Somewhat of a true story, at least at first. I was in Japan for the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and last year a typhoon came through. Not much damage locally, but nothing like any storm I’d ever experienced before. I hope you enjoy this, and come back for II. The Morning After
When the elevator doors opened, a gust of hot, oily wind whipped out of the shaft. The whole building was thrumming with the winds from the approaching typhoon, but from the open landing, the night skies still looked clear. Stepping into the carpet lined box, I pushed the button for the first floor, then the “close door” icon. The elevator bounced slightly as the doors slid shut.
And then opened again. The gusts coming down from the roof were getting stronger, I could hear the cables rattling against each other. Suddenly the stairs didn’t sound like such a bad option, but before I could do anything, the doors shut themselves again.
And then opened.
“Right, fuck this,” I muttered, stepping smartly back out to the landing. “Don’t need to sleep in here tonight.”
The stairs were really more of a concrete fire escape molded to the side of the building, with steel doors that would have served well for security had they had locks. Don’t know much about fluid dynamics, but what I do know is that the shape of the stairs and the angle of the wind was sending things all kinds of crazy. The air seemed to be battling with itself, nitrogen and oxygen and all those trace gases in a war of all against all, howling up and down the stairwell, and beyond that I could hear it starting to whistle through the power lines, now at eye level over the rail.
I’ve heard tornadoes before. They’re supposed to sound like freight trains, but never quite did to me. There’s something so much… more…about them than a mere few hundred tons of steel rolling through the countryside. This isn’t like that. There are a lot of treble notes coming off of things at ground level, a flute played by a madman whistling against the buildings and power poles. That’s normal here, the place may be called “Top of the Mountain”, but it should be “Top of the Windy Mountain”. The midrange, higher up in the atmosphere, is pretty common around here too. That’s what I had thought a strong wind sounded like. The local grocery store’s sign, three stories up on a pole, is visibly twisting, and I’m starting to wonder if being out here is such a good idea, but if this thing settles in and fucks us up, I don’t want to be out of beer. Priorities.
My ears pop.
There’s another sound, not deep, not the blast of the klaxon from War of the Worlds, but… My mind flashes back to 2011, burning houses ripped from their foundations being swept miles inland across roads and fields and rice paddies. After the first hit, the tsunami that destroyed northeast Japan wasn’t violent, it
The power of the whole Pacific Ocean brought to bear on one stretch of coast.
And the air tonight is the same, the depth of it, miles and miles to the edge of space, thousands of kilometers, passing Guam and the Marshalls and Hawaii and all the way to California and Oregon, the winds far above are scraping at the girders of the sky itself and what’s happening on the ground is just little breezes, toying with the litter on the streets, but the sound from above, like the punch in the gut of high explosives at a distance, this cannot be the mere movement of air on air, to stand in it wouldn’t be like getting hit by a truck, or a train, rather trying to force continental drift to reverse itself, subducted plates ratcheting backwards and re-emerging from their fiery graves. The sky rips its own belly open with nothing but a blade of air, spewing guts of hot rain, giant drops, drops that don’t splatter but crunch, something wrong, the liquid is sharp, in the glow of the streetlight I wipe my face and there’s blood on my hands, but it can’t be, it’s only rain, only rain. Rain, hot rain, slithering through my hair, the pain sets in, I can feel them crawling over my scalp, the raindrops, droplets that move down, and up, and in, tentacles burrowing into the skin, but never at my fingertips, never there, nor there, always just to the side, phantom stretches of scalp under attack while the blood streams down, down, thick and red it should be washed out and pink by the downpour but my shirt, save the sticky collar, is dry, like the streets are dry, like the world being blasted by the roaring winds from above is dry, dry, so dry.
I can feel droplets massing on my eyebrows. Soon, they’ll break free.
Continued next week in II. The Morning After