The Storm at the Gates of Twilight
by N.C. Krueger
He had followed the storm fourteen days and fourteen nights; it blew ahead of him, red with the setting sun, pulsing with thunder and electric fire, and pouring rain upon the seed-fern forests of the South. Soon it would be scattered by the dry air from the Great Desert, but now, it thrashed in the green sky like a sea-monster. And he was almost upon it.
His red-flecked feathers were drenched in rain. The air was hot and thick. He ran, claws tearing the mud, until he broke out upon a hillocky shrub-land.
Now, above him, before him, there it was! He ran against instinct, against reason; he ran towards the killing thing. But he was not seeking death. It was something else—a thing like worship, that tapped inside his lizard skull and made him want unnamable things, that made the wanting itself both a pain and a glory, that was all made up in his head with pictures of the biggest things he could think of—seas and storms and skies and mountains—but that he had never been able to explain to himself. He called it the Longing for Adventure, but there he was wrong—if it was that, it would have been satisfied long ago.
The storm elongated itself downwards, like an octopus’ tentacle—but so changeable, so twisting, as no living thing has ever been. Shrubs and earth-clods rose up and were swallowed. Thunder and wind, and thunder and wind, and the sun coloring it all blood-red—together with the rain, it made a pageant of noise and color like a million clamorous voices, all wanting very much to be heard and seen, and not bothering to come into synchrony.
Though—and here, when he was closest to the danger, it hit him (realizations always come at the oddest moments, as even we more evolved creatures can attest)—there was no malice in it, nor even ruthlessness. It destroyed because it was too large, and too fast, and too strange, for the more quiet beauty of the shrub-plain. The voices fought because they were all too unspeakably happy to shut up—and their glorifications just happened to be rather loud for his ears.
In that moment, he, little bird though he was, felt a brotherly affinity for the storm. He felt as if they were brothers, traveling far and long only to happen upon each other. He, too, did not fit in this world, but desired things larger than the sky and longer than the earth.
And now, it moved upon him, almost meandering, as all brutal but careless things, like rivers and deserts, can be when they so choose. But it had no sense of courtesy. So as he stood staring, the rain in his throat, it picked him up once, then threw him down very hard. And then it went on, without a word!
Bruised, his head spinning, but filled with a trembling happiness, he cried out hoarsely, “I know you! I know you!”
And then, came the Voice of the Storm:
And I know thee, better than thou know thyself—though I am a poor, ephemeral thing, as shall be dissolved in an instant, before the next turning of my sister Earth.
Humble thyself before the Lord Above the Sky, and perhaps he shall give thee thy desire. For thou art an Animal, flush with blood, rich with marrow, and every gift is bestowed on thee little by little that thou may enjoy it all the more. I am but a storm, and I must have my worship all at once, and know all things in an instant of glory, before I fade forever into Time.
The deinonychus heard all this, but it came like a thunderclap, all bound in the whirls and flashings of the storm. He saw everything—Adventure and Homesickness and Bigness and Smallness—swept together so gloriously, but all still distinct. He saw it; then he lost it. For the storm whirled away, and the desert wind blew in, and as night fell, the clouds broke, and the moon rose lazily in the clear black sky.
But he would come to see that moment as the beginning of his understanding. For Nature, which he had been chasing like a crazed fly for something it only reflected, was something he was part of. And he must be patient like the mud, and seek the Lord Above the Sky—who, before that thunderclap, he had known only by name.
About the author
N. C. Krueger is an author/artist from the Twin Cities whose work has been published in Embers Igniting, Blue Marble Review, Alexandria Quarterly, and The Tower. She derives joy from freezing temperatures, black metal, the upcoming apocalypse, and earthworms.
YouTube channel (Anonymous Witness)