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Chantal Noordeloos – Out of a Storm
Disaster – Super Storm
Location – Haunted Hotel
Helpful Item – Rope
Disability – All Alone
Out of the Storm
By Chantal Noordeloos
It all starts with darkness and my ears ringing. Where am I?
I know my eyes are open and for a moment I feel panic slide its cold, clammy fingers from my stomach to my throat, but then I realise I can see light in the distance. Need to remember.
The ringing in my ear seems louder now. No, not ringing. It is the storm. I remember the storm, but through a sea of cotton that seems to have replaced my brain.
The dark is disorienting, and I use the cold concrete ground as a bearing. My palms stick to the chilling surface, and I almost scream as the side of my hand brushes against something that feels like hair or fur. Carefully I let my fingers explore, curiosity stronger than fear.
It pricks my fingers slightly, little bristles piercing the skin of my palm. My hand grips it, finding comfort in its presence. I can tie myself down when the storm comes. It’s a ridiculous thought, but somehow I know that the rope is important.
I sit up, tucking my feet under my skirt, and my right hand, cold from the concrete, rubs the bottom of my nose. I feel so alone. There was a storm, and I had to run. I had to find safety, and I came here… where is here?
Images trickle back into my mind, thick and distorted, a story told in fragments. I’m watching the news that talks of the storm. There is no alarm at first, it is far away, in countries that I couldn’t even point out on a map. At first there is indifference, but as the death toll rises, there is pity. Pity turns to fear when the reports change. The storm is not letting up, it is growing, mutating. Like a living monster, it devours everything in its path. People are frightened, this storm is unlike any other. People give the storm a face, a name; Ouranos. The greek personification of the heavens, the god who ate his children. This storm, this mythical being, is eating us.
It leaves nothing in its wake, nothing but remains of the world as we once knew. People flood the streets with signs declaring that the end of the world is upon us. Some turn to god, different gods, but the intention is the same. Some turn to the government, or to science. But nothing matters, there is nothing that can protect us. This storm, it finds us in our hiding places and rips up all our defences.
I watched the images of a brave camera man’s last moments. The winds on the screen dragged trees out of the ground by their roots and tossed them around. We watched in silent horror. But there was more, a darkness in the storm. Something kept me hypnotised, through the screen I could see tenebrous pulsating in the depths of the storm, I can see the monster within. It would come for me, it would come for my body and my soul. The camera fades from chaotic images to black, as the man working it is sucked up by the storm.
We needed to run. The little wooden house in the little wooden neighbourhood could not withstand this monster of a storm. It would devour us. Body and soul.
My mother does not want to go to the shelters. They are too cramped, too many people seek refuge. There is one other option, one place no one from our neighbourhood would dare to hide….
I know where I am. The realisation sends electrical tingles to run up to my skull.
I know why it is so dark. I am in a basement, in the basement of the local hotel. The storm hit unexpected, it spread through the world like a raging cancer. Mutating and multiplying in size, and we ran into the only place we could think. We ran to the haunted hotel.
The place I feared most as a child. In the fifties one of the guests was responsible for the murder of seventeen guests. The hotel never lived down the reputation, and like the seventeen guests, the hotel died a slow and agonizing death. The owner, a man driven mad by the incident, hung himself from the chandelier.
As children we would dare each other to enter the dark building. I never did, convinced that this place would hold my soul a prisoner. My father called me sensitive, the other children called me cowardly, but I knew there was something about this place. Just as I know there is something about the storm.
If only I could remember getting here. It’s so dark and I don’t know where my parents are. The darkness prevents me from calling out. There is a slight sound, like a squeak that causes me to move. I fear what I can’t see. Far away I see a sliver of light. It must be a door, or perhaps shutters of a window. I stand up, waving my hands in front of my body to protect myself from invisible obstacles. My hair brushes lightly against something that is above me. It could be anything, a lamp, a spiderweb. I am too afraid to touch it, this time fear wins. It gnaws at my stomach.
The light comes from a little crack in a window shutter. It takes a lot of effort for me to open it. The strength seems to have left my fingers and hands and I tear the wood away with sheer willpower. Light pours in, blinding me. Through a small basement window I can see the world outside being consumed by chaos. I can see it now, Ouranos, I can see it for what it really is. A great big creature, a God. It smashes the houses, breaks the trees into kindling. Its great big translucent hands, shaped as dark storm clouds, pick up humanity and sucks the flesh of their bones, the souls from their vessels. It eats all, cars sticking from its grotesque mouth. All but this hotel. This haunted hotel. It’s different.
Then I remember. The fear and sorrow of watching my mother die, consumed by the storm. Seeing my father being torn limb from limb. I remember it all now. It wasn’t my parents who wanted to come here… it was my choice.
I turn around, with an agonizing slowness, my hands clutching the rope so tightly that the material bites in my palms. There is something behind me I need to see, but part of me isn’t ready. It takes all the courage I have to let my gaze slip from the floor to the ceiling. There, hanging from a rope, dangles a body.
The face is contorted, a black tongue protrudes from swollen lips. The tips of the naked toes point down to the floor. Tears run from my eyes.
Outside the storm rages. It eats all that is alive, swallowing it whole. It will destroy the living, but it can’t reach the dead. It cannot obliterate me as it does all else. I will continue to exist in this ethereal form. Here, in this building that traps souls, I am safe from the storm out there. Here I am a survivor.
This has been an audio podcast recording of the “Out of the Storm” written and performed by Chantal Noordeloos. If you enjoyed this story you can vote for Chantal to win the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge at firstname.lastname@example.org
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