A Dance in the Lightning

Angie was dead tired. The steep, stony hike up to the mountain’s summit had taken longer than she and her sister had planned. The air was very thin.

Karen was anxious to begin back down. “I don’t like this. Look at the clouds.”

“Let me rest for a minute,” said Angie, gazing down.

Silent, very far below, the familiar Earth seemed empty, unpeopled. The tan and green plains, like a rumpled quilt, stretched curving into the distance. A river one hundred miles distant made a loose thread. The world’s floor was dappled with creeping shadows.

It seemed the two sisters could reach out to touch moving white clouds.

“We better head down. Staying up here is dangerous,” warned Karen.

“Just one more minute,” begged Angie.

The shadows of scattered clouds marched across the world below. The amorphous shadows seemed like creeping ink. Up on the mountain’s high summit the atmosphere was clear and icy. The wind shivered Angie’s skin. Range upon range rose to the east, raking more boiled white clouds. The farthest peaks were minuscule and dreamlike.

Up in that heaven everything was like perfect crystal: the air, a shining glacial lake nestled straight below in a cathedral of rising granite, the sharp stone walls, panels of sky painted blue. The white clouds, now so close, seemed the only things that were alive.

They were moving, growing, indefinite, changing. Becoming deeper. Deeper. Dark.

“Come on!”

But Angie couldn’t move. The strange beauty of the darkening arrested her.

The freezing wind became razor sharp.

A shadow came.

“Hurry!” shouted Karen, running over tumbled boulders to reach a small shelter that had been built on the mountain’s summit. The shelter was made of carefully assembled stones, built by someone long ago. One who feared heaven turned dark.

Angie did not follow.

A cloud very close above blackened.  A hard rain began.  Angie stood alone, watched for the first flash of lightning.

That first revelation was a blinding, searing spear of fire. It pierced a mountain ridge just below.

The lightning flashed just a moment, a jagged burning finger, cracking open the height of heaven, transforming the rain into sparks. The booming rebound from unseen blasted stone was the voice of thundering, echoing power. A momentary awful power shaking the deepest foundations.

A second flash.  Closer.

The power descended from somewhere–from some place beyond the highest peak or reach of mind.  It was a pure light, a heedless Something, manifested from gathered blackness. A burning truth.  Then an explosion.

Another.

The white light burned in front of Angie. It was the light from an open door. Her eyes saw through for just a moment.

Then came another flash. And another. Even closer. Much closer. Exploding nearer and nearer. Angie’s sky-reaching arms waved in abandon.

She felt dizziness, danger, amazement, joy.

Angie danced in the lightning.

A Miracle on Sixth Avenue

John walked slowly toward his parked car. Sixth Avenue was just another street in the city.

Without thinking, he searched the sidewalk with downcast eyes. Cigarette butts, rotting food, a discarded bottle, a dead cockroach, bits of toilet paper. Disgusting stains, crushed things.

A plume of smoke up ahead caught his attention.

As he neared, John noticed a crowd of people had gathered close to the rising black smoke. Excited faces were staring down at the freeway from an overpass.

A van was on fire below. Traffic on the freeway had been stopped by a police car with flashing lights, and two firemen with a hose were getting ready to put out the flames. The empty van, alone on the concrete, simply burned, nothing more.

At least forty people on the overpass leaned forward to stare down at the freeway. More were arriving, drawn by the smoke, as ants are drawn to sugar. Every person in the crowd held up a phone, carefully framing a photograph. A photograph of an empty van on fire.

The people checked their phone, appeared unsatisfied, changed the angle, held it higher. Needing to capture destruction, meaningless and distant. They watched with perfect fascination and took a second and third picture. A hundred identical photographs.

John kept walking. He’d never before felt such a wave of disgust.

That night he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t purge from his mind that crush of people. Gawking, predictable, animal humanity, eagerly recording flames and black smoke, because flames and black smoke seemed exciting. Why? For what reason?

People were shallow and disgusting.

But what in the world is new?

And so John walked from his parked car up Sixth Avenue the next morning, a remnant of that dark shadow in his mind.

The sun was up. At the overpass there was no smoke. Cars passed in a blur on the concrete below. The incident was erased. Time swallows everything. Just different trash on the sidewalk.

“Good morning,” said an approaching person. The stranger’s eyes were wide, directly meeting John’s own eyes. A sincere, friendly smile was on the stranger’s lips.

“Morning,” John half-smiled.

And the passing person was gone.

The sun rose higher.

A small miracle had saved everything.

This short story originally appeared here!