The fourth calendar month brings with it Camp NaNoWriMo (for those unfamiliar with it, check it out here). I’m taking part in it and have set myself a small goal of 10,000 words. I’m finally going to be working on my novel and hope to reach my word count goal against all odds (college assignments, dance practice and general laziness, to name a few). Due to this, writing fiction outside of it is going to be pretty hard as I don’t think I’ll have the time. That said, I do love fiction, so here’s something I wrote a long time ago and submitted it to a magazine, but it was never published and the editor never got back to me. I know it could be better, but I’ll be posting it anyway.
The Boy Who Liked Lightning and Hated Thunder
The little boy stared at the darkening sky through the large bay window. The wind blew in strong gusts, with a promising hint of moisture in its scent. It tugged at the tops of the scattered trees, whisking away the leaves that were too weak to resist its pull. Along with the wind came the hurrying clouds. They scuttled across the sky like so many little soldiers forming ranks, waiting for a signal to rain down upon the unsuspecting earth. Instead of cannon-fire, their ammunition was lightning and thunder. The little boy at the window, watching with fascination and apprehension, was insignificant to them.
As the clouds shut off what little sunlight the pale 3 o’ clock sun was brave enough to muster, his mind swirled with contradicting thoughts. He loved the lightning, but he was afraid of the thunder. Being as old as he was, with no knowledge of the science behind the clouds, or the rain, or the lightning, or the thunder, or pretty much anything else, he had no idea why thunder always followed lightning. The pretty flash of forked, blindingly bright light was a treat to his eyes. They lit up like tiny beacons as his excitement grew, reflecting the effulgence in the empyrean. And then came the crash of thunder, that indescribable sound that nothing the children of earth have created can imitate or emulate; the sound that embodies nature’s absolute dominance even over the most audacious of all creatures.
Just as he cupped his dainty hands over his tiny ears, his mother swept into the room to check on him. She smiled as she saw him like that, his body curled up as if to fend off an attack by an invisible enemy, who was making a horrible din. She gently pried away his arms and scooped him up in a warm, comforting embrace.
“What’s the matter, little boy?” she whispered in his ear. He looked at for a brief second before replying, his face moulded into the expression that goes with the feeling of complete trust, which only a mother’s voice can evoke.
“I hate that sound!” he squeaked. His voice had a barely concealed tremor of fear, masked by a feeling of intense dislike.
“That sound is thunder,” his mother explained. “It is no use hating it. There will be thunder, there will be lightning and there will be rain, whether you like it or not. It is Nature, and it is much bigger than you or I.” She smiled to drive home her point.
“Let me tell you a story,” she began again, as she took his hand and lead him to the kitchen. She set him down on the counter and bustled about to prepare tea, a hot cup of which was, in her opinion, the perfect antidote to rainy day blues. “Long, long ago, when the world was still young, there were two Gods who never got along, the Rain God and the Earth God.”
“Why not?” he interrupted, in a way that only infants can get away with.
“Each liked to believe that he was the stronger of the two,” she replied, measuring out the sugar with a teaspoon. “They were very mighty, these two, next only to the Sun God. They were very proud too, and they argued and argued and argued. The other Gods grew tired of this and told them to settle it quickly. They decided to have a contest between them. The Earth God, a close friend of the Sun God, asked for his help. The Rain God, similarly, asked the Wind God to help him. The contest began. The Rain God…” The rest of the sentence was drowned by the harsh call of the telephone. Sighing, the mother rushed off to answer it, abandoning her steaming cup of tea and her son.
The little boy then looked out of the little kitchen window, the flash of lightning just as enticing, and the sound of thunder just as harsh and unbearable to him. He tried to look for the Rain God, imagining him to be hidden amongst the clouds, and hoping that the lightning would reveal his silhouette. His mother was never able to finish the story afterward, and he never asked. He was still trying to find the Rain and Earth Gods, and to him, it did not make sense to listen to the story until he could see these Gods. The other stories that his mother had told him always contained creatures he’d seen, even if only in pictures. Almost a week had passed since the last storm, and he was growing despondent.
However, one day, something incredible happened. He was playing with his favourite stuffed bear one afternoon, when the azure suddenly turned stormy grey, as if someone had snuffed out the burning ball of fire called the sun and built up a wall of clouds in a jiffy. In front of the little boy, a pearly white, glowing light appeared which soon morphed into the figure of a tall, muscular man with grayish blue skin. His irises were gray as the clouds, and he wore purple robes with an air of opulence that even the wealthiest man in the world couldn’t rival. Just above his forehead was a thin circlet of sparks, which cackled and sent out tendrils of white flame every now and then. The air smelled slightly of burnt ozone. The little boy’s jaw dropped in wonder even as he recoiled from the acrid odour. The man smiled, as if recalling an old joke.
“I am the Rain God!” he declared, as if the title gave him the right to rule the universe. His voice was deep, rich and powerful, which reverberated around the room. “I heard that you were looking for me.” His tone softened for this and he gave the toddler a rare wink.
“How?” the little boy managed to say, after a while.
“The Wind God,” the man answered. “He hears many things. I also heard that you love lightning, but not thunder.”
The boy nodded slowly, clutching his toy closer. In a moment of bravado, he declared, “I hate it.”
The God sighed and extended his arms. The boy let go of his stuffed bear and walked towards him apprehensively. As soon as he was within arm’s reach, the God scooped him up swiftly and held him tightly. The little boy’s world spun for a moment, but he no longer felt afraid.
“Listen to what I am about to tell you very, very carefully. You will have to remember this all your life.”
The boy indicated his assent vigorously.
“Have you seen a fire, boy?”
“Yes. There is always a fire in the big room during winter. Why?”
“Do you think it looks nice?”
He shrugged. “It is warm, not pretty.”
“Do you like the sound it makes?”
He shrugged again. “I don’t know. It isn’t loud, so I don’t hate it.”
“Hmm. Do you know what lightning is?”
“Pretty white light,” the boy quipped immediately.
The God smiled slowly. “Yes. But in a sense, it is just like fire; a huge fire that starts in the clouds and strikes the ground. It burns for very little time, and instead of yellow or red, it is white. What sound do you think such a fire would make?”
“A very loud sound.”
“Correct. The lightning is the light and thunder is the sound of this fire in the sky. There will never be lightning without thunder. Understood?”
The God rubbed his palms together and asked the little boy to look at his right hand. In it lay a perfectly round, shiny silver coin. The boy was fascinated. The God flipped it and it landed on his extended palm again, revealing the other side.
“How many sides does it have?”
“Two,” the boy replied without hesitation.
“If I cut off a small part and make it thinner, how many sides would it have then?”
“If I did that over and over again till the coin became as thin as paper, how many sides would it have?”
“Lightning and thunder are like two sides of a coin. No matter what you do, there will always be two sides. One side might look pretty, like lightning is. The other side might seem scary or disgusting, like thunder. Some things seem beautiful, but may sound awful. But they always go together. So does everything in life. You cannot always have only the nice things. There will be good, but not without the bad. There will be beauty, only if you compare it to the ugly. You can only appreciate light if you have experienced darkness. Lightning and thunder teach us the greatest truth of life – all things in this universe have two sides to them. It is only scary when you do not understand it. Are you still afraid of it?”
“A little,” the boy admitted sheepishly.
The God laughed. “I can make even that little go away, if you promise to do something in return.”
“What should I do?”
“Never forget this day and everything that you learned today.”
It seemed like a very easy thing to do. The boy knew there was no way he would ever forget a meeting with a God.
The God lowered the boy onto the floor again and gave him one last smile.
“Good. I have given you some of my power. The thunder will no longer scare you. Farewell, little boy.”
Just as suddenly as it had begun, the clouds vanished, along with their God. The little boy sat there for a long time, with newfound courage flowing through his veins.
“Wake up, son,” his mother called. “It’s the first day of school. You don’t want to be late.”
Trailing behind is mother on his way back from the first day of school, the little boy noticed the western sky turn gray with the threat of rain. Far off, lightning forked and thunder boomed. He smiled in their direction, hoping the Rain God would notice. He no longer hated thunder and he never forgot that conversation.
It’s the longest post on my blog so far, so I’m grateful to all the patient readers who made it till here. You’re welcome to share your thoughts on this in the comments section.