Mother Nature’s Calling Card; Is It Already too Late?

Written in response to: Write a story that includes someone saying, “You’ve got this.”... view prompt

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Science Fiction Mystery Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Reference to political views and character’s negative views of mainstream religion.

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The late June evening started like any other after a hot, humid summer day in Minnesota. I arrived home from work later than usual and parked in the driveway.


Since severe weather wasn't in the forecast, it would allow a quick getaway for work in the morning.


Something drew my attention to the pond across the street, and I stopped for a few minutes to gaze at it. I often thought of the pond and the wildlife noises drifting from its direction were annoying distractions, and I never took the time to appreciate its beauty.


However, on this particular night, the humidity acted to amplify nature’s acoustics. The tree frogs trilled, and crickets chirped loudly as they harmonized with the fireflies' pulsing orange glow against the twilight sky. 


The result was a veritable symphony of light and sound created around the pond, and it was mesmerizing.


There was the pungent fragrance of flowers hanging in the still air. The flowers provided the only splash of color to the neutral tones of the cookie-cutter style homes in the upper-middle-class suburb of Minneapolis.


After several minutes I was shaken to my senses by the reality that I still had an agenda to send and reports to finish before a virtual meeting with our out-of-town department heads scheduled for early the following day. 


I hurried to the front door and quickly entered the quiet, professionally decorated entry.


There, I kicked off my heels, unbuttoned my lightweight blazer, and pulled the hairpins from the bun I wore for the office. I stopped briefly to check myself in the hallway mirror, tossing my hair from side to side.


“You’ve got this Krista Elliott, and you are looking good for a 34-year-old divorcée,”  


I said, glancing back at my reflection with a self-satisfied grin.


I was grabbing a bottle of water from my new high-tech internet-connected refrigerator that does everything but go to the grocery store when suddenly the touchscreen flashed an error message accompanied by a loud alarm. I swept my finger to the right on the Home Screen. The error message disappeared along with the piercing noise. I selected the inside view on the desktop, and nothing had changed since I opened the door to get the water. When I returned to the home screen, I decided to check the weather in the area.


The display showed a very high-temperature reading, then plummeted to below zero and back to over a hundred.


“What the hell,”


I muttered.


After flicking it with my finger the temperature display returned to normal.


Since it was so hot I opted to work in the air-conditioned den rather than on the backyard patio in the heat, I sat in a comfortable chair and placed the bottled water on the table next to me. I opened my laptop, logged in, and answered a few emails.


I touched the e-phone app on the desktop, all calls now were answered and dialed out through the softphone app on our laptops. Desk phones no longer exist in my company's offices. There were a few voicemails that I needed to return tonight.


By ‘return,’ I mean I left messages on the caller's voicemail. Voicemails and emails, as well as texting, were great avoidance tools. We no longer need to bother speaking directly to one another.


After some time, I glanced up from the computer to have a drink of water, and I realized that the neighbor’s dogs were still barking. The barking started when I got home, and I didn’t think much about it then, but now it was becoming a little aggravating.


It seemed like a good time to walk to the French doors overlooking the backyard and patio to check on things.


I paused momentarily before turning on the backyard lights to listen to the air conditioner chugging along, struggling to keep up with the oppressive heat.


At the far end of the yard, I noticed squirrels scampering feverishly from under one tree to another. What could they be looking for in the dark? Probably nuts, I presumed.


Overhead a flock of geese flew in formation, squawking and flapping their wings wildly against a dark sky where clouds were beginning to form. It seemed they were in an awful hurry to get somewhere.


As I turned to go back to my work when there was a crash outside on the patio. A pair of rabbits were hopping or, more like galloping across the patio, knocking over flower boxes as they disappeared under the deck.


I returned to my computer, doing a mental head scratch as I sat back in the chair. “A strange night, the heat must be getting to everyone,” I whispered. 


At that moment, it struck me as funny that I had been talking to myself a lot lately.


Half past eleven, according to the clock on my desk, a noise in the distance or something averted my attention from the report on my computer. I looked toward the only window in the room just as a bolt of lightning ripped across the now starless night, followed closely by thunder that rattled the house.


“It’s not supposed to storm,” I grumbled as I reached for my phone to check the weather app.


The forecast was the same as when I checked earlier on the refrigerator’s weather app. There still wasn’t any rain predicted for my location in the state. 


The light on the phone no sooner dimmed when the wind started to howl, banging the shutters against the vinyl siding. To say I jumped from the chair is an understatement. My computer and phone crashed to the floor as I flew to the window to look over the front lawn and beyond.


I gasped as I watched the rain turn to sleet, building up on the outside of the window. The winding street out front had a thick layer of ice already covering it. The ice glistened under the streetlights, reminding me of a skating rink and how much I loved ice skating as a child. My eyes only began to adjust to the scene outside when the sleet changed to snow. Before long, it was falling so hard that I could no longer see the pond and the stand of trees across the street.


I reached for the remote to turn on the flat-screen TV on the wall adjacent to the window where I stood.


Slowly annunciating each word into the remote as though my life depended on not making a mistake, I said,


“Weh-the cha-null,” oddly, I felt compelled to add, please.”


A young woman smiled and pointed to a map of the United States, more specifically to the northern area boarding in Canada.


“Good grief, what is a bomb cyclone,”


I shouted at the weather woman who who went on with the

smile plastered on her face.


The studio switched to a location shot from somewhere in the Southeast, showing a reporter trying to stay on his feet in the gale-force wind and blowing rain.


The picture froze, they scrapped the interview, and it was back to the studio. The young woman not-so-smiley now pointed to a new map with storm paths, wind currents, and satellite tracking imagery. Too much color and movement, all I wanted was an explanation of what was going on in my backyard.


The local news, now just the weather news, featured the station's chief meteorologists riffing on and on, trying to come up with past weather events that mirrored tonight’s.


My hands trembled as I held the remote,


“Breaking News,” 


I said, my mouth dry and my voice hoarse.


A popular left-leaning network appeared on the channel guide and I pressed OK. Breaking News was splashed a mile high across the television, accentuated by music, ‘Don Da Don.’


Political analysts argued that the fault of the widespread weather phenomena was that of the majority party in control out in Washington.


“It’s most definitely the fault of the Right,”


one analyst asserted, interrupting the other guests.


A red-faced pundit shook his finger at an older woman on a video link in disagreement,


“Mark my words, the fault lies with the Left,” 


he said angrily.


Whatever the cause was, the strange weather appeared to have touched every part of the globe in varying degrees of weather anomalies.


Not knowing where to search next, I decided a tactile approach might give me more control over channel selection. Manually I pressed the down arrow on the remote, channel-surfing the TV guide and I selected more mainstream cable news networks.


There I found more questions than answers. Was the strange weather caused by a virus that escaped from a lab in some faraway country or, possibly, a new kind of Smart Bomb launched by a foreign adversary?


Pressing another selection on the guide, I landed on one of several networks that featured televangelists preaching from what I liked to refer to as


“Pulpits for profit.”


The preacher proclaimed,


“It’s Armageddon, praise the Lord, hallelujah,”


and in case those watching weren't scared enough he pounded repeatedly on the dais. Prayer was offered up for all and the snake oil salesman quickly encouraged viewers to send him money while his phone number and email address ran on a continuous loop at the bottom of the screen.


By this point the wind blew harder, the snow deepened, and according to the local affiliates, the temperature outside continued to rise.


I was strongly leaning toward the UFO experts I came across on one cable channel. The one with mall bangs sticking straight up by the name of Giorgio intrigued me. I’m darn sure he’d made contact with something or another. Hair doesn’t do that by itself.


Maybe this was the real War of the Worlds, and aliens were attacking.


“Are... they among us,”


I asked the four walls of an empty room, grateful they didn’t answer.


The thought sent a chill through my body, followed by an audible gulp of air.


It was then that the lights flickered on and off a few times before the house went completely dark.


I bent down to find my phone and called 911, expecting a sympathetic ear and the sound of police sirens coming to my rescue before I hung up.


As for the power company, I wasn’t concerned. They would restore power to the affluent community before other places or else our elected officials would hear about it.


Even with an overpriced cellphone and an excessive amount of extra services, I quickly learned that if there are no bars, there is no service.


In the dark, I felt around on the floor for my laptop, and there it was, right where it had fallen earlier.


I opened it, and the screen lit up with the familiar blue logo,


“Yes,”


I shouted, adding a fist pump in the air.


I quickly entered my password and stared at the spooling circle until my eyes glazed over and rolled back in my head.


Unnerved by the night's events and already sitting on the floor, I tried praying to a God I long believed was dead.


Since we weren’t pen-pals in the first place, I wasn’t expecting much. Personally, I didn’t see any difference between the Judeo-Christian God and the gods of Greek Mythology.


They are all a little too high-maintenance for my taste. Demanding we worship them and beg for their forgiveness while on bended knees.


It seemed to me one fable paralleled the other, but what did I know?


After all, I was on the floor in the dark with sweat running down my back, tears streaming down my cheeks, and snot dripping from my nose. No answers or signs rang out from above. It was apparent to me that Heaven had a power outage too.


I got to my feet and found the way to the family room, where ice and snow were more than halfway up the French Doors. Well, I thought glacier surfing would not be an option for my next vacation. Of course, I was being facetious; I had no idea that melting glaciers created waves you could surf. 


Sadly not until my cable TV overload earlier did I know much about the glaciers melting or the climate crisis, nor did I care to find out.


The light from the wireless outdoor digital thermometer caught my eye. It was mounted in a protected corner below the sun deck, next to the patio.


Red digital numbers flashed one-hundred-one, no, one-hundred-two.


“WTF, did Atlas shrug?” Global warming aside, none of this makes any sense. How can the outside temperature be over 100 degrees, and yet it's still snowing and ice continues to build up on the windows,”


I cried, helplessly flailing my arms in the direction of the thermometer.


I was exasperated and fed up with the whole damn night.


It must all be a horrible nightmare, I concluded, or possibly I tripped and landed in Diagon Alley; if only Harry Potter were here to wave his magic wand and make the nightmare disappear. 


By this time, I was exhausted and at a loss for anything else to do. So, I made my way to bed in the dark.


I turned on my side, wearing the same clothes as before, but now they were wrinkled and disgusting, stuck to the dried sweat on my body.


I wondered if Starbucks was open despite the weather. A half-cafe would sure hit the spot, I thought.


It took a minute for my caffeine-deprived brain to realize that sunlight filtered through the partially closed blinds, birds were singing, and laughter came from the corner below my bedroom window.


The trees on that side of the house obstructed most of the view. In the great room downstairs, large windows faced the corner and down the block.


Neighbors greeted each other, even those who argued habitually over which direction to mow their lawns.


Someone decided it’s more aesthetically appealing if the lawnmower marks align in the same direction in all of the yards.


I cracked a window open and heard bells ringing in the distance, which I assumed were coming from a little church a couple of blocks away. Bells, I had never noticed before from a church I avoided at all costs.


A small group of ethnically diverse friends from the neighborhood walked together, pointing toward the bells, and another group quickly joined them.


Since moving into the house, I had met most of the neighbors at the homeowner’s association meetings or an occasional block party.


I was a bit skeptical of the latter group having ever set foot in that church, or any house of worship for that matter, in a very long time. I’d witnessed the rude behavior and excessive drinking of most of them at the various gatherings, and I wasn’t impressed.


Yet, there they were, the nonchurch goers with a group of different religious affiliations, and cultural backgrounds, coming together and walking to church. For a moment, I wondered what it would be like to join them.


I heard the ringtone from my phone, a catchy phrase from Lizzo's latest single. So, I ran to the den and picked it up from the chair, where I had tossed it the night before. It was one of my brothers calling to see if I made it through the night okay, followed by calls from other family and friends I hadn’t seen much of since college. I rarely spoke with most of my relatives except on holidays or other celebrations I attended sporadically.


I’d never made time for friends or family. There’s always a promotion to strive for or a work project to complete. I focused more on how much dinero I could make and not much else. It made me smile to think of their concern when admittedly, I never thought to call anyone. I made a promise to myself and to my friends as well as family that I would make more time for them from now on.


It was strange, though, I thought; not one of the callers cared to talk directly about the craziness that started less than twelve hours earlier. I had to remind myself that denial is a way of coping. No one knew that better than me. I had elevated denial to an art form over the years.


After changing into shorts and a tee, I could see that it was time to get my hairy legs waxed again, and the spray tan was fading. So, with my freshly home-brewed coffee in hand and my phone left on the kitchen counter recharging, I went out to the front porch to sit on the steps in the sun.


Looking over the perfectly manicured lawn, I thought, next year, I’ll replace the grass with wildflowers. Of course, I’d hear from the homeowner’s association about that decision. But who knows, maybe it would catch on with others in the neighborhood.


It was peculiar that work hadn’t blown up my phone with emergent issues that needed to be solved— yesterday. I figured my office email would be full, as would the voicemail. It was a surprise to me that I didn't care, and there was a sense that I might never care again.


The only thing that required my attention was the lovely day unfolding on my front steps. The air was amazingly fresh, and butterflies fluttered around the flower beds in the soft breeze. Occasionally a bee buzzed by while the warm sunshine washed over me.


As I picked a few yellow flowers from a ceramic pot on the steps, I waived and called "good morning," to joggers, bicyclists, and others on the walking path across from where I sat.



Down the way, I saw a small patch of ice and snow hovering over a sewer drain.


I wondered, did Mother Nature leave her calling card to tell us she meant business this time? Was last night a snapshot of our planet’s future? Are the scientist's warnings correct? Is it already too late...?

October 31, 2023 02:09

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17 comments

S. E. Foley
21:36 Apr 11, 2024

I like how this story cruises through different topics that we dwell on as a society and as individuals. Science explains weather, but can't take away the primal awe that has us reaching for gods. And yes, there are a lot of parallels within religious mythologies. It's like they were all born from the same story and splintered off in the retellings over the millennia.

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Michał Przywara
21:44 Feb 20, 2024

Very much a story of “touch grass”, and why that isn't a dismissive remark but rather advice most of us could benefit from heeding. “I had to remind myself that denial is a way of coping” - this right here is the key. It's the narrator's narrow pursuit of dinero. It's the gizmos and gadgets in the gated community, which drown out nature. It's the profit driven blaming of political rivals or gods for natural phenomena like the weather. I like the realizations she undergoes. Or perhaps, a re-prioritizing. She sees what might be truly impor...

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Judith Jerdé
17:29 Apr 04, 2024

Michal, Thank you so much for reading the story and your helpful comments. Much appreciated.

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Tracy Phillips
15:50 Feb 20, 2024

Really liked the energy of your story - good read!

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Andrea Corwin
05:35 Nov 14, 2023

I loved all the references in this story! Harry Potter and Atlas Shrugged …. and commentary on religion.

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Shirley Medhurst
10:28 Nov 09, 2023

Plenty of food for thought here, Judith!

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Danie Holland
15:25 Nov 08, 2023

Judith, I love the awareness you raise in this story. The awareness not only to mother nature but also the division. The right, the left, who cares when the ending is the same? Eventually, aren't we going to cast blame aside and do what needs doing? What a novel idea that would be. Too many people grew up without actually growing up. "It was a surprise to me that I didn't care, and there was a sense that I might never care again.' - this line resonated a bunch with me. I find it harder and harder to care about work these days and making mo...

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Judith Jerdé
21:52 Nov 08, 2023

Danie, I’m so happy that you read the story and found it meaningful. I was told once that my character didn't change that much by the story’s end. She didn't join a movement or burn her bra in protest. Baby steps, I believe there was a deep existential change beginning. Once again thank you for the read and your kind thoughts on this story.

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Judith Jerdé
21:52 Nov 08, 2023

Danie, I’m so happy that you read the story and found it meaningful. I was told once that my character didn't change that much by the story’s end. She didn't join a movement or burn her bra in protest. Baby steps, I believe there was a deep existential change beginning. Once again thank you for the read and your kind thoughts on this story.

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Nina H
20:10 Nov 04, 2023

Sometimes we need a wake up call to recenter. It seems she got one!

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Hazel Ide
19:54 Nov 04, 2023

I wonder if Starbucks is open, sure could use a half calf…. So accurate.

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Karen Corr
13:54 Nov 02, 2023

Good story, Judith! I think this is your best work, yet! No doubt if something like this were ever to happen, blame and arguments would erupt! (:

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Judith Jerdé
00:18 Nov 03, 2023

Thank you Karen, I appreciate your positive feedback. It’s so nice to hear.

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Mary Bendickson
18:23 Nov 01, 2023

Wonderful weather we are having... Thanks for liking 'Where's the Can Opener '

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Judith Jerdé
00:20 Nov 03, 2023

Haha… Yes, I don’t believe I have ever heard of weather quite like it before. Thank you.

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Martin Ross
15:02 Oct 31, 2023

Boy, does this reflect how I often feel these days. Great job!

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Judith Jerdé
00:25 Nov 03, 2023

Martin, thank you for reading Mother Nature’s Calling Card… A bit of a wake-up call for a self-absorbed young woman.

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