II. The Morning After

This is part II, so be sure to check out I. Storm first

 

Morning. Got home, I guess. Queasy. Headache. So dry.

Six empty tall cans, scattered around the computer desk. Yup.

It’s still raining outside, but just a normal, gray rain, not like whatever that was last night.

Shit, what was that? I was hurt, but I when I check my scalp, all seems good. Hamper check, one sodden yellow linen shirt, no trace of blood.

Huh. Nightmare, I guess. There are crumpled up sheets of printer paper on the floor, and it seems I pulled the feed tray out. No idea where I decided to put it.

Crusty brown patch on the keyboard, on the desk. Blood. But from where?

The rain is really starting to pound down outside. I wonder how high the river’s gotten? About five years ago, after a night-long torrential downpour, what’s normally a meandering little ankle deep creek swelled and rose most of the way to the top of its concrete chute. Lonely Planet says that there are an estimated three rivers in the whole country that haven’t been locked in and channeled by a nation that, all protests to the contrary, hates and fears nature more than anything else. Take the train through the mountains and see the great concrete cliffs that have been installed in the midst of the monoculture forests, miles from any road or habitation, in the name of landslide prevention.

Out my window, however, the land is green with rice fields. Every May, the farmers scrape them flat, then close the exit sluices and let the waters in. The fields turn to shallow ponds over the next few days, and the farmers head out, booted up, with squeegee planers in hand, to make sure that the mud beneath the surface is perfectly flat. I think the eggs must wait below the dirt or something, because the season of frogs is next, ribbiting merrily away, seeking the perfect mate. Wonder what makes a sexy ribbit? Whose grunting little croak gets the girls all foamy and ready to squirt? Are there guys out there who nothing but game, stunted seed leading to the next failed generation?

I’m parched. Six tall cans, and probably didn’t have any water before I went to bed. Need breakfast.

Ice. Banana. Protein powder. Spinach. Peanut butter. The blender sounds like it’s running inside my skull, shards of ice ripping through my frontal lobes, shredding the cerebellum where the lizards never died.

Enough.

As soon as it touches my tongue, I retch, spewing yellow green bile all over the wood-grain linoleum. What the hell? This shit has gone seriously off. I want to rinse my mouth, but the thought of anything in there brings on another set of spasms to my stomach.

So dry.

Best go for a walk. Cell phone has a really good camera, maybe I’ll go check the river. Last year, there was a landslide upstream, a hillside broke lose and covered the river pathway in about four inches of stinking muck. The rain hit even harder up in Kyoto, when I followed the creek down to the main river in town a day later, I could see that it had completely jumped its banks and risen two thirds of the way up the levee. What a sight that must have been, five hundred yards wide, sweeping away everything. The fence behind home plate was bent flat.

The disaster warning app on the phone has gone gray. Inoperative. Antenna icon Xed out.

Desktop internet down.

Must have been more than some ugly rain last night, but the green outside the window looks nice, and something tells me the rain would feel good on my skin. I grab my phone. My umbrella stays behind.

Still thirsty, but I was right, the rain feels good, seemingly soaking into my skin. The path through the fields is quieter; rain can be so loud smacking down on the griddle-pan landscape of asphalt and cement that the city secretes like a protective chitinous shell. Out here, the rain rustles on the rice, whispers on the water, caresses my skin like a mother her child.

Stones? Nuts? Black oblongs, making their way slowly out of the flooded paddies, hundreds of them, some sort of walnut sized snails. They weren’t here yesterday, I walk this path every morning, never seen anything like them. A neat line of them, on the concrete wall. I squat down, they’re moving, but every so slowly, heads sliding smoothly back and forth over the lip, leaving it polished and reduced where they’ve passed.

Grazing.

I reach down, cup my hand, drink from the pure natural water of the paddy. Sting of fertilizers and pesticides, but mostly washed away by the rain, I can feel the liquid soaking through my tissues, filling the parched matrix of muscle where the young await, melting their encysted eggs. Something in me wonders that I’m not alone, but the old man next to me has gone to his hands and knees, drinking the nectar directly from the pool below us.

The concrete wall of the paddy is almost gone now, we’re not needed here.

Our brothers within urge us on, antennae stroking the nerves, sliding, questing, out of the skin into the cool, humid air. The river, imprisoned in its concrete slot, lies waiting.

I. Storm

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.

But.

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

Just

Wouldn’t

Stop

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