Brian watched the dark band roll across the sky. It hung over the golden plains of the mid-west like a snapshot of black paint being tipped from a bucket. The thick clouds swallowed the sun that continued to shine behind it, and shadowy fingers of heavy rain fell from its belly to the earth below. All of this, Brian saw from his own wooden fence that corralled in the family hogs. The summer breeze stirred at his hair and the afternoon sun was warm on his skin. Brian watched the storm move across the horizon and saw the swirling tip of the tornado touch down.
The destructive force of nature was innocent and small from where he sat. He shielded his eyes with a dirty hand to try to see what he already knew. When you grow up in tornado alley, you eventually come to know. He knew that hail was ripping crops to shreds and punching holes through glass. He knew that the familiar things in life, once anchors of reassurance in the ground, were being tossed like play things across yards and fields, ripped from windows, thrown across driveways, and swallowed up in an unholy sacrifice to the sky. But worst of all, always worst of all, he knew the sound.
He sat in silence, from miles away, but he could still hear the sound. It was like God Himself had come downstairs to yell at you, to punish you, to find fault and blame and lay His vengeful punishment down upon you. It was a sound that, if heard once, could never be forgotten.
He watched that black finger slide its way across the distant land. He could see the small specs flying high, monstrous pieces of debris, huge fragments of people’s lives, swirling high into the sky. That finger danced and twirled for miles and miles without direction or reason and destroyed everything it touched. It killed his second cousin and left his wife and child without father or home. It killed their two dogs as well. It killed a friend’s uncle by swallow a single-wide trailer whole. It ripped out the southern wing of an elementary school and gutted the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of people. It did all of these things with cheering lightning and thundering applause.
Brian watched the storm twist on until the sun went down and then he went inside.