© 2023 by Nol Galaxy.

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DUST STORM

Visalv was a dry world. Sand dunes stretched into the horizon, speckled with red trees, and ancient sandstone monoliths that were the planet’s biggest attraction. Tourists would swarm yearly just to take a picture in front of one of thy mysterious stones. When Tohin looked at the landscape of his home world, he felt like he was seeing the face of a close friend he hadn’t seen in a while. It was familiar enough to be recognized, yet its changes made it felt slightly uncomfortable. Six years ago, when him and his sister left the planet, holo-signs and hover cars were a rare sight, in fact his family was the only one with a hover car in his neighborhood. Now he could see one every few meters that the shuttle drove from the travel station.

“It’s beautiful,” Aevalis, his sister, said.

Tohin gave her a small smile but remained silent.

When they finally arrived at the house after the long drive and a short walk, Tohin was happy that their parents weren’t home yet, because he wouldn’t have wanted them to see the way he began crying at the sight of their home. He quickly ran up to his bedroom, while his sister immediately began looking around the house to see if everything was as she remembered. It had been too long since Tohin had been in his room, and true to their word, his parents had rebuilt everything exactly as it should have been.

There was no trace of dust or age, so he knew his parents must have been cleaning the room regularly. He walked to his bed and sat down. The way it sunk with his weight felt familiar, although, he knew it was a new bed and not the one he’d used before. He sat for what felt like hours, engulfed in memories, then suddenly, he was drawn from his reminiscing, by the glinting of an object in the light. He stood with a start and ran to pick up the object. The smooth sphere shining iridescently in the light of the setting sun sent a chill through him. The orb was bright clear green desk weight his parents gave him many years ago, but in certain lights, it would suddenly be streaked with grey stripes, and it vividly reminded him of how the sky looked that day.

# # #

Immediately he woke up that day, he knew that something wasn’t right. There was a strange static in the air, and his mouth tasted bitter and dry, as if someone had shoved a medicine pill in while he was sleeping. He looked around his room and finding nothing out of the ordinary inside, he got up to look out the window. The sun was just rising, and the sky was a clear green as always. Nothing was wrong, if anything, it looked like the day was going to be the perfect combination of clear skies and cool air. He heard a knock on his door.

“Tohin are you up?” His dad said though the door.

“Yes, I’ll be down in a minute.”

“Alright, no need to rush though, today feels like it will be a great day for work.” His father’s words calmed his fears, and he started to get ready.

His father worked as an archeologist, who studied the Visalvian monoliths, and each year, when a couple new ones were found, and it was his dad’s job to study them. He’d been assisting his dad since he graduated from secondary school, and he was hoping he would soon start his own research. Tohin believed the monoliths could be related to the stone slabs on Ceis, and if that were the case, it meant they would have clues about the origins of the universe and possibly other dimensions. Thinking about such discoveries made Tohin giddy, so he showered and dressed quickly, then rushed down to meet his father in the kitchen.

“If you fall down those stairs, you’ll definitely not make it to the site on time,” his mom told him as she stirred something in a pot. She always woke up early to pack a lunch box for them and see them off.

“Tohin will break his teeth and I’ll keep them in my box!” Aevalis screeched, while having a giggling fit.

“Then I’ll look just like you,” he said, pulling her cheeks. Her teeth had just started to fall out, and she’d suddenly become obsessed. She not only collected her own fallen teeth, but the teeth of their neighbor’s aging pet.

They all sat around the table and ate a quick breakfast together, then Tohin and his father set off. His father drove, while Tohin began looking over their notes. The new site was three hours out of the city, and into the eastern desert, and only one previous team had visited the site. He looked through his holo-com to find the pictures the previous team sent.

“Wow! Dad this is crazy, this thing is huge, the biggest one I’ve seen,” he said. His dad quickly glanced at the projection. The Monolith was at least thirty times the size of a person; the entire thing didn’t even fit in the frame.

“Look how smooth it is, and the symbols look unique as well,” his father said, concentrating on the map projected on the windshield. “You know, I’ve been thinking about your idea. Maybe it’s possible that our planet’s monoliths could be connected to Ceis’s, and if…wait…What is going on?” He said, and slowed down. Ahead, clouds had started to form rapidly, and the wind was picking up. The car started to shake, and his father struggled with the steering wheel to keep them from tipping.

They stared in horror at what appeared to be a tornado suddenly brewing. The car was now spinning, and warning lights were flashing. Sand was being whipped around at high speeds, which hit the windshield like bullets, and formed cracks instantly. His father skillfully maneuvered along with the winds, but the hover car was about to be swept away.

“Dad the anchor! the anchor!” Tohin yelled. Immediately, his father thumbed the emergency symbols on the steering wheel, and an anchor from the bottom of the vehicle shot through the ground securing them in place. The car waved in the air like a balloon caught on a branch. The winds were whipping furiously, more tornadoes were forming, and the clear green sky had turned black with storm clouds, although it did not rain.

“Quickly Tohin,” his dad said, unbuckling his seat belt. “We need to get in the back and crouch down… the glass won’t hold.” As if prompted by his father’s words, a loud crack formed in one of the windows, “go!” his father said.

Tohin did as he asked, and then his dad followed after. The car was used for transporting research materials and tools, so the back was large enough for both of them to squeeze behind the front seats. They crouched with their hands over their heads and face to the floor. The car was being tossed around wildly, and Tohin hoped the anchor would hold. He didn’t realize he was crying until his dad reached over and held his hand. His dad grip was strong and steady.

“It will be okay,” he said confidently. “Trust me, it will be okay.”

He nodded and held on to his dad’s hand. His father was not a large man, in fact he was small and thin. A book worm, that looked like he could barely hold his own weight. Yet his calming presence filled the space. Tohin had always adored his father, and now he felt respect and love well up within him and gripped the hand tighter. If his father said they would be alright, then it would be so. The stayed curled up like that for hours, sweating and shivering at the same time, but taking comfort in each other’s presence.

Tohin felt a hand shake him, and he was pulled from his fear-ridden sleep. In the dim light he made out his father’s concerned face. He became aware of the stillness and realized that the winds had stopped. Fortunately, the anchor had held, but the car was buried beneath the sand.

“Are you alright Tohin?” His dad asked.

His clothes were soaked through with sweat, and his voice came out in a dry croak, but he was still alive, so he smiled and nodded at his dad. “But how do we get out of here?” He asked.

The car’s systems had shut down during the storm, and as Tohin’s dad attempted to restart the vehicle, Tohin clenched his hands together, steadied his breathing, and tried not to wonder what would happen if the car didn’t start. He unclenched his fists and let out a strained breath at the sound of the engine. Tohin’s dad pulled up the anchor and activated the car’s vertical rise thrusters. They must have been buried beneath a few feet of sand because the car would not budge. Tohin’s dad increased the power to the bottom thrusters as high as it would go. The car shuddered violently, and the engine made frightening sounds as it fought against gravity and the sand to rise. His dad slowed the thrusters, then he immediately increases it again, turning the steering wheel side to side. Tohin watched his dad’s determined eyes; the only thing that betrayed any uncertainty was his swollen lower lip held between his teeth. Suddenly, a small light peeked through the top of the windshield, and soon the rest of the sand fell way, and the car shot into the air. Tohin’s dad quickly controlled their accent and brought them to a stable level then began driving home.

It took an hour to get back in to the city, and when they did, they were overwhelmed by the devastation they saw. Skyscrapers were sawed in half, and sand filled their broken parts. There was no difference between were the desert started and were the paved road began. A cacophony of emergency sirens shook the air. Vehicles were abandoned at the side of roads, windows were cracked, and buildings were buried in sand. The entire city looked like an unearthed skeleton with dirt, and sand pouring out of its eye sockets and ribs.

Tohin and his dad drove with their mouths clenched shut and grew graver as they approached their home. They could not voice any thoughts about what may have caused the sudden storm and were too anxious to even think about what awaited them when they arrived home. When they reached where their house should have been, they found only rubble buried under sand and his mom weeping on the curb cradling his unconscious sister.

# # #

Tohin wiped his face and rolled the orb around in his hands. Even now, years later, no one could explain what had caused the storm. In the aftermath, his parents sent them to live with their relatives on a Cajaran colony, where sister received advanced treatments. She underwent multiple surgeries to fix her spine and couldn’t walk for over a year. For the last six years Tohin had been working various jobs and sending money back to help his parents who remained on Visalv to rebuild what they’d lost. Tohin smiled and looked at his room again, they’d made it almost exactly the same. He was about to pick up his old journal when he heard the front door open, and his mother and sister’s joyful shouting.

“Tohin, where are you? come down so I can see you,” his dad yelled. He knew from his voice that he was crying. His father always cried when he was happy.

“Coming,” he yelled back, then put down the orb.