Her skin was as dry as the Deadly Desert. She glared into the silvered glass of the ancient mirror and something like a growl tumbled in her throat. The fingernail of her right hand traced the deep lines in her face, she, turning her head from side to side to catch the light of the candle. She had been beautiful once. Not that beauty mattered. It was a novice’s game. A trinket. Vanity had never been a vice of hers. But the pruning of her avocado-colored skin enraged her nonetheless. It was a rage built upon a dark and rotting foundation, and fear, and whatever else comprises psychotic brain cells.
For reasons unknown to her, there could be no water in her living space. No moisture seeping through a looked-over crack in a wall. (When she had a need to venture outside, there was a complicated hex, the ingredients for which she did not always have on hand.) Were a minuscule droplet to innocently trespass on a stream of air she drew into her lungs, it would obliterate her, rather painfully, she guessed, and with an indifference that frightened her, in those deep boiling places she kept hidden from the world.
It was this constant threat of finality, of ending, that tormented her; she pondered it, waited for its grip, like a slow poison, every second, every moment of her life.
In addition to that—her greatest loathing—she detested at least one-hundred-thousand other things, each of which pricked at her fancy like a thirsty needle, drawing forth a green bead of liquid that shivered like mercury on the surface of her skin; it was such that moved throughout the tunnels of her body, delivering a potent energy, a verdant flame, to the ancient lamp that kept her alive. In her mind was the knowledge of a million things, which made her sarcastic and arrogant. But there were still too many things she did not know. And this ignorance made her dangerous, desperate, and, at times, deadly.
Legends say she sprung forth from a trillion blood-red grains of sand, extracted from a wizard’s hourglass, on a day when no less than 10 twisters dropped to the ground like fat black fingers scratching dirt and dale, snapping tree and trellis, and sending leaves and branches and the heads of poppies hurtling to destruction. They uprooted barns, tangled cornstalks; and, just before they withdrew into the clouds, they took no less than 65 crows, black feathers falling like bewitched snow. The final twister lay flat a small forest, sucking from it all breathing things. Before it dissipated, it lifted a mile of yellow bricks from an old and winding road, made them dance first like string puppets, and then sent them higher and higher into the upper stratosphere, where they spun so fast they smashed against one another and dropped in a heap of broken pieces to the ground.
Portents bloomed like noxious clouds from east to west that day. A day unlike any other day the land had ever seen. She took her first breath and let loose an electric scream. Brought into this world buzzing like a hornet; stinger venom-tipped and raised, ready to deliver pain and madness to anyone or anything that dared judge her. She remembers nothing of that day; it seems as though the memories were hidden from her.
So, lest we are tempted to lay a finger of blame on a wart-encrusted archetype, a frivolous fairy tale, let us understand that every ill-timed movement has its season. Every cultural icon has its shadow side. Every far-reaching sickness has its beginning, somewhere. For to live is to breathe. And, to breathe is to invite risk.
Whether the storms were the impetus for the sickness coming; or the sickness coming, the impetus for the storms—the Day of the Twisters is the day we commemorate the change. Forerunner of every quick and pointed rage, the Sickness rode in on the backs of those twisters, spinning right into the clouds, the soil, the rain, the trees; it especially sought out the frayed and feral mind, where it boiled the organ of rational thought, until even the smallest hope of reason had melted clean away.