Off the Shelf
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Calm.  Only the gentle hum of electricity resonated in the sticky, stagnant air caught halfway between dusk and dawn.  The mist itself seemed to vibrate unseeingly as it matched the sleeper’s own rhythms.  It had grown heavy in the absence of the daytime winds, and had learned to relish fondly its brief ownership of the night – there were many hours yet before it would be forced to relinquish ownership of the river valley’s people back to the sun.

For the briefest of moments there was the faintest forewarning that something was about to happen – and then it did.  Slowly at first, but then with terrifying speed.

A spark lit.  Then another.  Dozens, thousands more.  The sparks ran in lines and circles, each igniting another before fading, then being relit by the next spark in turn.  It seemed for a moment as though it could be the flickering lights of a great metropolis caught in a hurricane, an unearthly glow emanating from the eye of the storm.  Suddenly, there was a pulse.  The storm seemed to be pushing on the boundaries of its cage, growing larger and stronger with each new effort.  With a final surge, tendrils of electricity broke through the final safeguards, and ran unchained through the stillness of the night.

As each river of energy reached the end of its course, a barrage of potent biochemicals erupted from its terminal reservoir.  Nitrogenous clouds of organic molecules expanded relentlessly into the night, whispering slyly into even the meanest of crevices.  Some missiles were intercepted by the last faithful defenders, but most found their targets.  Soon, a different storm entirely was brewing.

Countless engines roared into life, and with a groan and a lurch, they pulled on the heavy cables spanning one great divide after another.  Back and forth they went, heaving like bored titans playing at tug-of-war.  Time seemed to be at a standstill as the universe itself shook with the force of their contest.  Frenzied tides of oxygen ebbed and flowed with terrifying speed, constrained by the narrow inlet of their egress.  And then it was blocked.  Waves of breath crashed against the impasse to no avail, muscles thundered with a final desperate rally.  As soon as it had begun, it was over.

Peace slowly spread from one droplet to the next in the heavy nighttime air.  Silence reigned.

To a casual observer naught had changed, but for one who knew how to look, a gentle angel was borne upwards on the first gasp of the morning breeze.

Mark Kashtan Mark Kashtan (3 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Medical College of Wisconsin

Mark was born and raised in Sacramento, California and grew up backpacking in the High Sierras, a place from which he still draws inspiration. He attended college at UC Berkeley before heading east to study medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has an older brother, also in medicine, and two dogs that live back home with his parents, a retired vascular surgeon and registered nurse. He wants to be a pediatric surgeon when he grows up.