Ready for the Storm
by Mike Murphy
The War was long over. Jack and his eight-year-old daughter, Gwen, stood in a desolate space watching the horizon. Their clothes were rags; their bodies, filthy. Their bellies had some food in them. They had learned not to be picky and to eat whatever they found to survive.
It was Gwen who spotted the storm. “It’s coming, isn’t it, Daddy?” she asked, frightened.
“Yes,” Jack answered as a rumble of thunder filled the humid air around them.
“What are we going to do?”
“What can we do?”
“Shouldn’t we find shelter?” she wondered.
“Look around you,” he said. “Do you see any shelter. . . any at all?” It didn’t take long for her to realize there was none. “I haven’t seen any for miles,” he added. “We’ll have to ride out the storm here.”
“But the rain. . .burns,” Gwen said, flinching at another, closer thunderclap.
“I know it does, love. I’m sorry about that.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“My generation did,” he said with all the sadness his heart could hold.
“But not you,” his daughter told him.
“You don’t remember rain like it used to be—like it was meant to be—do you?”
“I only remember the burning kind,” she told him. “Did it used to be nice?”
“Oh, very nice,” he remembered fondly. “It fell from the sky, and it was cooling. It made plants grow.” He chuckled and added, “It got your hair wet and ran down your cheeks.”
“Without burning. Your. . .” he started choking up. “Your mother and I used to listen to it rain back when we lived in the old house. . . before the world went mad. Do you remember your mother? You were very young when she died.”
“A little,” Gwen said in time with a louder, closer thunderclap. “I remember how pretty she was.”
“You look more like her every day.”
“I do not,” his little girl replied shyly. The storm was growing closer every second. “Can we outrun it?”
“I don’t see how,” her dad said.
“Could it miss us?” she inquired hopefully.
“I doubt it,” he answered, looking at the quickly expanding cloud cover.
“Daddy,” Gwen said sweetly, “tell me again what it was like before everything bad happened.”
Her dad sighed, but did not take his eyes off the clouds. “The world was a beautiful place,” he remembered aloud. “There were seasons.”
“What were they?”
“The weather would change. Sometimes it would be cold, sometimes hot.”
“It’s always hot now.”
The thunderclap sounded like a cannon. “We’d better get ready,” Jack said.
“Ready?” Gwen asked. “There’s no shelter. You said so.”
“There’s. . . some shelter.”
“Then let’s go!” Another boom of thunder underscored the importance of her words.
“We don’t have to go anywhere. There’s no shelter for us,” her father said. “Just for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I will be your shelter from the rain.”
“No, Daddy. I can’t let you do that,” his daughter replied. “The rain will burn you, and you’ll die.”
“Better that one of us lives.”
“I couldn’t do anything to save your mother and your brother from the bombs,” he remembered. “I am going to protect you.”
“But. . . how?” Gwen asked.
“I’m much bigger than you are. I’ll cover you with my body so the rain falls on me and not you. I’ll be like a blanket.”
“But you’ll die!”
“You will live.”
“I can’t let you,” Gwen said.
“You’ve barely begun your life, sweetheart.”
“No, Daddy. Please!”
“I am your father,” he responded. “You will do as I say.”
There was a very near blast of thunder, and Gwen reluctantly agreed.
“When the rain ends,” Jack said, “I want you to get up and leave me here.”
“If I’m not dead,” he told her, “I’ll be nearly dead. I’ll be of no use to you—only a burden.” With a grimy thumb, he wiped away a tear that started slipping down her right cheek. “You need to run. Run until you can’t run anymore. You need to find other people.”
“But we haven’t seen anyone in weeks!” she exclaimed.
“There must be other people. Find them,” he told her. “You can’t be alone. You help them, and, hopefully, they’ll help you.” He began choking up. “Tell me you’ll do what I say.”
“I will,” Gwen said, sniffling, after another big rumble of thunder.
“Good girl,” he said. He told her to lie on the ground, which she did. He lay on top of her, trying to make himself larger—more of a blanket. “Goodbye, little girl,” he said, grateful she couldn’t see his tears.
“Goodbye, Daddy,” she replied.
The rain starting falling, burning him on impact. He screamed as it sizzled through his ragged clothes, then his skin, and into his bones. Gwen, safe under this blanket, cried for the loss of her father and for what she knew would be a solitary future.
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For several years, Mike Murphy has been primarily an author of audio plays, over 150 of them produced in the U.S. and overseas. Earlier this year, he won a Moondance International Film Festival award for his TV pilot script The Bullying Squad. In August and September, Dime Show Review published his first two prose stories. In 2015, his script The Candy Man was produced as a short film under the title Dark Chocolate. In 2013, he won the Marion Thauer Brown Audio Drama Scriptwriting Competition.