Suddenly, the French windows ripped open violently slamming on their hinges as the first light storm hit. The sky had turned molten red, staining the world a sickly shade of pink. And yet it was eerily bright with a strange, brooding luminosity. Without thinking, Morgan jumped up from the table and raced outside followed by the others. They hurried down towards the end of the garden staring at the heavens. Bands of angry violet and orange energy force fields were sweeping across the early evening sky like St Elmo’s fire. The ground began to tremble. Further down the garden, a mini tidal bore surged along the Cam and flecks of white foam burst into the air in cascading fountains.
“We can’t stay here,’ shouted Morgan’s mother. “It might be an earthquake.”
“Not in Cambridge,” his father reassured her.
Winston started leaping around the garden as the first winds tore in from the west. The others didn’t notice as the orangutan turned tail and scuttled back towards the house. They had almost reached the river when Morgan and Lin were knocked to the ground by the force of a pile-driving gust of high-pressure wind.
Morgan reached out towards her. Strangely, he felt unusually protective towards Lin whose book of mysticism had been torn from her hands and sent spinning skywards.
The wind died down momentarily but the air was still throbbing with a strange vibratory booming sound. Moments later, the book thumped back to earth and Lin was quick to recover it.
“Is it over?” shouted Morgan’s mother.
“I don’t think so,” his father called. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Before anyone could move a muscle the rain started, only it wasn’t just a rainstorm, it was a deluge. They were all completely saturated within seconds as the rain hammered down like high velocity bullets and the ground began again to shake and shift. Above them, Cygnus Hyperbole had turned an ugly shade of purple amid the searing energy forces that swept high and majestically within the stratosphere.
They felt it before they saw it.
Jagged lightning bolts sizzled horizontally across the sky followed by a ten megaton explosion of thunder. Lin screamed and grabbed Morgan’s arm, her bony fingers digging into his flesh.
Morgan helped Lin to her feet and, following his parents, they began to run back to the house, slithering and slipping on ground that was rapidly turning into a quagmire. They fell to their knees and began to crawl back along the garden through mud and sodden grass.
“Oh my God, what’s happening?” gasped his mother as they finally reached the comparative shelter of the garden shed.
“It’s the comet,” panted his father. “It’s causing profound disturbances to the Earth’s weather. It’s just like I predicted. It won’t last. Once the comet moves away, it’ll be all right.”
“All right! What do you mean? I don’t call tsunamis and earthquakes all right.” His mother was nearly in tears. His father put his arms around her. Then she suddenly pulled away. “The primates,” she cried. “They’ll be terrified. I’m driving over to check.”
“Where’s Winston?” asked Lin.
“You go with mom,” shouted Morgan. “I’ll find Winston.”
“I’ll make sure they get to the car safely,” yelled Morgan’s father. “Morgan, be careful with Winston. He’ll be terrified.”
Stooping low and clutching each other in a soggy embrace, Lin and his parents stumbled toward the side of the house during a grumbling lull in the storm.
The lull did not last long.
The river began to bubble and ripple and surge. Morgan’s attention was drawn to white crested wave tips as the Cam began to roar. Slabs of grey-blue light flickered in and out of visibility and pulses of energy drummed and hummed. Morgan stared up at the comet. It was partly obscured by an aurora that was swirling around the Earth. Morgan imagined this is what it would be like standing on the surface of Saturn watching the circling asteroid dust rings.
A burst of light shattered the leaden gloom.
“Oh no,” Morgan mumbled. “Not again.”
Suddenly, a shoal of fish appeared powering through the water. The trees on the far bank began to shudder, shaken by an unseen maniacal hand. Around him, Morgan could see pinpricks of light shooting up into the night sky like firecrackers. But, unlike fireworks, they kept on going. Now, all at once, the sky was ablaze with searing, humming beads of light. From the woods opposite pulses of colour began to shoot skywards. Morgan gasped as he witnessed streams of fish leaving the river and turning into blurs of crimson and yellow light before zipping aloft at an impossible speed. Morgan turned one hundred and eighty degrees and stood gazing in wonder at the sight. The firestorm had returned but, instead of falling onto the Earth, it was shooting up from the planet, returning to the galaxy from which it had come. Morgan imagined that the Earth had opened up and allowed its energy to be sucked into the cosmos. He was surrounded by a hemisphere of light beams that disappeared into the solar system making him feel like he was at the centre of the universe.
Then unearthly sounds filled every audible wavelength – a cacophony of weird noises, screams and voices that were not voices. The earth had come alive. Insects, worms, spiders and ants were erupting and vanishing in beads of fiery light. The air was pounding, reverberating with thunderous roars, pinging, zipping, caterwauling and crying. The pulsating lights were obliterating the world.
Morgan fell backwards collapsing into a mud pool and lay staring at the sky. If he had thought the light storm had reached its peak he had been mistaken. A sound like the wailing of a million air raid sirens vibrated from the earth and reverberated into the vastness of space. It sent an icy chill through every atom in Morgan’s body.
Then the sky caught fire.
Or so it seemed to Morgan. A blindingly brilliant incandescent web of light that made the aurora borealis seem like a damp firework erupted and cocooned the world. Morgan was unable to move. He was pinned to the ground by an increase in gravitational force. Morgan had no idea how long he remained pinnioned to the ground shaking with earthquake-like vibrations and watching the galactic storm raging and a billion ribbons of light shooting up into the universe like tracer fire.
It felt like it would go on forever.
Then, after what seemed hours, it began to die down, not stopping but becoming less intense. He was able to move but his limbs were frozen and aching.
He heard his name being called and felt a strong, bony, hand grab his arm.
“Come inside, come on, you’ve got to see this. We couldn’t get to the car.” Lin was tugging at him and she was stronger than she looked. Morgan shook himself out of his reverie and allowed himself to be pulled back into the house. They stumbled half blinded by the light and sound display until they arrived panting at the back door.
“The animals,” cried Lin. “They’ve just gone.”
His mother and father were huddled around the television, their grim faces bathed by its reflected flickering light. Filmed reports of the animal exodus were coming in from all over the world. Morgan sat down with Lin who kept her hand on his arm, digging her fingers in as the emotional impact of the events taking place hit home.
The first images Morgan saw stunned him into rigid silence. An aerial view of Mount Everest in the Himalayas showed the world’s highest mountain ablaze with light, sending pulsating beams of power high into the sky. The entire mountain was alive with the most intense and vibrant colours bursting into explosions of dazzling brilliance. The peak had been transformed into an inferno of power and radiation; the snow clad cap shimmered as a rainbow halo formed around its summit so blindingly intense that Morgan had to look away. He began to listen to the news commentary.
‘…the inexplicable activity surrounding Mount Everest has co-incided with reports of immense and unusual animal migrations as the ecological mystery of the century deepens. What began with the disappearance of all bird life has now spread to cattle farms as livestock all over the world is simply vanishing. At sea, fishermen report marine life leaving the seas in bursts of light as the oceans boil with fury. Following the unprecedented weather disasters that have seen tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes decimate large parts of the world, non-stop light storms the like of which have mystified scientists appear to have in some way caused the animal kingdom to vanish from the planet. Witnesses have reported animals simply turning to light and taking off like Chinese crackers.’
The announcer paused, his voice cracking.
‘Reaction to the exodus has been complete bewilderment. Scientists are at a loss to explain what is happening and faith groups are predicting that the end of the world is fast approaching. The sheer impossibility of this astonishing event has left the experts confounded. Reports are coming in of empty zoos, farms and abattoirs around the globe...’
They looked at each other unable to speak. Morgan’s mother’s face was damp with tears. His father put his arm around her and held her close. Unexpectedly, Lin rested her head against Morgan’s arm and wept quietly.
Suddenly, Nucloid streaked through the living room and out of the kitchen door racing into the garden.
“Nucloid, no!” shouted Morgan and ran after him. The others followed agog with incomprehensible amazement at the animal firestorm illuminating the summer night sky.
The sheepdog bounded down the garden barking and yelping – not in pain but in joy. Then it just vanished in an elongated streak of light and was gone.
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