Monday, December 28, 2009
Ulrich positioned his leg on the lichen-covered rock.
Nothing would bend anymore. Not even the ankle.
He should examine the infection again, but now his only choice would be to cut the pants. Even if he could manage the bent knife, he couldn't afford to sacrifice more clothes.
Overhead, the strange storm had grown fast. Clouds boiled over the ridgeline and churned. The middle tightened in a slow circle. He watched it darken and bend inward. A vortex began to drill into the grey.
A roll of thunder shook him from the trance. He needed some shelter, more than trees, but under the shadows of the pines he saw only trunks and a prickly mesh of dead branches.
Above the pointed treetops, the vortex deepened. A haze curtained over the valley. Rain. Drenching rain.
Ulrich considered turning back and heading down the mountain. But as he traced a path down, something odd sizzled in the distance. Harder than wind. Like static. Or applause.
The wave of sound swept toward him, and a rain of fine hailstones danced in the greenery and pin-pricked his face. White peppered the pine-needled ground.
The hail stopped, and a deep, unpleasant thunder shook in the foundations of the mountain.
A cold fear fluttered across Ulrich's skin.
He slid off the rock and pulled himself forward. He would make for the ridge, straight up. He could shelter on the other side of the mountain. He could shield himself from the monstrous storm.
Quick machinegun fire approached.
Ulrich fought panic.
A shower of marble hail shook the branches and snapped twigs. Hot pain stung his shoulders and the back of his head. As the incline stretched upward, his hand cupped weathered rock. He broke above the tree line.
His thoughts sped through the intricacies of weather. The crossing, twisting patterns. The reasonable predictions.
He catalogued data points from the storm. Hail was formed by rain whipping up into the high atmosphere where it froze. Convections brought it down, wetting the ice, then cycled it back up to re-freeze, over and over, again and again. The stronger the convections, the bigger the hail, and that storm must be a dreadful engine.
Cracked rock cut his blisters and smeared blood where his hands pressed. His good leg worked double, but he still needed the other to anchor. Light bled from the mountain, and the lowlands draped themselves with false night.
Thunder rumbled again.
Another barrage of hail ricocheted in a chaos of white.
Less than a mile away.
No cover. Ulrich was caught, exposed. He clasped his hands behind his head and neck. Golf balls of ice shattered on boulders.
He writhed and screamed. A solid hit to the kidney. A crunching blow to the bones in his hand.
When the wave passed, he heaved himself again. But a different sound yanked his attention to the side. Like a hollow punch. A spray of ice mist hung in the distance. A white boulder rolled down the mountain. It had to be at least four feet in diameter.
While he watched, awestruck, another blur of white crunched into the ground and bounced.
Like no normal storm could make.
The vortex in the sky towered. Like the barrel of a gun. Ulrich knew it was taking aim at him.
He clawed, yanking rocks loose. At least fifty yards before he reached top. He panted hard. His muscles trembled.
Even larger. Good God, even larger.
He scanned sideways. He was running out of time.
Coming down the ridgeline, another wave raced. Not golf balls this time. A chaos of ice.
To his right, a large sheet of rock jutted over a bit of darkness. It looked much too small. A nice nook for a coyote to hide, perhaps.
As the deadly hail approached, he rammed his head inside. A shower of dirt and broken stone fell into a miniature cavern beneath. He flailed and dug, wedging himself in farther.
Skull-smashing hail carpeted the mountain. The impacts resonated in the rock.
Ripping fabric, then skin, he wrenched his hips through the opening and propelled himself into the tiny cave. The awkward way he was wedged, he wasn't sure if he could climb out again.
This time, the storm's aim was true.
A colossal crash jolted the rock over him.
The force rebounded off his face and threw his head into the ground. Dust grated his eyes and choked lungs. As the hail pummeled the Earth, he couldn't even free his hands to block his ears to the horrifying sound.
(I'm sharing scenes from my novel in progress. If you find something you particularly like in these scenes, such as a mood, style, or theme, please let me know. If you find something you particularly don't like in these scene, please do the same.)