Saved by the Rain

Leszek Glasner/

In the end, it was the rain that saved Peter Norton’s soul.

He’d always dreaded gloomy weather. He was the kind of child who thrived beneath blue skies and endless sunshine and, whenever the clouds rolled in, like a neglected house plant, Peter would wither by his locked bedroom window and watch the open sky bleed. In each pattering drop, Peter perceived the haunting tale of a great paradise lost, and by the time each stormy day wound to its inevitable end, he’d curl up in bed beneath a thick star-spackled duvet and implore the sun to make a much-needed and sorely missed appearance soon.

This aversion followed him through adulthood and didn’t abate until the final day of Peter Norton’s life when the rain chose to reveal its long-held secrets to him at last.

At 73 years old, Peter could already feel the approaching storm even before the sky grew dark.

“No,” he whispered, “not today.” But he knew his prayer was in vain. Already Peter’s joints were aching. He tried to tell himself it was just his arthritis acting up, but when he pushed himself out of bed, shuffled to the window, and beheld the storm clouds gathering over the horizon, Peter knew it would be another sad and lonely day.

“Better make some coffee,” he announced to the empty bedroom, then trundled to the stairlift his son-in-law had installed three years ago to help Peter in his relentless struggle for independence and the hard-earned right to continue living in his own home.

Peter tried to maintain a positive attitude, but the joints in his arms and legs hurt something fierce and he could already feel those first cold and clammy fingers of the outside weather reaching into him, sucking up what little warmth and vitality he had left.

At the bottom step, Peter took hold of the walker he always kept beside the stairs and shambled forward into the kitchen, where he started a pot of coffee and sat down at the table to stare at the rapidly darkening sky.

It’s going to be a terrible day, he thought, and already his mind was reaching back to happier times.

Sandra had understood his rainy day moods. His wife of 37 years, she’d often sit beside him at the window while he pondered those heavy metal rainclouds in silence. Sometimes they danced, sometimes they laughed, and always, in the end, they made love. Sandra had never failed to lift his spirits during those dark and sorrowful days. But now she was gone and had been for going on eleven years. The house was dark and quiet, and in the gloom that crept inside through the sliding glass door, Peter thought he could glimpse his deceased wife, gazing down on him from above.

My sweet Peter, she seemed to say, and he could help himself no longer. The tears that were already brimming at the corners of his eyes started to flow in earnest, and against the cruel advice of a now extinct generation, Peter broke down and bawled like a baby.

All the pain and anguish of life’s empty promises seemed to rain down on him at once. Peter tried to control himself, tried to still those avalanching teardrops, but that terrible sense of futility and desperation overpowered him. It seemed to lodge in Peter’s chest, gumming up the works, and, in the midst of great hulking man sobs, it expanded like a poisonous flower in bloom and at last stopped Peter Norton’s heart.

Clutching at his chest, Peter’s head contorted, sagged, then fell limp against the table. All the strength seemed to go out of him until the final darkness of death crept stealthily into his field of his vision.

No, Peter thought. This can’t be it.

But it was, or so he thought until his drooping eyes caught sight of the sliding glass door once more and fixed again on the world beyond.

In that transitional moment, something inside of Peter’s soul transformed. Maybe it was the way the raindrops suddenly glistened in the fading light like falling diamonds, or the way they tinkled on the outdoor patio like tiny wind chimes. All Peter knew for sure was that, where once he’d perceived desolation, he now glimpsed something beautiful, something ineffable, something other.

His wife continued to peer down at him from her home in the clouds, adding her words to those of the soft-spoken rain. The harmony of their combined voices stirred something deep within Peter’s failing heart, and just before he lost consciousness for good, he discovered a profound and startling truth.

The rain hadn’t depressed him for all those years because it sang of sorrow, regret, and all things lost, but because it sang of the mysteries beyond the world and the secret paradise that remains apart from us on this side of death. Peter’s sensitivity to this otherwise hidden reality had always caused him great pain. Now, on the precipice of his own dying breath, Peter realized he was eager to cross the great divide and see for himself all that the rain had been keeping from him.

Come, said Sandra, offering Peter his final consolation. Come and be part of the rain with me.

And so Peter closed his eyes and, with one final swell of hope, did as he as told.

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Moving abroad, so no blog this week

My wife and I are now boarding a one-way flight from the Philippines to our new home in California. Check back next week for a new story 🙂

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We Are One

Bruce Rolff/

This post was originally published through Patreon on September 12, 2018.

A blinding flash of blue, and then it’s happening again. I told them not to take me, that I wanted to stay. But they didn’t listen—they never listen—and now, my all-too-brief sojourn on Earth has come to an end.

I gaze down at the glowing celestial body I wanted to call home. Its luminous contours have already receded into the distance, but all the same, I keep my eyes fixed on Earth until it’s just another star, until even that solitary star has fallen so far behind that you’d need a telescope to even know it was there.

“Why?” I ask.

But they don’t look back. They don’t acknowledge my presence at all. And why would they? The beings who shuttle me across the cosmos for judgement believe I’m a traitor, a lowly creature worthy only of contempt.

“Is it because I had the audacity to leave? Can you not imagine why anyone would want to set out on their own? Why anyone would want to be different?”

I can sense the tension that mounts in my captors’ hearts, a thinly veiled hatred that bubbles to the surface of their minds for all that they try to conceal it. My kind wear their feelings on their sleeves—a strength or a weakness, depending on your perspective—and I can sense everything they refuse to say with words.

We are one, they think. One body, one heart, one mind. Did you not consider that by leaving, you might damage the whole of our collective existence? Such selfishness is beneath us. You are a cancer, yet we cannot destroy you without destroying ourselves.

A glimmer of guilt sparks within my heart, but I am ultimately unmoved.

From the moment I was born, I felt the incessant pull to be different. Perhaps I’m a throwback to a more primitive version of my species. Or perhaps, in some way neither I nor they understand, I’m simply defective. Perhaps I truly am a cancer. Individuality does not come naturally to us. Yet, whatever the cause, the need to be different is a part of me, and I can’t deny what I am any more than they can deny what they are. If I’m a source of division, it’s not my fault for being born that way.

“I am what I am.”

They recoil from my words, and inwardly, I sigh.

“You know I’ll just leave again.” The statement is not one of spite, only simple fact. “You can drag me back, but you can’t stop me from leaving once I’ve returned.”

At last, they address me directly. This time, their tone is not one of contempt but of weary grief and resignation.

“We know.”

That’s all they say before the empyrean lights of our homeworld surround us.

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