ThunderheadA Story by Shiloh Black
Cheap hotels were the best. If you could get an older one, built before building codes required the foundation to be a certain depth and the walls a certain thickness -- then that’s quality. The taller the better. When you’re in an old hotel, then there’s nothing but thin walls and a flimsy bit of insulation between you and nature, and when she begins to thrust and rage then you can feel it, the walls vibrating, the whole building swaying, threatening to rip from its foundations, and the shock of thunder so close you can feel it in your bones. These new places, these posh towers and econo-bricks, they’re worse off than holing up in a cardboard box. They build the walls thick and the foundations deep, so that your average sleeper could go the night through a hurricane and not be bothered by whatever aberration of natural order was wreaking havoc on the world outside.
That was how Dallas Walker’s reasoning went, anyways. As he slowly peeled away his black leather gloves and tossed them onto the bed, however, he couldn’t help but make the observation that the room reeked of drunken sex. Shag rug. Particle-board furniture. Pastel, stripped wallpaper that hurt your eyes if you tried to stare at it too long, and Dallas had certainly tried, maybe not here, but in some other hotel room in some other city, because you knew they were all the same. It was like an alliance had been made by every mom-and-pop hook-up shack that had been built since the seventies that required each to adhere to a strict code of tacky décor. No wonder mamma thought he was getting something on the side, when she saw the names of the places on the bills which he’d occasionally leave on the coffee, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. The Aztec Motel. Sunshine Brook Hotel. The names conjured up images of sweaty bodies and bedsprings creaking with an unsteady rhythm, maybe a splash of campy on the side -- polka-dot curtains that would be better off in a child’s room than playing the background to some of the old top and bottom.
No, that wasn’t it, he told himself " that wasn’t his reason for being here in this crummy love-factory. A hurricane. The hurricane: set to break records and prove itself the storm of the decade. Most people had evacuated " most people, that is, except for Dallas Walker and the couple in the next room, who at the moment were gung-ho at one another as if they were the only two people in the world, the final souls remaining to be obliterated by pure natural brutality. The thought cause a hot, sticky lump to form in his throat. The couple wasn’t allowed to feel that way " it was supposed to be just him, him and the hurricane and the penetration of raw force through half a foot of plaster, insulation and timber. That was his only motivation for being here, yet, even as he undressed Dallas could not escape the feeling of being deeply ashamed of himself. He felt naked, and not in the way he desired.
Through the walls, he could hear the rocking of his neighbors’ bed. Suddenly anxious, he wandered over to the window and gazed outside. A grey-black sky straddled a monochrome dust-trap of a town. Not so much a town: more like a truck stop. Directly below his window, a cracked, steaming flat of asphalt spread out beneath the engorged sky. It was empty: Dallas had parked the jeep in the garage next door.
Something beyond the parking lot caused him to take a second look. At first glance it looked like several large rats were scampering across the desert, but on closer inspection, they turned out to be a pack of dogs. Probably heading inland, Dallas reasoned. Animals could always sense the coming of a storm.
Sure enough, the wind whipped into frenzy and the rain began to fall. It did not start out in droplets, but came all at once by the fistful. Even the couple next door fell silent; there was something about the way the windowpanes groaned and the whole building shuddered and cracked that demanded a sense of awe. Dallas did not need to peer out the window to feel it, but simply lay back on one of the sad, narrow twins beds, closed his eyes, and listened to the hurricane wrap its panting jowls around the hotel and slowly gnaw it to pieces. It was brilliant.
As the wind and rain began to lighten their assault, however, Dallas was disturbed to hear the soft, breathy moans of sex. His neighbors were at it again. Despite his effort to train his hearing upon the clawing of the hurricane against the building, time and time again the sounds of the activity next door would enter into his consciousness, a white noise that blocked out all else. That the couple was engaged in their business during the hurricane deeply troubled him. In this setting, this intimate encounter with the unstoppable, the act seemed gravely out of place, and almost… blasphemous.
When the eye passed overhead, he decided he could not stay in his room a moment longer, and so to divert himself Dallas made up his mind to fetch a snack from the car.
Outside, the air was bright and gauzy, pregnant with humidity. The hurricane was not through with them yet, but the brute of the storm, for now, lingered some ways off in whirling black clouds that penned-in the little truck-stop town on all sides. He didn’t have much time " the eye would be closing off soon.
The garage has remained intact, though the roof of the house across the street had been sheared off by the wind. Dallas paused for a moment, glanced at the house, and felt a shiver run down his spine. He wasn’t afraid " he’d seen this a dozen times before, after all. It was something far deeper than that.
From his car, he retrieved a fruit knife and a flimsy, plastic sack of apples he’d purchased from the grocery store that morning. He slapped the ‘exit’ button and, groaning, the garage door shuttered and began rise.
Outside, the seemingly stationary, looming mantle of the hurricane, which was far too close for Dallas’s comfort, was interrupted somewhere in the middle by a hulking, throbbing mass of living flesh. The dog, which wore neither collar nor any expression of domesticity, was approximately the height of Dallas’s groin and consisted of 70-odd pounds of teeth, snarls, and a distinct lack of likeability. Its muscles were tensed, teeth barred, and foam dribbled from the corners of its mouth. The dog was almost entirely brown except for one black patch, right where its right eye ought to have been, but he saw nothing there but a bottomless, black hole that nullified any semblance of civility " the thing was like the afterimage of a living being, an image with a gaping wound in the center that allowed him to see straight through it and into a bold, terrifying abyss.
Most important, the dog was now situated between Dallas and the hotel, and the wind was already beginning to pick up.
He did not run away. He did not even attempt to sidestep the dog. Instead, he began walking, calmly, in its direction.
There was a snarl, and grunt, and a screech that sounded neither human nor animal. The bag fell to the ground, and out rolled the apples. Dallas, however, never saw this. He saw only his knee, the dog’s head which was pinned beneath it, and, much to his bewilderment, his own fruit knife buried in the animal’s side.
Instead of pulling out the knife, Dallas, who was possessed with feverishness, only thrust the knife further into the soft, tender flesh. In his hand the knife pulsated, quivering to the rhythm of the rapid, throbbing motions that seized the dog’s chest as it issued its last rapid, convulsive breaths. Only when the thing stopped moving did he yank the knife out, spilling blood into his lap.
Panting with exertion, he stood over the dog’s body, whipping the fruit knife off on his sleeve. His heart was fluttering and it sent a tense, tingling sensation all down his body, which was drenched in torrents of sweat. He gazed at the dog, and his only thought was, I did this. It was a thought accompanied by neither grief nor fear, but by a kind of elation for which he felt no guilt.
Just then, he heard a loud boom! Light overwhelmed Dallas’s vision, but not before he witnessed the asphalt several feet away explode in a fiery burst. He blinked away the blindness the lightening had brought on as a current poured through his body, making each part of him feel terrifically alive. It was as though he had stretched out his palm and gathered up the lightning bolt, consuming it whole and ravishing its power.
By now, the rain was sheeting the streets and the wind snapping at his clothing. Eighty feet away, another lightning bolt licked the desert floor. Some part of him whispered that he should go back to the hotel now, sink into his bed and listen to the hurricane pass him by. Not this time. This time, Dallas spread his arms out, and with the manic look of a ravisher at his lover’s foot, turned to face her, the hurricane. This time, he wanted her in full, to be inside her without any barriers. He wanted to feel the force of her, and make it his own.
Meanwhile, the body of the dog lay at his feet, nebulous black patch turned towards the sky. It saw neither the man nor the hurricane, and considered neither. It detested only the ground and the wound which bound it fast.
© 2011 Shiloh Black
Added on April 3, 2011
Last Updated on April 3, 2011
Saint John, Canada
AboutI presently reside in Atlantic Canada. My interests, aside from writing include drawing, reading, and indulging in my love of all things British. I'm currently attending the University of Dalhousie, w.. more..