Below is a story in response to D. Wallace Peach’s photo prompt: February’s Speculative Fiction Prompt.
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Distinctly, I recall the way the boards along the ceiling would not stop creaking and groaning. The sound buzzed around my head like a swarm of gnats. It clawed at me, scraping against my eardrums though I held tight my hands to my head. As I sat huddled in the corner, watching, waiting for the crescendo of splintering wood to bring the pain down, the creaking never ceased.
Oh, but I am getting ahead of myself! The dread was formed earlier, brought on by that godforsaken storm.
The garden beneath my home– that is, at the base of a massive, gnarled, twisted tree– needed tending. I stood with my toes in the soft soil, admiring the sprouts brave enough to enter the light of the world. Not a minute later, I gaped, for a misted thunderhead was rolling toward us at an alarming speed. It tore through cloudless blue with ease, without pause. I mounted the rungs of the rope ladder that led to my house in the branches, yet my limbs turned against me; the storm demanded attention!
Next thing I knew, snowfall had us engulfed. Fat, swollen flakes tumbled from their maker and clung to the next available surface; the tree, the earth, the roof of my home, and– it saddens me to say– the little sprouts. The sprouts were helpless. And as I watched, horrified, the surface of those snowflakes began to bubble ever-so-subtly, like miniature boiling pots. They rose and rose, gurgling more fervently as they did so. Before I knew it– goodness help us– those bubbling flakes took on rodent-like forms. Little white snow mice, with beady red eyes and icicle fangs, scampered over the garden beneath me. Worse yet, they soon discovered my rope ladder and my own foot hovering mere inches above. Only then did curiosity release its hold, and my sense of flight carried me up into the house.
Grateful for shelter, I bolted the locks. I felt that, surely, snow mice could not climb rope? Then came the sounds on the roof; not yet the creaking, but the overhead noise of tiny mouse feet scuttling around. It made me shiver, and I hugged myself in a cartoonish manner, rubbing at my shoulders. As I did so, my hand grazed something icy cool. Those pinpoint eyes, hungry red, savage, will forever remain with me.
I admit, I screamed. Screamed and brushed the creature off me, where it landed with a melted splash against the floorboards. A thought occurred to me at the sight, and I rushed to light my stove. I would melt the devils.
Or I would have, had the power not died just then.
Cast in darkness, my sense of hearing was heightened. Or was it just that more and more hellish mice were being born in mounds atop my house? No sooner had the thought sprung than flurries of the rodents fell across the windows, highlighted against the ever-darkening storm cloud, my roof runneth over. Then, as I backed to a corner and slid down–
My ceiling threatened to snap beneath the weight of the mice. Then came the squealing– an angry, hateful noise. Slippery squeaks smacked against the surfaces of my shelter like pattering in a thunderstorm. I could not hear myself think, so I sat horrified and paralyzed.
A rumble in the distance caused my eyes to snap open. The ground shook, sending my tree and my house into wild swaying. The storm furthered its violent dance, taking up the branches of my tree like arms of a marionette. Pots and pans fell from their places in my humble kitchen. Furniture slid haphazardly to and fro, and it was an effort to avoid colliding into tables and chairs. Meanwhile, the rumbling grew louder ever still, and the ground that carried it trembled. Outside the windows, the flurries of snow mice turned into a screaming cascade.
I ran to a window, intent on seeing what could possibly cause the earth to quake so violently! Just as I was gripping the sill, a horrible crash nearly demolished the house altogether. The force of it sent me to my knees. The entire house was knocked askew, positioned at such an angle that all of my belongings slid to one side. I managed to keep my grip on the sill, and I looked through the window.
Just there, staring directly at me through enraged orbs, between which sat cracked and wrinkled skin, stood a horrific monstrosity. Snow mice slid around the creature’s head and back like a cover, spilling over in waves. The colossal beast let out a sigh that sent the remaining snow mice flying. Surprisingly, it was not the astronomical proportion of the monster that terrified me; it was the eyes. That creature had lightning in its eyes, and it struck me to my core.
The beast took an earth-shattering step back, and the tree released the bent shape it had been forced to take. The motion realigned my house with such force that objects flew all around, as if springloaded. A chair smashed against the wall, not too far from my own head before I fell to the floor. I held my arms over my head as various objects came raining down. The window shattered, spraying glass all around, knicking my bare arms and feet. Once the chaos settled, I rose again. With some effort– I was thoroughly disheveled!– I returned to the window.
Believe me when I say nothing could have prepared me for the sight of the monster. It stood higher than my tree and so wide that it eclipsed the horizon. In its magnificent shadow trailed the near-black cumuli, sending down those nightmarish embryonic rodents.
Before I quite knew what was happening, it rose a mile-long trunk and let out a formidable roar. My own retaliatory scream was drowned out– made nonexistent by the cry of the colossus.
My last thought before the black took me– before the abyss swallowed me whole– before I knew naught else: This storm too shall pass, for I had glimpsed the Stormbringer, and it had yet more storms to carry.