Storm by Joyce A. Anthony--an Excerpt
Topic: First Chapter
The wind whipped against the lighthouse, shaking it so fiercely that Sam could picture it toppling into the stormy sea. Waves pounded the rocks and halfway up the sides of the lighthouse-waves that were twice Sam's height. His thin frame tightened as he braced for each violent shake from the waves that fed hungrily on the wind. Sending a silent prayer skyward, Sam checked to make sure the light was still working. Weather like this could easily send an unfortunate ship spinning into the rocks, shattering it to mere splinters in seconds. The light continuously spun, sending its warning outward.
There's something different in this storm, Sam thought as he made his way to the lower level of the lighthouse. Another wave rattled the windows in the area Sam called home. "Yes, indeed," he mumbled out loud. "Something is definitely different."
Unable to sleep, Sam played solitaire and let his thoughts wander. He didn't mind being alone in the middle of the sea. His job was an important one. A ship getting lost out here and crashing upon the sharp, rocky island would mean instant death to all aboard. Sam hated to think of what the aftermath of such a disaster would be like, so he was meticulous in keeping the light well-oiled and the glass sparkling. He'd been emotionally alone his entire life, yet never felt lonely. Life was everywhere around him and Sam never ceased to wonder at the power and beauty of the sea.
He wandered over to the window and looked out over the raging water. Bolts of lightning lit up the churning waves and thunder reverberated from every direction, not so much following the lightning, but accompanying it-the two creating a chorus of unimaginable power. The lighthouse continued to shake with every clap of thunder, but she held her ground, steady and sure in the face of danger. Sam felt safe within her walls. Still, as he watched wave after wave crash against the rocks outside, he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something different about this storm. He'd been through many raging storms in his years at sea, but the feeling wasn't the same. With one final look out the window, Sam went back to his game to wait for morning. He knew it would be a long night.
* * * *
Morning arrived, clear and cloudless, with the sky a bright blue shade found nowhere else in the world. Sam stepped outside to take a look at what damage the storm had caused. He took a deep breath of the salty air. He could feel it energize him. The thought crossed his mind that there wasn't a bit of blood flowing through his veins after all this time. "No," Sam said to the sky, "there's nothing but pure salt water running through these old veins."
A storm as powerful as the previous night's could cause a lot of damage. Sam had found, at one time or another, various kinds of debris and sea life. He'd found sea creatures stranded on the rocks and pieces of broken ships that hadn't made it through to the end of their journey. Today, everything appeared fine. Then he saw the gulls.
It wasn't often you saw more than a lone gull this far out at sea. The last time Sam had seen so many circling like this, a dolphin had been thrown from the sea and lay stranded upon the rocks. The gulls had gathered and circled, waiting for the dolphin to lose its fight for life. Sam had worked all day, dragging the stranded creature to the edge of the island so it could swim back to safety. His heart sank as he headed toward the gulls.
What now? he wondered.
Following instinct rather than any tangible reasoning, Sam headed for a large boulder to his right. If nothing else, he thought, I'll get a clearer view of the surrounding area. The air suddenly stilled. The gulls landed and ceased their constant cries. Sam looked around him and wondered at the total silence. A tingling ran through him like the lightning the night before had charged the air around him. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling. Sam continued his climb up the boulder and, reaching the top, he froze.
He wasn't sure what he had expected to see-maybe a dolphin or a tortoise. What he did see, however, was so unexpected and out of place that Sam felt unable to move for a time. Wedged tightly between two stones was a wicker basket, like those used for laundry. It appeared whole and undamaged.
A cry broke through Sam's reverie; there was something alive inside the basket! Approaching the basket cautiously, he looked around for any signs of life other than the gulls. The gentle lapping of the waves eased his nervousness, but not his confusion. Inside the basket, wrapped tightly in a soft blanket, was a baby.
"Is anyone there?" Sam called out, turning slowly in a circle. There was no sound, no movement. Sam saw no boat to indicate that there was anyone else on the island. Searching the ground for footprints, Sam found none. This made no sense. Babies don't just appear out of thin air. He closed his eyes. He was seeing things. That's what it was. Opening his eyes again, Sam discovered that the baby was still there. The air still held the abnormal silence.
It's like the calm before the storm, he thought, only this time it's come after the storm.
The baby was watching Sam, quietly now, an expression of interest in his dark eyes. Stooping down, Sam gently reached out to touch the child's forehead. "Well, I guess this is one critter I can't throw back in." The baby laughed and the sound startled Sam; it was a sound that seemed so out-of-place here. Rocks upon rocks surrounded them. The lighthouse stood on the only piece of flat land the island had.
It occurred to Sam at that moment that nobody could have gotten there without a boat, and the storm of last night would surely have caused any boat coming close to splinter against the rocks. There were no signs of a wrecked boat anywhere. Sam's confusion grew, but common sense finally kicked in.
"You must be wet and cold," he said to the baby. "I need to get you inside." He reached down to lift the infant and found, to his utter amazement, the baby was as dry as he was. "Who are you? Where did you come from?" The baby's eyes met Sam's silently.
Sam carried the tiny bundle back to his home. In all his years, he'd never held a baby, and he found himself taking extra care for fear of being too harsh. He wondered what he could feed the baby. He was sure he'd heard somewhere that babies needed special food. "Hope you like fish, little one. That's about all we get around here."
Gently laying the baby on his cot, Sam unwrapped him. He looked the baby over carefully for signs of injury. There wasn't a mark on the perfect skin. "Looks like everything is in working order," he said out loud.
Eyes as black as a starless night looked up into Sam's gray ones, and Sam suddenly felt he was in the presence of someone so much older than the tiny child he held. The eyes seemed to speak of mysteries Sam could only guess at. The child's hair was wavy and black. Sam gently reached out and allowed the hair to curl around his finger. The child reached up and took hold of Sam's outstretched finger and Sam had the strongest feeling of pure love he'd ever known.
"What am I to do with this child, Lord? Please show me what you want of me." Sam unwrapped the child's hand from his finger and sat down on the cot. The baby had drifted into a peaceful sleep and Sam's worried expression turned to a gentle smile as he looked upon the sleeping baby.
I'll find a way to take care of you, he thought.
A ship came to the island every six months to bring supplies. Sam checked his logbook-five months to go. He'd turn the baby over to the supply crew when they came and they could take him to town, where his parents could be found. Sam felt that was the best thing.
"What shall I call you until then? You need a name."
Thinking back over the past few hours, Sam still felt confused as to how this child had come into his little piece of the world. Answers or not, Sam knew the coming months would not be easy ones. His nice, quiet, uneventful life had been turned upside down without warning. You never can tell what the storm will wash ashore.
"Storm," he whispered to the sleeping baby. "I'll call you Storm."
Storm watched the tiny island disappear as the supply vessel carried him away from his home of thirty-three years and toward a future that was even more unknown than his beginning. Sam had often told him the story of the day he was found. He once told Storm he felt guilty for not turning him over to those who could have given him a better life, but somehow the supply ship came and went, and each time Sam felt that he would be giving up the family he never realized he'd needed.
As Storm grew, Sam taught him all he knew-about the lighthouse, the sea, and the world beyond. Storm was a quick and eager pupil, asking constant questions, drawing out every detail Sam could find. One day Storm questioned Sam's version of how he came to be on the island. It made no sense to Storm that a child could have just appeared, let alone survived the kind of storm Sam described. Sam confessed the circumstances still baffled him. "Some things, Storm, just are," he finally said. "We can question endlessly and the answers forever elude us."
Sam's hard life finally caught up with him and Storm took over the duties of running the lighthouse. The two men spent hours, playing cards or simply talking. Sam couldn't remember a time when he'd been happier. Storm knew no other existence.
When the older man caught a chill that invaded his body so thoroughly that he could not shake it, Storm did what he could to make Sam comfortable. In the end, Sam's fight drew to an end and he called Storm to his side.
"Storm, you are destined for great things. You must go and meet them willingly."
"How can I survive in a world I do not know?"
Sam took Storm's hand in both of his and looked deep into the dark eyes he knew so well. He was searching for something-a word, a sign, anything-to help him know what he must say. The words came to him clearly and he held tightly to the younger man's hand.
"Follow the railway tracks and seek the whirling rainbow. There you will be what you are meant to be."
"Whirling rainbow? I don't understand. How can I find what does not exist?"
Sam's voice was softer now, and Storm had to put his ear close to the dying man's lips. "Faith and courage, but mainly faith, will lead the way."
Storm gently washed Sam's body and dressed him in clean clothes. They had discussed this day a few weeks ago and Sam had told Storm that he wanted his body thrown into the sea. The sea had been a part of him during his life, and he wished to be a part of it at the time of his death.
Storm silently watched as the waves carried away the only family he had ever known. As a large wave enveloped Sam and drew him beneath the surface, the young man turned slowly toward the lighthouse.
"I'll see you inside the rainbow, Sam."
* * * *
"Where are you heading?"
The voice broke into Storm's thoughts and he returned to the ship. "I'm not sure. I guess whichever way the wind blows me."
The supply ship had docked and Storm looked around, with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. This was his first time away from the lighthouse; he had never seen houses and cars and stores. Yes, he'd seen pictures, but they were nothing compared to the reality that surrounded him now. Sounds were everywhere and Storm found he could not identify many of them; you can't describe a sound recognizably in a book.
When one of the sailors asked if he was okay, Storm realized that he had been standing quite still, overwhelmed by all that surrounded him. "Yes. Yes, I'm fine."
Letting instinct lead him, Storm headed toward the setting sun. As he passed, people stopped and watched him. There was an air about him that demanded attention, although nobody could have put words to what it was. His dark hair flowed past his shoulders and halfway down his back. It had never seen a pair of scissors and was thick and wavy, glistening each time the sun glanced off of it. Eyes of dark obsidian reflected everything he looked at. They were warm eyes that conveyed a sense of peace and understanding, never revealing the turmoil they hid. His skin had been permanently wind-burned to a rich tan and his muscles were those of a man who had worked hard, not one who worked out. Storm's hands were strong and rough, yet he held them in a way that made you picture them wiping away a tear or cradling a wounded bird. Gentle hands.
To those he passed, it appeared this man knew exactly where he was heading. He didn't rush, but neither did he linger. He walked purposefully, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells around him. Not once did he notice the curious stares of those he passed.
Storm was nearing the edge of town now and he still had no clue where he was going, but he figured the direction of the setting sun was as good as any. He remembered Sam's advice-to follow the tracks-but he had not seen any in town. It was getting dark quickly and it made no sense to continue further until morning. The weather was clear and warm, so Storm figured he didn't need too much shelter for the night. It never occurred to him that there might be danger. His entire life had been safe. Finding a willow with branches that nearly touched the ground, Storm lay beneath its branches and drifted into a restless sleep.
Storm found himself surrounded by color-moving, pulsating color. They seemed to be lit from behind by an unseen light. The sound of music, unlike any he had ever heard, vibrated from everywhere. He stopped to marvel at how beautiful the sound was. He turned his head, first one way and then the other, trying to pinpoint just where the sound originated, but it seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. It occurred to Storm that the music was coming from the colors themselves, as their movement coincided completely with the sound. If he had been asked to explain his feelings at that moment, he would have found it impossible. Every emotion he had ever felt passed through him, one right after the other, each lasting mere seconds. The colors and music hypnotized Storm and he found himself spinning to the rhythm.
What was that smell? Lilacs! How he knew this with complete certainty, he couldn't say; he'd never seen a lilac, let alone smelled one. The strong scent infiltrated his senses and added to the hypnotic feeling. The colors swirled faster now, each one mingling with the next. It was hard to see where one ended and the other began. Storm spun faster and faster with the colors.
Fear started to take over his mind and he wanted everything to stop. "I'm not ready yet. Make it stop." His cries were drowned out by the music-no longer sweet, but a crashing jumble of notes. Storm covered both ears and screamed, the only thing he could do to release the immense pressure building up inside of him. Sweat poured from him, joining with the colors in a way that made it appear as multi-colored as they were.
Storm wanted it to stop; he willed it to stop; finally, he pleaded silently for this nightmare to end. Another long, primal scream escaped him, this time accompanied by a loud clap of thunder. At the same moment, a bolt of lightning flew through the air and barely missed Storm. It was followed by yet another loud clap of thunder. The colors around Storm exploded into millions of splinters, each containing its own inner light and color. Storm's spinning abruptly stopped and he sank to his knees. Tears flowed down his cheeks-tears that joined with the multi-colored fragments in the air.
Then he heard the Voice; or rather he felt it, as it seemed to come from both inside and outside him. "Stand up to your destiny, son.
The strong voice demanded to be obeyed, and Storm stood without thinking. "Who are you?" he asked.
"You know who I am-and who you are. The time has come to take hold of your destiny and complete what you have come here to do."
"But I don't know what I'm to do! Tell me. Tell me where my destiny lies!"
"The answer lies within the whirling rainbow. Trust yourself."
The Voice was silent then. Storm looked around him and saw the colors fade.
"Wait. Where am I to go? What must I do?"
Silence was his only answer.
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Posted by joyceanthony
at 1:20 AM EST