July 30, 2016
The skies were the grey-black of Satan’s eyes and crying the tears of the Angels. Black threads of clouds descended toward the ground like a Demon’s claws, reaching to claim the inhabitants of Stowe, Vermont.
Natalie Hunter sat at her desk watching the weather with fear in her ice blue gaze. Trouble was lurking, she could feel it. She had seen similar skies when she had attended OklahomaStateUniversity. This is what it looked like just before a tornado would strike. Once she had graduated, Natalie had moved to Stowe to escape the wrath of Mother Nature and she prayed now that it would just blow over. Everyone had told her that this small town was very protected by the mountains so they never saw terrible weather.
She sucked in a chest full of air as she escaped her memories and returned to her life at Cornwall & Associates Law Offices. It really was very silly to be so concerned about it. She glanced at the time on her computer, a little anxious to get home before any bad weather might break loose. 4:23pm. Almost done for the day, although it looked like it was already nightfall outside. Normally it didn’t get dark until nearly ten o’clock, being summer and all.
“Are you all right?” Addie, Natalie’s assistant, asked.
She snapped her eyes to the red head standing beside her. “I’m fine,” she forced a fake smile.
“You look really pale. Are you sick?” she pressed.
“No, I suppose I am a little apprehensive about what’s going on outside,” Natalie replied as nonchalantly as she could muster.
Addie’s smile was warm, her concerned eyes melted into pools of comfort. “Oh Natalie…you really don’t have anything to worry about. We don’t get tornados here like you did in Oklahoma. Snow is about the worst we see,” she said with a chuckle.
Natalie took the papers in Addie’s hands. “I know. It is just hard to forget when there are clouds like these out there.”
Addie patted Natalie on the shoulder. “I think we are going out for drinks later, want to join us this time? It might take your mind off of things.”
“No, I think I will just go home and curl up with a good movie,” she laughed. “But thank you for the invite.”
“Maybe next time…”
Natalie cracked a smile. “Maybe.”
By nature, Natalie was a homebody. She wasn’t a college partier, she didn’t make it a point to have a boyfriend, much less a husband. She had come here and made a life for herself in Stowe, as her parents missed her dearly in Wisconsin. She had been able to build herself a home upon the hills surrounding the little town. She owned a nice car for the first time in her life. And it was all hers, no one to take control of her or her things.
She clicked open a new tab on her screen and activated the local weather app on her server. It showed a 100% chance of a rain and hail mixture with a high wind advisory for their area and thunder and lightning. Her chin fell into her palm as she scrolled down the page reading the storm warnings for the central Vermont area. It was about to be an ugly night.
At five minutes to five, Natalie logged off of her system and grabbed her satchel that contained her laptop and some files to go over before court in the morning. It was beginning to sprinkle when she made a dash for her sleek, and freshly washed, red little Mitsubishi in the parking lot. She inserted the skeleton key into the ignition and pressed the button to start the engine. Her seat adjusted to her body perfectly and she spoke the word “warmer”. As she pulled out of the lot, she could feel her seat warming and soothing the chill out of her bones.
Through town she sped until she hit the road that would take her up the side of the hill to W. Ridge Rd. Hail began to fall as she neared her home that overlooked the town, tapping a sharp staccato against the glass. Wipers didn’t help clear the windshield and a build up of ice gathered at the bottom of the windshield. This was the sort of weather they normally saw in November!
Natalie pressed the light on the console that was programmed with her garage door and sat patiently as the door slid up and made room for her to glide within the protection of the oversized haven for her precious car. Once safely inside, the door closed itself and the light turned on to show her the way into the house.
As she opened the connecting door, she hit the lock button on her fob. All the lights on the car flashed and she heard the locking mechanism click, a brief beep was the evidence that it had accomplished that which she required.
Right inside the door, she touched a panel on the wall and all the lights came on in the house. She made her way through the laundry area that sported a fresh fragrance and set her bag on the dining room table as she continued through, heading for the stairs to her bedroom.
The only room on the second floor was her suite, a spacious master bedroom with an attached luxury bath. She shrugged out of her skirt and blouse and started a hot shower to further erase her chill. The hot water stung her skin, turning it bright red where the streams of the water concentrated on her. Wetting her fair, blonde hair, she decided to wash all the hairspray out of her tresses. Passing her hand below the dispenser, it released the right amount of shampoo that she lathered richly over her scalp. Smoothing the soap drenched pouf over her aching body felt amazing. And after scrubbing her face, she touched the lit up “off” icon on the wall and the water ceased. She reached for her towel, yanking it from the warmed towel bar and deftly dried herself. Then, she wrapped her hair in it and slipped into her flannel pajamas just as the rain picked up and beat a tattoo over the roof.
In the drawer of her bedside table, she drew out her diary and stepped into her slippers. Down the elegant spiral staircase she went.
The lights flickered and she gasped.
Reaching within her satchel, she retrieved her cell phone and ear attachment. Slipping the device within her ear, the slim silver wire curved around the side of her face.
“Call Mom,” Natalie ordered sitting on the couch.
The lights flickered again. She swore as the phone rang and she went in search of any candles she could round up.
“Hello, Nat, how are you?” her mother’s voice answered.
Natalie swallowed against the fear and answered, “I’m good, Mom. How’s the weather over there? Still summer?” She tried to laugh, but sounded hollow.
“I can see from the television that you don’t have very good weather there. You okay?”
“I told you, I’m fine. No need to worry. I just wanted to make sure you were safe,” Natalie lied. In truth, she wanted to hear the familiarity in her mother’s voice. It could still calm her when she was afraid.
“How is work going?” Mom asked.
“I’m getting more cases now. That makes it a little more fun for me. I have been working on this one case that is defending a man who lives on government land. He says he should have every right to it because the world is about to end,” she snorted. “He says that in just weeks, there will be nothing left to worry about. Just one of those Doomsdayers looking for his day. There is no way to win it and I tried to tell him to save his money because his chances of winning are slim, but he would have none of it.”
“You can’t fault people for what they believe, dear,” Mom replied.
“No, but they make it really hard to defend them when they make themselves at home on government owned forest land. He needs to find another place legitimately. Pay for it like the rest of us do,” Natalie replied as she lit all her candles.
“Well, I know you will do great. You always do.”
Natalie could hear her mother smile on the other end of the call, pride fueling the feel of her words. It made her confidence rise.
“Thanks, Mom. So what are you and Dad doing this summer?”
“Well, we are taking a trip Wyoming in a few days. We’ve always wanted to see YellowstonePark.”
“That is great! Are you both going to be okay going? I mean, I know there have been a lot of wildlife reports and I would hate to see either of you get hurt…” she said trying to hide her worry.
“Natalie Ann, stop trying to be a mother hen. We are just fine and are going in an RV. It is like a hotel on wheels! We will be plenty safe, child.”
“If you say so. How long will you be gone?” she asked flipping on the television and quickly muting the noise.
“About two weeks…unless we are having a really great time and don’t want to come home yet,” she answered.
“Nice! That will be fun for you guys. Just promise me you will be extra careful for me.”
“Of course, but only if you promise me that you will get all of your survival equipment together. They were talking about a hurricane that is headed your way. I know you are really far north, but they say it is very strong and covering more in land areas than they have ever seen.”
Chills spread over Natalie’s body. She had known something was not right.
“I promise, Mom. I have my pack in my bedroom so don’t worry about me either,” Natalie replied. She glanced at the pictures flashing over the television to see the animated graphics of the storms on the screen.
The lights flickered again, causing the television to hiccup.
“I’m going to go, Mom. I think my power is going to cut out so I want to save as much of my battery as I can, just in case.”
“That sounds like a really good idea. I love you, Nat,” Mom said with a slight edge to her voice.
“I love you too, Mom. Have a great time with Dad.”
Once the line had cleared, she un-muted the news.
“Keep on the lookout for heavy rains as the maturing “Hurricane Natalie” gains strength and comes all the closer to the Florida coastline. Winds will pick up, especially outside of the valley, so bring your summer furniture indoors as a precaution. Currently, we are measuring about two inches of heavy rainfall in the Vermont area, compared to just over four inches average for the entire month of July.
In the Midwest, tornados are rampaging states from the gulf all the way to Canada in Tornado Alley. We could be seeing some of those weather patterns that have moved into our area. Severe flooding is happening along the Mississippi River and is leaving many with no power and ruined homes. The Red Cross has been deployed from around the country.
In the West, the coast of California felt an earthquake that measured only a 4.0 on the Richter scale. It was enough to scare everyone a little, but nothing major has hit the area,” said the soft spoken anchorman.
Natalie’s heart rate sped up at the amount of devastation happening all over the U.S. Hearing enough, she clicked off the television before they even dared to talk about the rest of the world. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, as if realizing that she was one insignificant piece of the universe and was susceptible to the wrath of the elements.
A quiet voice inside her began screaming. So she ventured upstairs again and dug out her pack that was filled with emergency gear. When she was living in Oklahoma, her mother begged her to put one together with three days of food, toiletries and some water. She added a couple of changes of clothes and her handgun. The way it was going, Natalie knew she needed to add some candles and have matches in a baggie. She slung the bag over her shoulder and descended the stairs. Stopping in the kitchen, she dug out every candle she could find that she hadn’t been burning and zipped them within the plastic of a sandwich bag. Once safely secured, Natalie continued through the kitchen and around the corner where the doorway to the basement was located.
Down the stairs she went flipping the light on as she went. Ignoring the giant pool table, she went right for the walled off section that was the “lounge” area. It was cold in there when she opened the door and turned on the light. Two couches, the ones she had used in college, had been placed facing each other. They were hideaways. The ottoman contained blankets and bedding. Being a chillier basement, space heaters and pillows filled the closet. It was there that she placed her bag. She stood there a moment and looked at it. Chewing on her lower lip nervously, she tried to convince herself that she was overreacting.
It finally hit nine o’clock, Natalie’s usual time to crawl into bed. She slipped between the cool sheets and fell down on her fluffy pillow. She checked her phone, having plugged it into the wall to charge and made sure her alarm was set to wake her up in the morning. Then, she slipped it under her pillow. She listened to the wind blow around her outside, the raindrops pelting the windows and she pulled the other pillow on her queen sized bed over her head to drown out the noise.