Whispers in the Storm
Maia swore that she was dreaming, but the faces of the scholars, the dust upon the bookshelves and the familiar stench of wood oil were far too real. She knew this story, as she moved autonomously through each sequence and spoke each predestined word, she resisted. In her mind she shook from side to side, trying to tip the speeding cart from the tracks, even if it cost her everything. Everything slowed. Each second became three, four, five times longer, six, seven, eight, she felt the power in her body rise like it had all those years ago, nine, ten, it was as if time had stopped. The black and green lightning sparked up her arms, still fast through the phasing of reality, and as it lashed uncontrollably at her friends, her peers, her superiors she saw each and every one of them die. She felt their souls drain into her, she saw the life in their eyes become as hollow as their gaunt faces as the skin tightened over the skulls, she heard the hundreds of screams like a hellish horn dissipate one, by one, by one. The dream didn’t stop until each body was turned to dust and the walls of the academy began to crumble. When she did awake, the tears were already cascading down her face and soaking her pillow. As she sat up in her bed she saw the storm outside her window approaching the coastline where she resided.
Maia began to close the shutters to the windows that were beginning to excite at the fondling of the seaward winds. As the storm wall groped its way across the evening sky, flashes of eldritch lightning scorched the air before thunder came with its demonic orchestra. The clouds seemed to form faces of pain as they rolled closer and closer to the coast. Maia snapped her fingers and the sconces jumped into life on the wall illuminating the hexagonal room that made up a full level of the tower that Maia called home. Locking the trapdoor to the lower level Maia awaited the onslaught. A flash, a roar, and liquid debris pelted the panes as the prow of the storm oozed over the tower.
“What is this? Cthal, is this your doing?” Maia spoke bitterly to nobody, staring at the storm. A voice slithered into her brain No, I have no business upon this plane. Yet. “What do you know, monster?” The slathering voice cackled and faded back into the abyss. Maia’s hairs stood on end, a slimy sweat slithered down her spine. She panted as she became aware she’d been holding her breath. A bolt of bright pink lightning crashed into the tower causing the ancient stones to evaporate instantly to ash. Maia’s corneas buzzed as the hellish belch deafened her, yet she did not show any pain upon her face. Perhaps it was just the sound of the vaporised stone cooling, but as Maia’s hearing returned she swore she could hear voices, no, whispers laced into the storm air, the mutterings of lost souls given one last cry to the material plane. The violet storm intensified into a deep red, the whispers became screams as a sheet of crimson sheet lightning rolled overhead and exploded behind the tower. The blast shook the foundations, then there was utter, unfathomable silence. Maia’s steps broke the silence, the ck’chnk of the key in the lock, the groan of each wooden rung of the descending ladder and the crunch of the snow under her feet as she stepped outside. The raindrops hung in the air, she touched one and watched it burst into smaller beads. Her hand looked odd to her, spectral but physical at once, the outdoors was brightened by the fizzing, frozen bolt that still hung in the sky. She felt the boundaries of those tracks funnel her closer to the burning radius of vaporised snow and lying in its centre was the body of a man, naked against the virgin grass.
She breathed with the first breath of a surfaced diver as reality reverted to the present. The rain chattered against the windows, the lightning continued to score the sky and Maia was still high in her tower. She raced through the motions, unlocking the trapdoor, scrambling down the ladder and bracing herself against the storm as her bare feet were bitten by the snow. Lying in the centre of a frazzling circle lay the body of the man. She saw movement, he was alive? She rushed to him, casting a spell that created a glowing golden bubble around her as she tended to the body. She skidded to him on her knees and found him with his eyes open, concussed breath of a new-born and a single word left his mouth. “Maia!” and he fainted.