts. I am the host of the universe and the parasite of a quark and the soul of your body. Good-bye.”

The computer had kicked me off the Internet.

I sat in the darkness and stared at the screen. The thunder moved off, becoming a distant growl. The rain slackened. Nero meandered into the room and jumped into my lap.

The power came back on.

Lightning Rod Valerie Gill

Valerie Gill, 13
Pocatello, Idaho

Face With Tears of Joy Abram Shanedling

Abram Shanedling, 13
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Related Posts

Gun control is one of the most hotly debated topics today. There are several reasons why it is...

With each round of the pedals I felt more confident that this was the right thing to do Illustrator...

Sometimes at Stone Soup we receive several submissions that have to do with the same topic. Over...

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: