They arrived in the small village in the early afternoon and went straight to the house arranged by uncle Sasha. The teens quickly started to unload their equipment from the truck. In the past five years, they had amassed a lot of stuff. Slavi was wondering lately whether their gadgets, thanks to Samira’s sponsorship and the connections of Olga and Hiro, wasn’t even better than the one in the national observatory.

The boy smiled but his mood quickly changed. Gadgets were gadgets, but they were still dependent on the weather. And right now, dark clouds were gathering in the northern sky. The sudden strong gusts of wind also didn’t exactly promise good weather.

“A storm is coming,” muttered the teen.

“Indeed. The mercury in the barometer is trying to bore its way out at the bottom,” confirmed Hiro.

“Then we have to hurry,” shouted Max while unloading a tripod. “If we manage to secure the camera fast enough up there, we might be able to catch something despite the storm. We make a quick run. Only light equipment. If this evening the weather clears, we can return…”

“No night walks,” Slavi cut him up. “Not here. We shoot what we shoot automatically. I don’t want a broken neck. We can always come back in the morning.”

“Alright, boss!” Max stretched out his tongue and put his backpack on.

It took them more than an hour to reach the plateau’s summit. In the meantime, the sky had turned completely black and low rumbling could be heard in the distance. The teens went around frantically, hammering in pegs, fastening and calibrating equipment, all while being extremely careful not to fall into some of the traitorous cracks sprawling all over the rock.

Suddenly, a flash of lightning crawled along the sky. Thunder shook the air. Slavi felt a big drop splattering on his neck.

“Wrap it up, people!” he yelled and turned around to pull out the last peg from his backpack.

“Tomislav Zvezdev!” The scream drifted over the plate and bounced foo from the surrounding peaks.

Slavi jumped up, dropped the peg, and twisted his neck to glance over his shoulder, all while knowing perfectly well what his eyes were going to see. Right behind him stood a small, panting woman, and the expression on her face was scarier than the looming storm.

“Hi, mum,” he mumbled and squinted, waiting for the inevitable.

“What are you doing here?” The woman was more than just pissed. “What are you all doing here? How? Why aren’t you at school? When grandpa Kosta told me that a group of ufologists has gone climbing up right before a storm, I could have never imagined that the band of crazy idiots were you!! Do you know how dangerous it is?”

“Yes, mum.” Slavi tried screaming over the roar of the pouring rain and the ever-closing thunderclap. “We are almost finished…”

“You start moving now!” bellowed doctor Zvezdeva and tried impaling her only son with her eyes. “And when we are back home, you are grounded for life!”

His life was over! Slavi could vividly imagine how his hunched, white-bearded self receives a tin can from the slit cut in the tightly boarded door of his room.

In the meantime, his mother turned around to the rest of the group, who hadn’t made a single move all this time. They just stood not far from the mother and son duo, their faces - turned up to the stormy sky.

“And you four, what? Are you waiting for a special invitation?”

“D-doctor…” Samira’s voice trembled.

“Just wait until I tell your parents!” the furious woman ignored her.

“S-Slavi!” Now was Max’s turn to call out.

The pure horror in his friend’s voice forced the youth to finally concentrate on the present. Something wasn’t right. Around them, the roar of the storm and the splattering of raindrops were still present, as if enhanced by a microphone. Wait… the rain? Slavi realized that after the first couple of wet stains on his jacket, not even a drop had touched him. The wind had also stopped to constantly blow off the hood from his head. How was he still able to hear its howl then?

The boy slowly lifted up his head, looking at the same thing his friends had been staring at.

The sky had ripped. Literally! Around the place where the group was standing, the forces of nature had reached almost biblical proportions, but the center of the storm was completely calm. The friends were surrounded by a wall of wind, rain, and flaring lightning, that climbed up like a chimney and pierced the clouds. Over their heads, a piece of the night sky shone with the light of a thousand stars. Impossible! There were four more hours until dusk! But there was also something else. The stars, peering through the crack in the storm were strange – too bright, too big as if one could stretch their hand and touch them. The sight was hypnotizing.

Slavi didn’t dare even blink. Very slowly, he stretched out his arm. Green sparks danced around his fingers. At the same moment, the wind-chimney was cut by hundreds of bolts of lightning. Like branching radiant ropes, they separated from the wall and darted towards the boy.

“Slavi! NO!”

The boy heard his mother’s scream. Something hard hit him in the shoulder and shook him. The whole world was filled with burning white light. An unbearable pain engulfed his entire body, but the boy couldn’t even scream. Then came the darkness.

A note from Ariana Vivoni

Never, ever go out during a storm, especially not in high open places. My great-grandfather was struck by lightning while cow-herding and was lucky to survive, but in most cases, you will die. 

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About the author

Ariana Vivoni

Bio: A biologist during the day, an enthusiastic writer at night.
Since English isn't my first language, all constructive criticism is appreciated, just be lenient with your remarks.

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