Storm of the Century
I love the rain. The way the pellets of water hit the leaves and wash away all the mistakes of the world, leaving behind a fresh start. The way the sky goes dark for a few hours, giving my eyes a break from the harsh sunlight. I love the constant noise that blocks out inner thoughts, allowing for silence in my head. There is very little that I dislike about the rain.
I moved to Seattle two weeks ago, when I found a small, one bedroom cottage half a mile into the forest. Seattle is one of the rainiest cities in America, and the land gave me the perfect amount of seclusion from the rest of the city, but I was still close enough to travel when I needed to. It was perfect for me.
I saw the cottage online and fell in love. The outside of the house was made of beautiful hand placed stones that seemed to be carefully picked to fit like a puzzle. The yard had no grass, instead covered by a blanket of leaves that had fallen from the trees above. The moss grew free and wild, crawling up the stones of the house and onto the roof.
It was the sounds that sold me on moving. The brick tiles that made up the roof created the perfect serene noise when it rained. The drops fell onto the leaves, then onto the top of the cottage, hypnotizing me. I could sit inside for hours listening to those noises.
The first night of living in the forest was just short of a dream. There was a light storm, with thunder that shook the house, and noises that lulled me to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, the ground was covered in a dew, and the leftovers of the storm. I sat outside that morning taking in my surroundings. I listened to the birds sing, and watched the squirrels chase each other up the trees. It was all I could ever hope for.
I fell asleep the second night to silence. The earth was completely still. No rain, no wind, no animals. It was the complete opposite of the previous night I had experienced. Around two A.M. However, I was abruptly awoken by a clap of thunder that shook my core. Bleary eyed and startled, I sat upright to look out the window to the storm that raged on. The branches danced in the night, creating monstrous shadows on the walls of my bedroom. The wind wasn’t the typical humming that I was used to. This wind screamed at me, making it nearly impossible to fall back asleep.
When I finally managed to go back to sleep, my dreams were filled with images of monsters, the same shapes as the shadows on my wall. When I woke up the next morning, I realized immediately that I had not slept nearly as well as I had the first night. I shrugged it off as a consequence of last night's interruption, and made my way out to my front porch to enjoy my morning.
I was fully prepared to see the squirrels and birds, and possibly a deer outside, but was instead met with the aftermath of a storm that I greatly underestimated. The leaves, once covering the forest floor, were now misplaced, blown into heaps along the trees. The animals had taken cover during the night, and had yet to come back out. The earth was back to silence, and to say it left me a little uneasy would be an understatement.
I tried my best to ignore the unnerving feeling growing in my stomach, but it was so apparent that I couldn’t even eat my breakfast without feeling a wave of unbearing nausea. I ended my meal having taken three bites of my food, and decided to try taking a walk to calm my nerves.
The ground was still soggy after the storm, so I needed to wear my rain boots, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I slipped on a pair of jeans and a warm sweater. The rain drastically cooled the air down, so it was only 40 degrees out today, compared to the usual 55. I never was a fan of how cold rain made the earth. It was the one downside, but I would live permanently in Antarctica temperatures if it meant getting to listen to the rain.
Stepping outside, I was hit with a gust of wind and a feeling that sent shivers through my entire body. It felt… wrong. It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be outside. Like I had earlier, I shrugged it off as just simply having an off day, and set off on a journey, having no idea where I was headed.
The further into my walk that I got, the tighter my chest got. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t breathe, like there was a hand pressing onto me. I came up to a small hill, and stopped in my tracks. I knew immediately why I wasn’t supposed to be here, and wished more than anything that I had just listened to my gut and stayed in today.
During the storm last night, the hill in front of me had a small landslide. The side of the mound was gone, and covering the ground instead. Peeking out from the earth that had been displaced in the night, I saw the long, pitch black hair of a woman. A woman, buried under the slide. The sight in front of me was enough to make me dizzy. I was looking at a dead body, right in front of me. It wasn’t like seeing a body on a TV screen. This was real, and it was almost too much to handle.
My heart felt like it was trying to escape my chest and help the girl in front of me. I wanted to dig her out, see if there was anything I could do to save her, but my body wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but run. I ran as fast as my legs would allow me. I was back in my cottage in less than half the time it took me to get to that sight.
I just barely made it to the toilet before throwing up what I managed to stomach at breakfast. My entire body ached. Every muscle was screaming at me, telling me I ran too fast, too hard, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t stay there for one more second, looking at that poor girl, all alone. She probably had a family that had no idea she was gone. She probably spent her last moments all alone, thinking about everything she didn’t get to do in life.
I shut my eyes, but was met with the image of her hair. I couldn’t get away from it. She was stuck in my mind, ingrained into my eyes. My brain was going a million miles a second, and I couldn’t shut it off. I was stuck, constantly being reminded that I did nothing to help her. Why didn’t I go to the police? I don’t even know who she is. All I saw was her hair. Her entire face was hidden, I didn’t even know what she looked like.
I pulled myself off the bathroom floor, ignoring the full body ache running through me. I tried to rest, forget about what I saw, but everytime I closed my eyes, she was there. Her lifeless body under the dirt was somehow begging me to pull her out, bring her body to the police, and give her family some kind of closure. Why didn’t I do anything?
It wasn’t until hours later that I started to get unnaturally angry. The only reason there was a dead body not even a mile away from me was because of the rain. The rain that I had loved for my entire life had now killed someone. The rain that created such beautiful, calming noises was the same rain that covered up that girl's screams as she was crushed by the landslide the rain caused. This was all the rain's fault, and I had never hated it more.
I didn’t sleep once that night. I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl, and what might have happened if I hadn’t run. Was there a chance she was still alive when I got to her? Had I just killed a girl because I was too much of a coward to try to help? I ran through just about every scenario in my head of what might have happened. Every possibility of what I would have done if she was alive, if she was dead, if I had gone to the police, let them find her family. It made me dizzy reliving the experience.
When I finally got my thoughts to calm down for more than a couple of seconds, the sun was beginning to rise. The wind was blowing the leaves up from the ground, creating a dance in the air. The birds were chirping, the squirrels were running their laps up and down the trees, and a dead body was less than a mile away from me.
It was too beautiful outside. How could it possibly be sunny, and the perfect temperature, when the earth had just murdered a poor, innocent girl? How could the earth really be that heartless? It was beginning to drive me insane. Every single thought I had was about her. Anytime I tried to eat, I thought about how she would never eat again. Anytime I tried to sleep, I saw her, and thought about how she will never wake up. She was dead, and I was the only person who knew.
At that moment, standing on my front porch, looking out at the most gorgeous day ever, I decided that I hated the rain. I was never going to listen to it again and feel calm. I would only ever experience the rain and feel hatred. Hatred towards everything that happened, everything that was taken from a life. Rain was selfish, and ruthless, and it destroyed anything it wanted, without a second thought.
Without even getting dressed, feet only covered in the thin slippers I wore in the mornings to warm up, I stepped off the front porch, and started to walk. I needed to know who this girl was. I needed to know the life that was taken. I hoped that maybe if I knew, I would get some sort of closure, and be able to actually sleep at night. Maybe I could sit down and eat a meal without feeling an overbearing amount of guilt. Maybe it wasn’t too late to go to the police. It was still possible to go to her family.
I stopped when I was right by the turn that would bring the scene into my view. I made it all the way out without collapsing into a ball of anxiety, but now that I was here, and she was basically in front of me, I wasn’t so sure that I could face it. I moved to Seattle to live a peaceful life, and instead, I felt like I somehow aided in a murder that I really didn’t have a part in. None of this was really my fault, right?
Without giving myself a chance to turn away and run home again, I rounded the turn, and there she was. Her black hair that I had become so familiar with behind my eyelids was now directly in front of me. My stomach turned when it realized what I was looking at, and I was so grateful at that moment that I couldn’t stomach breakfast.
I finally built up the courage to reach for the girl's hair. I was as gentle as I could be, as if she would jump up and yell in pain if I touched her too hard. I took one last deep breath, trying my best to mentally prepare myself to see the face of the girl that was slowly taking over my entire life.
When I pushed the hair back out of her face, I jumped back faster than I ever thought possible, the hair falling back behind her shoulder this time so her face met mine. My heart pounded, it was all I could hear. Nothing felt real. Laying, crushed by the fallen dirt, was me.
Ayla Brasfield is a Batavia High School Senior. Ayla has been writing actively since the sixth grade and plan to continue throughout college.