Chapter 42: Eye of the Storm
THE eye of the tornado was at least a mile wide. Maybe more. If I could stay in its center until it dissipated, I might have a chance. I picked myself up from the ground and ran away from the oncoming wall, centering myself in the eye.
The eye moved south toward the interstate, so that’s where I ran. I paced myself, trying to preserve what was left of my powers. I was probably doing 30 mph when the storm shifted, running due east down I70. Fatigue began to set in.
That cold voice crept into my mind again, laughing at me as a dark sensation pressed in on me internally. I lost speed until I was barely jogging.
My legs gave way and I hit the ground and slid to a stop. I lay sideways, my head facing backward, watching the oncoming storm. I tried to push out a barrier for protection, but my body had nothing left to give. It seemed as if my life-force had drained away.
I was dying.
The torrential wall of black and gray clouds spinning all around me slowed considerably as if it wanted to creep up and savor its kill.
Would death take me first…or would the storm?
Inside the tornado wall, the shape of a man appeared. Its cloud-covered shroud made it look like a mummy with a scythe in hand. When Mathis found me months ago, I’d thought he was some ish beast, but I’d chalked that up to bad lighting and dwindling consciousness. This time, I could see just fine, and I was still fully conscious. Something, or someone, walked toward me in the storm, and it looked like the Grim Reaper.
The dark voice in my head said, “I’m coming for you, Ian.”
And it did. The figure plodded toward me, scythe pounding the ground with each step.
I didn’t try to escape it. I was done. “Come and get me.”
The figure broke from the edge of the storm. It wasn’t the Reaper at all, nor was he carrying a scythe. It was the monk carrying his staff.
A thin layer of protection hugged his frame, much smaller than the dome he’d used before. He released it as soon as he emerged from the wall of the storm and dropped his hood. Somehow, he hadn’t been pushed by the winds when he used his shield.
As he neared, I let out a sigh of relief, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I still felt like I was dying.
He reached down and hoisted my body up over his shoulder.
Abruptly, something pulled at me. Everything went dark. Then lights streaked all around us. It was a hard rush, one I might have enjoyed under different circumstances.
We materialized in a different location. The vortex was right behind us. Oh, great. He’d teleported us right in front of the storm.
My voice came out weak. “You’re not too good at this whole rescue thing, are you?” He probably couldn’t hear me over the storm.
Debris flew past us, but nothing made contact. The monk had thrown up another shield. He hunched over and laid me on the ground, then stood again. His shield grew to keep us both covered.
Holding his staff high above his head, he shouted, “Halt!”
This guy was nuts. He might be powerful, but he had the intelligence of a pet rock, and it was about to get us killed.
The monk dropped our shield and shouted again. “I said halt!”
I couldn’t believe what I saw next. The monstrous tornado stood still.
If my limbs could’ve moved on their own, they would’ve tremored—not at the storm, but at the monk. How had he commanded the storm? Better yet, why had it obeyed? It was as if it were conscious.
I wanted to run. He’d given me no reason to fear him—he’d even saved me—but whatever power this man held was frightening.
He took hold of the staff with both hands, raised it above his head, and shouted in an amplified, rumbling voice, “Be gone, tempest!”
He slammed the staff to the ground and a shockwave shot out through the storm. The massive tornado wall divided as if some invisible energy from the staff fired right through its center. The twisted split in two then retracted into the sky. We were left with the pleasant weather I loved so much but tainted by the pain I was feeling.
As my tension drained, I realized the truth. This would be the last peace I’d ever see or feel. Death was finally claiming me.
No reaper came for me. Nothing came but darkness.
The last thing I heard was the wicked voice of madness in my head. “I have you now.”