The Year Without Rain
Slam. "Pay close attention." A door closes on the left side of the room. Venice leans in towards his new friend, Arthur—he's about to explain to him what the Favorite had planned to do in the city that night. "Pay close attention, Arthur. I'd hate to see it happen to you." Klink, two glasses meet about four tables away from them. Arthur was afraid, it was all over his face. He looked down to the left and his finger-gun hand met his chin as if to think, "Ah-alright alright Venice, go for it. I just want to know so that I don't end up like—those other guys you mentioned." "Good, here's how to goes. It's all about the outside. You see, the Favorite knows when the rain is the most toxic. He's the only one with that sort of knowledge. The Favorite is the ruler in this country. He knows everything about everyone and has absolute control over information." Ssffssshhh, beer fills up a glass at the bar. Venice continues. "No news broadcasts, no television programs, and most importantly—no weather reports. This is a time when the air is unsafe, as you probably are aware of, but this is not always constant. It comes in waves. To the people at the bottom of the hill, that's us, there's no predicting it." Arthur sat back in his chair, not knowing what to say. "W-well how is this okay? Has anyone seen the Favorite? Anyone ever try to, uuhh I don't know, stop him?" A few people around them gave uncomfortable looks, as though this conversation shouldn't be happening right now. Venice looks around— reads the room. "Okay look, you're new here. I don't know exactly how you ended up in such a place, but things work differently. As I said, there's no planning, no figuring things out. It's impossible. Now, can I continue?" Arthur nods. The sound of plates being stacked against each other rings out from the kitchen. "Once every year, whenever the Favorite finds out, comes a particularly deadly rain. This is population control for the Favorite, and it's during this day where he finds a group of people to end up outside when the rain arrives. We think he has this planned out months in advance, and somehow weaves people's lives in a way that seems natural. But before they even know what's happening—they find themselves under the clouds, exposed. No time to find cover, because it only takes about a few seconds for the rain to kill you. The worst part about this, my friend, is that we're almost at midnight—and nothing has happened yet." "So, you think it's going to rain soon?" Arthur asks. "Yes, because it has to. We should probably stay put here tonight for as long as we can. There's no business in going outside, the clouds could come any minute." "What about the fireworks?" "There probably won't be any, if so we can watch from the window over there." In the back of the room, a small fight breaks out. They move in the direction of Venice and Arthur—they get up. The two men topple over the table that was once occupied. Venice, knowing what was about to happen, was quick to grab the drinks before they could be any part of the wreckage. Clunk. Venice sits the drinks down at the bar and pulls up two stools. "Say, Arthur, where are you coming from again?" "Well, I honestly can't say. I've been on the move a lot, I mean there's just not that much left these days to go to. There's no reason at all to be here in this country, but here I am." Venice took a minute to sit with his statement. "So you feel like you sort of—ended up here?" Arthur gives a distant gaze, "Huh, yea. Yea I guess so." The fight in the background had been handled pretty quickly. There wasn't a bouncer around since no one wanted to throw anyone out. "I must say, I'm a very lucky guy," said Arthur. "How so?" asked Venice, emptying his glass of bourbon joyfully." "It's just that I sort of wandered in here, and was able to meet you. I probably would've found out about the situation here eventually, but tonight—it doesn't seem like there would've been enough time. What I'm trying to say is thank you, I guess. I just might have walked outside later tonight, clueless." Two more glasses of something strong slid their way. "Ahh don't mention it," said Venice, happily accepting both the compliment and the glasses. Arthur scanned the room and motions his thumb behind his back. "What are the odds a few people in here find their way outside tonight?" "Don't know," replied Venice. "No way to tell. Just depends." Arthur lifts the glass and empties its contents. Suddenly, a sample of cracking came from outside. Those inside looked around at each other, confused. "What's that?" asked Arthur, standing up. "It can't be," Venice replies. Just outside the window, were bright bursts of green and red in the night sky. "Fireworks!" Someone exclaimed. "Happy New Year!" A group of colleagues shouts in the back of the room. "Well I'll be," said Venice as he slowly makes his way to look outside. "It is a happy New Year." Arthur joins him at the now crowded window; he slaps Venice on the back joyfully. "How 'bout it! We made it to the other side! Guess the Favorite was feeling kind this year, maybe he does have a soft side." "Maybe, feels kind of off," said Venice, slowly taking in the final remnants within his glass. "We should go out!" shouted a stranger. "Second!" voiced another. Arthur smiles, "I think we oughta step out and enjoy this night like a couple of normal humans. Bet it'd do this place some good—being all crowded and stuffed in this bar all evening." It seemed as though everyone was on board with the idea. "There's no way it'll rain, it's just the start of a new year. The Favorite wouldn't be so cruel, would he?" Venice shrugged, "Eeehh, I mean I guess not? Perhaps you're right, maybe this is our lucky night. You're right though, in all my time being here I don't think it's ever rained on a New Year's Day… Huh, guess you can find a pattern in the Favorite's moves." The room lit up, without the help of alcohol this time. Shhooonk, someone unlocks the door leading to the outside. "The last one out has to buy everyone drinks!" exclaimed a happy individual. The place erupted; tables and chairs fell here and there as groups rushed out to gaze at the pretty neon lights, shooting off in a dozen different directions—all at once. "C'mon!" said Arthur, motioning Venice towards the door. The place was about cleared out, even the bartender left his post. "I'll be right out, might help myself to a free drink while the chance stands. Take it where you can get it, right?" Arthur laughs and nods, then heads outside. The place was empty, other than a happy Venice. He looks on from just inside the doorway at all of the happy people, dancing and shoving each other around encouragingly. The fireworks slowly made their way towards a grand finale. Venice looked on, still in the doorway. The shouts and screams from the crowd were breath taking. They grew louder and louder, to the point where Venice closed the door and sat down in the bar. He propped his feet up and sighed, relaxingly. The shouts pierced through the walls and windows, he takes a sip. Soon, the screams slowly quieted down—to the point where all Venice could hear was the sounds of rain hitting the roof. Another sip. Venice reclines. The Favorite knew when the rain was the most toxic. He knows everything about everyone and has absolute control over information. You see, he has this planned out months in advance, and weaves people's lives in a way that seems natural—false freewill. But before they even know what's happening—they find themselves under the clouds, exposed. Every now and then the Favorite would make his way down the hill. Tonight, he visited his favorite barroom.