The basement was full of shadows and it took a second for my eyes to adjust. The diamond pattern in my new contacts flashed golden sparks in my eyes. Through the glitter, I could see Dan’s outline on the table where I had left him.
Sally took longer than she needed to pour the coffee. I’m sure glad everyone could gather at their usual breakfast spot as if nothing had happened. Assholes. In my present state, I felt like someone made me suck on an exhaust pipe all night long. And my brother Dan, the weatherman, was dead. Not that anyone around here seemed to care that he lay below them in the basement.
Through the night we stayed huddled around Dan who alternated between sobbing and screaming. We kept him as comfortable as possible and tried to keep him from moving around with little success. At one point he tried to sit and ended up moving the pipe protruding from his stomach. He shouted in pain and promptly passed out. Charlie kept watch on the door with a shotgun and the rest of us huddled in the dark…
He started whispering gibberish. Most of it I couldn’t make out except for a few pieces. He plainly said “a fob” and he kept mentioning “weapon protocol.” The second phrase scared me, but the fob piqued my curiosity. What if it could stop all of this craziness? He really didn’t look very good and I needed to figure this out. I grabbed two mugs, filled them with coffee, and found a corner booth to talk things over with Charlie.
As soon as he said it, a huge gust of wind ripped the roof off the clinic like it was a sardine can and the doctor, sheriff, and the deputy were sucked out in a violent cyclone. The wind tossed Dan into a corner and me under the table where I clung to the legs as the wind tried to pull me out. Then the wind stopped and an eerie silence took over.
“Dan?” I shouted. “Dan? Are you okay?”
I rushed to the corner where Dan lay on his side bleeding from a gash in his head.
“I’m not Dan, but I need your help,” he said. “The army wants to kill me because I invented a way to control the weather.”
The middle refrain from Cantata Nº 208 played over a loudspeaker in the barn. The sheep fidgeted in the corner taking turns climbing on each other’s backs. A line of ewes stood apart from the herd staring at Xabier who sat at the workbench pondering the music as he fiddled with bits of wire. Bach intended the piece as a hunting song. Its true meaning rang in Xabier’s ear as he read. Soon he had thought of a way to expose the hunters.
From his knapsack, Xabier retrieved a crust of sourdough bread and a jar of jelly made from some red berries that reminded him of pomegranate seeds. The jelly reminded him of the taste of Earth apples. He thought about his mother making jelly. Long dead, he presumed. He didn’t understand the reason why, but when he signed up for this job he was told time took on a different meaning here. Although he aged barely…
Tin, ting, tin, tang rang the bells of Cantata Nº 208. The boy rubbed sleep from his eyes and covered them to block the dancing sunlight streaming through a slit. He slipped on boots, a filter, and gloves. The red sun inched across the sky and it would be half a Earth-month before nightfall. Without the chimes, he might have missed feeding time. Small frame, calloused hands, a full head of sandy-brown hair, he looked…