Shrink dashed for the woods, chasing a squirrel or some other small animal. ‘Shrink! Come on! Get back here!’ The first drops of rain landed on my burning skin, soothing it for the shortest of moments before that burning heat came back. I’d been feeling under the weather for weeks, but today was bad. ‘Shrink! You stupid dog!’ I charged after him, booted feet squelching in the boggy ground as if it was trying to pull me in.
I wish it had done. It would have saved me and everyone else from everything that came after.
Shrink paid me no mind, dashing onwards into the woods with a bark and a howl. His natural predator only every came into play when it was starting to rain. In the sun, or the crisp autumn air, he’d walk dutifully by my side. But no, the second the rain starts, the wolf takes over and Shrink becomes Hunter McHunterface. ‘Shrink! Where are you?’ I shouted at the birch trees surrounding me.
The only response was a distant howl and a rumble of thunder.
I followed the howl, fallen branches and leaves from red to gold crunching underfoot. The darkness started creeping in as the clouds moved overhead, bringing with them the first flashes of lightning. Everything around me was water, soaking me through to my burning skin.
It was refreshing. For the first time in months, I felt cool. ‘Shrink!’ I called as I burst through into a clearing.
It had to be a man-made clearing, perfectly circular. The remains of what could have been a stone circle sat in the middle and there, grinning around the corpse of the squirrel in his mouth, sat Shrink. His tail wagged rapidly, water droplets spraying onto the stones around him. ‘Shrink, you little bastard. Come here.’
I took a step towards him, holding his lead in my left hand and whistling. That’s when it happened.
It started with the trees around the clearing, one by one a thunderous rapture descending in a cascade of light. Every one beginning to burn instantly, even in the deluge. It only got worse from there.
It seemed to happen in slow motion, each of the hairs on the back of my hand standing on end like spikes in a pit. The crackling came shortly afterwards, running up my arm. I felt my heartbeat increasing, pounding out a rhythm that nobody could dance to. The air turned to white, harsh white stabbing into every square inch of my burning skin.’Shrink!’ I cried, but he’d disappeared in the haze of monochrome, as did everything else. I felt the shock blast me off my feet and hurl me towards the centre of the circle.
The rhythm fell silent. I felt my own heartbeat stop. I felt myself die.
Three minutes is a long time when you’ve died. But you know how they say that lightning never strikes twice?
It did here. Three minutes and forty two seconds later, a second bolt of lightning fell from the skies like Thor’s Hammer and struck me in the heart. I gasped, the rain trying its best to drown me as I lay in the ever increasing puddle. I reached up towards the sky, which is when it happened.
Lightning. From my fingers, flashing to every tree surrounding me, contributing to the hellfire that swirled and grew in ferocity with each passing second. Flames that crept towards me, vicious and barely held back. I passed out for a second time, but at least my heart kept beating this time.
I found out later that fourteen people were struck by the same storm as me. Fourteen separate lives changed, not all of them for the better. I kept my gift quiet… But it caught up with me. When the Good Doctor knocked at my door.
Everybody loves an origin story, especially me.
The Idiot in Tin Foil