(NOTE: Based on today’s The Daily Post writing prompt)
Silence fell over the world outside Craig’s doorway and he knew the storm was coming. The sky was grey, like wet, solidified ash caked at the bottom of a metal can. The air hung heavy outside the screen door he looked out of, contemplating what was coming next.
It had already been a memorable day. Cindy had walked out early this morning, citing Craig’s continued lack of caring about their life together. Where she’d gone he didn’t know but she wasn’t here and he wasn’t in the mood to try and text or call her. He was mad too and wasn’t prepared to be the bigger person by making the first outreach, though he’d get there eventually. He just hoped it wouldn’t be too late.
For now he held a beer in one hand and scratched at his light brown beard with the other. This was the moment he felt most alive, just before a storm blew through. Ever since he and Cindy had moved outside the suburbs to this track of land a hundred miles from the city they’d been happy and would often, at moments like this, sit on folding chairs at the entrance to the garage together, feeling the electricity that vibrated through the atmosphere just before a big storm arrived. It was as if the whole world were a Tesla Ball and all the trees, people and other occupants and decorations were static arcing between it and the clouds hovering over the landscape.
He took a pull off the beer and thought about what had happened. It wasn’t anything notable, he figured, it was just the latest and was for her enough. It wasn’t surprising but still shocking.
The sky flashed and a moment later thunder boomed in the distance, breaking the silence of the world around him. It would be pouring here in less than 15 minutes, Craig thought as he breathed deeply through his nose to take in the smell of rain that was beginning to permeate the air. He felt peaceful, even if just for a moment.
Opening the door he stepped out and moved toward the woods that lay less than 50 yards from the front of the house. Something had caught his eye and he was moved by curiosity to see what it was. The door clanged behind him, wood hitting wood, and he flinched, cursing the sudden noise that disturbed the peaceful scene. He moved quietly down the gravel walkway that connected the house to curve of the driveway. He was 20 steps from the treeline now but whatever it was he’d seen was no longer visible. The trees were starting to sway in the increasing wind. I should get back, he thought. But he kept going.
Soon he was in the woods, his house well behind him. He felt the wind continuing to pick up and could just make out the sounds of the front screen door he’d walked through click and clack in the distance. The damn thing hadn’t closed again, he thought. The underbrush was thick under his feet and he found himself careful not to step on any downed branches or twigs lest he scare whatever it was he’d seen. It had to be out here, he thought, but what was it?
There was no reason for the exploration. These woods had plenty of animals, mostly harmless, from deer to possums and other varmints, so seeing movement wasn’t unusual. But he wanted to see something. He needed to find it. Its presence represented normalcy and he would find it. What was it?
Wind was around him, beginning to hit him like a slap to the face it was so strong. The storm wasn’t supposed to hit tornado strength, he’d heard, but out here there was little to break the wind and it wasn’t uncommon for the house to shimmy and shake at times as it was battered by the elements like a small boat on a raging sea. He realized he still carried the beer bottle. Not wanting to discard it in the woods, he quickly downed what remained and stuck the empty bottle in his back pocket.
Whatever it was he’d seen it was moving in this direction and he kept his eyes open. But the light was failing as the storm grew closer and closer and it was harder to see much of anything on the ground. He could have passed it, it could be 40 yards in front of him, it could be up a tree…it could be anywhere. He was hunting for nothing. This was as purposeful as the snipe hunts that were part of Cub Scout overnights in his youth. There was no ending to this other than maybe he’d look a rabbit in the eye from 10 feet away before it scampered off. And it was just as likely whatever he found wasn’t the same thing he’d initially seen from the doorway. This was damn foolish.
Still, Craig kept going. Two more minutes, he thought, and I’ll get back to the house. As soon as he thought it, the rain began. It wasn’t too heavy inside the woods but he could still see back to the treeline and saw it was coming down in sheets. There was no way he could get back to the house without becoming completely soaked. Well, he thought, that seems like the perfect end for today.
The white ambient noise of rain hitting the tree tops drowned out most anything else he might be able to hear. This was pointless. He was chasing a phantom and was done. He needed to get home and get dry. When he turned around his breath came up short. A deer stood not more than five yards from him. It wasn’t large, an adolescent, not yet aware of how dangerous man could be. The two stood there looking at each other for a handful of heartbeats. Suddenly, it turned its head away from him and ran off in that direction.
As he saw it disappear in the thickening trees he suddenly started sobbing, the kind of deep emotional cry that came from the soul and cleansed emotional toxins. He dropped down, still on his feet but curled up in a ball. The tears kept coming, washed away from his cheeks as soon as they fell by the pounding rain. The storm wouldn’t break for a good long while.