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Little Boy Lightning
The sky was thick, bursting. Carter wished he could take his pocket knife and carve it across the unbroken ceiling of clouds, swollen with rain, so that it could burst like a water balloon. Instead he just stared up into the sky, one green eye squinting, and one tan hand toying with the tiny blade as he imagined how it would feel to slice open the very heavens. Then he pocketed the knife, and looked back down the brown, dusty road.
Neither path nor boy had seen rain for months, and the very earth was shriveling like a withered old man. The grass had turned the color of the dust, and it was like needles to the touch. Even the lake behind Carter’s house that he used to swim in on sweltering days like this was now nothing more than a large, glorified puddle of warm, muddy water.
It was like the small town of Layson had fallen into the devil’s fireplace.
He picked up his bike, with its rusted chain and fading cowboy stickers, and began walking it back home. He just didn’t have the energy to ride it. Sweat beaded on his brow, his breathing becoming labored after all the time he’d spent out in the heat, and his strawberry blonde hair was plastered to his forehead.
Fields of now dead grass, , just occasionally punctured by a small tree or dying bush, stretched out seemingly endlessly on either side of the path, though he knew that home was no more than a couple of miles away. Carter started whistling to pass the time and distract himself from the dismal scenery, each note bursting from his mouth like a musical raindrop.
There was a definite energy in the air, the static before a storm, and that hope is what propelled his little, improvised song. The ten year old smiled slightly and wiped his forehead clean of sweat with the back of his hand. Just a couple of minutes later, though, his smile slid off his face and his song stumbled to an end. Just too hot.
Did he imagine it, or was there a tiny pocket of sound? A… a rumble? He perked up, his eyes widening slightly as he stopped to examine the sky again. It was the same, grey and teasing the town with the promise of rain, but there was nothing changed… except… was there a flash? He squinted, straining to see. There was! Way up in the folds of clouds there had been a flash of lightning! He allowed himself another smile, then waited in that childish way, thinking that the sky was going to erupt, then and there, with enough water to put the oceans to shame.
No such luck though. Once he realized rain was not immediate, he started his sad walk again, this time his head drooping oh-so-slightly as if weighed down with the temperature’s physical presence.
He felt a hint of condensation on the back of his neck, and he was jolted as if shocked. Not quite daring to believe, the boy stopped, still as a statue. Please, please, oh please he silently begged, squeezing his eyes shut. Come on sky, he thought, just a little rain. Not so hard. You can do it, c’mon!
Then he felt a drop again, on his arm this time. And then another… and another… and another. Very faint, like a cool mist. He opened his eyes again and saw the water coming from the sky, gently and almost ghost like. Like the sky was leaking, but not quite bursting, not yet. Still, he let out a war whoop, dropping his bike and running his fingers across his arm to feel the moisture gathering there, and watching with wonder as the rain steadily picked up.
A flash of lightning like a jagged scar tore across the sky, followed by booming thunder. Carter’s voice, a shout of joy, mingled with it. Voice of boy and storm clashing and mingling. It started to rain harder and harder, until his shirt was plastered to him like a wet suit. He didn’t hide from it though, didn’t start running to the dry and sheltered comfort of his home, instead he flung his arms wide, embracing it. He felt powerful, like the tempest was energizing him, filling him to his very core.
The sky was truly bursting now, and he started spinning, slowly at first, then wildly out of control. He stumbled a few times, but kept at it, like a force of nature of his very own. Feeling like he wasn’t just Carter Blackwell, but part of nature, part of the clouds, part of the sky. Nothing else existed in that moment but the clouds, and the power they had given him. He yelled out again, louder this time. He kept at it until he was completely dizzy, but even then a huge lopsided smile stayed on his face as he slowed to a halt. The energy inside him was less intense, but still there, and he recovered his bike from the now muddy ground, getting onto it and glancing up at the sky for a third and final time.
“Thanks” he whispered before starting to bike down the road, the storm all around him. By the time he got to his house, the last of the power he had taken from the rainstorm was gone, and back up where it belonged. He was once again Carter Blackwell. But, as he parked his bike and ran up the steps into his house, he knew that he would never forget the time he was part of a storm.