Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)
TITLE: Close Call
By Beth Muehlhausen
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<i>I am a possibility right now: a devil of a storm just waiting to happen.</i>
Four teenagers emerge from church after their weekly youth meeting on April 11, 1965 – Palm Sunday. The sky seems strangely still and blanketed in pale yellow as they waltz out the door, laughing and joking.
“Hey, look at that sky, would ya! If I didn’t know better, I’d say…isn’t the sky usually yellow before a tornado?”
“Aw, c’mon, tornados aren’t in the forecast. I heard the weather report this afternoon.”
“Yeah, let’s grab a burger on the way to Christy’s house.”
“Ok, last one in the car’s a rotten egg!”
<i>You can’t see me – you can’t know. But I am here, waiting for the right moment to pounce…to unleash my deadly power.</i>
With the radio blaring, they head south toward a drive-up diner.
A cute curbside waitress with a stiff paper hat brings them cheeseburgers wrapped in wax paper and root beer in frosty, eight-ounce glass mugs. She hooks the heavy tray full of food to the driver’s half-open windshield.
Kevin gives her a wink: “Hey, thanks!”
“Have you guys noticed the sky?” she replies, gazing up beyond the trees.
“Yeah, it’s weird, huh?”
She jangles the coins in the pocket of her apron, makes change for Kevin, and retreats inside the diner.
<i>Are you afraid of my evil glow? Ha! Can you guess what’s coming?</i>
They inhale their food and Kevin starts up the engine. As he pulls out onto the highway, John directs their attention to the sky again.
“You guys, it really is starting to look creepy. Can’t you see, this isn’t even a little bit normal.”
“Just get to my house, “Christy responds, “and we’ll check with my parents.”
They head down the four-lane highway lined with restaurants and motels. “Look! The Holiday Inn sign says there is a live concert next Friday night! Wonder who’s playing?”
<i>Tension is mounting…I’m on my way…you won’t recognize this place in just a matter of minutes.</i>
The sky darkens quickly into an ominous blank wall and Kevin strains to steer against the mounting wind. As they approach Christy’s driveway, a gust whips her mother’s housedress as she runs out of the house to warn them. “Get inside, all of you, right now! A tornado is coming! HURRY!” She waves her arms frantically, motioning them inside.
<i>You are powerless to stop me. Roooooooaaaaaaarrrrrrr.</i>
The four teens hurry into the house, bent against the wind. Once inside, they line up along the picture window facing east. There it is – a huge, snaky black funnel chewing up everything in its path. As it wiggles across the croplands in front of them, spitting up fields and farmhouses, they fall back from the window and take refuge in the coat closet.
<i>I’m not finished yet. Grrrrrrrooooooowwwwwwwlllllll.</i>
The sound of fury becomes deafening; they crouch amidst boxes and hanging coats, flattened by the fear of impending doom. The house shakes and clatters. Their screams are stifled by the wind’s deep moan.
Finally the funnel cloud recedes, and a band of nervous and shaking spectators emerge from hiding. “WOOOOOO! A real tornado! Scared the jeebies outa me, for sure! I’m shaking like a leaf! Are you okay? Can you BELIEVE this?”
Christy and her mother hug each other and dance around the kitchen. “We’re okay! It missed us! HOOOOOORAY!”
<i>I left my mark. You will soon see. I wasn’t kidding.</i>
The three teens return to Kevin's car and head for home. No doubt their parents are worried; there is no way to call them since phone lines are down. Overturned vehicles line the road like toy matchbox cars. Red flashing emergency vehicles limp here and there, dodging chunks of buildings and stunned pedestrians.
“Look at THAT!” Betsy gasps as they creep toward the Holiday Inn marquis. The huge sign featuring the upcoming concert is now inverted, upside down, so that the pole forms a horseshoe.
“The motel – it’s been cut in half!” John blurts out. “Look…it’s like the rooms are sliced in two. One half is gone…but oh my gosh…there are the beds, tables, chairs…even TV’s. The building is opened up; I can see inside the motel rooms! Freaky!!”
Gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, Kevin whispers, “Thank God we ate our burgers in a hurry and got to Christy’s ahead of all of this.”
<i>My fury victimizes all who fall in my path. I guess God had other plans for you.</i>
Author’s note: I was one of these teens! In only a few minutes, five hundred-mile-an-hour winds unexpectedly flattened Indiana’s Howard County. In its wake, homes were pulverized, schools and churches smashed, and multi-story apartment buildings, office buildings, and motels severed in half. This storm was one of ten in the state that day – part of a network of fifty-one separate tornadoes that raked the Midwest from Iowa to Ohio.
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