Cara learned to keep the light off in the tower. She preferred the anonymity that only the shadows could provide. She enjoyed watching them play, imagining that she was part of it. However, when they saw her watching them, the other kids would run out of sight, usually screaming. They were right to be afraid of her. She WAS a monster. Still, she treasured the memory of her day with Ryan and the others. For a few short hours, before everything went straight to hell, she was just like everybody else. It was both the best and the worst day of her life.
The dank stench of the leaky, mold filled house was stifling. In the ten short years of her life, she had never smelled anything quite like it. They had lived in heaps suffering a greater degree of decay, but none of them reeked like this one did. While her parents fought loudly over which box belonged in which room, Cara slipped out in search of fresh air. She wandered down the sidewalk to explore her new surroundings.
She could just see over the top of the brick fence that encased her new neighbor’s home. The house on the other side was just as old as hers, but it had been well maintained through the years. Crumbling slabs in the barricade had been meticulously patched. The grass on the other side of the wrought iron gate was plush like blades of deep green pillows. Her fingers traced the mortared crevice between layers of brick as she turned the corner. That’s where she saw him playing on the swing set behind his immaculate home.
“He must be around my age,” she thought. She smiled unconsciously as she watched him frolic about his expansive yard.
“Hey, who are you?” the boy asked when he noticed her lingering outside his fence. “Are you moving next door?”
She nodded as she replied, “I’m Cara.”
He smiled broadly in response. “I’m Ryan. You can play too if you want. Go around, come through the gate.”
She did not hesitate to join the boy. She removed her shoes to feel the tickle of the soft lawn beneath her feet. Ryan quickly removed his shoes as well. As they ran barefoot through the yard occasionally succumbing to raucous fits of laughter, Cara felt normal for the first time in her life. Throughout the day other children joined them as well, all choosing to liberate themselves of their shoes as they played. Cara was impressed by how far Robby could kick a ball shoeless. She watched in awe as Lissa twirled like a ballerina on the tips of her bare toes. She envied Allie’s perfectly manicured nails. Above all else, she cherished the moment when Ryan took her hand during a game of hide and seek and whispered, “Follow me.” He hid them both so well that Allie gave up and threatened to go home if they didn’t come out.
Time seemed to pass in a flash and Cara panicked when she noticed how far the sun had traveled across the sky. She bolted to the location where she left her shoes earlier, but they were missing. “Oh no,” she thought, “I can’t go home without my shoes! Dad will kill me!”
The trees began to rustle as the wind gusted suddenly. “No, please don’t let this happen now. I don’t want them to find out,” she mumbled to herself as she nervously watched branches bend and sway.
Fighting back tears, Cara turned to the others and begged, “Have you seen my shoes? Please, I’m late. I need to find my shoes.”
The increasingly violent winds prompted Robby’s mother to beckon him inside. “Sorry, Cara!” he yelled over his shoulder. “I’d help you look but I have to go.” He ran down the adjacent alley and disappeared into a yard on the opposite side of the block.
Seeing the desperation in her eyes, Ryan immediately offered to help. The duo scoured the yard but to no avail. As Cara’s despair grew, the skies grew more ominous. While they searched, Lissa & Allie sat on the porch, whispering and giggling. Noticing their antics, Ryan questioned them, “Do you know where Cara’s shoes are?”
“Oh, are Cara’s shoes missing? Why didn’t you say something?” Allie asked deviously, choking back a chuckle. “Lissa, do you know where Cara’s shoes are?” she asked sarcastically.
Lissa looked at Cara and simply shrugged, reducing the two girls to laughter.
“It’s not funny,” Cara protested. “I could get in big trouble. Give me my shoes back!” Sizeable raindrops joined the whipping winds as tears slipped past the rims of Cara’s eyes and streamed down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry little baby,” Allie teased. “Your shoes are just hiding from you.”
Cara did not understand the clue, but Ryan did. He immediately retreated to their earlier hiding spot while Cara confronted the girls.
“Why are you being so mean?” she demanded. She had completely lost control of the tears which now flowed freely down her face. Simultaneously the sky released its bounty upon them.
Allie and Lissa ignored her question. They were scrambling to collect their things so they could seek shelter from the rain. As they started their sprint across Ryan’s yard, Cara stomped her foot, threw her fists toward the ground, and bellowed at them, “You come back here!”
Her bark was accompanied by a brilliant flash, immediately followed by a deafening blast of thunder. The lightning that lit up the sky struck the thick arm of a nearby white oak tree. The girls stood frozen, wailing in terror. Ryan reemerged to push them clear of the massive branch before it came crashing directly upon them. A limb clipped Ryan from behind, and knocked him forcibly to the ground where he lay motionless.
“Ryan!” Lissa cried.
“You freak! You did this!” Allie accused, pointing directly at Cara.
“Oh God, what have I done?” Cara asked herself quietly. As her anger turned to dismay, the rain responded in kind, becoming less powerful. She stood perfectly still whispering “I’m so sorry” until she heard her father shouting her name.
Ryan was moaning and beginning to cry by the time Cara’s father made his way into the yard. Ryan’s mother had already called 9-1-1 and was gently tending to her wounded son.
Chris, Cara’s father, grabbed her arm fiercely. “Did you do this?” He demanded sharply.
Ryan’s mother gave Chris a confused look. “It was an accident. Lightning struck that tree.” She gestured toward the still smoldering old oak.
“Cara MADE it happen!” Allie insisted. “She tried to kill us!”
“Don’t be silly,” Ryan’s mother responded. “Nobody controls the weather.”
“She does!” Lissa argued.
“Let’s get out of here,” Allie said to Lissa. “You’re a monster!” She spat back at Cara as they climbed over the wall, “You can’t play with us anymore. Stay away!”
With Ryan now clinging to her, his mother looked at Cara, “Kids will be kids, dear. Accidents happen. It wasn’t your fault. We will get Ryan looked at. He will be fine.” She then handed Cara her shoes.
“Yeah, accidents happen,” Chris scoffed. “Unfortunately they seem to follow my kid wherever she goes. I’m very sorry for what happened today. She shouldn’t have been here.”
Before Ryan or his mother could respond, Chris dragged Cara savagely by the arm down the sidewalk and out of sight.
“Daddy, you’re hurting me!” Cara fought against his grasp. She knew by this point in the day he had been drinking for hours. She was angry at herself for losing track of the time. She should have been in her room, quietly staying out of sight, before he was drunk. She was afraid of the punishment inevitably forthcoming. As she struggled, the winds once again began to swirl around them.
When they arrived at their wretched new home, Chris shoved Cara toward the cement stairs leading to the back door. She stumbled and landed hard on the cracked and jagged edges of the concrete. She began to sob and begged her father, “I am so sorry about what I did. Please don’t hurt me. I like Ryan. I didn’t mean to do it!” The light rain transitioned back to a torrential downpour suddenly.
“Stop it!” Chris demanded. “No more of this. Stop this rain right now or I will beat the evil out of you if I have to kill you to do it. I have had enough!”
“I can’t Daddy! I don’t know how to stop it!” Cara’s voice shook with fear. She knew he meant what he said. She knew that he secretly wanted to end her life the moment he realized that her emotions somehow had an impact on the weather. Even as an infant, when she would wail, it would rain. When she was not getting proper nutrition because her drunken parents forgot to tend to her needs, dangerous, dry heat would follow. When she became angry or fearful, all hell would break loose, just like it did today.
“I do,” he replied as he picked her scraped body up off the stairs and shoved her back down again, harder this time. Her head struck an edge, leaving her with a gash on the back of her skull. She reached back instinctively and could feel the warm, moist sensation of her own blood against her fingertips. Her eyes narrowed into slits as her fear turned burning hatred for her father. She was ready for him the next time he pounced. She rolled clear before he could seize her. Off balance, he himself landed against the rickety steps.
Cara clenched her fists, braced herself and waited for his next attack. However, his level of intoxication caused him to be slow to regain his footing. By now, the atmosphere was deep black and clouds raced across the sky. Rain pounded relentlessly upon them. The winds whipped and whirled from every direction. Lightning began to flash in the distance and rolls of thunder filled the air. Cara’s mother, Susan, opened the door. “Cara! Stop! Get in this house right now before you kill someone! Cara, please!” she begged.
Initially Cara complied and started toward the door. However, as she neared her father he lunged at her, trying to knock her off her feet. Cara dodged his offensive. She squared her shoulders, planted her feet, and readied herself for battle.
“Chris! No!” Susan tried to distract her husband from his objective. His level of intoxication, coupled with his rage, deafened him to her pleas.
The skies turned an apocalyptic shade. The ferocious wind picked small objects off the ground and tossed them into a cyclone. Lightning radiated across the sky. The constant roar of thunder filled the air. Cara stood unmoved. The gales passed right through her. Her father attempted to reach her, but the wall of swirling air rebuffed his advance.
“Don’t come any closer.” Cara warned her father. Never before had she felt in control of her curse, but today power surged through her. For a moment, she was unafraid of her own abilities. As a matter of fact, she finally understood them for what they were, an exceptional defense mechanism.
“You little brat! I’m going to snap your neck when I get my hands on you.” Chris threatened.
“Keep your hands off her!” Susan charged wildly toward her husband. “I’ll kill you before I let you touch her again!” she cautioned.
Chris laughed at his wife’s threat. He swung his fist mightily as she approached. He landed his punch directly beneath her jaw. Susan’s unconscious body jolted backward. She landed in a heap on the ground.
“Mommy!” Cara shrieked. Simultaneously, a brilliant bolt cast the light of day onto the night. Cara resembled a lightning rod as she drew power from the direct strike. An immediate clap of thunder rattled the windows of all nearby homes and started car alarms blaring.
Chris stood transfixed as he watched his daughter absorb every volt of electricity. Her veins were illuminated from within her body. They glowed through her flesh like the strings of a spider’s web. Her cobalt eyes were replaced with a radiant blue luminescence. Each strand of Cara’s hair crackled and thrashed like a downed power line.
Voltaic energy consumed the girl. She was no longer a scared child. The charge of the lightning strike temporarily sapped away her humanity. She glared at the man she called father. He cowered before her lustrous magnificence. She smiled wickedly as she contemplated her next move.
“Cara, little one, please. It’s Daddy. C’mon baby, please. I’ll never hurt you or your Mom again, I promise. Please don’t hurt me, doll” Chris pathetically begged.
Through her newfound power, she could feel no empathy for this cowardly villain. He needed to be destroyed. A glance at her mother’s still motionless body confirmed what she already knew. With him alive, they would never be safe.
“Goodbye, Daddy,” she muttered faintly before she focused the capacity of her energy on him. He didn’t even have the chance to beg her again for his life before she struck. She dialed up every volt from her tiny frame and forced it into a concentrated pool of snapping electricity in the palm of her hand. She raised her arm, aimed directly at her father’s heart, and fired a beam that hit its mark directly. Chris was dead before his corpse hit the dirt.
Instantly the wind subsided, and torrential rain became soft drizzle. Lightning faded away, and thunder fell silent. Black clouds broke apart and fissures of light trickled through. The resulting rainbow seemed to start at Cara’s feet. Her mother sat up, still dazed. She looked up at her daughter, basking in the brilliant shades of the color spectrum. She glanced over to see her husband’s remains lying nearby. His shirt was burned. The skin beneath bloomed with lightning flowers.
“He was struck by lightning.” Cara declared before she retreated into the house.
From inside, Cara watched Susan make her way toward Chris’ body. She knelt over him, weeping, until police arrived and pulled her away. The official cause of his death was determined to be cardiac arrest. Though that exonerated her in the eyes of the law, Cara knew her mother didn’t need to witness the events of that day to know her daughter was a killer.
Cara shook off the memories of that horrific night 2 years ago. She returned her attention to the kids outside. With her mind distracted, she had not noticed that Ryan now stood alongside them. He was getting tall. No longer did he have the plump cheeks of a little boy. His jaw was square and defined. His soft blond locks no longer flowed loosely. Instead his hair was cropped short and carefully styled. She couldn’t see his sparkling green eyes from where she sat, but she suspected that they may be the only feature on him that remained unchanged since that fateful night.
She was giddy to see him now. His family still lived in the same house next door, but like many others in the neighborhood, he typically chose a route that would not bring him past The Tempest’s tower. Cara had not left the house since Chris’ death. However, her mother overheard many whispers and rumors about the crazed little girl that killed her own father. She was so often spotted gazing out from behind the windows of her home’s turret room, the spot was dubbed “The Tempest’s Tower” by locals.
Ryan looked grown up now. He was becoming so handsome. Cara beamed as she watched him laugh with his friends. She gave up on wishing she could talk to him again long ago. It was enough now just to watch him, to know that he was well, to know that he was happy. She would never again risk his life by getting too close to him. The joy of seeing Ryan was immediately dampened when she saw Lissa and Allie approaching. She saw them often, too often. They frequently lingered on the sidewalk around her home, looking up toward the tower and taunting Cara.
Allie walked directly to Ryan. He looked at her and grinned. The air was knocked from Cara’s lungs when he reached down and took Allie’s hand in his. For the first time since the night she took her father’s life, she could feel herself spinning out of control.
The soft wisps of white clouds began to swirl and darken. As the wind churned, the sky became immediately overcast. The unease in Ryan’s face was apparent as he noticed the twirling sky. He glanced toward the tower and released Allie’s hand. Allie glared at Cara’s windows and hooked her arm in Ryan’s, leaning close as if she was asking him to protect her.
Cara struggled to reign in her emotions. As a defiant tear snuck past her defenses, the rain began to fall…
Wait! There’s more! Read The Tempest’s Tower 2: New Beginning
Return to Short Stories
Return to Home