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Chapter 15

AS HE STRIPPED THE cellophane wrapping off another pack of Hollands, Drinkwine stared out at the barren reaches of Mars from the penthouse suite. Still shaken by the incident of the falling beam earlier in the day, Drinkwine wished he had a glass of that calming Glenfiddich to settle his wracked nerves. He contemplated the rapidly dwindling stash of his favorite cigarillos. What would he do when they were gone? As it was looking like they would be, much sooner than anticipated, given the increased numbers he’d been indulging. The impending shortfall helped him to savor each smoke. He placed one of the thin cigars between his lips, then struck the flint of the silver lighter and raised it to the tip. He drew in on it, tasting the sweet tobacco. When he exhaled he watched the smoke cloud above his head, forming curling waves before dissipating on the still air. How much longer? He thought to himself.

The evening call to prayer of the muezzin had began, the haunting wail coursing the barren avenues, competing with the rising winds that had begun to mist the sidewalk below with a gathering tide of red. Far out in the desert, the winds coerced the sand into one of its malicious risings. However, tonight’s display of tumult appeared to have acquired an impressive anger, stirring a dense wall of dust that rose up into the blushing sky, blotting out the remnant of sun that sought cover below the horizon in anticipation of the impending beating. The wall of sand and dust rose silently, appearing to stand still, lording its presence over the desert.

Drinkwine suddenly realized that the rising wall of sand was not standing still, but in fact was a tidal wave racing with incredible speed across the desert, headed dead-on for Jannah. He watched with awe as the tsunami of sand and dust crossed the intervening space, gathering ferocity, rising up to a height greater than that of the penthouse. The gargantuan wave slammed the metropolis without pity. The crashing force of the impact shuddered through the building. The call to prayer of the muezzin was blotted out by the virulent dust wave that engulfed the towering structure with a much more powerful song; a deliberate affront to the faithful. It was as if the planet had grown impatient with the abuse against it and was now lashing out its anger with self-destructive retribution. The winds lashed the building with laughing cruelty, pouring copious waves of sand into the avenues. Amidst the bedlam, Drinkwine thought; the broom men would have their work cut out for them come morning.

After the initial hit of the giant wave the winds continued the truculent battering. Tonight there was definitely a much more disquieting malice in the winds. They pounded the glass, shaking the large windowpane with an unusual fury. Drinkwine studied it all curiously, trying to decipher the strange language of the planet’s enraged nature, wondering how much abuse the glass would tolerate before succumbing to the forces waylaying into it.

Captivated, Drinkwine watched the reflection of the room slowly distort as the window bowed inward from the force of the winds, his reflection twisted comically in the bending pane. Instinctively he took several steps back, away from the large picture window as it bowed further than he thought possible. Finally, the glass surrendered, shattering into the penthouse with an explosion of violence, the winds drumming Drinkwine’s ears and tossing everything in devilish play. His arms came up in protection against the slashing shards and flying debris. The winds ripped his carefully drawn notes and intricate maps from the wall, feeding the investigation into the twisting tornado that consumed the room. Drinkwine found himself engulfed in a swirl of papers, assaulted with his own questions and suspicion. The room went black as the electricity was cut-off by the virulent winds. The thunder of destruction pounded his ears as the sand pelted his face and hands and body, smashing mirrors and glass all around him in the darkness. He was caught in a commotion of flying lampshades and silk pillows; a swirling mass of opulence dashed to worthlessness by the fury of Mars. It was screaming at him to leave, to get away from here.

Forearm raised protectively across his eyes, Drinkwine used his free hand to blindly feel his way along the wall in the blackness. The winds turned up their fury against him in angered play, turning all the garish ornaments into projectiles. Deafened by the noise, Drinkwine finally bumped into the doorknob with his hip, its gold plating having lost its worth in the darkness. He fumbled for a moment, wrestling to pry the door open just a sliver against the onslaught and squeeze his body through. It held him like a vise as the wind tried to draw him back into the room for further beating.

Drinkwine finally managed to free himself from the angry grasp of the room, spilling him into the calm of the hall as the door slammed shut behind. The tornado inside the room, angered further by his escape, pounded the door with threat. Collapsing onto the floor, chest heaving with excited breathing, Drinkwine drew himself up against the wall, the faltering illumination of the battery-powered emergency lights strobing the hall in confusion. He watched, horrified, as the winds fondled the door handle from within, threatening to unlatch it and give chase. The winds grew in their frustrated fury at having lost him and thrashed the room beyond with even more violence. The force of the winds angrily blew sand through the narrow gap at the bottom of the door, fanning out across the carpet in a thin veil of red. Through the walls he felt the rumbling reverberations of the rage tearing the penthouse suite apart and pounding the building. The sound of shattering glass gradually subsided as every last available breakable item had been discovered and smashed to pieces by the vengeful winds.

Drinkwine crumpled exhausted against the carpeted floor. Somehow, despite the fury of the desert, the anger of Mars, and the deafening sound, he drifted off to needful sleep.

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