01 Feb Tales from a Rookie Storm Chaser Part 11
Three hours passed and the storm raged on.
Natalie and I moved Jim’s body into the rail car where we had decided to wait out the storm. But, as we sat there and I looked at the dead man and the unconscious one next to him; I was beginning to think that might not happen at all.
Every half hour or so I checked Mister Kearny’s pulse to make sure he was all right. He seemed to have no major injuries but after being unconscious for so long, there was no telling what the blow to his head had done.
“I think we need to radio for help,” Natalie said after another roar of thunder crashed across the sky.
“The only way would be to reach Jim’s laptop, and that’s in the trailer remember?“
“Those things are going to find us eventually, we have to do something!” she insisted.
“I know, I know,” I said and trembled as the cold air pushed in again. It was luck alone that had kept us alive. But revealing ourselves now guaranteed that the creatures would react. Meaning there was only one chance to make this work.
“Fine. Let’s do it,” I decided as I moved toward Jim’s body. Despite the fact that I felt wrong violating a corpse, I knew for us to make it through the rain we would need cover. The burns we had experienced from the storm already were enough to cause mild scarring on my exposed hands. Any worse and I wouldn’t be fit to help anyone, I thought.
I carefully took Jim’s coat off and used it to drape over my shoulders. Natalie had a hard time not weeping again as we stared at the man that had tried so hard to save us.
“Do you even think we stand a chance?” she asked as I pushed the rail car door open.
I didn’t bother responding. It would be pointless to give her false hope. Outside a crash of thunder made me jump and I hunkered down near the wide door to stare toward the overturned camper. It was probably only thirty feet away.
“I need you to act as lookout,” I told Natalie.
She nodded and placed her back against the massive metal door as I kept Jim’s ragged coat wrapped around my head.
The wind seemed to pick up the second I stepped out in the torrential storm. It was so hard to even see the area around me, but I kept my eyes straight ahead.
Even when I heard another of the beasts howl amid the thunder, I didn’t waver. I found the door we loosened earlier and shimmied inside on my belly. Once inside, i pulled my body up to a crouching position and looked about.
Jim’s laptop was turned over amid the other debris. Just as I reached for it, I heard the hiss of a creature from above. I hunkered down again as it clawed at the tires above my head and slowly pulled the laptop over to me.
I stayed as perfectly still as I could as the creature searched for me. As I lay there, I felt the temperature change. The rain began to lighten and the sky cleared. Was the storm past? I didn’t hear any noises from above so I decided to take a chance and crawl back out. A gentle drip of gasoline glistened on the side of the camper. I got a little bit on me as I climbed out and looked up.
That was when I realized the storm was waiting. A rush of air pushed its way back down to the train yard. I heard Natalie yell in the distance as the funnel hit the ground, flinging debris toward me. It struck with such force that it knocked me off my feet.
I fell right down next to the puddle of gasoline that had formed next to the camper, a crazy idea forming in my head as the tornado moved straight toward me.
Getting back on my feet, I moved to the rear of the camper where we had packed our auxiliary gear and flung open the door. Another pile of trash collapsed at my feet. I pushed aside the papers and found Mister Kearny’s personal backpack as the storm grew closer.
I felt the camper begin to move and said a prayer. My one shot was about to slip away. At last I found it, Paul’s cigarette lighter.
Quickly I lit a flame and moved toward the trail of gasoline. I snatched the laptop up and hollered our toward the twister. From within its mighty frame, a booming growl came back.
The funnel turned toward me, pushing straight toward the camper. I didn’t waste another second. I tossed the lighter toward the gas and watched as flames spread toward the camper.
As I ran for cover near some of the scattered debris, the whole vehicle went up in flames. At the same time, the tornado smashed against the hood of the camper. Immediately the flames jumped to the twister and I heard a howl of pain. It didn’t take long before the entire funnel was sucking up the fire and spreading it into the core of the storm.
Natalie came running to my side as I stood mesmerized by the tornado. Then at her urging we pulled back to the makeshift bunker. A few moments later the cyclone was completely gone. My crazy plan had somehow managed to hurt the damned thing.
I let out a sigh of relief and checked Jim’s laptop, even more excited to see that it had withstood the whole ordeal. I started up his system as we returned to the rail car.
Evening was starting to fall across the land as I finished uploading the flash drive to his program.
“Son of a bitch this isn’t gonna work,” I said as I watched the upload slow down
“It’s the metal roof, upsets the signal,” Natalie said grabbing the laptop and gesturing for me to follow her out to the open air.
About thirteen minutes later, I was patched through to the station. Natalie let out a squeal of delight as I sent out our location to Caleb and Olivia. After that, I checked the radar and watched as the storm moved to the northeast. “It’s moving toward the mountains,” I realized as I watched its speed increase. Where could it possibly be going?
“Do you think you actually hurt it?” Natalie whispered. I didn’t know what to say to that, it seemed unreal to consider that we even stood a chance against something that powerful.
Instead of focusing on that problem, I decided to address a different one.
“You know a thing or two about astronomy right?“
Natalie nodded and I gestured to the night sky that was forming around us. “Maybe I’m seeing things, but does it seem like some of these constellations aren’t right?“
She squinted and looked up, and just as she was about to make a statement; we heard the most bizarre noise come from within our shelter.
It was so inhuman that it caused both of us to jump. I turned about and Natalie said nervously, “Did one of those things stay behind?”
“Stay behind me,” I ordered as we moved toward the entrance and I found an old steel pipe. That was when I realized the noise was coming from the same rail car where we had been hiding earlier.
“Paul!” I called out passing the laptop to her and running up to the doors of the car.
What I saw next defied all explanation. Jim’s body was convulsing, twisting on the floor like a rag doll. Something was crawling it’s way out of his mouth, it resembled this spidery web of slime; and latched onto his body to cover his face with a coat of brown skin that sealed his dead eyes closed.
His legs and arms bent over awkwardly to form a sort of distorted crab like appearance as I watched. Then the tendrils began to slide their way down his skin, fusing his body parts together to create a tough exoskeleton.
All the while the sounds emerging from his corpse were enough to send a cold chill down my whole body. Behind him, I saw Mister Kearny stir. It was probably the most inconvenient time for the old man to finally come to, but there was nothing I could do to stop him from seeing what was happening.
Paul pushed his body back against the wall of the rail car as Jim continued to twist and reform, his skin and muscles now being stretched to their limit.
Mister Kearny caught sight of me and slowly crawled over to where I was at for help to break free, trying his best to keep his eyes from being distracted by the horrors that were happening to his friend.
I didn’t hesitate to grab Kearny by the arm and pull him out of the rail car. Then I slammed the door shut and began to jam the metal rod into the handle. Anything to keep this monstrous corpse from breaking free.
Natalie was standing close by, listening to the screams that sounded so much like the man she had known for the past six months.
I helped Kearny get away from the car as Jim’s body started to ram agains the side, desperate to be out of the confined space.
“Help me,” I asked Natalie since the old man didn’t have his crutch. In another moment the latch was free. I couldn’t help but to look back.
The grey matter was forming scales down Jim’s legs and chest, long stretching sinew and sharp bones pushing out at all angles as the transformation was complete. We all started to run.
Out in the open air, i checked the horizon to see just if there was anywhere to hide. But most of the other cars had been devastated by the tornado. The creature that had taken control of Jim’s body was bounding toward us faster than a cheetah.
Than, from somewhere off in the distance I heard the sound of an engine. We helped Kearny get to the closest overturned trailer for cover, and I spotted a yellow weather van driving up at top speed.
Caleb, Olivia; I realized with excitement rushing over me. The creature was almost on top of us. But they were faster. The van slammed hard against it, sending it flying as they hit their breaks.
Caleb jumped out, guns blazing as he looked toward the monster.
“Wait!! Wait!!” Natalie begged him with tears in her eyes as he walked over to the wounded beast. “It’s… it’s Jim…” she explained.
I could tell the statement shocked Caleb as much as it did us as he stared down at the dying monster. I thought I saw sadness in the monster’s eyes and hesitation. But then the hunter made a decision, pointed his pistol toward its skull; and opened fire. He didn’t stop until his bullets were gone.
Olivia was at my side a moment later, checking her father for injuries. “How did you get here so quick, I just sent out the signal an hour ago?” I asked.
“We were in the area… sorry dad, but I just knew something was wrong when you didn’t phone in,” she explained.
“You left the station… unmanned?” Her father asked, a panicked look in his eyes.
“Yes and no. We managed to make sort of a mobile broadcast for us while we are out and about, we followed your general direction and picked up Dillion’s signal about nineteen miles back,” Caleb explained.
Kearny still didn’t look very happy with either of them. “It isn’t safe out here,” he muttered.
“No kidding,” Olivia said as she got him up and added, “We need to get you back to the station and recover.”
“We can’t do that, not now,” Paul said looking toward the dead corpse of what was once Jim Laschar. Now that my adrenaline was slowing down, a few stray pieces to this puzzle were being put together.
“This was never about tracking a storm,” I realized.
“What are you talking about Pruitt?” Caleb muttered.
Kearny’s face was filled with emotion, he knew I had figured it out. “I think I owe you all an explanation.”