I only had time to work on one story so I chose this one because I’m still all Super 8 go-80s style and it seemed like fun. Also answering it this way so I can put the story behind a cut. Kind of long. So…
Frankie lays out on the plastic chaise lounge, nip of whiskey held loosely in her hand, watching the lightening cut through the sky and hearing the thunder cut through the music four seconds later. “What do you think a nuclear bomb looks like?” she asks Johnnie. His eyes open as he climbs back up in his own chaise lounge. His whiskey nip is done, the empty bottle lies in the tall grass.
“Yeah, a nuke. If the Russians attacked us right now, what would it look like?”
Johnnie rolls onto his side and almost falls off the chaise. The radio’s trying to be heard over the rustling wind and the rolling thunder. He hears Cyndi Lauper’s voice, and what often feels comforting now has a darker quality to it. It’s the sky. It’s the lightening and the thunder, now three seconds apart.
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you…
“Give me some of your whiskey. I’m out.”
Frankie bats her eyes and holds the whiskey in front of Johnnie’s face, two fingers on the neck, rocking it back and forth. “Tell me what a nuclear bomb looks like, first.”
“I’m not a rocket scientist.”
“You don’t have to be, baby. Just close. Your. Eyes… and tell me what it looks like.”
Johnnie closes his eyes and thinks back to stop-drop-and-roll videos and test site footage from some movie he saw on TV once. Maybe it was the one about a kid who went underground after a nuclear bomb, saw some weird town. There was a talking dog, too.
“It would be bright, I think.”
“No. I think it would be real bright. Like a million lightening strikes. It would burn your eyes if you looked at it. You’d be blind. If you were real close, you wouldn’t see much. It would pull your body towards it, first, and then tear you apart. Or burn you. Or both, really. But if you were further away, and if you weren’t blinded, it would look…amazing. It would be fire, taller than any building you’ve ever seen. Just like that. Smoke and dust in the sky and the glass would break around you and the buldings would fall and you wouldn’t even know. You’d just stare at that fire. It’s something most people will never see outside of movies, and it would make you feel so small. Then the cloud will be taken by the wind. It may come towards you. It’ll have radioactive bits of building and bone and…stuff…and it’ll come down on you and burn you and in a weird way you’ll know you died seeing something magnificent. Something that’s just…it’s God. It looks just like God.”
They sit in silence, the world quieter, making their radio louder.
After my picture fades and darkness has turned to gray…
Lightening cuts and thunder blasts, two seconds later, and Frankie jumps, dropping her whiskey. “Aw man! That was mine, Franks!” Johnnie yells. He looks Frankie in the eyes and sees she’s crying. Lightening cuts and thunder blasts again, and Frankie jumps into Johnnie’s chaise and puts her arms around him.
“That’s terrible. That’s an awful story.”
Johnnie puts his fingers through Frankie’s hair and shuffles down to meet her eyes. He gives her a smile. “Aw, baby, you know I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Frankie nuzzles her face into Johnnie’s neck and sobs. He smells her hair gel, mixed in with the smell of the coming rain. Everything smells like strawberries and clouds.
Lightening cuts and thunder blasts, now one second away. The trees shake and dark clouds push out the moon. “We should go inside, baby,” Johnnie says, “It’ll start raining soon.” Cyndi Lauper continues to sing, oblivious to the storm or the crying.
If you’re lost you can look and you will find me…
The clouds roll darker, the night gets blacker, the lightening cuts and the thunder blasts one last time, now one on top of the other. Frankie gets off the chaise and grabs the radio, tears still wet on her cheeks.
If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting…
The storm builds to a crescendo and then…nothing. Just black. No moon… no lightening cutting, no thunder blasting. Just black and Johnnie and Frankie and the radio.
Time after time…
A shriek cuts through the black. Frankie drops the radio and covers her ears. Johnnie crumples down onto his knees and buries his face into the grass. And then silence, again.
Frankie runs towards the house, ears bleeding, looking back up at the sky and screaming at Johnnie, “Get in! You have to get in!”
Johnnie stares up at the sky and sees what caused Frankie to run. It emerges from the black, looking larger than everything, its frame incomprehensible and fluid, its purpose perfectly understood. It’s terrifying and humbling. Bigger than anything. Making him small.
“JOHNNIE! GET INSIDE!” Frankie’s screaming, crying, terrified. As if going inside can stop this. As if there’s anything worth doing right now when you have your one chance to stare at God.
“I’m gonna watch this, baby.” Johnnie stands calm as the darkness rolls over him. The radio lies on the ground, unmoved.
Time after time…time after time…