We Take Shelter from the Storm

by Aaron Miller

Bill Walker was alone in his room watching the hockey game. The recliner he sat on had seen better days and Bill had to put his feet on a box because the chair’s footrest had stopped working a long time ago. Bill didn’t like putting his feet up on the box because it had his late wife’s clothes packed in it but after his search for something better had failed, he settled on the box.

Sorry Honey. Don’t mean no disrespect.

His team was losing and Bill took a sip of the ice-cold bourbon that was sitting on the piano stool. The stool had given him a nasty splinter while moving it beside the chair, but it was the best table he had at the moment. The piano was long gone and he didn’t know why he still had the stool. He didn’t know a lot of things anymore. Not since the funeral. Bill pulled up the blanket that was covering him. Covering everything but his thermal-socked feet.

Come on, what are we payin’ ya for?

Wind rattled the old farmhouse and Bill turned to the window. He saw his reflection first and didn’t care for it, so he looked out, past the glass. The night’s darkness was interrupted by whirling snow. It looked violent. It was picking up just like the television weatherman had said it would. He sighed and put his focus back on the game. The screen was starting to flicker as if the snow was trying to come through the feed. Bill took another drink. Bourbon was supposed to make you feel warmer but Bill pulled the blanket tighter around himself.

I need a win tonight. Something to cheer about. Lots of time left. We got lots of time.

The flicker on the television stopped for a while and Bill got lost in the game. He didn’t notice the wind and the snow turning into a storm during those minutes of uninterrupted hockey. Just as the second period was ending the entire house shook as a gust of wind slammed into it. It was enough to make Bill sit up in his chair and look around. Creaks and croaks groaned from the old walls and floorboards. Bill had never liked the storms way out here in lonely farm country, even when he was with someone else, the house always seemed to be in pain as the winds abraded it.

Bill got up from his chair, keeping the blanket wrapped around him and made his way to the window on the other side of the nearly empty bedroom. He cupped his hands on the cold glass to block the glare from the television and peered out. The snow was obstructing most of the landscape. He could see the field in front of his house — a long blanket of white, and the start of the encroaching woods but after that everything blended into the alabaster storm.

Gonna have to shovel to get da car out. I should clear da door now. Got time before da third. Lots of time. Lots of time left.

Bill left the blanket and walked down the staircase to the first floor of the farmhouse. The kitchen was to the right of the front entry and there was a living area to the left. It was more unorganized down here. There were more boxes of items he didn’t want to look at anymore. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with them yet.

Maybe bury ‘em. Maybe sell ‘em. Dat feels wrong.

Bill walked into the kitchen and grabbed his coat, gloves, and boots. Dirty dishes lined the counter and filled the sink. The table was clean though. Bill mainly ate upstairs now, watching the television.

She’d be rolling over if she could see the state of da place. Wash ‘em tomorrow, Bill. For her.

It was colder on the first floor. Bill took a deep breath and with some effort, opened the front door. The snow was already starting to block it in. Cold bit him instantly. He could barely see the forest from down here. He grabbed the shovel that was leaning against the porch railing and started to clear the build-up. There was suddenly a flash high in the sky. It lit up the falling snow and the entire landscape for an entire three seconds. Bill walked to the front of the porch for a better view of the night.

Lightning? In a blizzard?

An immense ripping crash came next. As if the sky was a paper bag and someone had torn it open with their hands. The noise was immediately followed by a bright, streaking object far off in the sky. It looked like a meteor or what Bill had known meteors to look like from the movies. It was getting closer and closer, plummeting down towards Earth. Bill started to back up, fearing that the object would land near him. He lost sight of it then and there as the flame trailing the object had gone out. A loud impact came from far in the forest, across the field. The ground trembled making Bill almost slip on the snow, but he grabbed the doorknob for support. Then, only the sound of the violent wind followed. Bill took a minute to gather himself before letting go of the doorknob and making his way to the front of the porch. It seemed to be getting even colder now, as he looked out towards the forest which was starting to fade even more in the storm. An urge from deep down in Bill told him to go into the forest and see what had fallen from the sky but he figured he’d never make it there and back in the storm. He went inside the house and shut the door.

Do I call someone? The news? The sheriff? … anyone?

Bill made his way to the kitchen and took off his winter clothes. He sat at the table in the dark, wondering what to do. It was getting colder in here, too.

No way it was a plane. No way there’re people out there who need help. No way. But what else would it be? A rock from space. A satellite even. No way there’re people out there. Look in da morning, Bill, look in da morning.

Before long, Bill was back upstairs in his chair with his feet up and the blanket around him. The television was cutting out more than before. It would go minutes with buzzing grey and black patterns and then briefly return to the game to show a few plays. Bill had poured a fresh bourbon and was getting increasingly annoyed at the television.

Maybe next time it cuts in and out my team will score. That would be a good surprise for once. There’s not a lot of time left anymore.

The television suddenly cut back to the game and to Bill’s shock the game was tied.

No way in hell! Come on. Please. Let the signal

Bill was met with a static feed again. He sipped his drink. His frustration had made him forget about the cold but the house shook furiously and reminded him of the relentless storm and the thing that had crashed into the woods. Bill looked towards the window but then quickly back as the sound from the game started to leak through the static. The picture quality wasn’t there yet but he could hear it. He could hear the commentator announcing a goal. His team was up. Bill leaped to his feet, practically spilling the bourbon and letting the blanket fall onto the dusty wood floor.

How much time was left? Didn’t catch it. Come on, come on, just hold on. Hold on for me, please.

The static became worse and the sound swirled away. Bill paced back and forth waiting for the game to come back on. After a few minutes with no luck, he stopped at the window and looked out into the storm that mimicked the pattern on his television set. There was something moving far off in the white, moving across the field. He couldn’t make out what it was. He put his hands to the window and peered out, squinting to see through the blusters of snow. Yes, something was moving through the storm, towards the farmhouse.

Oh no. It was a plane. You really messed up this one, Bill. People may be dead ’cause you’re afraid of a little storm. More people dead ‘causa you.

The person got closer and Bill’s brow furrowed. He thought the white might be playing tricks on his eyes. The thing in the blizzard seemed to be wearing a silver jumpsuit with bright chords hanging from it that looked like wires. The snow was heavy. He couldn’t make out much but he could see that something wasn’t right. The thing fell to its knees and crawled toward the house. As it was getting closer it looked up at the light radiating from Bill’s window. Bill stepped back and ducked away after catching a glimpse of the thing’s face. Its eyes were like animal eyes – glowing. Glowing in the night. Other than that, there were no features Bill could relate to any face he knew. He remembered seeing pictures of the fish that lived deep in the abyss of the ocean. It was the closest comparison he could make. The house shook from the wind and the television shut off. Bill sat crouched on the floor. The wind and creaking wood were the only noises. It seemed colder than ever.

Maybe it ain’t what it seems. Maybe shadows and snow made me see somethin’….somethin’ horrible. What if it needs your help? What if it doesn’t? Shoulda got dat hunting licence like she told ya. For protection. You old fool, Bill Walker. Didn’t even remember to lock da door.

The front door opened. Bill knew the click and the creak from hearing it a thousand times. It had never made him feel more fear than he felt at that moment. The door promptly shut and then there was silence.

Maybe it didn’t see me in the window. Maybe it just saw the light.

Bill stood up as the house was hit by another gust of wind. He quietly moved his chair in front of the door. There didn’t seem to be movement from downstairs. He put his ear to the cold wood of the door and listened. A creak from the stairs. Bill moved away and put his hand over his mouth.

It’s coming up da stairs. Oh, lord. It’s coming up.

A pungent smell started to leak through the doorway and Bill put the blanket over his nose and mouth. As the thing crawled up the stairs the smell got worse and worse. It reminded Bill of old library books and a mixture of chemicals with a hint of the inside of a meat rendering factory. Bill tried not to make noise. He was as far away from the door as he could be. He could see a shadow from under the lip of the doorway as the thing had made it to the upstairs hallway. Bill couldn’t hold it in any longer and started to cough from the smell. He expected to hear banging on the door but it never came. Hours passed and Bill sat in the corner with the blanket over him. There was no sound or movement in the hallway and in the wee hours of the morning, the storm finally stopped.

Can’t sleep, Bill. Not until dat thing leaves. Not until…maybe you really have gone crazy without her.

When Bill woke up the smell still permeated the chill air. He sat up as sun rays entered through the window. The chair was still propped up against the door and the television had come back on. It was playing some old movie and Bill turned it off. After some hesitation, Bill took the chair away from the door and gripped the doorknob. He had the blanket wrapped around him still.

Okay, Bill. Take a quick look. Maybe it left. Maybe there was nothin’ to begin with. Cabin fever. Too much bourbon and bein’ alone.

Bill took one last deep breath and pulled the door open, sticking his head out into the hallway. He looked right first and nothing was there. It smelt worse out here. Before turning left he knew he hadn’t imagined it, he knew what he’d seen, and when he looked toward the stairs the thing that fell from the sky was lying in the hallway on its side. Bill wanted to go back to the bedroom and barricade the door but he stopped and stared. The thing was just as he saw last night except it wasn’t moving, it didn’t look like it was breathing, and a grey liquid was pooled around it on the floor. Bill didn’t need to examine it closely to know the horrid thing was dead. He sat down on the other side of the doorway and stared at it.

I don’t think it was comin’ to hurt me. Maybe it needed help. It was hurt and cold. First person to see a space creature and you let it bleed to death in da hallway. Good on ya, Bill. It was probably smarter than you are. Lord. Good on ya, Bill.

Bill tossed the blanket on the body and stood over it. He thought about burying it to stop the smell but figured people were going to want to see this thing.

Maybe it’s best not to tell anybody quite yet.. poor thing just wanted to be warm.

Bill packed the body in the blanket and picked it up finding it surprisingly light. He took it downstairs and rested it on the living room floor, surrounded by the boxes. Bill laughed.

More things I don’t know what to do with. Bury ’em, sell ’em…feels wrong.

Bill looked down at his hands. They were covered with the grey liquid. He dashed to the kitchen and washed it off, watching it slide down the drain. He noticed his splinter was lined with the grey and he looked around nervously and then back down at the drain.

Bill. You moron. Who knows what you just put in you and in da pipes.

Bill started to walk back toward the body but his knees felt weak and when he turned, his vision followed two steps behind. He tried to make it to a chair in the living room, knocking over boxes on the way, but fell short and landed beside the thing wrapped in the blanket.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Bill?

I’m here, Sweetheart. I’m right here.

She was hooked up to all sorts of equipment. The chemo had made her a shell of who she once was. The sterile room, the sounds, the suffering. Bill couldn’t fight the tears.

I’m right here. There’s lots of time. Lots of time left.

Take care of yourself Bill Walker.

No, no, there’s lots of time. Sweetheart. Hold on for me, hold on, please.

There’s not lot’s of…time my…

Bill woke up and the room was slowly spinning. He vomited out clear liquid with moving, swirling greys in it. He tried to get to his feet and when he fell he was outside. His house a speck in the distance. A single gravestone near him. He used to come here every day. Bill pulled himself up on the stone but fell right back down into the deep snow. He couldn’t feel the cold even though his hands were purple.

How did I? How long?

Everything still moved slowly and Bill noticed hair in the snow, his hair, and he started to cry as he saw smoke billowing from far away in the forest. The thing wrapped in the blanket was suddenly next to him moving in distorted ways. Everything was moving as the skin on Bill’s hands started to flake and turn grey. He propped himself up into a sitting position, leaning on the gravestone. He didn’t feel any pain but his mind felt as if it were leaving his skull and going to a different plane.

Lots of time left. My…

Love

Aaron Miller is a writer and filmmaker from Ontario, Canada who enjoys horror and the macabre. He lives with his cat, Guppy, in a small home in a large forest.