“So Dark, Up Above” by Emily Ruth Taylor

Sure, no one ever said that people were getting their powers from the rain. Tommy guessed it had something to do with all those big companies that owned the factories outside of town. Not everyone who got powers lived long enough to use them.

But Tommy’s mom — like every other adult he knew — was careful. She bought him an embarrassing yellow rain slicker and made him take it to school with him every day. (People trusted the weathermen even less these days; everyone had suddenly become an expert on clouds. When parents got together you’d overhear hear ‘cumulus, stratus, cirrus’ instead of ‘karate, ballet, baseball.’)

It wasn’t like he even needed the raincoat. Recess was cancelled, indefinitely. His class spent their breaks in the cafeteria; laughing too loudly and trying not to look out the windows. Tommy was different. No, he definitely wasn’t crazy enough to walk outside; but he could never help following the tracks the raindrops made down the windows with his eyes and just wondering.

Tommy dreamed of raindrops.

His mother stuck pictures of palm trees and islands she didn’t know the name of in her makeup mirror. Tommy knew better than to say so, but he preferred evergreens.

They didn’t go to the ocean anymore. Not that their beaches were like the ones in the magazine pictures. It was too cold to wear bathing suits, and the sand always smelled of fish. All you could do was look at the water. Dip your feet in if you were brave and had a fire started. It was Tommy’s favorite thing to look at in the world. Endless grey sky fading into endless choppy grey waves.

(“They’ve been talking about acidification for years,” Tommy overheard his mom say in a telephone call to his Gramma. The word sounded funny in her voice. Acid-if-ication. I know how to spell that! he wanted to brag. They taught us in the 4th grade! “It’s all a cycle, supposedly, all connected,” his mom continued. “Not like things aren’t worse out there–” Tommy left. He didn’t want to hear about the hurricane that almost took Gramma’s house. It didn’t, and it wouldn’t ever, and that was that.)

Tommy dreamed of Jesus walking on water.

The man on the news said, “We need to leave religion out of this, we really need to leave religion out of this, just leave it out. Leave religion out.” He didn’t say at all why their neighbor (three streets over, yes, but in cases like this they’re all neighbors) burst into flames during a morning jog. “Light mist,” the weatherwoman had said. She had dark circles under her eyes. “Stay inside, please, please, stay inside.”

At school they talked about daring each other to go outside. No one ever did, but the threat of the threat was usually enough.

Tommy went outside one day.

Hearing the car in the driveway, he ran back inside and closed the door quickly. His mom was coming — she’d know — he was in trouble, in serious trouble! She came into the room, seeing Tommy but not really looking. No matter, he was fine. Unwet. Tommy silently marveled, for the first time in his life, how much of everything was hidden from sight. How much of yourself is just explanation — to others, to yourself. The facts: he stood in the rain. It did not touch him. His unspooled mind threw up goofy explanations: Invisible umbrellas or a balloon passing overhead at that exact moment … No. It had been him. Tommy. Tommy!

She was talking to him, standing in front of their kitchen window. Tommy didn’t hear her — he was watching a ship coming in and the busy smokestacks in the distance. He sat heavily at the table. His mother interpreted his silence as hunger. She began making him a cheese sandwich.

Emily is a Sunday driver with a Friday face.

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