Not The End

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

Too many citizens were ready to believe that their beloved town would not survive the third time around. The third tornado that month was in the making. The town had not yet fully recovered from the first two tornados.

It was a small town. The population had never reached ten-thousand. It was too small to qualify to have a mayor, nor any elected official. The Executive Council of three was appointed by the Governor of the State. The chief executive officers, appointed by the Council, were one Sheriff and one Deputy Sheriff. The official means of transport these two appointed law enforcement officials shared, was one Police car and one Police bicycle.

The Governor was seriously considering closing down the town, permanently. If this third tornado struck with the destructiveness of the first two that month, it would be the last straw. Everybody was strongly advised to leave the town, and, if even remotely possible, to never return.

The town's two-hundred-year-old cemetery had been flooded in ankle-deep water by the first tornado. The second tornado had increased that depth to knee-deep.

The population total had been decimated; by how many was yet to be officially calculated.

Elizabeth Sneddon had lived all her life there. She was well-past retirement age, but she still ran her veterinary clinic. For the last thirty years, and counting. She had no plans to close down. She was going to comply with the first half of the Governor's recommendation, but not the second. She was determined to return. Her clinic was, and had always been, the only one in the town. The animals needed her. Most of her patients had always been stray animals in the town.

Her favourite stray was a bird that dropped down from the sky during that first tornado. It was the size of a sparrow. Blue head, black wings, silver tail feathers. Its wing was dislocated. Elizabeth had, by sheer luck, heard the bird slam against a clinic window as the tornado was dying out. She went outside and brought the soaking-wet creature inside. She re-set the dislocated wing, and named the bird Raindrops, for obvious reason. Ever since, Raindrops visited the clinic a few times a week.

Too few citizens owned pets to sustain the clinic. Elizabeth relied wholly on out-of-town wealthy pet owners who could not resist the ever-so-low priced services Elizabeth provided.

The Governor was providing free bus transportation for everyone who chose to leave their own vehicles at home, and for others who did not own vehicles.

Elizabeth was one of those who chose. She did not own a vehicle. She had long ago stopped driving, even the clinic's animal-pickup. She had long ago stopped renewing her licence to drive a vehicle.

The small town never had a vehicle traffic problem. The citizen-packed bus had no trouble moving along through the town. The highway was a problem, from the beginning. People from far away Cities were fleeing, too. It was an unusually long wait for the bus to merge into the highway traffic. On the highway, all was proceeding well until a crash ahead brought all traffic to a standstill.

For the first thirty-or-so minutes, the vehicle radios and other electronic devices continually repeated appeals for patience, along with providing their weather updates of the approaching tornado.

They said the swirling gusts of wind and the swiftly moving dark clouds above were not to be taken seriously as long as the sun was appearing between the clouds.

After those first thirty-or-so minutes, the broadcast news was that everyone should leave their vehicles and walk ahead to the crash site. At the crash site, there would be busses to transport everyone. The tornado was on its malevolent, devastating way, on schedule.

The bus driver noted that while she advised everyone to disembark and walk away, she would remain in the bus with anyone who chose to remain in the bus during the tornado. All the passengers chose to walk away. Elizabeth, too; and she chose to be the last to disembark the bus.

Elizabeth was mildly amused at the total absence of fear in her. Even through the first two tornados. She had hunkered down inside her clinic, and had survived with no permanent damage to herself or the clinic. She had been lucky, twice, in the middle of the disaster, she told herself. Why not just as lucky this time, now that she would be far away?

She told herself that luck did not explain the total absence of fear in her. She told herself that that total absence was probably because at her advanced age she had lost all the brain cells that triggered fear.

She walked along the road, some distance behind the last stranger ahead of her. She saw the body of a cat, sprawled in the wild weeds a few steps away from the side of the road. Elizabeth, stopped. She looked at the corpse. She felt it deserved a few moments of awe-filled sad silence. She always observed this sad silence in her clinic. She never got used to it. The pain always hurt with the paralyzing intensity of a first time. Elizabeth's self-survival instinct had developed a yoga-like automatic trigger-to-end the pain within seconds. She walked along.

The corpse was a step-or-two behind her when she sensed it moved. She stopped and looked back. The animal was slowly crawling away up into the undergrowth. She followed it, notwithstanding the voice within her warning her that in those circumstances she was not being fully intelligent.

The wind gusts were stronger and more frequent. The sun's appearances between the rain clouds were less and less frequent. There were occasional drops of spitefully stinging rain.

Elizabeth was making her way uphill through wild, lashing grass and weeds, after the cat, which was appearing and disappearing ahead, intermittently. Elizabeth paused.

She came to her senses; perhaps because of the spitefully stinging rain drops becoming more frequent. She stopped. She decided to turn back. She saw the cat, ahead of her, sitting on its haunches, and staring at her. She rejected the impulse to go to it. She was about to turn back, when the cat meowed at her, and slowly turned away and ducked out of sight in the tall wild vegetation.

Elizabeth did not try to resist the impulse to hasten to the cat's location. The sun was completely hidden by the clouds. The noisy wind was threatening to twist and fling Elizabeth off into the air. The spitefully stinging rain drops were turning into spitefully angry blinding sheets of opaque solid water.

When she reached the last spot where she saw the cat, she looked in the direction it had disappeared.

She saw the spaceship hidden among trees! The cat was sitting on its haunches in the open doorway, looking at Elizabeth. The ship burst into a blaze of lights all over it. Raindrops flew from behind Elizabeth, straight through the doorway, disappearing behind the cat. Elizabeth Sneddon ran to the doorway and entered, seconds before the tornado burst upon the scene with a destructive ferocity many times greater than an atomic bomb.  

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