I am terrified of thunder! I don’t know why because it seems to be an illogical fear as no one I have known has ever been hurt by it. Yet when I hear that sound my legs turn to jelly. As a child I was told it was just the clouds banging together but I know now they were only telling me this in order to console me. Otherwise why did my mother cover all the mirrors and why did she hide the cutlery away in a drawer? Why was the television always switched off and the electric plug pulled from the wall? AND why did my grandmother hide under the stairs?
These were my questions and I determined to find an answer to them – to find out the truth. But where should I look? I made a list of places where I’d heard thunder’s terrifying sound and decided to begin my quest with those.
My first mission led me to London. I needed to cross the city so I headed for the tube station. I stood by the side of the track, tension mounting in my body. This place felt right! Suddenly I heard a distant rumble – this must be it! Gradually the rumble grew to an excruciating roar, a roar so loud I had to close my eyes and cover my ears! Between squinting eyelids I could see a snake-like animal, with wide, hideous, golden eyes, flashing past so fast and so close I could smell it’s stinking breath. Now on my knees, still shielding my eyes, I waited until its anger abated – then someone grasped my elbow and helped me to my feet.
“Did you see it?” I cried in terror.
“Well I saw its tail going through the tunnel. I’ll get the next one,” replied a voice.
“You’re welcome – I’ll not be waiting for another!” I shouted as I ran towards the stairs.
Although frightened by the beast I knew it wasn’t the ‘thunder’ I was looking for. I needed to travel further afield – so I headed for the next place I could remember hearing it as a child – Cornwall.
Finding the special place, I listened, as once again the angry monster crashed unmercifully against the weathered rocks. I heard his outrage, unrelenting and furious, hour after hour. Thunderous yes – but not ‘THUNDER’! Not the thunder I was seeking. This one was relentless and unforgiving, whereas mine came suddenly, creeping up on you when you were least expecting it. This was a wrinkled beast, writhing and billowing, spitting and spuming. Terrifying yes, but a mere puppy compared with my monster!
I trundled on. There was another place I knew I must visit. I needed to travel abroad.
I arrived in Sicily, the poor little country kicked out by its larger cousin, equipped with my walking boots and rucksack. I began to climb, spiraling upward towards my destination, hoping at last to find the beast.
The air was thick and sulphurous and the ground unbearably hot but only silence hovered about me. I kept climbing, higher and higher – until I saw it! Billowing plumes of smoke, followed by red towering spurts, as flames rose high into the sky. The sound was deafening, far louder than anything I’d heard so far – but this wasn’t thunder!
I watched as the displeased dragon released yet another nostril of fire, warning me to keep clear of his cave. He hurled lumps of rock down upon me, one hitting my shoulder, shriveling the thick fabric of my coat.
“No more!” I cried. “Let me be! I’ll not hurt you!”
Terrified, I ran back down the hillside, not stopping until I was at the bottom. Here I took stock. I was getting nowhere! Then it began to rain, gently at first, but by the time I’d reached my hotel it was lashing down.
Then I heard it, far away but coming closer. With my heart in my mouth I realised I had not found him – but he had found me!
I raced towards my room, locked the door and bolted the shutters. He would not take me! But I hadn’t accounted for his outrage, as soon he was violently rattling the shutters, his anger flashing and lighting up my room.
“I WILL COME IN!” he roared. “You cannot stem my fury. It will be quenched.”
Another deep, growling roar built to crescendo and echoed around the room. Then, with a mighty crash the shutters gave in, revealing a monster so terrible my stomach heaved just looking at it. His face was dark, craggy and covered in warts. His eyes were red and glowing. His sneering mouth deep purple and his long, grey, bedraggled hair hung lose about his shoulders. With arms outstretched under his billowing black cloak he looked at me with evil intent. He had no lower body and seemed to float and hover above the window sill.
“We meet at last!” he cried.
My mouth was dry and I knew only too well he hadn’t come as friend.
“Why Thunder? Why? Why do you come to frighten me? Why does Mother cover the mirrors and hide the cutlery? Why does she unplug the television? Why does Granny hide under the stairs?”
He roared again before cackling his answer.
“I need to see my beauty in your mirrors – but they will not let me! They are jealous because I am lovelier than they. Jealousy is a dangerous thing.” His voice rose as he yelled, “they are callous and heartless, I roar in anger at their unkindness!”
“And the television and plugs?”
“I need electricity to power myself, of course. How am I to prove my power without my roar? They are fools! If they would only look upon me they’d see how beautiful I am and know I am nothing to fear.”
“But why do you make that dreadful sound to frighten us?”
“Imbecile! Have you not realised it is not those who make the most noise you should fear? Those who feign friendship are far more dangerous than I. But I must leave quickly – here comes the sun, slinking her way between the clouds. She is the one to fear – yet you worship her! She lulls you to a false sense of security, then sneaks up on you. She burns, slowly and cruelly, inflicting pain and damage. She twists the knife so slowly its too late when you see her for what she is. Return home and live without fear of me. Know there are others more worthy of your fear.”
He turned, omitting one final roar as he leapt from the window – and as he drifted away he shouted, “Please tell your grandmother she can now come out from under the stairs.”