You may read various versions of this story, but this is closest to the original content. Enjoy.
© 2006 by Steven L Campbell
A Friday evening blood-red sun sank eye-to-eye with Myers Ridge and blistered the west side of the craggy peak to look like a plug of magma. But Myers Ridge and its Eagle Rock Incline had not been forged by fire from the earth’s interior; they had been pushed into existence by great sheets of ice more than ten thousand years ago, and Myers Ridge’s deep limestone bowels were filled with tunnels and caves as cold as the day it was born. From its chilly repose, the ridge seemed to awaken with a shudder, as though frightened to be cast in a redness that threatened to scorch drier its valleys of evergreen and deciduous trees.
Deep inside and miles below the ridge’s icy chambers, the internal earth erupted and hurled carbon into the ridge at supersonic speed. Millions of gallons of underground lake water quickly cooled the carbon into diamonds and shot steam to the surface. The old Pennsylvania hill—a mere remnant of the mountain it once was—grumbled and shook down trees and rock. Several caves collapsed. Loose stone and sod tumbled down hillsides and spilled into unpopulated creeks and ravines. All around, small animals hissed and shrieked and scurried into burrows. Black bear stood and roared. Deer crashed through thickets, their eyes wide and their breath quick and snorting through flared nostrils. The clash and scream of bats and birds and ducks and geese taking flight sounded like someone had ripped open the August sky. Thousands of these dark winged creatures detonated into evening’s crimson inferno.
The tremor, which lasted almost fifteen seconds, stopped. Myers Ridge and many of its creatures settled.
Inside the ancient depths of an underground lake, a long plume of silver cloud rose from the ashes. Red and yellow bristle-pointed lights radiated from within the elongated cloud, boiled the lake, and sparked nearby stone into fire. Like overcooked blackened eggs, several geodes burst open and gave up their multicolored crystals to flame. Even the diamonds there were blistered into obsidian-like cinders.
The silver cloud lifted and turned and shifted, squirmed its way topside, and summoned the heavens for electricity. The red sky outside pitched along its horizons and gave birth to thunderclouds. An uneasy crow lumbered lonely above the ridge and cawed sharply for its scattered mates that had left him during the tremor. No answer came. The crow squawked as if it were annoyed to be left by itself.
The cloud shrilled and sent darts of red light from its brumous interior. The crow cried out and lumbered to get away from the oncoming attack, its black wings flapping hard to gain altitude. The lights pierced its body as the crow flapped higher into the blood-red skylight until its wings flapped no more.
The lights returned next to the cloud. A swarm of yellow lights exited the cloud and stood with the red lights, pulsating like thousands of miniature hearts. The silver cloud thundered at the sky for electricity. Equal thunder answered from the horizons; the sky around Myers Ridge buzzed with immediate electricity.
“Take off your ring,” Lisa told him. Her voice trembled. She threw her own rings onto her sleeping bag.
“Hurry. Get rid of everything metal.” Lisa undid her belt from her blue jeans and threw the belt aside. Her cell phone—the new red one she had bought last week—followed and clattered against her rings inside the tent. Her long auburn hair frizzed and the ends danced in the air, almost alive. Then she had her hands inside his pockets, pulling them inside-out. His keys and loose change clattered against his folded painter’s easel between their sleeping bags, waiting like him for the approaching storm to pass.
“What’s going on?” David Evans scratched his neck where he felt tiny insects crawling on the hairs. His wedding ring vibrated on his finger. He stared at his hand.
“David.” His mind emerged from the thought that something extraordinary was happening. “We’re inside an electrical charge.”
Wind pushed them across Myers Ridge when she pulled him from the tent. Then he was up and racing with Lisa toward the woods. Above the wind came the sound of angry bees.
“Lightning.” David barely heard Lisa’s voice. “We’ve got to get to lower ground.”
Rain broke from the sky and slashed their backs. Lisa reached for his hand—the one still bearing the wedding band—and they ran inside the woods, along the trail that led to Ron and Josie McCutcheon’s ranch house a half-mile away.
Thunderclouds churned and rumbled. Lisa pulled him over briars and deadwood and rock. The trail’s unevenness jolted them; the ground tilted to the left and she fell. He dove after her and landed at the edge of a sinkhole. The hole was large enough to swallow his Sequoia parked safely at Ron and Josie’s.
His boys were there with Josie; he had to rescue their mother.
Lisa’s rain- and mud-streaked forearms rose from a cloud of silver fog that filled the hole. Her hands clutched a tree root above the cloud.
“Help me,” she called from inside the swirling cloud. “I can’t hold on.”
Her hands were out of reach, but David still reached out to save her. That’s when the rain stopped. Heat suddenly blanketed his back as a bolt of lightning struck the cloud. He felt an explosion in his skull. Electricity hammered the bones in his outstretched arm before he screamed and rolled away.
His head throbbed; fire tore inside his arm. The air cooled and the rain started again. He scrambled on his belly closer to the edge of the sinkhole and called Lisa’s name. The cloud was gone. So was Lisa.
One mile east of Myers Ridge, the only angler hitched his sharp-angled shoulders and returned to casting his line from the shoreline rollicking from the tremor. Long ripples reflected broken red skylight across Alice Lake.
Norman Gentry’s reflection was that of funhouse mirrors. When the lake flattened, a face like Abraham Lincoln’s looked back at him. Norman was almost certain that Lincoln had never seen sixty.
Happy birthday, he reminded himself as he fished for his supper at the lake he called home.
His lake—Alice Lake—used to be a good lake, tormented many years by industrial dumping until the plastics factory in town moved overseas in 1990. EPA claimed the lake clean again last year, but only a few ever ventured to eat from waters that still maintained a mysterious middle.
Good trout ran downstream, he’d heard, but no fish from Alice Lake had killed him yet. He knew how to recognize cancer sores on his fish, and he knew good meat by its smell before he put it to butter, lemon, and salt and pepper.
Bars of silver flashed close to his dock. He cast his line and hooked a minnow. He cast again and brought in a bluegill. He cast and forgot everything on earth except the lake until the rain came.
“Are you going to ignore me all night?”
She stood behind him and was bright, too bright, and came closer and closer and finally stopped just behind his back. He ducked round, away from her heat. Her long auburn hair was aflame upon a slim figure in a burning array of silver.
Yellow lights sparkled above her right shoulder; red lights above her left.
“Choose,” she said.
An invisible torch swept over him. Her wide grin thrilled him abruptly and sorely. Only two or three women from town ever looked at him that way, and she wasn’t any of them.
Her beauty inside the fire stopped him. There was nothing but dry gravel in his throat as he tried to speak. He drank in the rain that got past the licking flames consuming him, and he managed to cough a bit and feel his face flush in the heat.
The slim point of his fishing rod bowed to the dancing water under the elm trees before he released his hold of the rod to accept the kindling voice that sang him to bed.
To be continued