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A swirling maelstrom of hot air and water sat a thousand miles south of Iceland. Ophelia was doing something that no hurricane had ever done before. All previous storms unlucky enough to bumble into these cold northern waters soon suffocated and died from the lack of a power source. Not Ophelia, she was dancing with them that brung her. Her massive girth had pushed a wave of warm tropical water before her, the same wave that she was now feeding off of as she made a lazy two thousand mile right hand turn.
My view of the scene was that of a person looking down on a globe. From high above I saw the world go into a frenetic fast forward. Ophelia shrank and turned moving quickly towards the UK. Imagine all the water in the great lakes; now imagine that half of it has been whipped into a furry 300 miles wide bearing down on the English Isles, only to turn again sparing the small island and heading towards the northern coast of Africa. The vision flickered, like a movie missing every fifth frame. Ophelia grew to massive size drinking deeply of the hot tropical waters.
She paused briefly over the Canary Islands, removing them from the map, then Cape Verde vanished. She was so big at this point that she was flinging smaller hurricanes off her like angry projectiles. Places that had been nothing but sand for years, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, all awash in flooding. Places where no one but camel trains and desert traders went could now be traversed by boat. The death toll reached into the millions. Images of dead people swollen in the tropical sun were interspersed with the images I remember seeing from the Aftermath of Katrina. I tried to shut my eyes and realized that I didn’t have eyes, these images were being mainlined right into my head.
Fast forward again, Ophelia after her brush with western Africa was moving again, this time south, no south west. Oh God. She was coming back, she was lapping the Atlantic. The Prefontaine of ocean storms. Ophelia had reached some sort of critical mass; the Atlantic was so warm, and she was so big, she was no longer a storm, she was now a feature of the planet. Like the great red spot of Jupiter, Ophelia had graduated to an epic class. She would circle the Atlantic. For years? Forever? Annihilating anything that got in her way.
Before I could start to ponder the deaths this would cause, the world changed again, this time I experienced a sudden outward zoom, pulling back. Layers of data like transparencies started to appear over the map. Data points about temperature, population density, air currents, ocean currents, each with their own little Google map like pin, if I had a mouse I could click on them for more data.
They started to blink and pulse, dancing a data ballet. Something was becoming clear; Ophelia wasn’t just going to circle around the Atlantic killing and maiming, oh no she was going to do something far worse.
“How long have I been out?” My voice was 40 grit sandpaper.
“You screamed for about 5 minutes, then you sort of lost your voice and tensed up like you were being electrocuted for another 10 minutes or so.” None of what I had seen had happened yet.
“We really have to stop meeting like this.” I rasped.
Rain handed me some water in a little Dixie cup. I thought about how much energy it took to cut down the trees, make the paper, refine the oil based wax, package ship and stock this tiny cup, so that I could take one sip of water and then throw it away. Maybe we deserved everything we were getting.
“I am sorry Rain, I couldn’t see anything about Jake or Marla.”
She looked at me in silence; the space between us seemed to grow. I wanted to reach out to her, tell her it was all going to be alright, but I couldn’t. Especially because I knew for certain that far from being all right, humanity was royally fucked.
She spoke first.
“I am sorry Q, I shouldn’t have treated you like some sort of oracle. I know these things suck for you, but not knowing, it feels like my insides are gone, you know? Like I am fuckin hollow.”
I didn’t feel hollow; my innards seem to have been drained out through my eyes, only to be replaced with a sense of foreboding. It was a stone in my stomach.
“At least we are safe.” Rain seemed to come back; I could suddenly feel just how close she was to me. She was sitting next to me on the table, her skirt riding up a little allowing her thigh to touch my shoulder. I sat up slowly so that we were sitting next to one another.
“I guess we get our asses to Ohio, and find your mom.” Her breath was warm against my cheek. I reached out one arm and placed it around her shoulder. On it’s way up I noticed a large burn in the perfect shape of a star, just like the one on Rain’s ribs.
“A star huh” It still hurt, but not as much as I would have expected.
“Yea, now we are twins.” She smiled, “Wait till the first time you have to rub it with a tooth brush to get the scar tissue to form nice, that’s the best part”
“I can’t wait.” The water was working, I could almost talk normally. We smiled at each other. I held her with my un-branded arm for a while and she laid her head against my chest. I was still painfully bony and I could feel her ear studs rubbing against my sternum.
“Rain I have to tell you something, I saw something, something I am not even sure is possible.”
She reached around and held me, tighter. “I can’t take any more bad news right now Q, can it wait?”
Bad news, this was in a whole other league than bad news, this was the worst news I could think of.
The light had been fading the whole time we had been talking, we decided to spend the night in the library, stacking our bikes in the reference section and sleeping in the science fiction isle. It was out of the way in case anyone looked in the window at night. We laid side by side on sleeping bags we had picked up a couple towns back.
“God I wish we were in one of these books. Some alien could come down and save us with a magic laser ray.”
“You like scifi?”
We were lying next to each other, in the H’s. Above our heads was Herbert, Heinlein and some others I hadn’t heard of. The shiny gold lettering of Dune, and Stranger In A Strange Land were visible.
“Yea I used to read them to escape into crazy alien worlds, or like fuckin weird ass alternate dimensions, I used to come to the library a lot as a child. I always really liked Dune, Herbert is like a god when it comes to Scifi.”
“Heh, that’s funny, Dune was always way to strange for me, I always liked books with like science and weird theories about the universe and stuff, like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.”
We chatted about the merits of Dune vs A Brief History of Time for a while. Rain rolled over and put one arm over my chest her head tucked up under my arm. I fell asleep to the scent of her hair.
We woke to the smell of musty books. In an age of digital media there was something still magical about a place full of dead trees imbued with knowledge.
The break room had some pretzels, and herbal tea. Breakfast of champions. After which I told her the news.