‘Storm Chaser’

A sudden fade of daylight startled Sam from his surveillance of Jasmine’s rock. Seeking the cause he flicked his gaze upwards. A cumulus cloud was spiralling out from a central point. ‘Right over Jasmine’s friggin’ rock,’ he muttered. ‘Finally it’s show time and she’s not even here.’

‘What did you say?’ Jake, Sam’s friend, called from the river shallows where he was tinkering with his latest invention.

With his thoughts still on Jasmine, Sam watched his friend. Meanwhile, updrafts of wind tugged at his unkempt hair.  Spit-spats of rain stuck them to his face. ‘I was just saying, it looks like a bad arse storm brewing.’

Intent on his invention, the weather change went over Jake’s head in more ways than one. ‘Do you want first ride on the River Rat or are you going to leave it to an expert?’ he asked, throwing a smug look at the back of Sam who was now wandering further along the bank, so as to align himself directly with Jasmine’s rock opposite.

‘Are you looking for Jasmine?’ Jake asked next, frowning slightly when he registered the drizzle for the first time. He glanced across the water to the spot Sam had been gazing for the past twenty minutes. ‘Stupid question,’ he sniggered, and went back to tinkering. ‘Your sister probably knew the storm was forecast and stayed away.’

‘I’d leave it to an expert if I could find one stupid enough,’ Sam replied to Jake’s first question, before diving into the murky brown of the Logan River.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ Jake called after him.

‘I’m bored playing lackey to a nerd-wannabe. Saw something. Be back in a minute.’ Using grass and ferns, Sam dragged himself up onto the adjacent bank, just as the first sprays of rain turned heavy.

He shrank uncomfortably behind a clump of skinny black beans just as a single ray, coming out of the heavy-bottomed cumulus, like a pointing finger, touched the centre of the rectangular, granite slab known by whoever cares as ‘Jasmine’s rock’. ‘This has to be what Jasmine is waiting for. Her big moment and she is not even here.’ Sam’s whispers whirled up and away into the spiralling tempest.

Lightning pulsed within the storm; the anticipated thunder never came. Now that’s weird, Sam observed. He was about to shout over to Jake, but the sudden screech of the River Rat in competition with the funnelling wind made communication impossible.

The motor lasted only a few moments before spluttering out. During which time something else had arrested Sam’s attention. Pressing deeper into the black beans, he was trying to make sense of the sudden appearance of a half-filled, black sack sagging open on the rock. It was pinned dead centre by the light ray. To Sam, it looked like the sack drew its substance from the ray, which, unlike the rosy set of the sun visible upon the periphery of the storm, was stark white.

‘That light beam can’t be from the sun. Its about to set,’ Sam whispered, annoyed he could not share the find with Jake, who was now shouting in the background; telling him to start running.

‘In less then a minute daylight darkens into night. Wind strengthens into a mini tornado, gusts upwards, pulling leaves and small twigs into its funnel. Lightning but no thunder. That will be the sign. If you are ever caught in one start running and do not stop,’ Jake had warned several weeks ago. Without looking, Sam knew his friend was now as skittish as he was. After all, Jake had done the research on celestial storms. He had found them on the Darker Green website and told Sam about them.

Meanwhile the ray had formed into a protective dome around the sack; its top having fallen back to reveal a wrinkly, bald head. A toothless grey mouth protruded from deep beneath folds of skin. Above the mouth a pair of black holes flashed.

Silver sparks flew from the black holes directly into Sam’s line of vision. Upon which the rain, wind and lightning that Jake afterwards told him had struck at the rock, receded into a background of shimmering blackness. For days, even weeks afterwards he felt certain he had glimpsed a black sphere no larger than a golf ball sticking out from the sack; the sphere’s shape, beauty and mesmerizing sparkles became a secret desire he could never reasonably explain.

The sickish splutter from a flooded engine was first to penetrate Sam’s consciousness. Startled, he immediately began searching for the cause of the noise. Water shook from his drenched, blond curls, yet it no longer rained. The wind too had died. The clouds evaporated as if they had never been. Seeing Jasmine staring at her rock eating an apple was disorientating. Sam almost called out a warning but clamped his mouth shut in time. There was no messing with Jasmine and her rock. Instead, Sam slipped back into the river, celestial storm over.