It rained all day. I sat at the window with Jak longing for the sunshine of the previous six weeks to return. The roads, slick with mud from the tractor hurrying between the fields. Farmers desperate to move the livestock to shelter. It rained the next day as well. And all the following week. It was still raining the day we should have returned to school.
It was the first time they had ever kept me home from school. It was a novelty, and I did not like it one bit. My mother and father were both at work. They left me alone in the house with Jak. He moped about, refusing to play or go out of doors.
‘Get out of the house,’ I shouted at him, ‘you’re driving me mad.’
He ignored me, sat on the floor in front of the television watching cartoons until he fell asleep. The rain continued all the next day and into the evening.
I stared out of the window at our garden, which lay brown and soggy under its blanket of gray cloud cover. The wind blew through my hair as I leaned against the window frame looking down into our garden where Jak’s trampoline stood abandoned in its corner, deflated by rainwater lying in its hollow centre like a giant puddle waiting for someone to come along and jump into it once more before they went off to school. My eyes drifted away from the trampoline towards our chicken coop where two chickens pecked at each other’s feathers near their nesting box while another chicken perched atop their shed looking around for something else to peck at or chase or eat or whatever chickens do during their day-to-day existence…
Beyond the front garden, we have a view over the rooftops of the neighboring houses and down to the ocean. There is an arched viaduct on the horizon. Six times a day, an old steam train puffs across, pulling carriages full of tourists who pay to appreciate my view. Summer in Janville for us kids is an idyllic mix of trips to the beach and ignoring our parents’ stress as they try to avoid the hordes of seasonal visitors clogging up the roads. We didn’t know that we would never see a summer like this again. The rain washed away all memories of that life.
Little sailing boats in the distance braved the weather, their owners taking advantage of the unusual wind patterns to get a bit of adrenaline and relaxation before returning to their jobs in the cities. Jak and I watched the boats through the gloom. It impressed me with how well such small craft could cope with the horrendous weather. Jak enjoyed counting them in and out of the harbor. Jak always enjoyed counting.
I swung my legs off the ledge and buried my toes in the thick woolen carpet. For a moment I stood there, scrunching my toes through the pile of the carpet. Not for the first time in the sixteen years of my life, I felt I was ready for a unique existence. Janville felt restrictive, spreading for a few miles along the coast, threading along the shoreline like a string of pearls. It was a one dimensional space. Janville was once a fishing village for 20 families. Now it was a yearly holiday spot for thousands. But our grandfathers built the town for a different job.
Walking on to the landing, I left my brother checking the boats in and out of the harbor. What our house laked in space it made up for in technology and luxury. Decorated throughout and brimming with the latest gadgets, you could think you were in a modern apartment in Tokyo. Until you looked out the window and saw its traditional cottage garden, overflowing with flowers and complete with greenhouse and vegetable patch. The trickling rain sounded louder out here, the double height landing window taking the full force of the weather. My father was talking to someone in this office and the sound of his voice and that of a news announcer talking in serious tones blended together and seeped up the stairs.
As I neared the bottom stair, one voice became clear and I could make out some words, and I remembered being a young child and hearing the same words. An argument between my father and mother, something about Solly Hay. I remember it was important to my father to visit it? Him? There? I wasn’t sure. But my mother didn’t like the idea. The arguments lasted for a few weeks and then stopped. I’d asked who or what Solly Hay was, but never got a straight answer.
But those few weeks of arguments were over ten years ago. My childhood since then had seen nothing but harmony and humor between my parents. My childhood now seemed so long ago. Somehow time itself seemed to slow, the color and vibrancy of my memories turned down and the level of gritty detail amped up. Something was happening. I could sense it. But, I did not know.
I reached the bottom of the stairs, expecting the voices to get louder. My foot hit the cold laminate of the hallway, which gave a haunted house worthy creek. The door to my father’s study slammed closed, the voices becoming muffled once more. I could hear my mother pacing backwards or forwards in the kitchen. As they reached the bottom step, she paced out through the door. Her face was scared, eyes wide. She looked relieved to see me in beckoned me towards her. The kitchen was a mess. The contents of the food cupboards with spread across every surface. My mum twirled a clipboard in her hands. “Can you give me a hand with this, dear?” she asked. I didn’t question what she was doing. It seemed important just to accept it and play along.
This summer holiday has been odd. I think maybe it’s because I was leaving childhood behind and entering the confusing world of adulthood. Nothing seemed straightforward anymore. Life was giving me headaches.
I didn’t think to ask my mother what my dad was doing, or who he was talking to. For the next half hour, I occupied my mind with counting and categorizing the contents of a kitchen cupboard. Mum was working out what she needed for a big shop. Or maybe she was going to donate the food we never ate to a local charity.
I was keen to make the most of the last week of the summer holidays, even if it was going to rain. Downstairs, I could hear my father busy with some DIY project in the garage.
I remember the endless news broadcasts. Politicians claiming how lucky we had been. Jak and I were just annoyed that they were taking credit for how well the asteroid prevention missile strikes performed. Some scientists appeared in interviews with them. They were not as positive.
Comet 293a-beta, or Betsy, was a 100km class two comet. She orbited the sun on an inclined elliptical path. 4.5 billion years ago, her sibling took a bite from the Earth to form the Moon. Betsy’s composition was water, ice, and rock. A dirty snowball.
There was little warning about her approach. Scientists couldn’t do a full impact simulation in time. Missiles launched anyway.
Betsy is now a billion fragments. A band of cloud in a decaying orbit. A beautiful spiraling water serpent raining a thousand years of havoc on those of us below.
Alien Rain is a YA/Sci-Fi story concept being developed by me, Adam Temper. If you have any thoughts or comments, please let me know…