Anita's Haven

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CLOUDBUSTING – I accepted a challenge from Wolfgang Schimanski

on 27/02/2015

The sky was cloudy. Not gloomy, but fluffy white clouds. Just the way Meg liked it. Cloud watching had recently become one of her favourite passtimes.
Mummy was gone now, that awful car crash taking her life, and Meg was sad. She looked back over her shoulder at her dad who was conducting his orchestra with furious energy spawning from his wand. The deep wrinkle on his forehead and the hard, thin line of his lips piled more heavy stones into her little tummy, stacking a wall like tetris, but black and heavy, and without any of the fun.
He was preparing for another concert and kept dragging her to rehearsals, because that kind doctor lady told him to spend more time with his daughter. Meg liked this big shell-like opera house, but she would have preferred to run around. Instead, she had to be quiet, to sit and wait. Ever since she had lost a tiny pony toy under the seats and made noise looking for it, her father forbade her to bring any toys or even books. All she had to do with herself was look through the window.
She was happy when it was cloudy, because one of the clouds was her angel friend. She knew it wasn’t her mom. The angel cloud told her. Well, only with his thoughts, because he too didn’t want to make her daddy mad. He was some kind gentleman who dropped by when she was lonely and he just talked to her, telling her stories about all the places he’d seen from up there. He couldn’t remember who he had been before becoming an angel, but it made no difference to Meg. He was a friend. She had never told anyone about him. She guessed only kids could see him anyway, as kids usually do. Today there was no story. She was really sad today. It was her mum’s birthday. They would usually go to mum’s favourite restaurant in the evening, all dressed up, Meg would have spaghetti, and mum and dad would dance afterwards. So today she didn’t want a story. Her angel friend in the sky knew. He just hummed quietly to the tune her dad’s orchestra was playing, floating in the sky, above his sad little friend.
The music suddenly stopped. Her father leaned on his hands on the edges of his conducter’s stand, his wrinkle getting deeper and his knuckles white. He was far from happy with how the orchestra sounded. They were perfect but he didn’t hear it that way.
‘Again!’
He hissed through his teeth. They played again, although they knew they were playing well. He had always been tough on them, tough but fair, and they loved and respected him. They knew how hard he’d taken his wife’s death and they knew he’d need to heal through work. But they were getting tired, and they knew they couldn’t possibly sound the way he wanted it whatever they did.
‘Stop! Again!’
He still wasn’t happy with the sound. His heartbeat was getting louder and louder, interfering with the music. And that wretched dark skycreeper cloud was watching him from the sky again. The widower thought he was going crazy. He’d noticed Meg look in the same direction, but it was obvious she hadn’t seen the same, ominous cloud, else she’d be afraid. The conducter wiped the cold sweat from his forehead, passionately waving his wand, waving off the memories which kept rolling before his eyes like a recurring slideshow. His wife’s hair, the sparkle in her eye, she and Meg running into each other’s arms… her bare shoulder peeking from under the sheet, their kiss, her blood-covered body splattered over the car seat, the guilty driver also dead in his car, twisted metal jammed into metal, Meg’s tears, his helplessness… And again, his wife’s shiny face, her smile, her scent, she making him omelette…
The grey skycreeper cloud, his demon companion kept leering at him, and his angry, demonic, relentless whisper getting louder and louder.
‘Go to her! Let everything out. She needs you!’
The music seemed to be battling with the whisper and the conducter’s heartbeats, and the louder it got, the faster the memory slideshow rolled, till he felt as if suffocating.
‘Stoooooop!’
The conducter screamed inside his head. But it wasn’t inside his head. The orchestra stopped playing. The scream was real. Meg jumped in her seat in fear, her chin started to quiver and tears rolled down her face, piling new grief tetris-stones inside her. The players rose quietly, leaving their instruments and exiting the concert hall without a word.
The skycreeper seemed to be stretching his hands towards the window now.
‘Daddy…’
He broke. He knelt and hugged his daughter so hard he thought his heart would melt into hers. Their tears blended and they stayed like that for a long time. His heartbeat got calmer, her tetris wall folded.

The taste of hard liquor, bar fight, losing his job, losing site of the road before him, brakes screeching, metal blending into metal, glimpses of a woman’s face across from his through the curtain of his own blood just before he died… The skycreeper’s own memory slideshow flashed before his eyes as he finally remembered who he’d been.
And then the skies cleared.

That night, dancing with his daughter in his wife’s favourite restaurant, the conducter felt sad, but at peace.
‘I saw something in the sky today, Meg…’
‘Me too, daddy…’
‘But it’s gone now…’
‘Mine too, daddy…’

She smiled, her mother’s sparkle twinkling in her eyes. He smiled back. They danced on and the music sounded good.

image

Wolfgang Schimanski provided me with this photo as a challenge to write a story about it. As horror-inviting as it was, little Meg kept whispering to me that things are never as dark as they may seem.

Anita Kovacevic

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