by Mary Louise Van Dyke
Jack Watson screamed with pain, the tortured sounds carrying across the raw vastness of the new chasm that separating the school grounds from the woods. He struggled against a fallen tree covering his shoulders and back, the deep scent of cedar filling his nostrils. How could a tree fall on him – wasn’t he in a field?
“Annabelle!” he moaned. “Oh Annabelle!
“Dad!” Tears poured down Annabelle Watson’s pale face and she broke free of Helen’s supporting arm. “Dad!” She sprinted toward him, seemingly unaware of the newly opened ravine.
“Stop,” Helen Hannah Martin shrieked and rushed after her. “You can’t go that way. Don’t you see?”
“But he’s hurt,” the 15-year-old screamed. “Dad, I’m coming!”
Helen reached Annabelle and yanked her back just in time. Across the gap the two women saw the shocked faces of Ruff in his rain gear and others crowding behind him, sandwich parcels in hand.
“CHAT-oyancy,” he wailed.
What did a word describing different kinds of changes of color have to do with anything, Jane wondered irritated? She wished Sybil, her partner, was there. Too much was happening – even if she felt great over knowing the headmaster wouldn’t be around for at least a few days if not longer. Now if the same could be said for Justin Trompe. Maybe the reporter could take him out for coffee and get the both of them out of the way.
Westminster Academy would run more smoothly if . . . .
She shook herself free from the dire thoughts. “Someone needs to call 9-11 to get back here and help him,” she pointed towards Jack.
Phil Bradley pulled out his cell phone and tapped a number. “I can’t get a signal!”
Could things get any worse, Jane groaned. “Go inside and use the landline. Hurry up!”
Phil started inside as one of the other staff shouted. “OMG. Look at the sky!”
Eyes popped upwards as the heavy clouds of the atmospheric river began shimmering, taking on the colors of the rainbow.
But a rainbow was supposed to be a bow, Jane thought dazedly. Not a color in the sky. No, that was an Aurora Borealis, which could only be seen at night. Well on clear skies.
Stiffen up Jane, she admonished herself. There was still so much more to do.
Especially with the man lying imprisoned on the field. Ruff had dropped the remaining food packets on the ground and was cautiously wading through the muck towards Jack Watson. At least the chef was keeping his head to do something practical.
Jane’s eyes fixed on Annabelle and Helen, standing shadowed by the trees bordering the woods. The wind gusts blasted the sounds of Annabelle’s sobs towards the school.
How would they ever bridge the gap between here and the woods? Jane’s knees wobbled as the smells of pine smacked her nose. She wasn’t paid enough to run this school of – of scoundrels! Serving as an unofficial housemother was more than enough for her in addition to all her usual duties.
And she’d paid for her sins of her naïve youth. She had!
Uneasily she turned and stared at reporter Alex Porter who had taken out a camera and was snapping pictures of Ruff trying to heave the tree off Jack. Why had he really come here in the first place. How was a school closure for a day, just one day, worth his time? Didn’t the newspaper have more exciting things to cover – such as this weird weather. Had the reporter travelled here to speak with the math teacher about her?
She shuddered as the wind picked up, yanking her rain jacket’s hood off. She didn’t need any public exposure. She just needed to – to leave.
Turning her feet slopped across the pathway around Old Main toward the parking lot where she hoped her old Toyota was still intact. She fished out her keys to lock up the ornate doors that led into Old Main and dropped them in her pocket.
She was going home.
“I think that’s enough now,” Helen Hannah murmured to Annabelle.
“But my dad!” Annabelle looked at her companion through dazed eyes. “And that weird light. What is happening.”
Helen laughed, a strange guttural sound that grated Annabelle’s ear. “There’s nothing to fear,” she said. “Nothing at all.”
“Are you crazy?” Annabelle thought Helen must be. The expression of the other woman’s face shifted, the kindness in her eyes draining, becoming distant.
“No! Look, there are reasons for everything that is happening right now – and you are where you must be for.” Helen paused, her eyes partially closing. “As was revealed to you before I found you.”
Revealed? What revealed? The rope burns on Annabelle’s still ached from her confinement – thanks to the medication Helen had put in the cookie that caused all this problem in the first place.
“You’re crazy!” she sobbed.
“Remember – before you awoke. You dreamed of being powerful of. Of your destiny to keep these woods intact, safe.”
Annabelle shook her head wildly. “No! No!”
“Forces are coming together,” Helen touched Annabelle’s face and the 15-year-old backed away. “The woods are . . . . .”
Her words were lost as Annabelle rushed off into the woods, branches snapping underneath her flying feet, trying to get somewhere, anywhere away from Helen. She had to find a way across the gap between the school and the woods. She must.
The next morning Albert Beaumont Oliver III sat in his ornate office overlooking the school and woods and smiled as he briefly conversed with on the phone.
Last night’s weather of bringing down trees and creating havoc throughout the woods was the greatest gift Mother Nature could have given him.
Old growth timber, bah!
He smirked as he imagined Joseph Yanity’s face when his heavy machinery arrived later in the day. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the tribe’s usage of old growth cedar for their ceremonial buildings and canoes and way of life.
It was in his view a worthless way of life that must cease. His will would prevail in progress, with hundreds of feet of boards milled, used to make decks and fences, particularly fences.
He chortled. Fences made good neighbors, indeed. All the green dollars to be made, that would soon enhance his coffers from the sales of the timber, the golf course to be, sketched out on paper, that would attract the greats of the golfing world to come here and play on immaculately groomed grounds.
He rubbed his hands together in glee. Soon!