01 Feb Tales from a Rookie Storm Chaser Part 12
We got out in the open and decided to take up the conversation on the road north. Paul insisted he would explain everything once we were safe, and after twenty minutes of driving I decided we had waited long enough.
“Well, I think this is a good resting spot. It’s getting dark,” I suggested as we turned on the roads toward the mountains. The storm was hovering over the forest in front of us, swirling and growling on the horizon. At least a dozen of those demons could be seen with each clap of thunder.
“We can keep going,” Kearny insisted. I sighed, my patience having grown thin.
“Look, I’ve tried to wait; I really have. But this is getting old. Enough is enough; Either you tell the story, or I’ll just come out and say it,” I warned.
“What is he talking about?” Natalie asked. Olivia shared a good long glance at her dad before squeezing his hand and saying, “There’s no need to hide anything anymore. They’ve proven themselves more than capable to handle themselves.”
Paul smiled at his daughter and sighed.
“The creatures that we’ve encountered so far from this mighty storm, they don’t come from out from some hellhole… they come from right here. From people like you or me,” Kearny said with a sigh.
Natalie shook, the truth hitting her like a ton of bricks.
“That’s what Martin meant isn’t it..? That he would become part of those things,” she said, her voice cracking. The Kearnys held a long guilty gaze to confirm it.
“Why didn’t you tell us?“
“Would it make much difference if I had? You’ve questioned everything that I have done since you got here,” Kearny pointed out.
I looked toward the two people in the front who were remaining quiet. “You knew about this didn’t you?“
Caleb and Olivia didn’t make a response.
“Why would you keep this from us?” Natalie muttered angrily.
“Because it makes it easier not knowing. To believe that the people you care about are simply gone altogether is a far better fate than what really happens,” Olivia spat back.
I could hear the frustration and guilt in her voice. I also saw pain and loss. I turned to her father and saw those same feelings in his face as well.
Something finally clicked in my head and I realized the secret they had been keeping from all of us.
“What really happened to Reneé?“
Kearny didn’t seem to have the strength to respond. But Olivia did.
“It was supposed to be an ordinary chase. We had been traveling across northern Kansas, thinking we had been tracking a storm back it’s source… I think we probably drove for six hours, but still couldn’t make heads or tails of the area around us. The storm was affecting everything, even the spatial reality around us. North, south, east and west simply didn’t exist. That was when my mom came up with a theory. Sounds cheesy but she said that we weren’t in Kansas anymore,” Olivia paused and looked toward the rolling landscape around us. “We had gone inside the storm.”
“*It treated us like we were insects trapped inside a spider’s web,” Paul spat.
As if I’m response we heard the storm rumble across the sky again.
“What happened next?“
“Reneé came up with a plan to push our way out. It was risky but we didn’t know what else to do. We set up charges near to what we believed were the edges of the storm. We thought if we just hurt it, it would let us free.”
“But instead the storm pushed back. Hundreds of those drones swarmed from the sky, ready to tear us limb from limb. But even when the situation seemed impossible, my mom didn’t give up,” Olivia added.
“She sacrificed herself. She found a way to push one last time but knew that it only work one time. We watched as she was taken right in front of our eyes and we couldn’t do a thing about it.”
“The storm fell away but the aftermath lasted a lifetime. My wife was taken from me, changed into one of those beasts against her will,” Paul admitted. Caleb had slowed down the van.
We were almost at the mountains.
I crossed my arms, contemplating everything that the Kearny’s had just told us. It was a lot to take in.
“That’s why you’ve been trying to find this particular storm isn’t it? You think your wife is inside?“
Paul nodded, too exhausted to hide anything else.
“How can you be sure that she is still alive?” I asked.
Olivia bit her bottom lip, “Each storm has particular patterns, we followed the patterns.” But her voice showed a hint of doubt and that told me all I needed to know.
“So you don’t really know. And you’ve dragged us out here to… do what exactly? To save her?”
“To put her out of her misery,” Paul declared solemnly. Even those words seemed to take his daughter by surprise.
“Years ago, I might have thought differently. That I could work some miracle to change what happened. But the facts are clearer now then ever. My wife died that day. And the storm took away whatever was left. Since then all that she has been is a puppet on a string. Her and every other person that this damned thing took from us,” Paul said as he took his daughter and tried to comfort her.
But Olivia pulled away. Her face told me everything I needed to know. “You said… you would never give up on her,” she muttered angrily.
“I haven’t. But this is the only way, for her to finally be free,” Kearny declared.
Olivia shook her head and as Caleb stopped the car she jumped out, her eyes filled with tears.
Natalie wrapped her arms around herself and shivered again. But even despite all of these revelations, I still had my doubts about Paul’s plan.
“We don’t stand a chance of destroying this thing. The odds are stacked against us. This is like going up against a god. You saw what happened to the camper. To Jim. We nearly all suffered the same fate!!“
Paul shook his head. “You hurt the monster already, Dillion. When I heard what you did to that thing, you restored faith in this plan. I know now that we can make it. We can blow the nest back to whatever hell it came from,” he decided firmly. I couldn’t help but to show the same disgust as Olivia.
But my reasons were because I had common sense. Even Natalie was getting upset.
“You still haven’t changed since the day we met. You’re so blinded by revenge that you don’t care about anything else! Oh you put on a good show. But you don’t care about what happened to Jim, or Martin or Nick or any of the other people that have blindly followed you!!” she screamed.
“That isn’t true,” Kearny said in defense but it was only half hearted. Her words had cut him to the core.
But it was too late. I saw him for the broken man he was. He would pursue this course to the grave to get his revenge.
“I need a smoke,” I said stepping out to the open air. It was almost midnight, the only light in the sky coming from the trembling dangerous clouds.
Olivia was standing out in the nearby field staring up at the stars. In the distance we heard the storm continue to rumble. She wiped away tears as I joined her.
“Some team we are huh. No communication at all. We’re no team at all,” she laughed.
I sighed and slipped my hands in my pockets. “Do you really think your mom could be saved?“
She shrugged and lit a smoke as she said, “You must think I’m a damned fool for believing that lie for so long.”
“*It’s not stupid to have hope,” I replied as she passed a cigarette to me.
“Even false hope? God. How could I have been so stupid?” she muttered.
“Well. There at the end, before Caleb killed the monster… I saw some part of Jim still inside it. Like he was ready to die and didn’t want to hurt us.“
“I’ve seen it before too. I know that these things can still have some bits of humanity in them,” she insisted.
I looked back toward the camper. “Either way… your dad isn’t going to stop until we find this nest. What are we going to do once we get there?“
“We have to do everything in our power to save those people trapped inside… maybe that really does mean destroying it though,” she said with a sigh.
I frowned, a crazy idea racing through my mind.
“Maybe we can do both?“
Olivia tossed the cigarette away. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“The nest is like a control tower right? That’s where the primary signal that controls them come from… so we just have to interrupt that broadcast and replace it with our own.“
Her eyes sparkled with that same spirit I had seen when we first met. She was ready to give it a try.
“We can’t tell dad,” she declared just as I was about to return to the van. “You think he’ll try to stop us?“
“He’s had one mission since that day we lost mom. Nothing we say will change that, Dillion. We have to keep him thinking we’re all in agreement,” she looked frustrated that she would have to tell such a lie, but I knew she was right.
“I know he’ll hate me. But if it works and we can save at least some of those poor people… then it has to count for something, doesn’t it?” Olivia asked desperately. I told her it did.
As we moved back to the weather van, we both saw someone standing there near the driver’s side door. Caleb.
“You were listening?” I asked.
“It’s my job to watch out for y’all,” Mitchum said with a shrug as he stretched his legs.
“Go tell the old man we’ll be back on the road in a tick. I have to go piss,” he added walking away from the van.
Olivia got into the back of the vehicle as I followed Caleb.
“Coming to watch Pruitt?” he teased.
“*Look.. I know we’ve butt heads before. But if Olivia’s plan is going to work, we have to work together,” I told him evenly.
“Pretty crazy idea you had there, to interrupt the nest’s signal,” he muttered as a gust of wind blew thru the nearby tree line.
“Do you really think it will work?” Mitchum asked as he zipped up his pants.
“I don’t know.. honestly I’m not sure about any of this anymore,” I admitted.
“Not a good idea to get her hopes up like that if you aren’t 100% sure. It’ll just make things worse in the long run,” Caleb advised.
“I haven’t heard you offer any words of wisdom.“
“My role here is simple. Keep them safe. I’ll do whatever I have to in order to do that,” he paused as he looked me dead in the eye and growled, “That includes keeping them safe from themselves.”
I didn’t have to ask what the hunter meant. He was prepared to stop the Kearny’s if necessary, if their agendas got into the way of their own survival. I couldn’t argue with that. I knew it would need to be done if it got that far.
“Just promise me you’ll give us a chance,” I insisted.
Mitchum nodded and shrugged. “Can’t talk any of you out of anyway right?” he muttered as he got back in the driver’s seat.
Natalie was reviewing the radar, trying to get an idea of how close we are.
“I think… once we go in those woods, we’ll be inside the storm,” the blonde said checking her charts again. The forest wasn’t registering on the radar at all. Just a black hole that sucked in everything around it. The storm was likely holding everything within it as a prisoner. And given what Reneé had to go through to break free, I was starting to get nervous about going in.
Caleb turned the key on and we drove toward it. Olivia gave me a weak smile. Paul was focusing on the changing landscape.
It’s hard to really explain what happened when we entered the storm. One minute we were just staring at the starry sky and then we were engulfed in total darkness.
The forest felt dead. It was still and not a sound came from anything except our own engine.
Everything felt backwards. The air was heavy and my body felt tense like it was hard to breathe. Our instruments weren’t working at all.
“Shit this is creepier than I expected,” Caleb admitted. We only got about a couple of miles in when the van died.
“What’s wrong?” Paul asked.
“Not sure. Something just killed all the power,” the hunter responded.
Kearny looked outside the van toward the quiet clearing we were in. “We’re nearly there. The nest is close, I’m sure of it,” he declared.
We sat there in the dense forest for another moment, trying to get the nerve to step out. Mitchum was finally the one to decide to make a move and grabbed a few weapons before opening his door.
“The drones are probably off protecting their hive,” he reasoned as he peered out toward the unknown. It was so deadly quiet that it gave me chills.
Then we heard something shuffling in the brush. Caleb aimed his gun to fire. But only a small squirrel ran across his feet. He laughed nervously.
“Told you. Nothing to worry about,” he said with a smirk.
Then something much larger howled from the forest. Natalie gasped in terror as it reared up behind the hunter.
It grabbed ahold of Caleb’s upper body and pulled him into the woods.