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Author's note: Have you ever seen on your TV or read in the paper stories about how peoples' lives and their communities are destroyed by a brutal storm? Have you ever thought to yourself, even just as a fantasy, "I wish there was a savior who could come along and put a stop to this! It's not fair!" I began thinking about that, over and over in my head, and I came up with the above idea. By the way, the names of the four main characters are Andrew, Katrina, Camille and Floyd--names of famous hurricanes. I thought it would be fitting, given the tale.
Storm Chasers: The Gift
A group of teen angels with special powers
are sent to Earth to protect people from weather disasters.
There was once a world called Earth, whose citizens waited and wondered for a very long time if they would ever be set free from the anger of the Gods from the skies above. They prayed, time and time again, for a savior to come. For centuries they waited and waited, until they thought all hope was lost. Then one day...they heard the call of redemption.
Born from the skies...sent to keep it in check.
The menacing clouds were rolling in. It was getting dark, or maybe the sun was in its last stages of settling down for the night. The wind was picking up, and Andrew knew he would have to make the last delivery of farm supplies to old Mr. Warner's place before nightfall. He made it just as the last speck of daylight faded from view. It was time to head home.
But just as he was climbing into his truck, he felt the electric charge in the air tickle the hairs on the back of his neck. He quickly turned, and that is when he sighted the funnel cloud. And it was a big, ugly one, too, less than a mile away. Andy knew it had his name on it, coming for him only. He knew his truck was no match, but it was better than trying to outrun the thing.
He jumped in the cab and gunned the engine. Big mistake. The faster he sped down the country lane, the faster the twister seemed to gain on him. Andy didn't look in his rearview mirror, not once, until the monster was right on top of him.
A cry of terror filled his eyes as he and the truck was lifted straight off the ground and tossed, like a rag doll, a hundred yards away. He was slammed to the ground amidst rocks and lumber of an abandoned construction site, the old Chevy crumpled around him like a discarded note. Andrew's time in the world had come to an end.
Katrina and her friends were glad they finally got a chance to continue their trek by the woods along the riverside. The weather report said a flash flood advisory was still in effect in their area, although all seemed calm in town. The three girls laughed and skipped stones along the way, bantering of how far they would go exploring before heading back.
Kat glanced for a moment down the short embankment from Crystal Cove Trail, and then looked behind her. Unless she was imagining it, she could have sworn that the riverbank was an inch or two higher than it had been just a few minutes earlier. She let her gaze wander back through the woods, to the field beyond, and finally to the edge of the hills; to the community she called home.
A panic rose in her as she spied what appeared to be a low wall of water rush down the hillsides and across the field, heading in her direction. It was wide, and moving quickly. She pointed, indicating the flood was coming, and instructed her companions to run. They did...right toward the water!
"Not that way!" she screamed.
But they feared if they continued in their present direction, the ground beneath their feet would become muddier and slipperier, tossing them into the raging river below. They wanted to look for higher ground, in the direction of the fast moving wall of water, but off to the side, where they would be safe. Kat said they'd never make it. She begged...no, ordered them to follow her. And to be careful. They could just as easily locate higher ground away from the direction of the water.
So, hoping Kat's advice would not put them in harm's way, the girls set off. Big mistake. The water eventually caught up with them, and Kat was tossed into the river below, just as her friends found and climbed onto a plateau. They pleaded with her to swim with the current and try to stay afloat for as long as possible, or find a rock or strong branch along the bank to hold on to. But it was no use. The two girls could only watch helplessly as the angry current carried their friend away faster than they could run alongside the ridge to keep up with her. They stood there, and just cried. Katrina's time in the world had come to an end.
Camille could not believe her luck. She was finally going to get a chance to escape the big city and go skiing with her new friends. This was double good news. Not only was she invited by the popular clique in school, who she thought would never even give her the time of day, but her parents actually gave her permission to go! In addition, she hoped she would get a chance to see a performance by the Blue Angels flying team, who were rumored to put on a scheduled show at the resort.
Cammy made sure to arrive extra early, for she wanted to take in the sights of town before hitting the slopes. She was a very good skier, having learned it when quite young, although she hasn't done it in years. But, like riding a bicycle, there are some things that stay with you. She was sure she would have no problem.
The moment came late in the afternoon that Camille had been waiting for. She was all bundled up like the typical snow bunny, sitting on a bench in the front room of the lodge, eagerly putting on skis. She had her poles leaning against the fireplace directly to her right. She couldn't wait to slide down Mt. Titan, though it might as well have been Everest.
She was told that this was a very dangerous run, and even experienced daredevils shuddered at its name. But she had been on treacherous slopes before. Her spirit was full of adventure. Her only regret of the day, thus far, was that she missed most of the acrobatics by the Blue Angels. She would cry later, however, tragically, that she wished they had never come.
She soon found herself at the top of the hill and, after confirming that all was well with the safety guide and the St. Bernard standing nearby—who had a worried look on his face, and let out a soft whine—she started down the incline. It wasn't very steep at first, but gradually became more difficult. She apparently had misjudged the slope when viewing it from a distance earlier in the day. Still, she was able to keep her balance and continue on.
After about several hundred yards down the hill, she paused a moment for a breather. She looked up and saw a small crew of the Blue Angels streak across the sky directly above her. The noise was almost deafening and she thought she would have to cup her hands tightly over her ears to reduce the roar. But she stood there and took it all in, her eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped open with awe and glee. The planes twisted and twirled as they passed, as if the show was just for her. Far off as he was, she could have sworn she saw one of the pilots wave to her.
Cammy yelled, "Wow! Go, baby, go! Oh, yeah!", as her stare followed the aircrafts' trail from one side of the mountain to the other, and beyond.
After standing there misty-eyed for a few moments more, she resumed her run. Faster and faster she went, for the slope turned steeper and steeper. A time or two, she thought she'd trip, but she kept her balance. She learned a lot from her lessons when young.
But not enough to avoid tragedy, it seemed. One last plane dug a trench mark into the sky as it blazed at lightning speed overhead, aiming to catch up with its flock. A moment later was when the first rumble could be heard. Only a few small mounds of earth and balls of snowpack tumbled in the beginning, their grip on the hill loosened by all the sonic booms from above throughout the day. But soon more debris followed and joined its friends in a massive wall.
Cammy stopped for just a second to see what all the commotion was behind her. Big mistake. By the time she realized what was happening, it was too late. She turned, pushed off, and tried to ski her little life away, but she didn't even have a chance to get going. In an instant, she felt something large, heavy and cold violently slam into her, knocking her to the ground. She was immobilized, and unable to even breathe. She futilely tried to cry, "help", but no sound came. Camille's time in the world had come to an end.
The heat wave was relentlessly unbearable today, especially in the city. Or so Floyd thought. He had only just begun the first of four years at Empire State College, but some days he wondered if he'd be there for an eternity. It was only early September, but he was already burdened with work. On this day, however, it was too hot to even think.
The heat wasn't so bad when he left his apartment in the morning, but was at its high point by early afternoon. He had gone in search of a store that sold one of those gallon plastic jugs of ice water, the kind one isn't afraid to be seen carrying around everywhere on a day like today. A lot of folks had them.
But every merchant he visited only had left half-liter bottles, many of which weren't even that cold, despite being kept in refrigeration. It wasn't nearly enough to hydrate his desert-lined, stone-dry throat, plus some left to pour over his head. He reasoned that everyone else had the same idea as he, and that is why the gallon jugs were no more. He tried to be optimistic, thinking that sooner or later he'd find a place with a large amount of water.
But every restaurant and shop he patronized told him he'd have to be a customer to receive a drink, or even gain access to the restroom, where a sink would be worthy of worship. But he had neither the money nor the desire for a useless trinket or a large meal. He just wanted water. He was thirsty, not hungry.
How could they be so cruel on a day like this? Even a large fountain in a park would be welcome. He would swim in it, drink it all in, even propose marriage to it. He didn't care that any or all of those activities might be illegal.
As the day wore on, the temperature climbed higher, and Floyd began to feel the first tinges of faintness. If he did not get some fluid in him soon, he feared all that remained in him would dry up, leaving him a dusty skeleton on the urban landscape. He reasoned he'd have to settle for a half-liter bottle, after all. He should have thought of this earlier, but now it was all water under the bridge, with no intended pun.
He finally surrendered at a small convenience store. Inside, all the water he found left were in small, novelty-type, half-pint bottles. There were a few left on a shelf. They weren't even cold, but Floyd didn't care.
He brought one up to the counter, reached in his pocket to pay, and then realized he had forgotten his wallet! He began to plead his case to the clerk, saying he'd return to pay double the amount. He offered his name and address; confessed that he'd just moved into a new place, and the electricity and water hadn't been turned on yet. That was the reason he was at the store.
But the proprietor wouldn't budge. Desperate to save his own life, Floyd defied the law, tore open several bottles of water, and quenched his thirst. As he scolded Floyd for his behavior, the shopkeeper pressed a silent alarm underneath the counter, alerting the police. It turned out that a squad car was but one block away. Panicking at the sound of a siren, Floyd bolted from the air-conditioned sanctuary of the store and out into the heat of the day.
He ran toward home. He ran...in triple-digit heat. Big mistake. He didn't quite make it, and collapsed on the sidewalk by the plaza of a small shopping center, in front of a stunned crowd. The next thing he remembered was a different sounding siren, bright lights flashing around him, and strangers asking his name, handling and talking to him, repeatedly reciting a phrase that sounded like, "hold on."
But Floyd could no longer hold on. He was a mere 100 yards from his building, and the very last thought which filled his mind before he let go was regretting not seeking his neighbors' assistance in the beginning, which he did not think of until just then. He was forced, slowly, by the power of the sun, to face his death. Ironic it was that he was always taught it was an entity responsible for giving him life. Floyd's time in the world had come to an end.
In the blink of an eye Andrew, Katrina, Camille and Floyd found themselves each walking on a different cloud. They were far from one another, yet drawn together. They did not know what they were being led to. Certainly not to each other, as far as they knew. Each of them didn't even know the others existed. They simply felt something pulling them toward a distant bright light. They knew they had crossed over into a different world, and hoped to find answers soon—the answers to what happened to them, and why they were forced to leave their previous lives so abruptly. They had no recollection of it, but something deep inside told them it was quite memorable.
They walked toward each other in the form of a semi-circular pattern, each of them coming from the connected points of a fan. Andrew was the first to cry out when he saw another person across an expanse of sky. He ran toward the figure, overcome with joy, as if he had never encountered another being like himself before. It was still too far away for him to make it out clearly, but he knew it had to be human.
Katrina also knew she had found another familiar soul. This could only be Earth's heaven, she thought, not an angel's station for collecting the population of other worlds. The split-second they caught the eye of an actual carnal, mortal body, they ran as fast as the wind would carry them to each other, for there was no solid ground to trample on. And yet another split-second after that, they were embraced in each other's arms, with a grip as tight as two lovers reunited after being kept apart by a million forever’s. All Katrina could do was sob and beg, over and over again, not to be let go.
"I am so glad I finally found someone," she cried. "Please don't ever leave. I don't want to be alone."
"Never," Andrew replied. "The end of time will not make me leave you, stranger."
Just then, Camille and Floyd spotted each other, and raced on diagonal paths to a rendezvous point, then straight ahead to the Andrew-Katrina animal. They stopped five feet away from it. Floyd held out a hand, cautiously, half-expecting it to pass right through them. But he ended his reach just short. He gave a quick hello.
Andrew replied in kind, and let out a brief smile. Katrina's was next, followed by Camille's, which seemed to be the widest. Then she quickly frowned, with a look of sadness.
"Are we the only ones in this space?" she asked. "I mean, did any of you guys see anyone else come along?"
"No," answered Andrew, who quickly seemed to assert himself as leader of the group, even if only by body language. "I think it is just the four of us, alone."
"Are we even alive anymore?" Camille continued.
"I don't think so, honey," Katrina spoke for the first time among them. "If we are alive, this is a different kind of life. We now know what heaven is."
"This is not heaven," proclaimed Andrew. "Heaven is that light over there. Or beyond it." He pointed, at arm's length, to a blinding illumination in the distance. "I think we will find answers in there."
Floyd asked, with mild anxiety and a rasp in his voice, "We-we're supposed to go to that...toward that?"
"Toward it...and then inside it, I think."
"You seem so calm about all this."
"Because I know I am about to enter a place of eternal peace, I have no fear. That is why."
"And once inside..." started Camille.
"Then what?" inquired Katrina.
"Then," Andrew tried to reassure them, "we wait to find out what happens next."
And so, after the obligatory, identifying introductions, the youngsters set off to face their fate.
The light was blinding, but did not hurt their eyes, for they weren't even alive. They walked side by side; not surprisingly, in two pairs: Andrew holding Katrina's hand, while Floyd stuck close to Camille. They strolled a trail of sky, with clouds above and below them. It was not a leisure walk, but they moved slowly, cautiously, wary of incurring the wrath of unknown forces for the slightest mistake. One might presume just as well. New, frightening experiences would throw many spirits for a loop. But imagine you're dead and about to meet your maker! Talk about having a stressful day!
Their nerves were calmed somewhat, though, by the scenes to either side before them, and beyond. Wide fields of green grass stretched to the horizon; meeting the blue, clear sky. Trees and flowers were placed intermittently, strategically, across the meadows. Young children were running about and playing in this postcard picture. Some were rolling in the grass, with absolutely no fear—right alongside lions, bears, elephants, and large, wild birds. Andrew and his new friends could only stand in awe, eyes opened wide and mouths hanging open. Never in a million years could they imagine this scene on Earth; surely the kids would have been trampled or eaten by now. This was yet another sign that they had come into the paradise known as the afterlife.
The fields eventually gave way to a large lake in front of them, filled with meandering swans and dam stick-gathering beavers by the shore. The lake was fed by streams trickling down from a range of snow-capped mountains, which stretched across the horizon in both directions as far as the eye could see. The mountains were luminous, reflecting the peaceful aura of the environment.
As the foursome got closer, the light grew brighter, which they considered strange. Then a massive bulk of the light escaped the peaks and began to move toward them, slowly. They were afraid, though they knew they shouldn't have been. They reasoned that this light was what they were supposed to find. This could be their salvation.
As the light got closer, it began to divide itself into four vertical shapes—unrecognizable as anything at first, but they gradually began to resemble humanoid form. Before too long, it became apparent that these beings, whoever or whatever they were, had come solely for the teens.
When they finally materialized, they looked like the most gentle, peaceful angels. They were old. They appeared as human elderly persons, though they were far from frail. They wore long, white robes, and there was a yellow aura framing the top half of each of their bodies, down to the shoulders. The kids felt inferior and humble, the fact being they were wearing their last set of clothing they were attired in before facing their demise.
They smiled at the kids, intending to put them at ease, for they were sure the children were quite frightened, though there was no need to be.
Katrina and Camille stood slightly slumped, with somewhat of a cowering posture, giving shy smiles and guilty looks on their faces, as if adopting the stance of a child being scolded—or meeting an older stranger for the first time.
Floyd could only be a statue, arms at his sides, mouth tightly closed, eyes wide open, stone cold with fear.
Only Andrew smiled back, as if to set an example for the others, as their leader. It was a quick, weak smile, given more out of a show of respect than anything else, for he was sure he knew, instinctively, who these angelic strangers were. At least he was sure he knew the gentleman standing directly opposite him: he was meeting his grandfather for the first time, who had died before Andrew was born.
And so he concluded that the others were the kids' grandparents, also (or at least a distant relative). He also concluded that the older relatives had come to guide him and the others to their new home in heaven. Little did the kids realize just how wrong that presumption would be. In a few moments they would receive the shock of their afterlives.
"Hello, Andrew," the old man spoke for the first time. "We've been waiting for you."
Andrew replied, "Are you our guardians? Are you our grandparents, or other long-lost relatives, who have come to take us 'home'? And how do you know my name?"
Katrina immediately shot him a look as if to berate him for asking such a question. This is heaven, she would say. Don't you think they know who we are?
"No," the old man continued. "We are not your grandparents. We are..." He pondered the next moment or two in deep, careful thought. "Why don't you kids sit down? We have something to tell you."
The elders continued to stand, their body language giving the message of being in a superior position. Andrew and the others looked about them for a moment, and then sat, Indian-style, right upon the cloud on which they were standing. It did not feel cold. It did not feel like anything. They were floating in mid-air, which was bewildering to them, for they had not yet become accustomed to the milieu. The elderly gentleman spoke up again.
"No doubt you are all wondering who we are, exactly what this place is, what is going to happen to you, and I'm sure a hundred other questions. I will tell you something you probably already know. You no longer have the lives you once knew on Earth. You have come upon a different kind of existence. The bodies you have are not real bodies, only images. You are now only spirits, but not yet angels. That won't come until you complete the crossover. And we have been sent to help you with that.
However, there is something else you should know. The universal laws of nature and physics cannot be changed. The rules cannot be broken, and you cannot go back. Under ordinary circumstances. But we feel this is a special case. We feel it is unfair that you are innocents who were taken so young. And we want to help you get back; to have a second chance."
On a cue from Andrew, the four teens stood back up. Katrina half-scolded them.
"We agree, she said. It is indeed unfair that we were taken when—and how—we were. But everyone on Earth...throughout history...has faced this. Why are you offering this...TO US? What makes us so special? Not that we're complaining or anything," her demeanor suddenly changed to that of the cowering child again.
Andrew added, "You all are just ordinary angels, I presume. What makes you think you have the power...or even the authority...to do what you are proposing? You haven't even told us who you are." A semi-revelation started to take shape in Andrew's mind. "Have we been chosen...for some reason...to do something? Were our lives taken from us intentionally?"
"Not to our knowledge," the old man said. "But perhaps that can be arranged, with our help. You would be the first souls, ever, to be allowed to go back and live again."
A moment of silence passed between the two groups on a shear of wind cutting high through the atmosphere. "Who are you?" Andrew asked for the second time. "I demand to know."
The four older persons consulted one another with merely a few moments’ glance, contemplating how to proceed. The man directly across from Andrew began, just as he had before, "We are...we are you."
"Huh? I don't understand," said Katrina.
The gentleman clasped his hands loosely together and continued on. "We are you. My name is Andrew, and these are my friends: Katrina, Camille and Floyd. We are who you would have grown up to be...your future selves...if you had lived. You see, my child, destiny dictated that you were to meet soon, anyway, and grow to be lifelong friends. You were supposed to die not now, but when you were old and had lived your lives. Unfortunately, heaven had other plans. We think it is unfair, and want to send you back to have another chance."
"But you cannot do this!" yelled Camille. "It is against the rules! Do you know how much trouble you will be in...we will be in? And, like Andy here said before, how can you do this?"
"We have special secrets," commented older Camille.
Older Katrina repeated the message from earlier, once more. "Trust us, you can go back."
"But what about God?" inquired Floyd. "Aren't you afraid of incurring the wrath of the Supreme Being? Surely he will learn of this plan. He knows all. He knows this conversation is taking place. If you do this, what is to stop others from following after? The heavens will open onto the Earth, and the Lord will destroy us all!"
"Don't worry, son," exclaimed older Floyd. "Nothing will happen. Everything will be fine."
"No!" old Floyd pleaded, trying to silence his protege. "You must do this! We beg of you! If you don't, you cannot live your lives and grow old and be like us! You must go back and live again! You have families to raise and love! You have things to do; people who depend on you! You cannot settle for having your lives cut short in vain! We will teach you how to live again!"
"What do you mean, 'be like us'?" asked young Andrew. "You're not ordinary angels, are you? Are you even of this Earth...this existence? I think the question is not, 'who are you', but 'what are you'?"
Andrew's older self answered, "It is true we are special beings, but there is no reason to fear us. We are guardian angels. Your guardian angels. We have knowledge of the secrets of life, and we can bend the rules for you. Death is not always the end. This is one of the treasures of the universe that you are not supposed to know about, so you can never tell a soul. Not that anyone would believe you, anyway. That's why you were chosen...for this experiment. If you don't go back and live again, you will have wasted all those years. They'll be gone forever, never to return. And even we cannot turn back time. You won't have the chance to perish in your elder years, and become like us. There is a rule in heaven: only those who have lived a full life may receive angel wings of gold. They are very special. They place you higher than all the others and give you special powers, like the ability to send someone back who was taken before their time."
"So you want to send us back so you can...you're doing this out of selfishness, aren't you? You're only thinking of yourselves! Well, what about us? Huh? WHAT'S IN IT FOR US?!"
The elder Andrew got right up in the face of his young charge. "Now you listen to me, son! You will not use that tone with me, do you understand? We can very easily forget this whole deal, and your lives will end, here and now! ALL OF YOU!"
He tossed a stern, scolding glance across the faces of each of the youngsters, and they hung their heads down, Andrew included.
Katrina looked back up and started to cry. "I want to go back!" she wailed. "I miss my family...my friends...I left them all behind!" She recalled being swept down the river, while her two friends stood on the ridge, helplessly, screaming and calling out her name.
The old man pleaded with them. "You are being given a gift. Please let us do this. Let us help you. You're not going to stand there and say that you're willing to accept what happened, are you? You have an opportunity for a second chance. Don't you want to take it?"
The four youngsters looked at each other for a long moment, each knowing what the others were thinking. Andrew asked, "What do you want us to do?"
The elder Floyd took over. "The plan we have in mind for you is quite simple in theory, but it involves a lot of work...on your part. Do you remember when we told you about the special powers we are endowed with when we become full angels?"
"Yes, we remember that," young Floyd answered. "What does that have to do with us?"
"When you died so young, you weakened us. We are your guardian angels. We are a part of you. When your lives ended, it greatly drained our life force. We almost received our golden wings...when this happened. The only way we can get our strength back is if you live again...and do something for us."
Floyd echoed Andrew's sentiment. "What do you want us to do?"
"We have a proposition for you. An assignment, really. The four of you must return to Earth and use your powers for good, to help others. You must—”
"Wait a second. We don't have any powers. That's your thing."
"Yes, children, you do have powers; special magical abilities. Only you don't know it yet. And the only way we can get them back is by you returning them, slowly. We need to be proven worthy of getting into heaven, and receiving our wings. Otherwise, we will linger in eternal obscurity, here, along this fine line between life and death. Forever. And you need to be proven worthy of having a second chance; to grow old and live again."
"The powers could be dangerous in the wrong hands. We don't even know how to use them."
"We will teach and train you. Each of you was forced to face your end by a different form of severe weather, isn't that right? Andrew was crushed by a tornado, Katrina drowned in a flood, an avalanche buried Camille, and you, Floyd, my young one, succumbed to the extreme heat of the sun."
"That's right!" said Camille, excitedly. "You want us to go back and use our powers to stop it from occurring? Then we won't die and we'll have a chance to continue our lives, right?"
"No. I'm sorry, my dear Camille. You can't do that. We told you before, we cannot turn back time. What is done is done. Instead, we have another plan for you in mind. We want you to go back and use your powers to have control over each of the violent elements that killed you: wind, rain, snow and heat...and use them to prevent this tragedy from happening again. Make sure it doesn't happen anymore. We want you to go back and save others. You will be Earth's new heroes."
Katrina placed her hands on top of her head and, try as she might, could not stop the smile on her face from growing. Camille looked upward and raised her fists in the air in a victory gesture. Andrew and Floyd were too stunned in shock. They placed their hands over their mouths, eyes wide with wonder. Floyd ran his hand slowly down the length of his face first. These four young persons were being given the chance to not only get their lives back, but to do something special with them.
Old Floyd continued, "Each time you successfully complete an assignment, we get a little bit of our strength back. When your work is done, we will become whole again and get our golden wings. And you will get your lives back, and find in each other lifelong friends, as you grow old together. You will look out for each other, help one another's families, and other enjoyments. Perhaps it was meant to be that this happened to you. Maybe this is what you were meant to do."
"How long is all of this going to take? And how long is the training?" asked Andrew.
"Who cares?" cried Katrina, ecstatically, as if she were about to participate in a game. "When can we start?"
"It could take only a year or two," the elder Andrew answered. "Or it could take ten years. However long it takes to make us complete. The training will begin at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and last, nonstop, for one or a few Earth days; maybe 24 hours at most. Don't worry, you will learn to use your powers wisely."
At that very moment, a spoken and unspoken agreement and bond was made between two groups of angels: one set young, strong, complete and unlearned; the other old, weak and semi-whole, yet wise. The training and exercises were vigorous and exhausting, but the kids gladly endured, for they knew it was well worth it. And besides, it only took 48 hours.
They were constantly placed in situations where they were told to use special given powers to stop or destroy fierce weather elements and save mock civilizations. When the teachers were satisfied that their students learned all they could, they made final preparations to return them to Earth. Before transfer, however, the very last order of business was to impress upon the kids the knowledge that they will still be watched and looked after, and that their superiors will be always available, in a heartbeat, if dire circumstances should arise.
After the second full day of magic education, before retiring in their last night in heaven—until their second visit, which is permanent and won't come for another 60-80 years (just about every other person in history gets only one visit)—the kids were treated to a feast fit for a kingdom. Any dish they wanted and thought of instantly materialized before their eyes. They were told to eat as much as their hearts desired—literally—and not to be concerned with any consequences. They would not even feel full because, technically, they did not have corporal bodies. This was most likely the one time they would get to pull off a trick like this, yet another thing the living had to be envious over.
Much of the dinner conversation was a joyous occasion for the two groups—and the members of the younger one—to learn more of each other. The kids shared stories about themselves and their lives, and their adult versions revealed tales of special moments and events that would come into their lives, once their mission was finished, perhaps as a reward.
A family-like atmosphere evolved, and all were pleased with this new revolutionary development and task that was about to be accomplished on the planet below. There were laughter and smiles all around, but after awhile a dark cloud formed over Andrew. He had one question nagging at him, begging to be asked.
From nowhere, he blurted out, "You say you want us to save people from bad weather and storms. But this is the heaven, the home of all things just, right and good. Surely you can't simply stand back and do nothing while people's lives are devastated. Unless...do the heavens and the powers-that-be cause disasters to occur, like I've grown up to believe that—”
"NO!!" Andrew's mentor shouted. "This is not our doing! Do you honestly believe that the Heavenly Father wants his children to suffer? He does not bring pain and anguish unto the Earth, yet he cries right along with you when it happens. He was very much saddened when you died. Ideally, I'm sure he wanted you to enjoy long lives. So, no, we are not behind the bad things that happen. We are not going to cause catastrophic weather just to give you something to do. In our hearts, we wish it wouldn't happen. But we know, logically, that it will. And when it does, we want you to be there to save people; to save their lives."
"Well, if that's all there is to it, that there is no hidden agenda, then I can't wait to play hero. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I feel an obligation—a responsibility, even—to do so. These things took our lives! The least we could do, in the name of justice and revenge, is to save others from a similar fate! Is there any one of the three of you who does not agree with this sentiment?"
Camille arose from her seat. "The last thing I did in my life was something completely innocent. I simply wanted to have fun going skiing with some friends from school. And the snow took that enjoyment away from me."
Camille placed her hand directly inside the burning flame of a single candle situated in the exact center of the dining table. One candle, representing one unified goal. She hoped the others understood her unspoken message. They did. The remaining three youngsters simultaneously stood and started to move their right arms forward.
The elders were overwhelmingly pleased. They were sure of what was coming next. Being much wise and powerful, they prided themselves on being rarely wrong in their assumptions about things. But every winning streak must eventually end. They thought the kids were going to place each of their hands on top of Camille's, in a show of support and solidarity. They did not. Instead, they intertwined the fingers of their hands together, creating an unbreakable sphere. After almost twenty years of having the job of angels, and the instances of their incorrect premonitions coming far and few between, it was more than just a bit disconcerting to be proven wrong twice in one minute. The first was when they thought Camille would rest her hand over the flame; instead, she placed it right inside.
The elders did not hear the next words. Camille whispered to her three new friends in a volume so low that any quieter would have to be telepathic, "Let's go kill some storms!"
As the kids released their grip, for just a second Camille made a fist with her hand; it was still in the flame. A part of her wished it would turn into a snowball, so she could smile sadistically as she watched it melt away, praying for its little life, just as Cammy prayed for hers.
As soon as the meal was finished, the elders announced that it was time to retire for the evening. The kids must be well rested, for tomorrow was to be the beginning of a new life; a new kind of life. This night was going to be the last time in a very long time that the kids would get to sleep on a cloud. During their first stint back on Earth, they never in a million years imagined they would ever get to do anything even remotely like it.
They vowed to keep that memory as a treasure, even though they knew that evil lurked in the box it came in. They were about to embark on an unprecedented journey—perhaps into the heart of darkness—that would last a length of time which only heaven knows. They have been burdened with the task of saving those who cannot save themselves from the wickedness of the skies. So, sometime during the night, they will be returned to Earth to begin their endeavor. Their reward is that when all is said and done, they will be allowed to pick up where they left off and have a second chance at a full life.
The light of the sun and the sound of birds singing in the trees awoke the kids at the break of dawn the next morning. They were flat on the ground, forming the lines of a cross, their heads meeting at the center. Their location was in a field at the top of a cliff, overlooking a city somewhere in the world. It did not matter to them, in the first moments, where they were. They were just glad to be alive again, back on Earth. They screamed cries of joy and danced around, basking in their reincarnation, until they thought they would collapse from exhaustion. Then, as quickly as the celebration began, it ended with the realization of what they had to do. They were not given a free ride back to the living. They had a debt to pay; a job to do. It was important they remember a message given to them in heaven: "We can very easily forget this whole deal, and your lives will end, here and now!" It was most likely that one statement which kept them grounded. Andrew was the one to remind the group of this fact.
"So, here we are," he relented, solemnly. "We cannot forget why we're here." The others acquiesced in agreement, looking sad, yet proud.
He added, "You know, guys, if we're going to do the special thing we have to do, it might be cool—or even necessary, if we are to be known as a single entity—if our little group here adopts a special name. If we're going to help people, and they want to know who we are...what do we tell them? What should we call ourselves?"
A hair-thin passage of time whisked by between the end of Andrew's last sound and the beginning of the first of Katrina's. She clearly and fiercely spewed out two words: "Storm Chasers."
Smiles broke out on all four youngsters so suddenly and forcefully, they were afraid their faces would split and crack. Following Andrew's lead, they stood in a straight line at the edge of the cliff, standing tall, like parents, over the society they were sent to protect. Thus signaled the birth of a new breed of superhero. It was time to meet the new saviors of the world.
Storm Chasers: Revenge
Andrew sees a menacing tornado about to destroy a small city.
After saving the citizens, he views the twister as a person; an enemy--and wants to kill it as revenge for his own death.
The short bend leading to Dwight Warner’s farmhouse from the highway was already filled to the brim with yellow leaves, even though it was still early in the fall. He trampled down the path, making a sound like broken glass. Ten yards down the road he met up with Andrew and the others.
“Oh, thank you,” he said. “Thank you for coming back...I think.” Mr. Warner had a confused look on his face for a moment. “Do I know you, son? Are you the young man who delivered my supplies yesterday, just before the twister hit?”
Andrew said nothing. He stared blankly at the old man.
“Oh, it doesn't matter. You're here now. And you brought reinforcements. Good. The Chamber of Commerce still needs a lot of help organizing for the fair next weekend. Won’t you kids please go to the office downtown and…” Another look of bewilderment. “Are you sure you weren’t here yesterday?”
“I don’t think so,” Andrew replied.
“Where were you when the storm hit?”
“I guess I was hiding out at home.”
“Home, eh? You live around here?”
“Yeah. My place isn’t too far off,” Andrew offered, with a quick rightward glance of his head. “Over by the creek.”
“The town creek is that way, young man,” said the old-timer, as a matter of fact, pointing a hitchhiking thumb behind him. The breeze blew a glaze of suspicion in Mr. Warner’s eye.
“I live close by,” said Andrew, pointedly, tiring of the interrogation. There was no chance in hell he was going to reveal to the gentleman that he lived in heaven. Quickly as it had come, the breeze blew the mistrust from the elder’s mind.
“Well...okay, if you say so. Just go and see what assistance the city officials need. And hurry. It looks like some more dark clouds are rolling in. The forecast says it is supposed to clear up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got another visit from one of those monsters again.”
“Yes, we will hurry. It was nice chatting with you, sir.” And with that, Andrew turned and walked off, the others falling in like toppling dominoes.
“I can’t believe he didn’t recognize you,” said Floyd. “You were here only yesterday, weren’t you, just before...you know…”
“Of course, I was,” answered Andrew. “There’s my destroyed truck over there.” He pointed about a hundred yards to his right; where the remains of a once happy and alive motor vehicle lay among ruins of cardboard boxes, cement blocks, wires and cables, and planks of lumber.
One headlight peered out from the myriad of trash like a lone eye, which had once belonged to a familiar face, as if to chastise its owner. “How could you just leave me like this, Andy? You selfish little brat! Only thinking of your own survival, eh?”
“But things are different now. The world, at least for us, has changed.”
“Do you think people will believe us?”
“That we’re angels.”
“Who said we have to tell them? Who said we should tell them?”
“Maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re supposed to be like traditional superheroes, with secret identities,” said Katrina. “You know, rescue the damsel in distress, then up, up and away back to Krypton before anyone is the wiser.”
“So we just do our jobs, then split?” added Camille. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
“Sounds like someone’s eager to get started,” Andrew said, with a slight smirk. He continued down the country lane, which took them into town, knowing the others would follow without procrastination, as if his role as leader was pulling them like a rope. The group walked in absolute silence for the next ten minutes, the end of which brought them to the heart of downtown and the city hall offices.
“Last door on your left down that hall,” said the front desk receptionist—pointing behind her—when the inquiry was made as to the location of the Chamber of Commerce room.
“Thank you very much, ma’am,” said Andrew.
The kids were asked to deliver supplies and equipment to McCoy field, behind the high school, and help set up the tents and exhibits for the annual country fair that was to take place over the upcoming weekend. Most of the debris and evidence of devastation left behind by yesterday’s tornado had already been cleared away by the government emergency workers. The rest...well, it would be taken care of in time; meanwhile, it served as a reminder of nature’s wrath.
The fair was not due to begin for another two days. Andrew wanted to spend the time with his new friends letting them take in the sights of his town. Or perhaps...former town.
To Andrew, community was more than just a physical space. It was the citizens that made up its character, and the memories it held. But for Andy, that pleasure was no more. No soul alive in his home knew who he was anymore, for he wasn’t alive. He remembers everyone; he is a stranger to all.
So he felt the least he could do to even the score of this injustice was to give his friends the joy of his memories. It was like walking through a surreal reenactment of life. The images flew by like ghosts. It was form without existence. They visited the day when the ribbon was cut for the new General Store downtown. Andy watched his eight-year-old self jump up and down as the first item sold—a red lollipop—was handed to him.
They saw his father—then the town mayor--plant the seed that would replace the old oak tree which was blown down in front of City Hall the year before. Andy wondered if it had been destroyed by a storm, and wished he could have been an angel then to save it.
Saturday finally arrived, with the glory of a quiet, blue sky. No dark clouds around for miles. The kids were glad to see that. It meant one less group of innocents spared from having their lives shattered. But still, they wondered when they would receive their first assignment. The elders said "soon". It didn’t look like today would be the day. However, the day was still young.
There was a slight breeze whispering through a clear, blue sky, as Andrew and the others crossed the wide courtyard of the Chamber of Commerce complex, into a secondary building.
Once inside, they were introduced to Ramira Sanchez, too tall and overdressed for the day’s work: an organizer of supplies and events for a town fair. But she didn’t care about that. She always tried to overdress, in an attempt to make up for perceived inadequacy. She often felt that because of her Hispanic heritage, others did not give her proper credit. She looked up from her paperwork when she saw Andrew extend his hand in greeting.
“Hello, my friends and I came to help,” he said, with a quick glance toward the gang. In that moment, he caught a glimpse of Floyd licking his lips, with a lustful look on his face. She was wearing a wedding band and was at least a good ten years older than him, but he seemed to have no hesitation over those facts. Andrew gave him an icy glare, which he returned with a sheepish grin and a quick shrug of his shoulders.
“Oh, yes,” she replied, in kind. “I was told some young persons would be coming over. I don’t know exactly what there is for you to do. Just ask around and see what people need, I guess.”
“Thanks,” said Katrina. “We'll give it our best shot.”
The kids looked around at the various tables, where folks were engaged in tasks ranging from painting banners to sanding the wooden planks that would build the many gift and concession stands. Andrew said, “Don’t stray too far, people. We’re still new at this, so make sure you know where one another is.” The others gave a quick nod in agreement before setting off.
Floyd stayed behind for a moment, staring curiously at the piles of papers set before Ramira. She asked, “Would you like to help me organize these receipts?”
“Sure,” he answered. “I’ll give it a try.”
“And that’s all you’ll help her with,” Andrew told him, sternly. “Promise me you’ll behave yourself.”
“You should know me by now.”
“Of course, I do. But promise me, anyway.”
A slight draft passed through a narrow, open doorway at the rear of the room, leading to a yard. There wasn’t much of a view, but enough to see the piles of splintered lumber and bags of trash torn open, as if a wild animal had been consumed by savage hunger. This suspicion grew in Camille as she stepped to the threshold and surveyed the scene.
The evidence of a potential massacre was strewn for a hundred or more feet beyond, and into several adjoining properties. Plastic and glass bottles, ripped cardboard and other paper products, and scraps of metal from toys, small appliances and other consumer items were scattered across this small universe. She turned to a gentleman standing behind her, coiling a rope upon its holder, and asked, “Is this what you do with your waste? Just indiscriminately toss trash around outside? Have you no decency; no respect but to litter?”
“Little lady,” he answered, with a tone of intolerance for naiveté. “That is not intentionally discarded trash. Ours or anyone else’s. That’s a small sample of the destruction left by yesterday’s tornado. It was bad. Real bad. I doubt even a team of guardian angels from heaven could have prevented that disaster. Now, if you don’t mind, I have work to do.”
Camille held her head in one hand and shook it slightly, chuckling to herself at the irony. If only I could go back in time, she told herself, I would love to show that guy how wrong he can be.
The rest of the day and the next was comprised mainly of putting the finishing touches on the projects that would become the festivities for everyone to celebrate, placing in memory the catastrophe from earlier in the week. The sky was as clear and calm as the twister was dark and agitated. The scene disturbed the heroes. They knew this couldn’t last. They felt that fate was just setting them up for disaster to rain down on them later.
Mrs. Sanchez came up to the kids strolling the fairgrounds. She placed a hand on Floyd’s shoulder and gave a wide smile to the group. But, of course, Floyd thought it was just for him, and returned the gesture.
Andrew couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“The event is a great success,” she said, handing a stick of cotton candy to Andrew, even though he held a caramel apple.
He passed the fluffy confection to an empty-handed youngster shuffling past, who eagerly took it with a broad grin, then ran off, shouting, “Mama, look!”
“I can’t thank you enough for all your help,” she continued. “Feel free to help yourself to anything. The park is yours.”
Andrew smiled graciously for her words. They continued to stroll in silence for several more minutes. Finally, Katrina said, “If everything is going so great, then what are we doing here? Where is there something or someone to save? Or is all this just a dream?”
“Be patient,” replied Camille. “I’m sure that sooner or later...we will be needed.”
Camille just had to tempt the devil in the details. The remainder of the afternoon seemed to whiz by in the blink of an eye, cause as it is said, ‘When you’re having fun... ‘
It was only day one of a weeklong event of amusement, but apparently the skies had other plans. No sooner had everyone begun to disperse and clean up after the first full day of activities than a shotgun-sounding blast of thunder crackled to life overhead. It was followed almost immediately by a stinging lash of lightning which snapped in two the sign at the fairground’s entrance that read Centerville Town Fair, dropping it to the ground as if an axe had murdered, in revenge, a wild animal who left a mess in a yard the day before. No one had even noticed the sky darkening until this sudden wake-up call, jolting them from their reverie.
“You wanted to know if we would be needed here,” Camille barked at Katrina. “Does this answer your question?”
“No time to argue,” boomed Andrew. “Just get ready to move. Floyd, help me clear away this sign before someone trips over it.”
Floyd was distracted by a couple of college girls who had exited a tent and apparently had no knowledge of the impending doom. “Floyd!” Andrew shouted.
Floyd instantly jumped to attention. He saw a look in Andrew’s eyes that told him he would be engaged in a lecture later on. Katrina and Camille—situated nearby—saw it, too, and beamed a strong frown at Floyd. In that instant, it was cemented that Andrew was their leader.
The storm was picking up. No sooner had Andrew and Floyd tossed away the debris than another pile of unused wooden boards, resting in a pile on a cabinet shelf came tumbling down on top of the legs of a young man, who was running from the commotion, securing him to the ground.
He couldn’t move. “Somebody help me!” he screamed. “Please help!”
Camille was the first to arrive on the scene. Please, if I never do anything else, let me do this, she prayed to heaven, for she clearly remembered, from her earlier life, being buried alive by the snow, crying out for help, and being unable to move. This was her chance to get even with the powers-that-be.
But try as she might, she could not budge the planks, lest she come away with her hands full of splinters. Not that she cared about that, anyway, considering what was at stake.
Camille didn’t have the strength to help the kid, but Andrew more than made up for it. He was standing a mere five feet from the site of entrapment, when he caught the eyes of Camille and the youngster.
Camille uprighted herself and stood back. She did not know exactly what Andrew was going to do, but knew, somehow, that everything would be alright. She braced herself; one hand resting on the young man’s shoulder to comfort him as a localized, hurricane-force gust of wind suddenly blew through the area.
The fair’s crowd—now huddled inside a building at the edge of the grounds, and kept indoors by Katrina and Floyd, who had assumed the stance of guards, standing astride an invisible DO NOT CROSS line of tape—stood by helplessly and in awe at the scene outside before their eyes.
Camille had trouble keeping her balance, at first, as the squall passed through. It presented no difficulty at all for Andrew. He was one with the wind; it was his territory. If a blizzard tore through, Camille would know just what to do.
The gale concentrated on the wooden dragon clamped down on the kid's legs. Suddenly, they blew off him and lay in rubble in a bush fifty yards away. It worked as easily as if Andrew had used his breath to blow down a model house made of toothpicks.
The moment the kid was free, Camille placed her hands underneath his arms and lifted him up. She gently pushed him ahead of her, encouraging him to run. She wanted him to join the townsfolk in their sanctuary, as Katrina and Floyd waved him over from a distance, urging him to safety.
Floyd looked back for just a second to grab the door handle of the building. He caught a glimpse of those college girls again, but didn’t give them a second look. He was more focused on getting the kid inside. Katrina took note of this, knew what was happening, and was proud of him. When he had a job to do, which involved the work of savior, he did just that and nothing else. He didn’t let his lust or love of freedom take over. He knew what was important. Hope was not lost. Katrina made a vow to report this revelation to the others later.
Andrew knelt forward for a few moments and placed his hands on his knees, catching his breath. It was as if it took a great deal of energy out of him to carry out his task. But he told himself it was just the stress and excitement of the ordeal. Besides, it was his first real job.
Camille thought he was about to fall, and rushed over to steady him on his feet. He reassured her he was fine.
The kid hesitated for a moment before running off. “Hey! Wha…” he said to Camille. “You watched him! You know about this!” He then demanded of Andrew, “How did you...what are you?”
“I'm your friend! I saved you!” Andrew tried to shout above the roar of the wind.
Camille gave the young man a slight shove into the arms of Katrina, who had come to drag him away. “Don’t ask questions, just go!” she ordered. “There’s a big storm coming! Go, now!”
A few men were still outside, at the other end of the field, trying to tie down a protective tarp over some of the fair’s booths. The kid called out to them, “Don’t let these guys help you! There’s something strange about them!"
Katrina ignored his rant. “What are you still doing here?” she yelled at them. “Get inside with the others! You’re gonna get yourselves killed!”
Sure enough, as soon as they saw everyone was indeed safe inside, the four angels stood in front of the steps leading to the Community Recreation Center. Mrs. Sanchez, the principal of the high school and three others stepped onto the porch to get a closer look at what had made everyone hang their mouths open in terror and awe; what created that deafening roar.
It was their old friend, Mr. Twister. Or rather, its replacement, come to finish the job. And it was a big, ugly mother, too, at least twice the size of his brother. That noise the populace heard was the sound of their city being destroyed and, as if sensing human blood, the tornado aimed for the fairgrounds to eliminate its citizens.
“Get back inside, guys,” Andrew told the brave souls who had ventured outside. “We’ll handle this.”
“Oh?” Mrs. Sanchez retorted. “What are you going to do, give the storm a spanking?”
“I said go back inside!” Andrew scolded, a little more sternly. “Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Tell everyone to get down to the basement. You’ll be safe there.”
Mrs. Sanchez and the others followed the given instructions as Andrew took a step forward, his gaze never wavering from the cloud. Katrina, Camille and Floyd followed, slowly, cautiously, also keeping their stares skyward.
Andrew took a further step, and the tornado returned the favor, inching toward him. A sneer, then a scowl, crossed Andrew’s face as he could have sworn he caught glimpses of lines scratching their way down the funnel cloud. It appeared to Andrew to be forming into the likeness of a human face, or perhaps it was only his imagination. The face appeared to take on the expression of a bully, seemingly laughing in the face of cowardice. But, like most bullies, it was all a show, and deep down did not want a confrontation with someone stronger. Andrew and the others certainly wanted to give the impression that they were the stronger.
Andrew took another step forward. The menacing cloud, as if thinking this was a game, reciprocated once more. Andrew moved closer, this time with his band of accomplices in tow. The funnel cloud retreated. One angry kid was enough; it wasn’t prepared to face the wrath of four.
Andrew continued to move forward, then sideways. The twister followed, parallel, never inching closer than one thousand yards. Katrina and the other storm killers didn’t let him stray too far. He was never out of their sight. Andrew began to chase the thing, the others hot on his tail.
Katrina yelled, “Andrew, what are you doing? You can’t take that thing on by yourself!”
Andrew turned, furious, and faced his friends. “That monster just cleared this town off the map! And the other day he annihilated the next village over, when I had my earlier life. I was killed as a result. I will not stand idly by and watch these things obliterate peoples’ lives. He must be dealt with! He must be taught a lesson!”
Camille gave the gang a look like she thought Andrew was half out of his mind. She glared right at Andrew. “He?”
“That’s right. Him and his kind.” Andrew glanced back and saw the dark mass still swirling, stationary, as if it were eavesdropping on the heroes’ plans. Then he turned back to the team. “I’m gonna kick his—!”
“Andy!” interjected Katrina.
Floyd said, “No, I don’t think he wants to kick its Andy. It doesn’t even have an Andy.”
“He does now,” beamed Andrew, turning to face the twister. The darker the cloud stirred, the darker the rage churned in Andrew.
The twister started to move away, as if sensing inevitable punishment. Andrew took a few more steps, in a trot, which soon blew into a steady run. He transfixed on the evil from the skies above, and was not about to let this feeling go. But even though he had power over it (when he let it out), Andrew could not run like the wind.
The twister ran away from him, farther and farther, across the valley, and back over the hills on the other side of town. Andrew, nearly out of breath, tried his best to capture the thing, as elusive as chasing a rainbow.
The others called out after him, trying to keep up. “An-deeeee...!”
At one point, Andrew nearly tripped over a fallen branch, allowing the other kids to catch up. Andrew bellowed to the storm, a far enough distance away for it to count as futile. “Hey! Where you going? Huh?
Come back here and fight me! This isn’t over! Not by a long shot!”
Andrew thought he heard an echo rumble through the valley, which sounded eerily like maniacal laughter. He was really going to have to do something about these hallucinations. He vowed to check on it...later. Right now, he was primed for battle.
Katrina, Camille and Floyd surrounded him, holding him back, and preventing him from running away.
He had a look in his eyes bordering on madness. “THIS ISN’T OVER!”
When the skies returned to a cloudless, clear blue an hour later, Katrina, Camille and Floyd opened the doors to the Rec Center, and found about five hundred people huddled on the floor in the lobby, in the adjoining rooms, on the upstairs balcony, and in the upstairs rooms. There was no basement.
They opened all of the outside doors. Opened them wide, in order to let the sunshine in and let the town know the danger had gone, at least for the moment. They informed everyone that it was getting late, and suggested they should all just go home and rest. The next day would come, and they and the fair would endure. Life must go on.
Centerville Mayor Thomas Bradford confronted the three of them. “Weren’t there four of you? What happened to your friend? We didn’t…lose him, did we?” he asked solemnly, the lump in his throat clearly showing.
Floyd hung his head and shook it with a slight grin. “Nothing of the sort, sir,” he assured. “We’re strong, healthy kids. You don’t get rid of us that easily.”
“Then where is he? What is he doing? When will he return?”
“He’ll be back soon,” said Camille. “He went to—.” She instantly realized that it may not be the wisest choice of words to speak. She wasn’t sure if their first assignment was the right time to reveal themselves. But, then again, she knew that no time would be the right time, for it would always be as much of a shock as any other moment. And it was no use holding back the truth from the world forever. Besides, she had already begun by foolishly opening her mouth. The secret had broken free of its prison, and was peering around the corner to see if it was safe to make a run to freedom. “He went to take care of that tornado for you. He’ll be back.”
Mrs. Sanchez stepped forward. “Seriously,” she quipped, “where is he?”
Katrina said, with a straight face, “She just told you. He went to kill the tornado. We’re a special breed of storm rangers.”
The young gentleman who was freed from the wooden board collapse exclaimed, “See? I told you there was something odd about them.” He cast a wide, sarcastic grin. “Pretty monsters in human form. I got dibs for the one on the right.”
Camille cast him a challenging look. I don’t think so, mortal.
Mayor Bradford confronted the youngster. “I think now would be a very good time for you to keep quiet, son. Those storms out there are the real monsters!” he cried, with an outstretched arm, his finger pointing to the horizon. “Whatever or whoever these kids are...they saved us. They saved our town. We are all alive at this moment cause they kept us safe in here,” he motioned to the crowd.
He focused his attention on the three saviors. “Thank you, thank you, whoever you are. Are you new in town? Where are your parents? Do you live in Centerville?”
“No,” answered Floyd. “We’re not from this area.”
“What brings you around?”
“We were just doing our j—we just wanted to see the fair, that’s all.”
“Nice save, angel boy,” whispered Camille.
“Well, you’re welcome here anytime. Won’t you please stay awhile?”
“Thanks, but we have to go,” said Katrina.
A girl of about ten in a red and white striped cap asked, “Will we ever see you again?”
Katrina knelt down to the girl, at eye level, and handed her a lone daffodil that she plucked from the ground at the girl’s feet. “As sure as there is a heaven above, yes. We will return one day,” she replied, with a smile that made the youngster’s day so bright, it was as if a storm had never come.
Katrina retreated to join Camille and Floyd.
Heaven, the striped-hat girl thought. She placed her hands on top of her head and cried out with glee for all to hear. “They’re...they’re gods! They’ve come to save the world! After all this time, we have our salvation!”
The three heroes smiled at the crowd, and the people of the town were lost in a trance for a few moments. When they awoke, their saviors were gone. A slight breeze rippled across the field. The girl in the striped hat stared at the daffodil. Instead of the flower blowing away in the early evening twilight, it shone with a glow.
The old man in black jeans and white sweatshirt sat on the curb, with his head in his hands, and refused to wipe away his tears. Maybe if the remnants of the winds of change could look inside his broken soul, they’d have at least an ounce of remorse, and vow never again to destroy. But it was futile. He knew there was no way to undo what had been done. There was nothing anyone could do, as he was sure they were all going through the same ordeal. He pictured his neighbors picking through the ruins of what was once their homes and shops, salvaging what were now only memories of their once lively town. He brushed away a pesky fly tickling his face.
He could overhear William down the street spewing his curses as he picked through the trash of his partially still-standing apartment building. Willie the Whippersnapper, he called him. On the one hand, he was glad he and his friends could no longer annoy everyone with ‘that infernal racket.’ But, at the same time, he felt bad for the young man because, like everyone else, he had nothing left.
“Damn it! Damn it, where is it?” the old timer heard the kid complain. “That stupid storm better not have ruined my guitar!”
He heard the Tucker family next door, discussing what was worth saving as they picked through the wreckage. Their three young children ambled about, shrieking cries of fun and joy, as if they had stumbled upon some grand new carnival or fair. Little did they realize that a real fair was but two miles away. The old man thought about the majority of the town’s residents, who were probably embroiled in amusement when the storm hit, and had most likely rode it out in the Rec Center building, which served as a shelter.
He thought about what things would be like for them when they returned to town. He thought about if insurance would cover the losses. He thought about where his next meal would come from. He thought about all of it, and a million other things.
He admits, he was always a worrier. This play running through his mind was interrupted by what he thought was a buzzing sound. It was not a fly pestering him, after all. The sound faded after a time; he realized it was simply a glider passing overhead. And the strange sensation he tried to wipe from his cheek was his own mere tears.
Then why was he touching flesh not his own? And why did he suddenly seem to have grown an extra finger? His mind paused just long enough coming out of its trance to sense the apparition hovering near like a fog. Only this apparition had a voice! A female voice? He thought mirages only existed in the desert. Could the storm have blown him into arid wastelands?
Then, as he came around, his vision clearer, he could see the face peering down at him. The face matched the voice. It indeed was female. A young voice.
“Excuse me, sir…?”
And it wasn’t alone. And neither were the faces.
“Sir, are you alright?”
The gentleman was fully awake and aware now, confronted by three youths. At first, he thought they might be there to cause some trouble, cause they were the same age as Willie. But their expressions were clearly filled with compassion.
A young lady of about eighteen, with straight blonde hair and a porcelain face gently took hold of the man’s arm and helped him stand up. It didn’t take long for him to do a 360-degree turn and get a better look at his surroundings. He could just as well have been surveying the results of an attack during wartime. His hands trembled slightly at the same time they tried to reach out to her...for comfort...for anything to hold on to...for he had nothing left.
His tears welled up. “S-Sam’s world is gone,” he cried. “I spent a lifetime building up treasures and existing peacefully with Nature. I never did anything to hurt her, and she came suddenly and destroyed me. For no reason. I didn’t get a chance to save anything. I didn’t even get a chance to protest. She’s...she’s evil. Don’t trust her. Don't…” At that point he broke down, into the arms of the girl.
“I know. I know Sam is hurting. But Katrina is here to cry to. And to tell you it’s all over, and you will be alright.”
A small crowd had started to gather. Willie was there, as well as the Tucker family. Other families and individuals soon joined in from down the road and nearby side streets. Everyone had lost something. But it seemed like Sam was hit the hardest. Indeed, unlike the others, his home was wholeheartedly annihilated.
Perhaps Sam was taking it hardest because he lived alone as an old man, with no one to really lean to, and had lost everything accumulated from a full life—then it was taken from him by violent force. And he felt anger and jealousy at the fact that everyone else was younger, had loved ones to turn to, and had a chance to rebuild.
Maybe the general relations he had with his neighbors over the years would have gone smoother if he had maintained a more pleasant demeanor. Alas, he was often filled with a brash temperament and not the kindest word of affection whenever the opportunity arose. He often complained that the world did not treat him as he felt he deserved, and he often lashed out at perceived injustice.
But now, Willie’s and the others’ hearts were not filled with condemnation, but empathy. They looked past his bitterness, straight into his spirit. And they found pure humanity. They were ready to forgive. All feelings of animosity disappeared in an embrace. In a moment, Sam and Katrina found themselves in the middle of a bear-hug sandwich, as Camille and Floyd looked on, eager for a piece of the action.
Only the wind heard Camille sigh. “Yes,” she said, “the big, bad storm is all gone, and everything will be better now.” She put her arm around a young mother, while offering to hold a basket of clothes. The woman was struggling with a fidgety two-year-old in her other arm.
Katrina took a more focused gaze at the destruction around her. She faced her left, then her right, then behind her before twirling back. “My God,” she muttered under her breath, while looking at Camille and Floyd. She did not want the townsfolk to hear her, for they did not need the stress of further confirmation that their world had just been shattered. “Lord Almighty, Sam was right. This wasn’t just a storm. Evil did this. Pure evil from the angry skies came to visit. It’s been happening since even before recorded time began. And no one has been able to stop it—or explain it. Everyone is just a victim. Something must finally be done!”
“You see, this is why we were sent,” said Camille. We are their redemption. Andrew was right. That…thing…must be dealt with. This cannot go unpunished!”
“Don’t worry,” said Floyd. “Andrew will take care of this. Andrew will put a stop to this. Andrew will—.” Floyd stopped just long enough to look about him for a moment. His two female colleagues knew exactly what he was thinking. He continued, “Where’s Andrew?”
And speaking of our Andrew, he was on the far side of town, past the hills, looking adamantly for the twister he vowed to destroy. He glided into the air and rested on a cloud, letting it take him on a journey into distant lands, where he could get a better view—of the skies, and the destruction left below. He let out a sigh as a tear began to fall. He didn’t wipe it away, for he thought it was mist from the cloud, and he wanted to blend in with his element.
He finally spotted it, or another one of them—trying to form—perhaps to destroy another nearby community. Andrew told himself he was going to be damned if he’d let another one get away. Another city is about to be devastated? I don’t think so!
“What do you think you’re doing? Huh? You don’t come here, with your big, bad self, tear up my world, and run away!” Andrew shouted to the sky, without a human soul around to hear him for miles. The wind in the funnel swirled faster and faster, and the cloud turned darker and darker. Andrew was determined to put an end to this thing, once and for all. He didn’t care that he’d risk being killed in the process, for that couldn’t really happen; he was already an angel.
The wind was picking up, violently. Andrew was tossed about a few times, but he concentrated on staying afloat. His own power over the wind helped him with that.
And then something seemingly magical happened.
Andrew’s power over the wind, he realized, gave him the strength to overtake the wind of the cloud. With every gust that was thrown at him, he fought back with a thrust of his own. The twister tried, repeatedly, to knock him down and rid itself of the last remaining obstacle in its quest to wipe away another town. And failed at every attempt. Andrew threw his own force of wind straight at the cloud, and ripped shreds down its face. He could literally hear shrieking as he tore it to pieces. Crack after crack he tossed at the thing, until it was shattered into nothingness. Gradually, the skies turned blue, and the tornado was no more.
But spending all this energy apparently took its toll on Andrew. He was out of breath…and out of luck.
They finally spotted him. Floyd and the girls rushed across a broad field, followed by a large crowd of the town’s people. The scene took on the look of a bunch of kids being chased by an angry mob—for starting a storm, instead of trying to stop it—if it were viewed by an onlooker.
Floyd slowed his run as he looked about him. “I could have sworn I heard his scream come from exactly this direction. I have excellent hearing, and I hardly ever miss a beat.” Even though Floyd’s ears gave him no trouble, he forgot to check his eyes.
Before anyone knew it, they saw Andrew falling…
…straight from the sky, and landed face down on the ground, one hundred yards in front of them. Floyd thought about how the crowd in the city must have reacted when he collapsed near his building, just before he succumbed.
“Andy, Andy, are you alright?” asked Katrina, over and over again.
Mayor Bradford pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “Hey, kid,” he said. “What’s up? Are you hurt? Please tell me you’re not hurt!”
“I’m fine, I said I’m fine. Will everyone please back off?" Andrew picked himself up, and sat Indian-style in the grass. He sat, watching the valley from the plateau they were all on.
Katrina asked, “Andrew….? Honey, what are you looking at? What’s going on? And more importantly, where were you? What did you think you were going to do…?”
“It’s all over,” he replied. “It’s all over, including the shouting.” He stood up. “I took care of the storm. I taught him and his friends a lesson, and told them never to come back. This town will never be bothered by one of those demons, ever again.”
“What do you mean, ’you taught it a lesson’?” asked Camille.
“I destroyed it. Plain and simple.”
“You destroyed…a funnel cloud?” asked Floyd. “Look, I know this was our first assignment, but..."
“You heard me correctly. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know myself. But I used my power over the wind. I punched holes in the thing. I hurt it real bad. I could actually hear cries of agony from the skies. I destroyed it, and sent a warning. I told the menacing clouds that if they ever show their ugly faces around here again, they will deal with me once more, in exactly the same manner. I told them I will give them more of that treatment. And I will.
“I was killed, as a human, in this town, by one of them. This is more than a personal crusade. I will be watching over this town. That is all I have to say.”
Mayor Bradford walked right up to Andrew. “What do you mean, ’you destroyed it’?” he asked. “What does your friend mean, ‘your first assignment’? What are you? You’re a kid! How can you…how can anyone…destroy a tornado? Will you please be a little more clear and tell me, son? Cause I’d sure love to know. I’ve got lots and lots of time.”
“Yeah, I’d like to know, too,” said a gentleman in a gray, tweed sports coat, flashing an open business card holder, with identification.
“That’s them,” the kid who was rescued from the wooden planks told him, and who had apparently made a call and turned the heroes in, whispered to him, as he pointed to the small group of four souls gathered together, as if being sentenced to a lynching by the town mob who thought they had brought a storm.
But this storm was of a different sort, and was about to get much worse. The gentleman offered a sincere smile. “Hello,” he offered. “I don’t mean you any harm. I was just wondering if I could ask you kids a few questions. I’m Tom Canarelli. I’m with the New York Times.”
Storm Chasers: Guilty as Charged
Camille feels tremendous guilt over not being able to save a snowbound family from their mountaintop cabin.
It was 5 AM in the all-night diner, and the kitchen was busy with dinner and breakfast orders. The late night truckers and bored tourists passing through hadn’t had enough of entertaining themselves—and apparently, the rest of the place—with their drunk, loud and rowdy behavior. Several staff had to come over to ask them to quiet down, on more than one occasion.
Katrina and her team of storm tamers were sitting in a booth in the rear of the café, nursing ice cream sundaes. Their waitress gave them an odd look when she came over. Ice cream seems like a strange choice when it’s forty degrees outside. The first big snowstorm of the season was on its way, and Camille wondered what she was going to do.
“That last assignment was a real doozy, if you ask me,” said Andrew, licking off fudge sauce from a spoon.
“That was nothing,” responded Floyd. “Remember, in our training in heaven, we saved entire worlds. Something tells me there’s a reason for that. We may very well face it, here on Earth. Our mentors want us to be prepared for anything that comes our way. And don’t forget, they will help us if needed. That drain of energy you felt was probably just you being overwhelmed by your perceived pressure of your first job. Maybe another one of your hallucinations."
Andrew shot Floyd an ice glare, similar to the one he gave for admiring Mrs. Sanchez. Katrina smirked at the two ‘adolescents’ having it out.
Camille, however, was lost in another world. She was busy being captivated by a six-year-old girl and her doll. The youngster was sitting with her older brother and parents, and finishing off a place of French Fries. Camille had a hundred questions. Is she having a good time? Does she live nearby? What is she going to do with the rest of her winter vacation? What is her doll’s name?
Camille looked up and saw a scowl on the father’s face. What do you want? Why don’t you mind your own business, young lady? Stick with your friends over there—he motioned with a nod—the young punks, I’m sure. But his wife silenced him with a look of her own.
“Leave her alone, honey. The girl doesn’t mean any harm, she’s just being friendly.”
“I’m really sorry,” Katrina told the woman. “She didn’t mean to bother you…right?” Katrina bore into Camille. “She has some growing up to do today.”
The married man who scolded Camille eased up on his stance. “I’m sorry, too,” he said. “It was an awkward moment; it’s passed.”
“Maybe we’ll see you around,” said the wife, leading her family on the way out. “If you’re nearby, we’re at that resort down the road—Skyhawk Ranch. I’m Marsha Littleton,” she said, offering Camille a handshake. Camille took it gingerly. Now it was the woman’s turn to be nosy.
Her husband reversed his position again. “Marsha, stop it! You don’t know these people. What if they’re deranged killers?”
Andrew looked on in disgust as he led his own group away. “Let’s just go guys, okay?”
“Okay, fine, we’ll be going. But you, sir,” Camille berated the gentleman, “should take a lesson in humanity. Not everyone has evil intentions, you know.”
Camille then rejoined her gang. The twelve-year-old came up from behind and gently took her hand. “Hey,” he said, “you’ll have to excuse my dad. He means well, but sometimes…he can be a bit harsh.”
“It’s okay, I understand. He’s just looking out for his family.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Then a short pause, as he stared longingly into her eyes.
He continued, with a sly smile, “You know, I’ll be eighteen in only six years. Wait for me. I’ll look ya up, doll.”
Camille was flattered, at first—for a second. Then she felt violated, just as strongly. She remembered, not too long ago, a young man, closer to her age, made a comment about ‘pretty monsters’. And she felt just as turned off. It wasn’t that she didn’t have an interest in guys; in fact, completely the opposite. It’s just that she found most of them driven by their hormones, when she’d rather them be ruled by their heads and hearts.
“I’m sorry,” the little girl said. “Please forgive my brother. He’s a walking horn dog.”
“I understand that, too,” Camille replied, with a wide smile. “Either way, like your Mom said, maybe we’ll run into each other again.
And once again, sir,” she said to the man, “people are not all bad. We’re not deranged killers. We’re just average kids." Perhaps a little more than average. "We’re actually very nice. Maybe you’ll see heroes in us one day. If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll be there to save you.”
Camille didn’t know how badly she would come to regret those words. When they didn’t hold true, she was destined to break down over them.
The kids bundled up as they walked out of the restaurant.
“Let’s go to the Skyhawk Ranch,” said Camille.
“Oh, honey, will you let it go?” complained Katrina. “You’re not going to accomplish anything more. The man is very overprotective, and you’re not going to change him.”
“What are you talking about? Oh, that…no, I’ve forgotten about that. I just want to see the ranch, that’s all. It sounds like a cool place to hang out. Besides, the woman said we were welcome. And I want to see people skiing. I want to see people full of life and having fun, cause I didn’t get a chance to.”
“Well, okay,” surrendered Andrew. “But if we run into the guy again, promise me you won’t start any more trouble.”
“If he does, can I melt a giant snowball all over him and get him wet?” Floyd wanted to know.
The winter resort of Skyhawk Ranch was like the typical myriad of all the others in the Utah mountains; packed with vacationers and natives alike every November through April, enjoying nature’s majesty. Camille knew all about the scene she was in. Born and raised in Colorado, it was hard to tell where the border lay between two states so much like brothers.
The wind was already starting to mildly blow in when the kids arrived at the main lodge. The very first thing Camille did was go up to the front desk to inquire as to the whereabouts of her new friends, the Littleton’s. She knew she was already on friendly terms with the mother and daughter, which was quite understandable; many breeds of the feline species often quickly form bonds. She wanted to make amends with the head of the family, whom she felt just didn’t like her very much, for some reason. And the son…well, she only had to hide from him for another six years.
She learned the location of their cabin, and wanted to make it there for another visit before she missed them. They could very well have gone back out into town again today, since there wasn’t much to do on the slopes after hearing the discouraging news: the storm which was forecast to blow through the area had decided to take a sharp turn North and miss its mark. Everyone was disappointed, but didn’t have long to wait, for another was right behind, and would settle in by the end of the week.
Camille rejoined her friends, saying she also wanted to see the town. And that they may very well just bump into the Littleton clan. She wanted to invite them to have dinner with them and the other kids, and perhaps even think of what else to do before they received the dusting of powder from the new, upcoming snowfall.
Friday came and went quickly—for the residents of Skyhawk Ranch. However, the day moved slowly for the benefit of the storm, which grew stronger as it moved in closer for the kill. Or rather…storms; plural. It seems the earlier one was still out there, building, and had abruptly turned southward again. Just in time to collide with the new one—and all pumped up to form one massive super storm!
But the good people of the town of Skyhawk and the surrounding communities had little to no notice of the impending disaster, for as it inched closer, it gradually knocked out power to the region.
And the Littleton’s were vacationing at Skyhawk!
It was just after seven on Saturday morning when Camille bolted upright on her cot, then shot fully awake like a rocket and roused the others. “C’mon, guys. Get up! Up, up! I wanna have breakfast with the Littleton’s.”
“Oh, Camille,” Andrew rehashed for the umpteenth time, “what has gotten into you? Why don’t you leave these nice people alone? When they’re gone, that’s it! It’s over! Do you understand?”
“Sure I understand. Why do you think I’m doing this? I’m an angel, so I wanna make friends here whenever I can. Now, do you understand?”
Katrina felt a grin start to grow. “C’mon, guys, ease up. She’s just being cordial. I think it’s a noble gesture. Let her have fun with her new friends.”
“Okay, we’ll humor her,” Floyd said. “But the moment she changes her last name to Littleton, I’m calling for help.”
Camille led the others, excitedly, down the short embankment to the main lodge. She wanted to check the bulletin board to see what and where the day’s special events were. Then she trampled down to the Littleton’s, shouting back at the others with glee. Being dead and an angel, Camille sure was full of zest and life.
Camille hardly took note of her immediate surroundings upon entering the lodge, and then again when she went outside.
“Uh, Cam,” said Andrew, “don’t you find anything unusual around here?”
“It’s almost 7:30 in the morning, and even so, there’s almost no one around. Not in the lodge…not on the slopes.” One man and woman were scorching themselves by the fireplace, their arms wrapped tightly around themselves.
“Maybe they’re in their cabins, getting ready for the day.”
“Or maybe they’re in their cabins, hunkering down, trying to stay warm,” came a voice from behind them. It was the morning desk clerk. “That big storm came back last night, and got nastier. We only just received word of it early this morning. I only hope no one’s heat went out. I’d hate for anyone to have caught their deaths.” Careful, mister. You don’t want to be too prophetic.
“Don’t anyone worry,” reassured Cammy. “I know everything’s alright. Come on, people,” she said to her group, “Let’s just go get the Littleton’s and their children, and then we’ll plan our day.”
The angels ran down the snow-covered slope of the mountain so quickly, if was almost as if they were flying…because they were—after all—angels.
Camille rapped on the door. “Steven…Marsha…it’s me, Camille. Are you in there? We came to take you to breakfast, and then we’ll have another fun-filled day. What do you say?” She opened the door a crack.
“Guys?” She found the family in their cabin, still fast asleep.
Floyd commented, “It looks like they slept right through the storm, and even their alarm clocks. They missed all the fun.”
“Oh, don’t be silly. There’s still lots of fun left. Hey, Steven, wake up.” She gave the body of Steven Littleton a shove in an attempt to awaken him.
She was surprised at how cold he was, despite the temperature. And stiff.
“Now that we’re on good terms again, I want to spend the day with you and your family. C‘mon, it‘ll be fun.”
As she quickly surveyed the room and watched the family still ‘sleeping’, Katrina’s mind began to race. “What did the clerk at the lodge say?” she asked of Floyd. “Didn’t he say a big storm came through…and he wasn’t sure if everyone had adequate heat?”
“Something like that.” Floyd suddenly felt colder than the room.
“Check the generator over there,” Katrina told Andrew.
“Dead,” he said, after a few moments. “Just like…” He could barely swallow the lump in his throat.
“Hey, guys…” piped up a formerly quiet Camille, “…what’s going on?”
Katrina walked over and felt the face of Marsha Littleton. It did not feel right. It did not feel alive.
She turned, slowly, and faced her colleague. “Oh, Camille, I…I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, what’s up?…look—I know what you’re trying to say, but it’s not going to work. They’re just…they’re sleeping. They’ll wake up any second now.” She walked over to the children. “Hey, Alex. Hey, Marcy. Get up. It’s time to play.”
Camille began to shudder. Her whole body shook for a second.
“C’mon, guys…don’t you do this to me!” she shouted. Now the walls of the cabin shook, as well.
Andrew, Katrina and Floyd slowly circled Camille in case she needed a soul to throw her arms around, but not so restricting in case she wanted to bolt to a corner and sob.
“Camille,” said Andrew, “I’m so sorry. We were too late.”
“No…NO!!” she cried, with her fists raised in the air, ready to smash anything to release the vengeance. Camille’s voice was enough to make birds in the trees in the surrounding countryside fly away. Silently, she cursed the fate that allowed them to live while stealing innocent youth.
It was eventually Andrew that Camille ran to. All she kept repeating was to ask ‘why’. “What did I do to deserve this? They were my friends. I just wanted to love them. I only wanted to love them.”
A violent rage burned in Camille. It was part shame and guilt at not being around to save her new friends; another part filled her with the unfairness of it all. All in one motion, she released her grip from Andrew and bolted out of there like a shot from a cannon. Camille ran down the snowy mountainside like she had never before run a marathon, crying out all the way.
“Ah! Nooo!” She tripped over twigs and stones along the way, and was afraid she’d get caught up in another avalanche. Once as alive; once as not.
Andrew and the others chased after her. They did not want her to stray too far and become lost in unfamiliar wilderness. But Camille wanted to get lost. A large part of her felt that her only just punishment was self-imposed exile. Eventually, they did lose track of her, though they never gave up their search. Minute after minute, hour after hour, they looked for their friend. Just when they thought all hope was lost (and they thought they’d have to ask their heavenly mentors for help), they finally found her.
Camille ran so hard, so fast and so far until she could run no more. They located her at the bottom of a snow bank, at the edge of a field, mumbling to herself and sobbing her little heart out. She was so lost in herself, and in the moment, that they were feared any sudden motion would startle her into running off again.
They each slowly came upon her in a circular pattern, coming closer…closer. Andrew was exactly two feet behind her when he whispered her name so softly, he thought the sound of his own voice might have been the wind itself.
Camille’s tears abated and she looked up, slowly. Then behind her. When she saw Andrew—and then the others—come upon her, she just about completely lost it. She began to sob all over again, this time not so much over the incident, but rather relief that her friends had found her after searching all day long. It was almost dusk. She fell into his arms.
“I blew it! I blew it!” she cried, as Katrina and Floyd surrounded them in one giant bear hug. “I failed at my job! I blew it big time!”
“No, honey,” consoled Katrina. “You didn’t blow it. It couldn’t be helped. You couldn’t have known.”
“Yes, I could. I’m an angel. I’m from the heavens. I should have known what was happening. I slept right through it. I stood there and did nothing while people died.” She began to shudder again.
“I didn’t do my job. I should be taken back.” She stood up and distanced herself from her friends, in a barren spot in the middle of the field. “I failed!” she shouted to the sky. “Take me back! Do you hear? TAKE ME BACK!!”
The kids ran to her and wrapped themselves around her again. Andrew looked her squarely in the eye, as he grabbed her shoulders. He wanted her full attention.
“Camille! Camille, look at me!” Her eyes alternated between terror and mournfulness. She began to turn away. “Oh, no, you don’t! You’re not going anywhere! Camille…sweetheart…it happened. Something happened, okay? And trust me, you couldn’t help it. It’s over…but you’re not. You’re still here with us. And we love you. We are not going to let you do this to yourself! It’s okay. You will save many others!”
Camille’s guardian angel appeared as an image before her and scolded her. “Camille, listen to your friends. They speak the truth. What’s done is done. You are going to have to accept that you can’t save everyone. The ones you do rescue will count, but this will not weigh against you. I know you are feeling bad, but do not let it harden your heart. There is nothing you could have done. It is something that happened. It is okay, and you must move on.”
“Where are they now? Bring them back. Please…take me instead and bring them baaack!” she wailed, with the tears in her eyes nearly clouding her entire field of vision.
“I am sorry, my dear Camille. I cannot undo what has been done. Please just go on with the remainder of your angel’s assignment. You are not loved any less. I will be here if you need me. Take care, my child.'”
Then the apparition disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Camille stood there for several more moments, and just cried. Cried until her angel tears crystallized upon her face. She remembered the words of her mentor: There is nothing you could have done. It is something that happened. Deep inside, she knew the meaning was clear: DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN!
The three kids came up from behind their sibling. Katrina put her arms around her in a tight squeeze. “It’s okay, honey,” she said. “It’s okay.”
Camille was relaxing by a campfire with the others, but really just wanted to be alone. Alone with her thoughts…and her guilt. If only she could figure out a way to make things right again, she would gladly love to go back in time and stop the tragedy from occurring. She focused on this obsession, it seemed, until she could think of little else. It seemed like the only logical solution. But what was she told by her mentors in heaven? Even we cannot turn back the hands of time.
She bit a piece of toasty, gooey marshmallow from a stick as she thought about the believability of the statement. Scientists have debated the concept of time travel for years. And even so, being an angel, surely she had higher capabilities than man. Heck, Andrew single-handedly destroyed a tornado! So, some things were not beyond reason.
Katrina reached out to her. “Are you alright, kiddo?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess,” she answered. “It all just seems so unfair, that's all."
“I know, honey. We all know. But it happens to everyone. What occurred is not new.”
“Hey, where are the bodies? I want to pay my last respects.”
“I think officials at the resort took care of that,” said Andrew. “They created a provisional cemetery, and maybe family came to say goodbye.”
“Well, I’m going to, as well. I figure it’s the least I could do, after all that’s happened.”
“You don’t have to, you know, but if it’ll make you feel better…” said Floyd.
An hour later, Camille was in a barren field, empty save for a few scattered brushes that hadn’t yet completely been uprooted by the fierce winter winds. And a collection of rocks that she knew were too roughly square to be anything natural. As she got closer, she saw that it was a collection of makeshift headstones, which apparently had been placed there most recently. Each one gave a short epitaph of its bearer beneath the ground, along with the date—December 22, by taped-on paper; members of a young family who had surrendered to those same winds.
And behind those stones, larger than the rest, in the exact center, was a large boulder set in the ground. A slab of cardboard was glued to it, giving the details of the family as a whole, and who they had left behind. In black marker, it read:
HERE LIES THE LITTLETON FAMILY
STEVEN, MARSHA, ALEX, MARCY
THEY ONLY HAD ONE ANOTHER
AND A COLD WINTER WORLD
SURVIVED BY SEVERAL WARM HEARTS
PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, DOG SKIP
AND NEW FRIEND CAMILLE
When Camille spotted the last line, she broke down and cried again, from joy and gratitude, not from sadness. She was surprised and pleased that she was considered a part of the family, not by the family themselves, but by the courteous caretakers who had remembered her.
She said a silent prayer.
“Hey, guys, it’s me, Cammykins. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to toss a whole world full of anger my way. I have a universe of guilt on my shoulders as it is. I blew it big time, didn’t I? I had a chance to save you and I didn’t. And now you’re gone and I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. Can you ever forgive me? Will you?
“I suppose now would be an okay time to tell you a little something about myself. I’m not exactly who you think I am. I’m an angel…returned to Earth, and given the assignment to help others. But I failed with you. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I wish I could bring you back. I wish I could go back to yesterday and…”
Cross the International Date Line…
Fly across the world…
“…warn you somehow. Stop it from happening and save you.”
Can I really do that…?
Before she knew what she was doing, Camille was in the air. She let the cold winter air carry her across the field and beyond…to forests ...over mountains, streams and dreams. She flew clockwise, across the vastness of Utah, Nevada and California, which took all but the remainder of the evening. She went faster and faster, barely stopping to even breathe. Careening past the coast, right over the Pacific Ocean she went.
As she saw Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, she abruptly turned in a more Northwesterly direction; she wanted to be closer to the Arctic region in order to make her task go more quickly.
It was just after midnight when she crossed the dividing line between yesterday and today. But since it was after midnight, she wound up right back at the day from which she started. She still had another whole day to go! She was not about to let the laws of physics stop her from completing her goal.
Camille finished her trek across the Pacific, then fled into the skies across Asia, Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, and then finally she hit New York City and the beginning of the U.S. mainland. Across the Appalachians, past Chicago, the Plains, and then into her home state of Colorado.
She resisted the urge to drop to the ground for a visit to all and whoever was familiar, for she still had a job to do.
She finally made it back into Utah, but because she was at the day she started, she needed to go around again to get back to yesterday. Cam vowed to complete this self-imposed assignment as quickly as possible, so she sped up. She flew so fast, that a few times she felt the friction of the Earth’s turn move against her. She did not want to burn up in the atmosphere; she willed herself to stay intact.
Eventually she crossed into Utah again, and began her descent when she was right over Skyhawk. She stormed into the nearest General Store and picked up a newspaper. She looked for the date. It read December 21. Camille didn’t know how long she had to save the Littleton’s, but knew that every second delay was a second too long.
She barged into their cabin, startling them awake. All of the mistrust and animosity that Steven Littleton had had for Camille in the beginning seemed to rise to the surface again upon this sudden intrusion.
“What the hell is going on here? Hey, Camille, is that you? What’s the big idea?”
“There’s no time to argue or explain. I want all of you to get out of here right now, and go hide out in the main lodge. There’s a huge storm coming, and you may not have enough heat to stay warm. I don’t want you to freeze to death.”
“Wait, how do you know about this? You can’t just barge in here on our family and—” barked Marsha.
“I said I don’t have time to explain. Don’t ask me how I know; I just do. Go to the lodge and stay warm for the night. Sleep in front of the fireplace if you have to. Please, just go, now.”
Satisfied with having successfully completed her task, Camille aimed to rejoin her flock—in the present day, rather than “fly” back into tomorrow. She wanted to stick around with the Littleton’s, in case Plan A did not work. She simply aimed to lie low for the next twenty-four hours.
Well, as it turned out, Plan A worked perfectly. Camille had a chance to actually GO BACK IN TIME to warn the Littleton family, and preserve their existence from that point on. She told herself that it was the least she could do, with all the trouble she caused.
Now they were alive again (or rather, it was like nothing had happened at all), and Camille could go ahead and be friends with them for a long time to come. It looked like it was going to be a Merry Christmas, after all.
There was just one…little…problem.
When Camille rejoined her friends at the end of the day, she was faced with three angry angels. “Where have you been?” Andrew demanded to know.
“I told you, I went into town to see the sights.”
“Oh, really? And you had no contact with the Littleton’s
“No, I haven’t seen them. Are they alright?”
“Interesting choice of words. Cause they certainly have seen you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know very well what we mean,” scolded Katrina. “What are the Littleton’s doing alive?”
“Wha—because…because I did it! Alright? It was me! I HAD TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT AGAIN!!"
“Camille, you should not have—!” shouted Floyd.
“I do not care! I don’t care what the rules say! I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself! I know that’s an interesting choice of words, too. Angels aren’t really living. But you know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Camille,” said Katrina, "death is supposed to be final. You know that. We have already discussed this. You broke the rules, and could have jeopardized the assignment. For all of us."
“Yeah, I know…listen, you don’t know what I was going through. What was eating me up inside. I had to do something. It was so unfair, like I said earlier. Plus, if you remember, it was all…my…fault!"
“No, it wasn’t, honey,” Katrina told her. “We told you, it was simply a mistake. There was no way anyone could have known about the storm. All the power was out, remember?”
“Look, everyone just calm down, okay?” said Andrew. “What’s done is done. And we have to keep quiet about this. If our guardian angels find out about this…”
“I’m sure they already know.” said Floyd.
“Well, if they don’t say anything…we don’t say anything. Does everyone understand?”
The gang nodded their heads simultaneously.
“And there’s something else, too. Camille, you’re not going to like this—at all.”
“What is it?” she asked, with a strain in her voice.
“When the Littleton’s died originally, there was most likely a story about it in the local paper; maybe even an obituary. And now that they’re back, there’s going to be another one about that, if it hasn’t been printed already. Those two items are going to conflict with one another. Sooner or later, someone is going to recall you being with them, and begin asking questions. Do you all see what I am getting at?”
“I don’t see your point,” said Camille.
“In order to keep our secret safe, there cannot be any connection tying you to the Littleton family. You must disappear from their lives, here and now.”
“Andrew—no!” Tears began to well up in Camille’s eyes once again.
“I am sorry, Camille. It is good, I suppose, that you brought them back, but as a natural consequence, to protect ourselves, you can never see them again.”
“Can’t I even say goodbye?”
“No, I’m sorry. Forget about them. We are in the Angel Protection Program."
Camille walked over and leaned against a tree, her stinging tears stripping the bark away.
“I think it would be a very good idea if we all just left this area,” said Andrew. “Now.”
The four souls from the heavens took to the skies, ready to see what adventures lay ahead.
Camille had something to say to each one of her friends, which she left behind, never to lay her eyes on again.
“Marsha, you’re a wonderful person. Take good care of your family.
Marcy, you’ll be a fine young lady. Your eyes sparkle. Don’t lose your doll. Steven, I know deep inside you don’t have a hardened heart. Please try to see the good in the world. And Alex, you are going to make some girl very happy one day. I only hope you find someone to admire who is just like me.”