“The devil is in the details.”
Terry whispered to himself as he stared at the gathering storm clouds. He did not normally have an overactive imagination, but he was certain there was an ominous figure dancing over the town.
The mesmerizing clouds billowed dark while the wind swirled first in one direction, then a few seconds later in the other.
Craning his neck, he looked up past the edge of the sun visor as several loud cracks of thunder accompanied an immediate display of lightning.
The storm was so close that there was no time to count “1…1000, 2…1000, etc.” between the lightning strikes and the thunder. They were simultaneous.
The 1972 Ford F250 was Terry’s pride and joy. It had originally belonged to his grandpa who had bought it brand new off the lot from Old Man McCormick. His grandpa had babied the truck and even now, it had less than 70,000 original miles on it.
Every place Terry had moved, the truck going with him had been part of his requirements. The move to Italy had been no different and he was the envy of many of his colleagues. Terry even did all the maintenance on it, and nobody was allowed to drive it, not even Maggie. Well, there was one time she drove it, but that was a different story.
Crack, crack, crack!
Three more bolts hit in quick succession and the hair on the back of his head stood straight up. The F250 felt like it was going to sink into the earth as it swayed under the intense air pressure.
Off to his right, Terry heard it before he ever saw it. Even though it was only just past 2pm, the air was almost dark like twilight. A quick succession of lightning strikes revealed the origin of the sound. He knew immediately that a tornado had formed.
Through the swirling debris and hail that pelted the truck, Terry tried to look for a way out, but knew that any path of escape had come and gone a long time ago. The sound of the tornado grew louder and he could no longer even hear the sounds of the sirens in the city.
Screaming to the gods he did not believe in, Terry’s bravado melted into whimpers. “Why did we not listen to those who said this was coming?”
People were going to be hurt in this storm. As far as he could remember from all the stories, there was nothing to equal what he saw playing out before him. The figure in the clouds seemed to dance with glee.
To his horror, Terry saw a second tornado, and then another, form off to the left. There were now three competing tornadoes on the ground.
Driven with despair, he no longer cared about the welfare of his grandpa’s truck. He only wanted to live.
On the far side of town, the earth exploded upwards as the fiery lightning rained down upon the town. Terry began to wretch as he smelt the sulphuric fumes assault his nose and senses. Before he could move, the road around him began to melt and crumble and all the young man had left was to briefly contemplate the memories of all that he had accomplished. Sadly, there was so much more he wanted to do with his life, but it was too late. He had waited too long.
Resigned to his fate, he stared at the clouds as they rained death upon the town. They were coming for him as well and the beauty of the storm in its beginning was now vastly more superior in its form as the beast.
Terry’s moans grew shallower as the fumes overwhelmed him. In just a few minutes, the pristine paint job was reduced to peeling paint flecks. The pings of tiny pieces of hail gave way to the thundering booms of ice that had transformed into balls the size of grapefruits.
He never saw the waves of fiery mud that crashed over the truck and soon all was quiet.
The storm dissipated over the next few days and green grass began to sprout up from the destroyed earth. Flowers quickly followed and you would never have guessed that destruction had reigned on the town.
Walking over the field, Madison and her team looked at the clouds gathering around the base of the mountain. If she was not careful, the rain would catch her and the last thing she wanted to do was catch a cold.
Turning back to their hover vehicles, Madison’s insistence that they escape the coming storm brought laughs from her team members. They had been with her for several years and they knew she hated storms. Each team entered their designated GeoPod and proceeded to log in the coordinates for their return to main base camp. As leader, Madison always traveled by herself, which was fine by the rest as they did not fancy being harangued by her lectures.
Madison pushed the pulsing electo-start button, but even the short delay had cost them. It was too late. With several ear-splitting cracks, the skies erupted. Electrical surges shorted out each vehicle and even though she could see them, Madison could not hear the screams emanating from each of her team members. The storm arrived so suddenly and all they could do was to sit and hope that it moved off quickly.
The earth began to quake and Madison screamed as her GeoPod began to sink into the ground. It was as if the earth had turned to water. As it continued to shift, her mind began to play tricks on her. She knew her time as a scientist was coming to an end and whatever happened now would bring no comfort.
The earth churned again and a great crevasse yawned open just a few feet in front of her pod. The fumes began to assault her senses, but as she stared at death approaching, she was shocked to see an ancient vehicle slide out of the mud in front of her. Her memory and love for history told her that it was what was called a pickup truck from the last part of the 20th century.
Gasping her last breaths, something else slid out of the mud and pressed up against the plexifiber window. The force of the pressure was causing the window to splinter and Madison knew it would be but seconds before the fiery mud swallowed her.
Strangely, her mind became coherent enough to see that the object pressing on the window of her GeoPod had a sign in both Italian and an old style of English writing on it. She could barely make out the words, but they finally came to her just as the window shattered in its entirety.
“Welcome to Pompeii!”