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Rainmaker, Stormbreaker

JT Gill's work has appeared in Perihelion Science Fiction, Metaphorosis Magazine, and The Molotov Cocktail, where he won the 2015 Flash Fool contest. This is his 3rd appearance in DSF. You can follow him on twitter @jt3_gill.

"Catherine," Father says, leaning against the machine. "Do you remember when we could turn off the rain?"
I step around beside him, careful not to tread on the headstone at my feet. The leaves of the beech tree are all a-patter overhead, the sky a swirling mass of dark grey clouds.
"Yes," I say, staring across the fields at the Rainmaker, its antennae--bent slightly out of shape--towering above the cornstalks in the distance.
Every day, Father and I work together under the beech tree, next to Mother's grave, to build the Stormbreaker--the machine that will end the storm.
"I miss her," he says.
"We should get back to work," I say, eyeing the heavens.
I remember the day Father finished the Rainmaker.
Mother and I stood close by, staring at the contraption with the bulbed antennae. Father ripped the cord and the exhaust vents coughed blue smoke. I started. Mother put a hand on my shoulder.
"Shouldn't take long," Father said, shouting over the ensuing hum as he adjusted the dials.
It wasn't two hours before the rain began to fall, as if Elijah had asked it of God Himself.
My parents kissed each other in the downpour, and the corn whispered its appreciation.
Eventually, we destroyed the Rainmaker. After what happened with Mother. Ripped the cords from their plugs, burned the generator, and bent that wicked antennae ourselves.
But the storm didn't falter.
Father talked of chain reactions and atmospheric pressure and momentum.
"It's self-sustaining," he said. "The only way to stop it now is with a lot of force. Something bigger."
That was when we began to build the Stormbreaker.
Like Noah, Father said, building the ark.
The celebration was short-lived.
Father buried his head in his hands. Bills were stacked high on the kitchen table.
"It's all right," Mother said, sitting beside him. "We have the Rainmaker now."
"It's not enough," said Father. "The crops still won't be done in time."
The following morning, when I got up to do my chores, our truck was gone. Father with it.
"He had to run some errands," Mother said, but the tremor in her voice told me otherwise.
She had me sit out on the back porch, and watch as she waded through the corn to the Rainmaker.
"Let's turn on the rain," she said. "It'll be a surprise for when he gets back."
I know now that my Mother was clueless, trying to work that machine. But I was only a little girl then, and her childlike faith was far more powerful than my Father's cowardice.
Which made what happened so much worse.
The storm is nearly a hurricane now. A monstrous halo, circling us. The rain never stops.
Our neighbors stop by our house as they trickle away, their trucks sagging beneath the weight of their belongings. None of them suspect we are the cause.
Father stands out on the porch, listening to each one.
"It's only supposed to get worse," they say.
"Why don't you come with us?"
But Father only shakes his head, and watches their cars fade into the night.
"How can I leave again?" Father says later, as we work on the Stormbreaker. "I hear your Mother's voice in the rain, and I'm faced with what I did."
I followed the doctors as they wheeled Mother through the hospital.
So much of her was wrapped in gauze. The smell of burnt flesh was nauseating.
It wasn't until after the surgery that Father arrived, his face as pale as death.
I was angry, confused. He should have been there. If he hadn't left us....
But Mother was dying.
Around midnight, she closed her eyes for the last time.
"It's ok," she said to my Father. "I forgive you."
Father cried for so long after that. We both did.
It was even longer before I spoke to him again. Though it didn't really matter. He spent days under the beech tree, beside her grave, the clouds circling him like buzzards.
Many times I thought about leaving, but somehow it just didn't seem right.
When he finally came back inside, I hardly recognized him, he was so thin.
"Catherine," he said. "I can't ask for your forgiveness, but I would like to ask for your help."
I didn't want to say yes, but if Mother could forgive him, why couldn't I?
My anger dissipated like a cloud, scattered with the wind.
I agreed.
Father has never told me exactly what the Stormbreaker is. Only that it will make things right again.
This is good, because the storm is upon us now. The beech tree groans in the wind, branches whining and popping. The corn thrashes all around us like windblown grass.
Overhead, the clouds are twisting together, swirling in a massive ring.
"Are you ready?" Father shouts.
I nod.
He rips the cord. A red countdown appears on the machine. Five minutes.
And suddenly I realize: this machine will not keep us safe, because it is not a machine at all. It is a bomb.
I look at him, terrified, confused, and he sees
I understand.
"The blast will carry enough force to disrupt the storm's current," he shouts, and holds up the keys to the truck. "Go, Catherine. You can make it."
"Come with me!" I say.
But he only shakes his head, clinging to the bomb. "This is what I deserve."
An enormous crack splits the air above us and a limb from the beech tree comes crashing down. I duck, but the branch knocks Father to the ground, unconscious.
I drag him inside the truck, and then I drive as fast as I can, until the explosion billows up into the sky in the rearview, and the storm is cut in two.
"You should have left me," Father sobs. "How am I supposed to live?"
"Find something bigger," I say, watching the clouds dissipate behind us.
It all looks so small from here.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, March 17th, 2017

Author Comments

The idea for this story came to me while I was at work. It was a stormy day, and I was watching the rain on the windows and thinking about how useful weather control could be... especially to farmers. Voila. This story is the result of that thought.

- JT Gill
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