One: Midnight Storms
A steady rainfall could be heard from outside. A petite girl curled into the warmth of her blankets indoors. She could listen to the sound of rain all day as her stacks of books were to accompany her. Within the pile was mostly fiction, with tales of dragons to the predictions of what would happen in a nuclear fallout. As long as it was a book, she did not care. Katrina Monich did not care for one bit what book she read as long as it was one that transported her from one realm to another.
She jumped as a ringing exploded from her phone on the small table to her left. She put a bookmark on the last read page, Katrina glanced at the caller ID. A ghost of a smile appeared on her face as the call was from her mother. Picking up the phone, Katrina nearly yelped as lighting struck suddenly, thunder soon roared after.
“Hello,” Katrina answered, her voice was shaken from the storm’s sudden eruption. The forecast called for severe storms, but it was for later on in the week. At least, that was what she had heard.
“Katrina, love, are you there?” A gentle voice spoke from the phone’s speaker; the rain started to only pour down harder. It sounded like bullets were impaling the windows at a rapid-fire pace.
“Yes, I’m here, Mum. I’m so happy to hear from you. But, what are you doing up at this time of night? Surely it’s four in the morning there, and, not to mention, you have work tomorrow.”
Katrina berated her mum slightly; her poor mother was extremely stressed after Katrina moved overseas to study abroad. Not to mention, there was a massive time difference. It was only nine in the evening or so in Maryland; whereas, in South Africa, it had to be four in the morning.
“I was worried.” Her mum’s voice quivered; a wave of guilt ran down Katrina’s spine. Her harshness was simply because she was worried for her mum, “after not hearing from you in ages I was worried; a tornado was just issued in your area, and I could only think the worst. I wanted to make sure you were safe.”
Katrina inwardly scolded herself for being disrespectful to her mother; she should have known that her mum was just worried about her safety.
“Mum, I assure you that I’m fine.” Katrina paused as she clicked her teeth together; she entered her oversized kitchen while doing so.“I guarantee that this storm is nothing more than a few lightning strikes.”
While talking, a grey alleycat appeared from a dark corner, tucked away in the back of the kitchen. Katrina stood up and walked over, grabbing a new can of tuna for the cat to eat. The can popped in the background as Katrina motioned the cat to come forth.
“I know, but I worry no matter what. Anyway, how are your studies going?” Katrina pet the alleycat, Whimsey, as she thought about the summer courses she was finishing. They were vigorous and long, but she wasn’t struggling to the extent that others were.
“Hey, Mum?” Katrina hummed as another bolt of lightning struck down. She glanced at the time to find it was eleven-thirty in the evening; Katrina swore it was only nine. Reading always seemed to take more time than it seemed,
“I would love to talk in the morning. I think I should get going. You and I both need to get some much-needed sleep.”
She could hear whimsey purr as her little head snuggled against Katrina’s leg. It was a signal to Katrina that it was truly time to sleep.
“You’re right Katrina, I’m sorry. We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?” Katrina nodded slightly in response as she made her way back to her reading chair. A quilt laid messily on top, two small tables with towers of books next to her.
“I’ll try not to forget, no guarantees. Sleep well, Mum.” Katrina whispered drowsily as she ended the call briefly. The temptation to slip into another few chapters before bed was tempting, but she fought against the idea as her body collapsed into the chair.
Whimsey followed into Katrina’s lap; the purs gentle luring her to sleep.
However, nightmares plagued Katrina throughout the night. No matter how many times she woke up in a layer of sweat, her body continued to drag her back to down sleep. It was a perilous cycle that only added to the ominous mood of that night. For there truly was a storm brewing that would destroy the world that surrounded Katrina forever.
Katrina leaped from her chair as a loud knock startled her awake. It was easy to note that the power was out which only added to her terror. Katrina reached for her phone to find that the time was three-fourteen in the morning.
“Who the fuck is here in the middle of the night?” Katrina grumbled to herself. Reality soon hit her as she realized that there might be a serial killer outside on her front steps. At first, she considered it was in her head until there was a second knock.
“Oh, God, I am not dying today,” Katrina muttered as she grabbed her phone and hurried to the kitchen where she grabbed a large butcher knife. Horror stories had taught her to never answer a knock at the door without the police being called and a knife ready in hand.
Katrina wanted to dial the police, but there was nothing but terror when she saw that her service had magically disappeared.
“You are bloody fucking with me.” She growled as she took cautious steps towards the door. Katrina could hear the wind rage outside; it was shrieking like a banshee’s terrified echoes.
A sinking feeling stirred within Katrina’s stomach; her heart pounded against her chest as butterflies swarmed through every inch of her body.
Katrina stood on the tip of her toes to see through the peephole. She expected a man with a ski mask and gun to be waiting there. What she did not expect was a handsome, young man that looked terrified and half-frozen in place.
Katrina hid the knife as she cautiously opened the door; she was not the only surprised one. The man on the other side could only look at her; his mouth agape. His eyes took in every inch of her body, inspecting every single cell of her skin. Katrina thought he wanted to say something; it was clear he came in need. Yet, no words seemed to come from his mouth.
“May I help you?” Katrina’s voice was weary; she wanted to turn and run from, pretending that none of this was real. There was a real consideration that maybe this was just another nightmare.
Katrina prayed none of this was real.
“Ah --- yes.” The man unfroze; his fingers entangled themselves as he was covered head to toe in terror.
He couldn’t look Katrina dead in the eyes.
“My car broke down, and I was wondering if you had a home phone I could use. I realize how late it is, and now that I think about it, this is probably terrifying for you.” Katrina nodded and took a deep breath. She had to fight the voices in her head that said to run away.
“Wait,” Katrina commanded; she went in search of a heated blanket and attempted to recollect her thoughts. A few moments later, she returned with a blanket and invited the man into the kitchen.
“Tea?” Katrina noticed the man looked up a bit confused before he nodded. She bluntly walked by him with the knife, visibly, hanging in her hand. She prepared some tea while taking deep breaths.
He was correct, Katrina was absolutely petrified.
She made the tea despite having no electricity in the house. The stove was electric and so was everything else. It was clear lady luck was not on her side.
The tea was finished and she briskly walked back over to where the man took a seat.
“Here, it will help prevent illness. It is a detoxing tea; I apologize it is cold because we,” she motioned around the room,” have no energy.”
Katrina sat down and sipped on her own tea with hesitant delight; she never had a chance to use the far too big kitchen. In fact, she never had company for as long as she has lived there. Katrina preferred a quiet lifestyle away from people, hence why she lived in the woods, far away from society.
“The home phone is down currently; I might be able to help out though. How far out are you?”
Mechanics was a thing Katrina had been brought up with, her father was a retired naval mechanic after all.
“I am, maybe, two miles out.” The man’s response caused Katrina to nearly spit out her tea. The young man had walked two miles in a storm like this? Where tornados were bound to spawn and lightning ran rampant?
“Sorry, but how did you even get here in this storm? It is horrible out there, what caused you to come from the main road to here --- are you mad?” Katrina took a breath and calmed herself like the posed young woman she was. She glanced outside hesitantly and then back to the boy’s snow-like eyes.“I suppose it does not matter now; you are here alive, that itself is most important.”
Katrina could feel the man look straight through her. Her heart ran faster with every waking moment that she was conscious. She took note of the perplexed look on his face; was there an issue with the tea? Was hypothermia setting in? An anxiety attack on the horizon?
“I think it would be best if you stayed the night. Unless you want to go back into that death storm, then be my guest.”
“I think I’ll take the first option.”
The male’s eyes reflected relief, yet Katrina still remained skeptical. She had no idea why she offered a room; she just wanted to go back to bed and ignore everyone and everything. Yet, as though he sensed her distress, the man spoke.
“Thank you, really. I can’t ever repay you for this. What’s your name,?” The man’s voice agitated Katrina, and she was not sure why. It was silky and smooth, but the tone underneath was rough and jagged. Something about it set alarm bells off in Katrina’s head.
“Katrina. My name is Katrina; I suggest that we both head to sleep. You may take the guest room upstairs. What about you, sir?” Katrina was apprehensive; she considered calling the police to file a report against the man. But what for? He didn’t do anything wrong. Not yet, at least.
“Carson. Carson Tsonga. I can understand if you are scared or, for a lack of a better word, creeped out. I figure anything I say you won’t believe. But, honestly, thank you. I will repay you in whichever way I can.” Despite the sincerity of Carson’s voice, Katrina could catch the small wave of deception in his voice. He was not lying, but he was not telling the full truth.
“Yes, good night. We will speak in the morning; please be up early so we can get this ordeal sorted out.” Katrina’s voice had a venomous tone hidden within her words, but if Carson heard the bitterness, he certainly did not show it. With a quiet goodbye, he disappeared up the darkened staircase.
Katrina could feel her heart hammering against her chest, wondering if she should have let him in at all.