Severe Weather Reports
© Copyright 2021 by Pavel Filatov
Photo by ZACHARY PEARSON on Unsplash.
For Norman, life had always been somewhat complicated. There had always been one thing or another which prevented him from achieving what he wanted, and no matter how hard he tried, he always seemed to fail. You see, there are two things you should know about Norman. The first is that his whole life he’d dreamt of becoming a weatherman. The allure of standing in front of that green screen, letting the country know about the latest and most important weather conditions was overwhelming for Norman, and he did little else but develop his oratory abilities. The second is that ever since he could remember, Norman hadn’t just been Norman. At no one time did he realize this, but Norman had three very distinct personalities. Obviously, jolly, weather-loving Norman was one of them, and perhaps even the main one. The second liked to call himself Emilio, the Darkness of the South. Emilio was feared by many, known for his notorious acts across South America. He had even served time in a federal prison, and been beaten routinely by the guards. Norman’s third personality was rather unobtrusive compared to the first two. He was neither aspiring nor angry, neither jolly nor fearsome, and he did not even have a name.
Norman’s third personality was a giraffe.
Our story begins one fateful afternoon, shortly after Norman had woken up. Little did he know that the events which would ensue would change him forever, in more ways than one.
When Norman awoke, it was already well into the day. He rarely got an opportunity to sleep in so late, and he revelled in the warmth of his soft bed. Here in his little village he had few of the amenities that folk from the big city shared in, but nonetheless he was content. All he needed was a clear blue sky, the sun shining on his face, and a high of twenty five degrees with humidity of no more than sixty percent. All Norman ever wanted to do was sit around and track the weather conditions, making sure that he was knowledgeable so that he could inform everyone of weather updates. In fact, he did so every day at five in the evening, practising his abilities to give a weekly forecast. He did so knowing that one day he would be able to forecast for the whole country, bringing happiness to each and every one of his fellow citizens. But this morning felt different. The air had a certain moistness to it, and Norman knew that it could mean only one thing. He got up quickly, and tried to pay attention to the air pressure. Even though he had none of the formal training that most weather forecasters go through, he could tell that it was inexplicably low. Norman dashed outside, scanning the sky for signs of cumulonimbus clouds. What he saw petrified him. Clouds upon clouds filled the sky, more developing with each second that he wasted. He knew what he was destined to do. America had to be warned.
Emilio’s head pounded as he staggered back inside, barely able to open his eyes. He had pounded back quite a bit last night, finishing off his last bottle of El Tesoro Platinum. He knew he would regret doing so; the case he had lifted from a small bar in Rio de Janeiro had been his only remaining shred of home, and what with the bounty on his head he knew he wasn’t likely to get back to steal another one. He would have liked to go out for once, meet someone new, but his dump of a village was empty as always. Emilio wasn’t really sure how or why he got here. Last thing he could remember he had blacked out, and found himself in the middle of such a godforsaken plot of land. There were others here like him; exiles, lingering around till movement escaped them. With each passing day Emilio grew sicker and sicker of such an existence. Long gone were his days of robbery and murder, daring escapes from El Policia, drunken fights with gangs and guns. Perhaps he would die here, an old sullen man with nothing to show but scars on his body and pockets full of nothing.
He had to get out.
After all, he was nearly as strong as he had once been, able to lift a grown ox with his bare hands. Why shouldn’t he go out with a bang? Was he not Emilio, the Darkness of the South? Was he not once feared by all of South America? In that instant he knew. He had thought about it for quite some time now, mulling it over in his head, planning the details; but now he had decided. Standing there, in a muddy field, with dark clouds surrounding him from above, Emilio knew. He was going to rob the Bank of New York.
The giraffe slowly wandered through the field, the slight incline slowing its heavy body down. Having awoken not too long ago, it was not entirely sure as of yet what it wanted. With heat like this, each step would be a nuisance; but not for this giraffe. It wandered the same barren fields every day, every now and then extending its long neck to nip a leaf or two from the tallest branches. As far as it could tell, the giraffe was alone here. Or at least others never bothered to wander to close to it, choosing to stay in their packs. But not this giraffe. It followed a similar routine from day to day, living a very simple existence. As long as there was water in the pond, and leaves on the trees, it was always satisfied. But today something was off. The field no longer held the same allure that it always did, and the giraffe could feel it. Some would say it’s the air pressure, others would say the lack of companionship, but whatever it was, the giraffe could certainly feel that not everything was ok. It twisted around its long neck to gaze into the distance, to that faraway spot that it so vaguely remembered. It slowly turned the rest of its body around, and began to move in that direction.
If it were up to Norman, he would have trekked all the way to the Big Apple. He’d dreamt of this moment so many times that he wanted to absorb as much as possible, and see everything there is to see of this enchanting city. But he knew there was no time for such things. A flight would have to suffice, regardless of how boring or squishy it would be. Norman left immediately after observing the clouds one last time, the entire cab ride to the airport jotting down notes about dangerous cloud formations. It was all very much to take in, especially for someone who had never in their life even seen anything but an old television. But he knew that once everyone was safe, he’d have time for all this; time to explore the beautiful city, witness the technological marvels around him. Right now, he only had time to prepare what he would say when given the chance. Without a hint of remorse, Norman laid out his life’s savings on the counter and purchased his plane ticket. In his eyes, this ticket held an unmeasurable wealth, and after presenting it to the somewhat bemused flight attendant, he carefully folded it away into his wallet. He would frame it and hang it up in his office one day, when he was a world famous weather reporter. The plane was absolutely huge, bigger than anything Norman had ever seen. Stepping into it, he saw rows and rows of seats, stretching as far as he could make out. He had to walk all the way to the end before he found his seat, but he was in luck; Norman’s seat was by the window. It would give him a direct view right into the clouds, allowing him to confirm his suspicions of the dangerous storm to come. Not for a single second of that flight did he stop to stare out his tiny window opening, and he savoured each and every moment of it.
By the time Emilio awoke, the flight had almost landed. Emilio despised flying, with an even greater contempt than he had for authority. The last time he had been on a plane, was during his service in Vietnam, back in the days that he had been working with the FBI and the military. They’d picked him up after some odd bar fight, but he was wanted for far more than that. The choice they gave him was simple. Life imprisonment, or four quick years of service for America. He loathed himself for agreeing to work with the military, but surely it was better than rotting away in some American jail. It was during his final year of service that the military aircraft on which he was aboard was hijacked by the Viet Cong. It was pandemonium. He made it out of there with a bullet wound and some deep cuts, but that was more than he could say for any of the other soldiers. He found sleeping through the flight to be a much easier way to pass time than staring out that tiny hole they call a window. It wasn’t long before the plane came to a stop, and he was let off at JFK Airport. Emilio hadn’t seen New York in almost 20 years; he was anxious to see how this city of gold had developed. Back in the day a man could get anything he wanted in New York. Booze, Coke, women, it was like a huge breeding pool where anything was available.
But the New York that Emilio saw was not the same one he remembered.
Screens covered the buildings, more advertisements than ever covering the city. And it was somehow dirtier than it had once been, every street corner polluted with trash and homeless people. The world had changed around Emilio, and he hadn’t even been there to notice it.
For what seemed like hours the giraffe had been crossing this endless grassland, slowly making its way over to where the rest of the herd generally was. This giraffe spent little time around the group, choosing to remain alone, but it understood the necessity of reaching it. Something kept pushing the giraffe closer to its kind, but the reason was far from obvious. It could only feel that on this day, unlike all other days, there was a difference. Whether it be something external, or simply how the giraffe felt at that moment, it needed to reach the others, so they could help it. Looking across the acres it had yet to cross, any other giraffe would feel great despair. But not this one; it was content with its pace, as long as it got there in the end.
Norman ran out of the airport at full speed, anxious to grab a cab to take him into the city. He wasn’t exactly sure where to go, since he had never even considered the opportunity of being here would arise. He jumped into the first car with the sign “TAXI” above it, and yelled, “I need to get to the headquarters of a weather station!”
The cabbie looked at him funny, and responded, “You mean like the GE Building or something?”
“Sure! Wherever’s closest!” Norman barked, and the car sped off. All he could think of as they darted through traffic was what he would say when he finally got there. He wasn’t even sure of how to introduce himself, let alone to whom. He had never spoken to anyone outside of his village; how was he to know what customs were held here? Norman would have to do his best, winging his entire performance. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but he was ready to take it on if it meant helping the entire country. He curled up his fists; what lay ahead of him wouldn’t be easy. Norman could see the top of the GE Building peeking out amongst the other buildings, looming so tall above the streets of this city. But above the building there was something even greater, the thought of which sent shivers down Norman’s spine. As the cab navigated the busy streets the building grew closer and closer, until it finally stood directly in front of him. Norman threw a couple of bills at the driver, ripped open the door, and nearly stumbling over the crowd of people standing in front of the building, burst through the main doors.
Emilio slowly paced through the crowd, weaving around these people going about their daily lives. The mere sight of them aggravated him beyond measure; the arrogance and naivety with which they strutted through life had always evoked deep hatred within Emilio. Perhaps it was that he himself had always lacked the ability to ignore or not even notice the despair around him, or the fact that he had never had others to take away such pain, but either way Emilio absolutely hated being around others. He glanced up at the street sign, and noticed that he’d reached the corner of 50th and Rockefeller Plaza. If his memory had not escaped him yet, this was where The Slab was. His mind wandered back to that warm August night in 79’, when he’d gone all the way up the elevator to the top of the observation deck. What he remembered most was the view, which had been absolutely astonishing. The entire city lit up, even then cars buzzing everywhere, something on every corner; there’s a reason they called it the city that never sleeps. The memory was so vibrant that Emilio could feel himself being drawn to the building, and he allowed it to sweep him up, pushing him right through the doors.
The giraffe knew this spot. It had been here once before, a very long time ago, yet something remained familiar. There wasn’t much here, just a few trees bunched close enough together that they formed a sort of sanctuary, but the enclosure somehow pulled the giraffe towards it. It stood there for quite some time, just staring at the trees. The last time it was here, it had not been alone.
Norman rushed at the receptionist, beginning to panic at how little time was left till nightfall. He wasn’t sure if this storm would even hold off until then, and if it did, the few hours left until dark would not be enough time to mobilize the forces and means for shelter. He approached the receptionist, and yelled, “I need to speak to someone immediately! I have to talk to the head of the national weather forecasting channel! It’s an emergency!”
She simply looked up from the magazine that she had been reading, and quietly responded, “Sir, if you need to speak to someone, you’re going to have to call in and make an appointment”.
“Please, you don’t understand! People need to know about the storm! I have to warn them!” Norman yelled back, in sheer disbelief that someone could have such little regard for the safety of a nation.
Without even a change in facial expression, she answered, “Sir, am I going to have to call security?” Excited that she was finally taking him seriously, Norman yelled at her to get the security guards, knowing that once they get there this would all be solved. Within seconds the two large men approached Norman, grabbed him by the arms, and began to drag him out. Norman didn’t understand. Where were they taking him? Did they know why he was here? He tried explaining the situation to them, but that only seemed to tighten their grip. Frantically, Norman began to resist against them, trying to fight his way back to the elevator. He threw his feet out from under him, causing the grip of one of the guards to slip, and in that moment Norman turned around and sprinted for the elevator.
Emilio approached the elevators, excited to once again look out onto this city which he had once loved. It certainly wasn’t home, but nonetheless there was a certain appeal to it, especially now that he had not seen it for so long. The last time that he’d been here he hadn’t been on the best of terms with the police, and he’d been anxious to return ever since. Just as Emilio pressed the button to go up, he heard two security guards yelling from behind him. He turned around to face them, and noticed that one had his pistol out, and the other was talking into his walkie-talkie, likely calling for backup. Emilio’s instincts immediately kicked in. He pulled out his military issue survival knife, and charged at the guards.
The giraffe had just turned back towards the herd in the distance when it saw the car. It had likely been following it for some time, but as the giraffe began to move again, the car sped up. The sound of the wheels on dirt resonated in the giraffes ears, and its slow pace now turned into a trot. The vehicle pulled up alongside it, and a man emerged from the opening, holding a large Armalite AR-50 Sniper Rifle. He looked through the scope right at the giraffe.
The bullet went straight through the heart.
Norman lay on the floor, his body resting in a pool of his own blood. He was in absolute shock, not even sure what was happening. All he could remember was a sharp pain in his chest, and everything going black. He couldn’t move, so something was definitely wrong; he tried to speak, but nothing would come out of his mouth. Once before had Norman felt like this. He didn’t remember what had happened so much as how he felt, but vague images played around in his eyes. A sunny day by the beach, his beautiful mother splashing in the waves in front of him. He was very small then, and hardly able to move around on his own. She’d placed Norman down on the sand, so she had a clear view of him, and could enjoy the warm waters. But before Norman’s very eyes, the clouds darkened, and rain began to pour everywhere. His mother noticed immediately, and ran to grab Norman, but it was too late. The weather had a mind of its own. Bolts of lightning struck down from the sky, surrounding the beach in brilliant lights. And as Norman’s mother was reaching out to lift up her only son, a bolt of lightning struck her where she stood, instantly killing her. Norman had blocked out the entire event, but there was one thing which always remained. The thought that the weather can somehow be anticipated, or prevented, stuck with Norman ever since, making his life’s goal to forecast the weather. But despite all his efforts he had failed. The storm would still happen, and Norman had done nothing to stop it. He put all his will into it, and with a final weak breath, a single word escaped his lips.
The pain pierced through Emilio’s chest, his feet staggering beneath him. He’d been shot before, but it was different this time. He could sense it. He’d lived a fulfilling life, accomplished great feats. He truly was Emilio, the Darkness of the South. But he hadn’t always been. Once, he was just Emilio, a young boy with great ambition. If only he could have stayed that way. His mother fell ill when he was but a boy, and Emilio quickly grew poor and miserable. He had exhausted all his money on treatments, but each day his mother seemed to grow worse. Doctors said there was nothing left to try, but Emilio had heard of a new drug. Something that could help anyone, heal any sickness. Emilio would later learn that some things are irreparable. But that did little to stop him from stealing a stranger’s wallet, desperately trying to gather enough money for his mother’s sake. It hadn’t had all that much inside, and coupled with Emilio’s greedy and addictive personality, he began to steal more and more. But a few short years had passed when he became known as the Darkness of the South, shaping him into the man that now lay here. His blood surrounded him like a cushion, yet it was only a veil. The cold ground beneath him reminded him of his dying mother’s touch, and for the last time, he allowed it to embrace him.
The giraffe lay lifeless in the grassy field, its body spread out in an unnatural form. It remembered why the spot had looked so familiar. It had been there many years before, when it was a much younger giraffe. But there had been another. She would always care for the giraffe, feeding it when it was hungry, keeping it warm on cold days, and always offering its nose to nuzzle when it was needed. But one day hunters had come for her, shooting her down to take with them. The giraffe had been so small that he’d managed to hide behind the trees, hidden from their sight, but not her. She’d been struck down so mercilessly that the giraffe could not understand what she’d done to deserve it. If loving her offspring was a crime, then she was truly guilty; only not deserving of such a harsh punishment. It had been easier to forget and block out the memories, to supress that one moment which had shattered its life forever. As the giraffe took its last breath of life, a single rain drop landed on its nose. The drop leaked down, as more followed in its suite. Dark clouds formed above it, enveloping the sky above them. Although giraffe’s could not tell such things, the day was quickly drawing to a close.
A storm was coming.