You look from the television to your rear window three consecutive times before you believe what you are seeing. The jolly man in a cheap suit is pointing to seven consecutive orange circles with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s F. You can only see grey and pouring rain, occasionally with a thunder and lightning crescendo.
“How can this be?” you ask yourself, out loud, which your orange tabby cat once again ignores.
The jolly weatherman punctuates his forecast with a slimy salesman smile and wishes you a nice, beautiful week ahead. Simultaneously, the cheap glass of your downtrodden multi-family home claps with the force of gale winds.
“Even the damn Doppler radar isn’t showing any of this!” you explicitly state, urging your cat, Max, to join you in disbelief.
Max lazily lifts his head before returning to his favorite activity of pretending you do not exist.
Today marked the fourth consecutive day of hard storms all day and yet the weather forecast had called for nothing but perfection. You walk around your apartment, checking each window to make sure some elaborate prank is not being played on you. Each window giving a perfect view to the rising tide of puddles and fallen tree branches abound.
“Proper madness,” you say, reaching for your cell phone.
When you pull the device from your pocket, the tempered clicks of the ‘On’ button give you nothing. Dead. One, long, fierce roll of thunder a moment later and darkness shrouds the entirety of your apartment. The power was out and you were left alone with a dead phone.
You only had a singular flashlight and it took you nearly ten minutes of searching various cupboards and cabinets until you could locate it. Once the rummaging was over, you could hear how silent the world around you was between rolls of thunder, claps of lightning and howls of wind.
Hoping another tenant in the house could assist you, you cautiously leave into the common hallways with your weak orange bulb guiding you. The carpet beneath your bare feet was damp, sticky and unpleasant.
Besides your unit, there were three other apartments that shared the multi-family home. Starting with Mr. Gallagher, the one you liked most, you knocked on each door in turn. No one answered Mr. Gallagher’s door nor the second door you knocked upon. The final door, Katiana, a snooty twenty-something you could barely stand was your only hope.
You knock, listening intently for any sign of other human life. After several seconds, you hear the rumbling of footsteps moving behind Katiana’s door. But still, she doesn’t answer.
“Wanker,” you mutter about her beneath your breath, returning to your own apartment.
Guided only by a thin light, you knock your knees into several side tables that were at the perfect height to maximize your pain. Just as you stumble close to your rear window, a purple whiplash of violent lightning ripped across the sky, striking a primal fear within you. The chorus of thunder followed milliseconds after, shaking the bones of the building and you.
You felt very aware of your heart in your chest and each breath you took for several minutes before you calmed down. By then, the rain was pouring so aggressively you could no longer see out the window into the wooded area behind the yard. Only the flashes of light reminded you there was still a world out there.
Without electricity, without a phone, without companionship and with very little light, you simply sat idly on the couch. Time passed, anywhere from five minutes to four hours, as you listened to the storm rage outside.
Eventually, the lightning and thunder subsided long enough for the fierce rain noises to lull you off to a nap. Obviously, this nap was abruptly interrupted when the thunder returned.
You snapped upward off the couch, losing balance and landing on your knees in the center of the room. Screaming shots of lightning crackled through the sky as the storm’s intensity returned. You clicked helplessly at your lone flashlight, watching it dim more and more until no light remained. Only the luminosity of the storms light accompanied you.
That and the calm, classical music now playing from the apartment next door. Katiana was home and she was playing music.
You felt annoyed, but were unsure if that was the correct emotion. It was not like Katiana owed you company during a thunderstorm like you were the cat and she was your owner. That only reminded you that Max had slunk away since the storm got worse and you hadn’t seen him since you fell asleep.
Navigating the dark, you moved your feet inch by inch to be sure not to slam into any more tables as you once again tiptoed out into the common hall.
You noticed rust spots forming in the ceiling from the heavy rainwater. No doubt the poor maintenance of your building had left numerous faults in the roofs integrity and this storm seemed to be exposing it quickly. You counted three separate drips coming from the ceiling on the short walk to Katiana’s door.
You take a deep breath as your fist hovers inches from knocking. The music is very off brand for Katiana. Usually, new age music and funky beats banged from inside her walls, but the change of pace to a soft classical was welcome.
The thunder seems to drown out your first few knocks, so you just continue to pound the door harder and harder until you hear motion on the inside. Again, Katiana seems to take several steps towards the door, stops and progresses no further.
“Katiana, please open up,” you plead, “My flashlight is dead and I have no light. Please.”
There are several seconds of only rainfall answering your call until you hear a floorboard creak on the other side of the door like someone had shifted their weight.
Several reluctant footsteps approach closer to the door and you feel a small rise of hope inside of you. The lock on the other side clicks and unlatches and the slow creak of an old wood door opening fills your ears with relief.
“Tha - “
But it is not Katiana on the other side of the door. He stood several inches taller than you, darker eyes, but several inherited dimples and freckles around the eyes made him unmistakable.
Your instincts cause you to take three or four step backs from your father standing in the doorway of someone he had never even met. You feel your heart beating at its deepest, most guttural thrums inside your chest.
He doesn’t say anything at first. He just looks down upon you with equal parts love and sadness. He looked younger, like you remembered him from childhood and not…later.
“Hello,” he said after a while of just the two of you staring into one another’s eyes.
He steps from the enclave of Katiana’s door and into the hall with you. Again, you feel your heels scrape backwards away from him, your body unsure of how to even process him being here.
“It’s been a while,” he said with a playful grin you remembered so well.
“Twelve years,” you said, mind reeling.
You had never experienced a moment so profoundly uncomfortable and heartwarming simultaneously. You hadn’t noticed the thunder and lightning had ceased. The whole world felt a little warmer.
Behind your father, the music kept playing and you realized you had heard it before. It had played in the background of much of your childhood. It was his music.
“How are you here?” you asked, trying to tell yourself you are still asleep on your couch.
At this question, your Dad seems to momentarily choke on his own tongue, small tears forming around the corners of his eyes as he looks at you.
“I am just here to help,” he finally manages.
You paused to try and understand what that could mean. Was he a hallucination, a ghost, a dream? He took the final closing step between the two of you and cupped your left cheek in a familiar way that made you feel nine years old again.
“It’ll be okay,” he says, wiping a tear from your cheek you hadn’t even realized was there.
It was nice to look upon his face in the way you wanted to remember it. Not in the way it had looked towards the end. You let go of the flood of tears your damned eyes could no longer hold back.
Your father only pulled you into a close hug as the classical music played in the background. Eventually, spinning you slightly so the two of you danced, slowly, in the hall outside your apartment.
You remember the storm. The same storm that had been playing on repeat for several days despite the weatherman telling you how sunny it was outside. The storm had been four days ago, you realized.
Four days, alone, sitting in your apartment, watching the same storm each day and feeling further and further separated from reality.
You felt your breath catch in your throat as you comprehended why your father had come to help you. The same four days over and over.
“What happened to me?” you ask, tears not holding back even a little.
Your father held you, pulling you tighter and spun you to the music. Each passing moment dancing with him to the melody helped you remember a little bit more of what had happened.
You blinked and the building was gone and you were back in the storm. You were deep in the woods trapped beneath a spider’s web canopy of forest green. You were hiking and the storm approached so suddenly. Deep, violet splinters in the world sparked across the sky. Smash, thunder, bang, crack. A tree uprooted from the impact of a lightning strike.
You felt cold. You felt wet. You felt completely alone until your father brought you back into his arms and continued to spin you around. When he touched you, the bitter cold of the rain and wind faded into warmth.
“It’s okay,” he says, rubbing your back, “It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault.”
Your nose filled with the scent of smoke and fire. The warmth of your father grew more intense. The purple and black turned red and angry. There was fire all around you despite gushing rainwater sleeting from the heavens.
The music switched tracks and another, pleasant classical song replaced it as you and your Dad continued to dance together.
Your bones trembled as you remembered the final roll of thunder, the drumbeat of death, before the fire, water, wind and earth swallowed you whole.
And then only the music and the warmth of your father remained. Everything around you faded into a grey-likeness. It was your life all around you. Your apartment, your childhood home, the woods, everything.
Everything and your Dad and the music.
“We can go when you’re ready,” he said, cupping your drying cheek in his hand, “We don’t have to go until the music ends. It can play as long as you want it too.”
You hugged him tighter than you ever had when the two of you were alive.
“Until then, we can just dance…”