This is not the worst, I remind myself.
I peer between the gaps in the boards nailed over the windows—frames I remember being white in childhood, pristine. Now, paint flakes under my fingernails. Beyond the pane, black clouds swirl.
This is not the worst.
So say the survivors who weathered worse storms, the ones who watched forks of white lightning strike black trees, silhouetting a forest of swinging bodies before the orange glow of a wall of fire. The torches lit in that blaze marched through the smoggy streets. The thunder of stamping feet, the hate-filled screams in the wind, rain like needles and fog curling in the streets like toxic gas.
It’s true. This is not the worst.
But I know when the long-awaited rays of sunlight finally penetrate this cloud cover and I pull the boards from the window frame, there will be damage. The nails will leave holes even a fresh coat of paint can’t cover.
Thunder splinters the sky with a crack like breaking bones. Hurricanes have eyes, but this one seems to have no respite. Perhaps it is not the worst storm history has witnessed, but it is the worst my infantile eyes, frozen open in horror, have drunk in.
The wind rips the door open. Bruised clouds weep, flooding the streets, and the rising water forces me to splash outside. I clutch my hood with numb fist under chin and hunch my shoulders against the gale. I miss the sun. Why won’t this rain end? I cry.
Smiling strangers and even a few familiar faces strolling by tell me there is no rain—it’s all in my head. But my feet are wet, I reply, and they shake their heads as they walk away. That’s in your head, too. Just ask the fox; he’ll tell you.
I turn, following their pointing fingers. The fox is seated upon a fence post as if it were a throne, raindrops twinkling like diamonds in his tawny fur. The fence itself has been washed away—only the post left with a broken board hanging crooked from twisted nails. I know that fox. He has a serpent’s tongue, but I go to him anyway in the hopes he may know where the sun went.
I ask him, and he sneers at me with pointed teeth. If you want the sun, go find it, he says. Don’t stand here waterlogged like a drowned rat and complain to me about the weather.
I gaze beyond his scornful stare to the marriage of the black tempest and the windswept landscape at the horizon. I’m sure beyond the darkness, beyond my sight, rays of sunshine warm foreign gardens, and people are turning their faces upward to bask beneath clear blue skies.
A tear joins the raindrops rolling off my chin. Lightning splits the sky asunder. The cold, the dampness, it’s seeped into my bone marrow, and for a moment, the thought of fleeing this storm tempts me to leave. I could chase the sun. What a romantic notion. Adventure tugs at my soul like a magnet on a compass needle.
But my feet have grown roots, and they cling to the crumbling asphalt as the water swirls around my calves. My heart agrees. Stay. Perhaps in foolish naivety, I believe the sun will return to shine on home again. I believe the hatred will wash away in red whirlpools down the drains, though it may stain our hands for a while.
I believe this storm must pass, as all storms before have done.