Home » Flash fiction » Short story: “The night the sky burned”

Short story: “The night the sky burned”

A short story, painting a mood and a scene of one evening.

 

 

The days before had been unseasonably warm, the previously icy winds swept away by a balmy breeze that wiped away any remains of the rains that had fallen the week previous. Though the sun rarely made an appearance, merely peeking through gaps in the clouds, colored a dirty yellow, the air was as warm as a late spring day, tempting people to remove both gloves and scarves, and keep their warm jackets unbuttoned.

Most of them enjoyed the respite from the chill of fall, which had arrived too early and had kept them in an icy grip for weeks now, but there were always those who kept reminding the rest of how wrong this was, how unnatural it really was to have these sorts of temperatures at the end of October. Climate scientists were interviewed on the news, global warming became a word used seriously in the media, and no deniers could argue that such weather was anything but an anomaly.

And it kept getting warmer.

As the weekend grew closer, jackets had been discarded altogether, replaced by sweaters and cardigans, the postal workers scampering about were wearing short pants, revealing pale legs, in the gloom of the afternoon. Though the temperatures were similar to early summer, the shrinking hours of daylight was a harsh reminder of the actual time of year. Balcony doors and windows were left open, as radiators were still going full blast in the rental apartments, everyone keen to let in the slightly cooler evening air.

Friday evening it was too warm for cooking, arriving back from work to a much too warm apartment, the fridge not offering much of interest, but there was still a tub of ice cream, forgotten at the bottom of one of the freezer compartments. Retreating then to the balcony, to watch the other residents drag themselves home, fanning themselves with newspapers, memos, store receipts, whatever they might have on hand. Though it was pleasant to sit there, melting ice cream on the spoon, in your mouth, pleasantly cold, there was an ominous air to the whole thing. Would it continue to get even warmer? When would it stop? Was this all a sign that our sun had decided to go supernova a few billion years early.

The ice cream soothed and dulled the edge of worry.

Outside the neighborhood grew silent, cars all parked in neat rows, everyone retreated inside, lurking on balconies and sitting beside open windows, waiting. For what?

Somewhere a dog barked, listlessly, as it if was merely something he did for show, no energy or heart behind it.

Then, sometime around nine in the evening, post the last news report, post any attempts of dinner had been cleared away, when the children had been fretfully left to try and sleep and the adults were cooling themselves off with drinks in their hands there was a low rumbling sound and the blanket of darkness that had swaddled the sky for many days now seemed to move, shifting in hues of grey, occasionally showing a tantalizing hint of a the moon, sickly white against the grey. The world seemed to hold its breath, collective breaths of hundreds thousands of people and then…

The dark sky exploded into light. Flashes, streaks of blinding white crisscrossing from east to west, from north to south, from every single direction at once. A spider web of light at first, then the whiteness, that blinding whiteness spread and grew, a sharp smell of ozone hanging in the air. And then came the cracks, the booms, the loud roar of a thousand bombs, all going off at once. Sharp light and earsplitting booms, pounding, pounding, pounding.

Children who had somehow managed to fall asleep woke up crying, the listless dog was joined by dozens of others, barking their objection to the sky above and everywhere, up and down the street car alarms began to blare. And then all the lights went out.

Cellphones found no signal, internet routers flashed an angry red, radio stations turned to static. All one could do was to huddle in the dark of your apartment and watch the bright lights that burned across the sky outside.

Then, as it seemed it had begun to calm down, as the tension seemed to lift some, strong gusts of wind appeared from nowhere and those who had not secured their windows or balcony doors could only watch in dismay as they were smashed open, the wind grabbing hold of plants, cushions, curtains, tearing, pulling, dragging everything with it out into the night. And before anyone had time to battle the winds, to get windows secured, to close open doors, the rain came.

As violent as the thunder had been, as violent was the rain, drops of water, large as pennies slammed into the ground, kicking up the dry dust collected after the days of dry warmth, the still hot pavement almost seemed to steam as the first drops hit. Soon there was water pouring down the street, gushing out of the gutters, collecting into every hollow, ponds and lakes forming where there had only been grass before. After the heat, the wet felt welcome, cooling, but the violence of it soon soured most smiles, there is too much of a good thing. The water began to get into the basement, pouring down cellar steps and everyone was helpless to watch, as there was still no way to reach anyone.

Then finally, as quickly and suddenly as it all had started, it stopped.

The wind calmed, the rain stopped and when you poked your head outside there was a different smell to the air, cooler, more biting again. Cellphones had bars again, radios began to play music once more and soon lights began to come on in every apartment again.

What had seemed like the end of the world only minutes ago had turned into a normal fall evening. And the world breathed a sigh of relief.

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