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Fiction by Jackson Rezen

Lightning

Clouds rolled in. The pressure dropped leaving a heaviness in the air. John could feel the electricity tingling the damp hairs along his arms. It won’t be long now. Down below, the valley stretched beyond the horizon, a river charged on, its current starting somewhere tucked under a mountain, a never ending supply of water, pouring out, unhindered since the beginning of time. When John crossed the river yesterday, it took all he had, desperately clawing at the tide, pushing from the rocks. From here, it looked like he could have skipped over it without getting his ankles wet. Along the edges of the valley, a ridge of smaller mountains rose from the ground, their sides swept up like waves frozen in time. They were all monstrosities. Daunting conglomerates of earth that sat, waiting, but, to John, they were useless. From his peak, he looked down on all of them. From his peak he was closer to God. This was the place.

John set down a large metal briefcase and slung his backpack from his shoulder. The relief was welcomed and for a moment he felt weightless. Quickly he began. There wasn’t much time. The top of the briefcase was stamped with large black text, PROPERTY OF CHRONOTROPIC INC”, and flagged with a collection of warning labels. It popped open with a hiss, leaking fog. John wiped the sweat from his brow, his eyes glowing with promise. He unloaded a collection of metallic boxes each plugging into another to create a daisy chain of reactors, computers, and meters connected by a nest of wires. With the flip of a switch, rows of lights flashed in seizure. In the center was a screen that read out green text, a series of booting programs and function tests. John typed in a string of commands, his hands shaking from a chill that rolled down his spine, though whether it was the wind or the nerves he could not say.

The storm picked up, threatening the end of the world. With the gusts, a light sprinkle of rain trickled in. A wall of clouds, dark as night, billowed up on the horizon, closing in at a dangerous rate. The buzz of electrons rose the hair on the back of John’s neck. He was running out of time. From the side of his bag, he frantically unbuckled a tarp and wrapped it haphazardly around the briefcase. The electronics could handle the drizzle but not what was to come. From the main compartment of the backpack, John produced a series of long metal rods and coils of rubber coated steel cables. Quickly, he screwed the rods together into a long, skinny antenna, tying off the cables to the growing pole every couple feet, the end wobbling as his hands shook. He hammered the last rod into the ground and mounted the rest of the contraption on to it, fighting with the increasing wind. A strike of lightning lit up the darkening sky in the distance. John’s eyes snapped to the clouds. He started counting. Ten seconds later the thunder bounced off the cliff faces and reverberated through the valley. The crushing sound shook his core and sent a tremor to his hands, knocking the hammer to the ground. A brief moment of hesitation passed as John checked a meter in the briefcase. Close. Once the cables were staked into the ground, the antenna stood twenty-five feet in the air, swaying gently against the supports.

John took a step back and double-checked his set up, his heart pounding in his chest and crawling up his throat. He pulled a binder from the backpack and studied the schematics drawn by the technicians who designed it. PROTOTYPE” was watermarked diagonally across the center of each page. They would be coming for him. From his bag he took out a water bottle and swigged the last remaining gulp. He forced himself to take a breath, to rekindled some clarity of the situation, to be at peace with failure should the time come. Wild flowers speckled the mountains leaving a pastel dotted blanket, laid out to warm the earth. He never though about the flowers until now. He wondered if they used to be different.

Another crack of lighting flung him from his meditation. The thunder echoed like bombs on the horizon a second later sending him scrambling back to work. Lastly, he pulled out a large metal disk the size of a serving tray and placed it on the ground. Cords from the briefcase were plugged into various inputs on the platter and more were ran to the antenna. The briefcase continued to leak a fine trail of sublimating steam from the supercooled computer, rolling like fog and quickly whisking away. John slid his hands under the tarp trying to protect the inputs from the now torrential flood falling around him. With a final stroke of the enter key, a large red light flashed in sequence. He sat waiting for the right moment. Seconds away. He was ready.

The rain came in waves with the wind. Fluctuating between a heavy barrage of steady patter and all out war. Large drops tackled each other on the ground. Lightning exploded in the sky above him and struck a hundred feet to his left throwing John for cover. The charge rushed through his system, sending his heart into overdrive and his hair on its ends. He assessed the damage and saw a large tree bursting with flames. The surrounding area was littered with splinters of wood charred and burning, one landing inches from the machine. John scurried to his feet and kicked it into the water soaked brush. It was time. John rustled through his pockets, desperately and found a key. He jammed it in a slot and turned it over, changing the flashing red light to green. The screen typed out a prompt at the bottom of its previous commands. Awaiting power supply…” The cursor pulsed rhythmically.

John stood and walked to the middle of his set-up. He scanned the antenna and looked down at the briefcase. The appropriate lights were flashing. From his pocket he pulled out a small folded piece of paper and opened it. It was a photo of woman, wrapped in clear tape to keep out the rain. A candid, though she was looking at the camera, her eyes were glowing. John placed his fingers on her face and tightened his lips into a smile.

I’m coming.”

He stepped onto the disk, placed the photo in his chest pocket, and looked to the sky. A bolt of lightning sprinted from the heavens. The celestial power of the universe rushed into the tip of the antenna, raced along the cords, and overpowered the computer, blowing sparks from its case. A blaze brighter than the sun enveloped the mountain top and somewhere in the middle, the waves of light bent slightly.

Jackson Rezen

IG: @jackson.rezen.author
jacksonrezen.substack.com

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