Father was most upset, though, by two things we’d told him—that there had been a giant version of Blue Boyle on the island and, even worse, that we’d glimpsed Aunt Claire there, too. He just couldn’t accept these things, though I know he wanted very much to believe me. I’d never lied to him, not really.
The mood in the car drew darker—more silent—as we drew closer to home, to Franconia. And—appropriately—the sky was darkening, too. Just to the west of us, black clouds were gathering, darkening the sun. The headlights of our car popped on automatically.
I’d never seen Father drive so fast.
As soon as we’d heard the radio news about a tornado warning for our area, Father had accelerated to ten mph above the speed limit (he never drove over the limit). He gripped the steering wheel hard, glanced anxiously at the sky.
As we neared our house, the rain began. It was not a gentle shower. Huge drops pounded the car, sounding as if someone were throwing handfuls of gravel at us. Leaves and branches darted wildly across the lawns, across the streets. Trash cans and rider-less bicycles tumbled after them, cartwheeling over and over in frantic pursuit. The giant hand of the wind grabbed the branches of the tallest trees and violently bent them back and forth. I’d never before seen the tops of trees touch the earth.
We barely stopped at one intersection where the traffic light overhead swung back and forth—like a berserk pendulum on a crazy clock. The sky was now an ugly combination of colors—black, green, gold, purple. I felt my ears popping and the air pressure was changing—lowering—dramatically.
“Run for the basement as soon as the car stops,” my father said quietly.
We did. The wind was howling so loudly that I barely heard the crack of the old oak in our front yard, but I saw it topple right onto our car, crushing it, barely missing Father, who was right behind us. The air smelled like sulfur, and the wind was like a huge hand, shoving us toward the house.
As we reached the front porch, I stopped and looked back to the west. And I saw it. A funnel cloud, like a dark twisted finger, was reaching down to touch the earth.[i]
“Look!” I screamed, and Harriet and Father turned to see it, too.
It was hard to tell how far away it was—a mile? a half-mile? But it was not hard to tell that it was moving toward town, toward us.
I could hardly pull the screen door back the wind was so powerful, but I managed. It took just the gentlest shove on the main door, and the wind blasted it backwards into the room where it smashed into the wall. Somewhere in the house I heard things fall from the walls, crash to the floor.
Inside the house, Father leaned against the door and with all his effort and pushed it shut once again.
“Stay away from the windows!” he said grimly. “Get to the basement! Fast!”
We didn’t wait to be reminded.
Just as we closed the door behind us I heard windows crashing. Something hit the door behind me with enormous velocity. As Father and Harriet moved by me on the stairs, I looked just above my head and saw that some glass had punctured the door; a shard the size of an axe-blade was inches from my face.
The lights went out.