The Speed of Lightning

I’ve always loved thunderstorms; as a child my father and I would stand out on the second story balcony of our farmhouse and watch as the night sky would come alive with the crack of fluorescent lightning appearing as veins and arteries coming alive in the darkness. The calming pitter-patter of the rain stopped suddenly by thunder shaking the ground around us and the foundations of our house like the cries of some phantom colossus.

During these times I would watch in delight as my father, a man who rarely showed emotion would become like a child, the blue reflections of the night sky in his eyes unknowingly exposing the delight he felt as he watched. We had never been very close as he brought me up with strict rules and a stern hand, showing his love by preparing me for what he saw life to be, a struggle against the current in a world where only the strong survived. I cherished those nights because in those moments we connected sharing a love for the chaos around us.

That’s why a week ago when the thunderstorm of the century was forecasted by all the major weather stations, I decided to bring my own son Cailum out to the farmhouse to stand out on the balcony and watch the storm with me just as I did with my father all those years ago.

Unlike the relationship between my father and me, Cailum and I were extremely close. I took pleasure in the times we had to bond maybe in some way to make up for what I lost as a child. Only 12 years of age he had always loved the outdoors and nature, travelling with me on trips up some of the low mountain ranges in our state or into the forests and woods in the countryside. This night watching the sky’s bleed light would be a moment I felt we both would cherish.

As we drove up the long muddy path to the farmhouse the sky began to flash far in the distance and an unmerciful downpour began to fall on the land and the worn house in front of us. “Dad! Dad! Look!” Cailum shouted in excitement pointing at the lightning far over the fields. “I know, I see it! It’s only starting, wait until it really begins, the whole sky will light up” I replied; excited myself at the spectacle we were about to see.

We parked up next to the house and grabbed our yellow raincoats from the back seat. We had both joked that we would look like a pair bunch of soaking bananas standing out over the fields when we bought them in the department store. “These will do the trick, it’s supposed to be the worst thunderstorm in the last hundred years” I said as I opened the door of the car stepping into the rain “You do realise you’ve said that four times to me already” Cailum replied sarcastically, “I know I’m just looking forward to it, that’s all”

As we stepped out on the balcony the house shook as thunder erupted in the distance. “Whoa do you feel that?” cried Cailum. “Sure did” I said, filled with that childish excitement I had felt all those years ago. The thunder was like nothing I had ever felt before; we could hear the rafters of the balcony shake and furniture inside the house move each time it bellowed in the air around us and the lighting, my God the lighting! Giant strikes of it like that of an angry God shot up around the night sky crackling across the dark ominous clouds looming over the horizon. “This is awesome Dad!” Shouted Cailum over the noise of the rain now crashing down on the balcony dulling the sounds of our voices.

Something strange happened when the next flash of lighting came. In the short couple of seconds it took for the lighting to appear and disappear it looked as if a huge shape erupted from the clouds, something dark and winged twisting in the air. “Did you see that?” I said without thinking, not paying attention to the fact I might scare my young son. “Yeah, what was that?” he replied a slight tinge of fear in his voice. “Probably just the wind cutting through the clouds, don’t worry” I said trying to calm him down. As the thunder started a terrifying sound now appeared nestled within it, like the noise of huge metal pillars bending under the weight, a cacophony of shredded steal. Again another flash of lighting and this time the shape appeared even clearer and closer. It was winged an unrelenting ebony in colour and the size of a jumbo jet perhaps larger. I conjured up the childhood image of a dragon in my mind but this appeared to be almost fluid its head seemed to be writhing with what I can only describe as tentacles or some form of appendages. Just before the lighting vanished it twisted its long skinny body around towards us churning the massive thunderclouds and a cold chill ran up my spine accompanied by a sickly weight in the pit of my stomach, something I have never felt since that day something other worldly and wrong.

“Cailum we need to go inside …..We need to go inside now. Go!” I shouted over the unending crash of the rain as the sound came again now just before the thunder. The unearthly things roar vibrating the whole house, the sound of glass breaking in the downstairs windows. Cailum began to scream in terror as I pushed him through the door and down the stairs both of us almost falling as we descended the steps until we reached the first floor. “Dad what is that!” He screamed tears now rolling down his face. I didn’t take the time to answer I grabbed him and dropped to my knees pulling him underneath the kitchen table with me.

As the lighting flashed a shadow engulfed the house blocking out all light from the windows. It became so dark I struggled to see Cailum’s luminous yellow jacket as he huddled up between my arms screaming in terror, a sound I still hear in my nightmares. The sounds of the windows smashing in and the door being blown from the hinges and crashing against the front room wall echoed through the house, followed by the sound of the creature hissing if it could be described as that. Even by the noise I could hear how immense it was surely much larger than the farmhouse.

I began to shake violently tremors of complete fear and dread as I heard a wet thud from where the windows and front door once were. A slithering sickly noise came next as if sliding up the walls and floors getting closer and closer to where we were huddled beneath the table. I pushed my hands over my son’s mouth trying to quite him. He began to whimper beneath my palms his quivering making me feel guilt for the action. The sound now appeared all around us and I could hear something moving towards me in the darkness searching for us like a predator stalking its prey. I heard Cailum cry in terror as he was jerked out of my grip his arms flailing to hold on to me. I scrambled on my knees grabbing for his collar as it began to slip from my hands  pleading cries rang in my ears as my grip became slack and I pulled his empty raincoat towards me feeling out aimlessly for his body and crying out his name as the noise began to fade and I slipped out of consciousness.

I woke up lying on my face Cailum’s yellow rain jacket beneath my arms. The wind blowing through the empty space where the windows and door were, furniture smashed and scattered around the floor a vail of deathly silence hanging over the house, no screams, no thunder or lighting and no roar of the ungodly thing that had been here, just silence.

The investigators would claim that a freak hurricane had struck the house and that I had been knocked unconscious by the flying furniture in the ensuing chaos. Cailum in such shock and fear of this had bolted out the door and into the forest around the farm or had been lifted and carried away by the force of the hurricane as he ran. No body was ever found or a trace of him apart from a shoe which was found in the field at the back or the house covered in thick inky residue which was never identified.

A once cherished and loved experience, now when I hear thunder or see lighting flash through my apartment window a horrible deathly chill goes up my spine, and a feeling of a loneliness and emptiness in my stomach like nothing I can describe. I do not hear the sound of that creature that attacked us that night in the thunder but I hear the harrowing cries of Cailum pleading for me to help him.

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