New Fiction: Rainmaker (Part III)
November 2, 2001
Concluding the story of the Rainmaker...
From the hospital window I watched as an ambulance crew struggled desperately to bring an elderly patient into the ER. The ambulance had stalled out approximately 100 yards from the ER entrance. The EMTs were wading through the water toward the hospital. Miraculously, they held the gurney and its patient above their heads as hospital staff jumped into the swimming pool of a parking lot to offer assistance. I stared back at Veronica who remained unconscious in a comatose world where, hopefully, she was oblivious to all that was happening—all that I’d caused to happen—in the world.
The doctors were unsure how long she’d remain comatose. The bullet had struck her forehead and she’d undergone a 17-hour surgery. It was uncertain whether she’d suffered any permanent cognitive damage, though it appeared likely that she had. I’d been awake for over 57 hours, though I did not feel tired in the least. I sat down on the bed next to my sister and took her hand--her tiny, unmoving hand—and kissed it. Her fingers were cold to touch, and I gently placed her hand beneath the cotton bed linens. I knew what I had to do, and I honestly didn’t know whether 1. I was up to the task or 2. I would live through it. So I kissed my sister’s hand and brushed her hair with my fingers, realizing that we might never meet again.
As I walked out of her room and down the hall past the nurses’ station, I overheard the reports from the television sets and radios in the various patient rooms. The news was all the same, only worsening. San Francisco was being pummeled with disasters. Alcatraz Island had sunk into the San Francisco Bay; the Golden Gate Bridge was near collapse; Coit Tower had toppled; and a six-square block area near California Street and Grant Avenue had crumbled, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. Mudslides were being reported from nearly every area of the nation, and most low-lying areas were now completely submerged. At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and other airports across the country, 747s and DC-10s floated away like plastic boats in a bathtub. Seattle’s Space Needle fell, killing seven. The tragedies were unending. I walked faster through the corridor, my hands covering my ears, trying in vain to drown out the world, which was, itself, being drowned. I ran past nurses, doctors, and technicians and headed past the elevators toward the stairwell. I ran to the roof of the hospital and stepped out into the deluge. My clothing was saturated in seconds. Lightning struck in random succession, unending streaks of electricity that lit up the otherwise black skies. Thunder clasps echoed in every direction without end; the very building on which I stood shook in its foundation. In the distance, several buildings that had fallen victim to the far-reaching lightning burned orange-red in the night—the flames cried out in defiance of the rain for long minutes until finally, even the fires, succumbed and disappeared. It was time to go.
I rose into the sky, simply, plainly, without so much as a spark to signify my ascent. I rose quietly, unseen and unheard, like a small spider scaling a great Sequoia. The storms beat down upon my brow; I lifted my face to the rain and welcomed its punishment. The stormed raged out, perhaps sensing my presence, perhaps not. Bolts of lightning seared past me; their heat so intense it melted the plastic zipper of my windbreaker. And still I climbed. Higher and higher. The winds screamed out; they pushed and pulled at me; they tried to knock me down, to break me, to turn me inside out and upside down. I did not falter. The storm was of my design, and I would see destroyed what I’d created.
I climbed ever higher, into the clouds themselves, and when I’d ascended to a height of approximately 30,000 feet, I stopped. The storm clouds were unlike any I’d ever seen. They seemed to have no beginning, no end. I was but a droplet of rain in this endless squall, yet my resolve was unmatched, even by nature. I closed my eyes and began to look into the storm from within my mind’s eye. I called to it, spoke to it, and it answered with a shrill blast of rain and wind that would have tossed me about like a child’s paper airplane. But I would not allow such an injustice. My mind continued to call forth the storm, demanding it come to me—to me and me alone. Lightning and thunder raged in defiance, warning me that I did not belong here, that I had no cause to interfere. Again I reached forth, and demanded the storm answer my commands. The lighting answered first—it struck me with such power and cruelty that certainly I should have perished in that instant, but I did not. The bolts of natural electricity wrapped around my wrists and pulled, pulled, pulled at me until I hung in the sky as if on an electrical crucifix; still I would not yield. My screams were lost in the sounds of the storm, and within seconds I’d strained my vocal chords until they were near bursting, so all-encompassing was the agony I felt. In that instant, I no longer demanded the storm come to me. Instead, I channeled my thoughts with utmost clarity and authority and simply made it happen. And slowly, reluctantly, grudgingly, the storm began to change, to shift, to move. It moved toward me; from across the nation—across the very planet—the storm moved toward me. With a speed that defied nature, defied science and logic, the world-storm moved toward its new epicenter--me. And as the clouds, winds, lightning, hail, and thunder collapsed to my whim, so too, did they collapse in and among themselves. Clouds folding upon clouds, lightning and thunder merging and reducing in magnitude, raindrops actually failing to form. The lightning released me from its malevolent grasp and dispersed. Above me, a solitary cloud floated silently and unmoving—there was no wind. I ascended into the cloud and we became one. The rain it produced slowly trickled to a halt. As the final raindrop fell from the cloud, I held out my hand and it dropped onto my palm, where it danced slowly for a moment and then fell into a well-anticipated sleep. Below me the world was silent; above me, the sun began to shine.
As I stand atop Telegraph Hill and stare across at San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, I stop to reflect on everything that has happened in the last nine months. I cannot possibly undo the ecological, infrastructural, and personal damages I have wrought on the inhabitants of the world (and upon the world itself)--it is beyond the undoing of any one man or woman. So I am here, in California, helping as I can—to rebuild, to recreate, to try and make a positive difference in the lives of those I’ve unintentionally harmed. When I’ve done all I can do here, I’ll move on to other parts of the country, and help in whatever way I’m needed. I have vowed never to summon the Rainmaker powers again, and I intend to uphold that vow. The satisfaction I felt—if ever it was satisfaction I felt—at having punished my sister’s assailants, was ephemeral at best, given the catastrophic outcome of my personal desire for vengeance. But hopefully, in some small way, I can atone for my recklessness in the years ahead.
I confessed my actions to Veronica last week, as I do each month when I fly East to visit her. I know that she can hear me. I hope that one day she’ll wake from her coma and say the words I so desperately need to hear from her lips: “I forgive you.” The fog is lifting off the bay a bit slower than usual, and it looks as though it’s going to rain.
NEXT: Part 1 of an all-new novella--THE VOCALIST
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