Alex Thomas couldn’t breathe. Numb from head to toe, the eleven year-old day dreamer from Timpleville, Ontario realized his time in this world was finally up. Flashes of light danced through his air bubbles. Slipping deeper under the water, he let go of the struggle. The dark suffocating walls closed in, pulling him farther away from his life. He closed his eyes and smiled. I’m okay with this. If it’s my time, then it’s my time.
He had embarked on a happy, yet curious journey in his short stay. His parents were proud of his achievements, for the most part. His grades were mediocre, and his work ethic had potential, but Alex had tried his best. His parents could see that.
He had hoped to say goodbye to his friend Henry, the extra-large giant who sat in front of him each day in his grade six homeroom class. He had a gentle soul. Then, of course, there was Henry’s drop dead gorgeous step-sister. He knew he didn’t stand a chance with her anyway. The one positive was knowing Alex would never have to see the creep, Damian Dermite, who roamed the school halls like a panther, searching for someone to pounce on. Damian haunted him at night in his dreams, but it didn’t matter anymore.
A faint murmur filtered into Alex’s ears. Opening his eyes, a figure appeared out through the water, along the side of the river - a woman. Her face difficult to see, but her presence brought an air of hope. She walked along the muddy bank following Alex down the river.
“It’s not your time yet Alex,” the woman whispered. Her voice was gentle and soothing. She seemed close to him, closer than she really was.
“Who are you?” Alex asked. “Do I know you?” His words muffled through the water, bubbling up to the surface.
The woman shook her head, continuing to follow him.
Alex reached out his hands. “Are you an angel?”
“It’s coming,” the woman replied.
Air bubbles escaped from Alex’s mouth. “What’s coming? Is it death? Is that what is coming?” The woman stepped into the water, her arms dipped under the surface. Her hands stretched out toward him.
“It’s coming,” the woman repeated.
“I don’t understand.”
Alex’s toes wriggled, the numbness in his hands faded away. A warm rush of energy seeped through him, shaking every muscle, every bone in his body.
“Alex, its coming.”
“What’s coming?” Alex shouted again. “Tell me.”
The woman grabbed Alex’s arm, dragging him back, against the current of the river. His face surfaced for a second. Air blasted inside his lungs, filling him with life. “Get up,” the woman shouted. Her fingers dug deeply into his arms.
Another rush of air filtered into him, bringing feeling back to his legs. “I’m okay with this,” Alex said. “I’m ready.”
The woman slapped his face, pulling him up along the river bank. His once limp body twitched and twisted.
“Alexander Thomas, get up right this second.” The woman let go his arm and stepped away from the river. Her feet were all Alex could see. His face rested in the warm mud beside the shoreline. Weeds jetted up around him, blocking his view of the curious lady. She turned away and disappeared through the darkness and thick brush.
Lying on the ground, the mud slowly seeped into Alex’s mouth. He didn’t care, he was safe now. Even though the earth vibrated around him, Alex was happy.
Another strange tremor shook the earth below his body.
Alex shook it off, and breathed in the warm air.
“Alex Thomas, get your butt up right this second!”
In a blink, the river, the water, the muddy ground beneath his face was gone. Alex opened his eyes.
He was no longer outside. He was never outside. There was no woman.
Instead, he was at home, in his bedroom, being woken up from a deep sleep. His brother James screamed at him from down the hall.
Alex rubbed his eyes, forcing out some muffled words from his rested vocal chords. “Wha...what’s happening?”
“Alex! It’s coming! We have to go to the basement, right now,” James’ voice was shaky. “Alex! Let’s go!”
He sat up in his bed. “Okay, James.” He staggered onto the cold floor, blindly feeling his way to the light switch on the wall. His body shook. “What’s happening?” Alex looked out his window. The world outside, did not seem normal.
The sky was filled with amazing shapes and colors. The moon cowardly hid behind the gloomy clouds. Alex watched from his bedroom window as the wind began to tear through the forest and climb up over the escarpment. The dark sky molded the clouds into a funnel.
James rushed into Alex’s room and grabbed his arm. “Just come with me, right now!”
It wasn’t just Alex who was shaking. It wasn’t just James either. The whole house vibrated and shifted. Racing down the stairs, the wind rushed through the vents and into the attic. The beams along the ceiling rattled. Bits of drywall rained down onto the floor. The roof shook and moaned like a sleeping giant waking up from an afternoon nap.
“What was that James? What was that thing outside?”
James pulled Alex into the laundry room and closed the door behind him. His dad stood on the dryer, hammering nails into some boards along the window. His mother, held tightly onto the dog. “There’s a tornado out there little man,” James said, rubbing the tangled hair on Alex's head. “You just saw your first tornado.”
The rain drenched the little town of Timpleville for nearly a week after the storm. In some areas, large chunks of hail showered down, causing even more damage and chaos. Alex didn’t mind being cooped up inside. He actually enjoyed it. He researched tirelessly online about tornadoes and wrote stories and drew pictures of them every day. By the end of the week, Alex knew everything there was to know about the deadly twister.
“Did you know that a tornado is so powerful it can blow a wooden plank right through a tree?” Alex said to his mother one rainy morning. He leaned over the kitchen counter with his knees propped up on a stool.
His mother placed a dirty plate in the dishwasher. “That’s interesting, Alex.” She wiped her perfectly red painted fingernails on her apron.
“Just imagine if the plank hit you in the face. That would be lights out for sure.”
“Yes, Alex, that’s enough.”
Alex moved his hands toward his face, pretending to hold a piece of wood. “It would knock your head right off!”
“You would never have a headache anymore, that’s for sure!”
The day the weather cleared up, Alex explored the countryside. Hearing on the news that an entire farm had been destroyed, he rode his bike around for hours trying to find it. When he finally got there, he saw city workers cleaning up what looked like a toppled-down farmhouse. There was a tractor turned upside down and a wheelbarrow wedged in a tree. Among the scattered wooden planks and debris, a clock sat upright against a window frame, still ticking. Alex wandered up and down the dirt road surrounding the property. Curiously, behind the farmhouse, a flimsy old red barn rema
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