A Message in the Clouds
A short Story
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. The townsfolk looked on in wonder as waves of violet, lilac and heather shimmied, waltzed and tangoed across their powdered ballroom.
It was a spectacular sight that left all who saw in awe, as they cheered, danced, praised and applauded the celestial ballet they were blessed to witness. Even the birds and local wildlife, who were normally sleeping or partaking in their nightly hunt, stopped to take in the show.
People lined the lakeshore by the hundreds. They brought their families, their blankets and their picnic baskets and staked out the best spot on the beach to view the amazing spectacle. For the last three nights, some even brought musical instruments - guitars, drums, and wind instruments; and they played in tune with the dancing clouds. It was party. The whole town was invited, and everybody loved it.
Everybody except me, that is.
It had been eight days since my brother disappeared, and it had been eight nights since the sky first shone purple. I spoke to that sky every night, begging it to help me find my brother, crying at the mercy of those stupid purple clouds, but they told me nothing.
Damian and I were all each other had. Since we lost our parents in a horrific car accident five years ago, we learned quickly that we were the only people we could count on. The town, and specifically the police department’s reaction to his disappearance, was only the most recent confirmation of that fact.
After our parents died, we were put in foster care. Damian was fourteen at the time, I was sixteen. We had relatives out-of-state who could have taken responsibility for us, but none were willing to step up for two heartbroken teenagers who just lost the only world they’d ever known.
I was placed with a family almost immediately. Damian was sent to a group home at first, then transferred to foster care a few months later. I didn’t understand why we were separated, but the social worker said that’s how it had to be.
My foster family was kind to me at first. They tried to make life as comfortable for me as they could, considering the circumstances. However, after about six months, when my foster-mom’s creepy brother Dennis moved in things changed.
He was nice to me too, at first - maybe a little too nice. It didn’t take long for me to realize what he was really like, though. That first time he put his hand on my butt, I pushed him hard on the chest and told him to back off. He apologized, said it was an accident. I knew that wasn’t true and he proved it when he tried it again a couple of days later.
I freaked out on him but was afraid to tell my foster-mom. He is her brother, after all. I told the social worker about it when she came to visit. She informed my foster family, but of course they didn’t believe me. They said I was a troublemaker.
I was removed from the home and put in a group care. I didn’t get another foster after that. I don’t know why. Maybe the social worker didn’t believe me either. Maybe she thought I was a troublemaker too.
I had just recently turned seventeen when I left that family, so I only had to stay a year in the group home before I aged out. I’ve been on my own ever since.
When I left the group home, I decided to move away from my hometown. Damian had been placed with a foster family a few counties away in a place called Uncanny. I thought that was a strange name for a town, but who was I to judge.
I wanted to be closer to Damian. I knew he wasn’t doing well in foster care. Don’t get me wrong, he had no problems with the family, it’s just that, since Mom and Dad died life had not been good for him. It hasn’t been great for me either, to be honest, but Damian seemed to take it so much harder.
He had trouble adjusting. He’d been acting out a lot - getting in fights, shoplifting, skipping school. I knew his fosters were doing their best, but I thought he needed more help. I wanted to be closer to him, so I could visit more often.
I arrived in Uncanny, knowing the first thing I had to do was find a job. That wouldn’t be an easy task since I had no experience, other than working in the kitchen at the group home, but I acquired some light cooking and baking skills from my mom before she passed.
I applied for a position in a small café called Coffee Magic and was thrilled when I got the job. Zina, my boss, has owned the café for thirty years, and it looked like it hadn’t been renovated since. There were pink feather painted walls with stained glass wall lights. The booths were powder-blue leather with multi-coloured tabletops. The only things current in the entire place were the appliances. It reminded me of the pictures Mom had in her albums from when she was young.
Zina reminded me of Mom too, in a way. That first day I met her, when I went for the job interview, I could see the kindness in her eyes. She told me shortly after I started working for her that she could also see something in me. She could see a need in me - a need to be loved, a need to be trusted, a need to have someone in my life that I could trust, and a need to be seen as human.
She became that person for me. Don’t get me wrong, she could never replace my mom, but I quickly learned that Zina was a person I could trust, a person who genuinely cared about me. I hadn’t felt that since my parents died.
I soon learned that she trusted me as well. The day that she told me she was a witch, I almost laughed at her. I could see in her face that she was serious, though. She made her point more than clear when she chanted something incomprehensible, and the coffee mugs arranged themselves in the dishwasher.
It was unnerving. It terrified me, truthfully. I was beginning to wonder if the “magic” in Coffee Magic was something she put in the brew. I’ve since come to accept that these things happen in Uncanny, and that it’s as common and unremarkable as the sun shining, or the birds singing.
Like the day a distracted child nearly stepped into an intersection as a car was passing. He abruptly halted when his dog yelled “stop.”
Then there was the day about a year ago when I was sitting on a bench in the park thinking about my brother. My face was wet with tears and my heart was heavy with a feeling of utter uselessness, knowing there was nothing I could do for him.
I had seen Damian early that day. He had a black eye that he won as a prize for mouthing back to the school bully. I wanted so bad to get him out of there, but I couldn’t do anything. I could barely afford to take care of myself. My only income was that which I earned from the coffee shop and the small allowance I was granted from parents’ insurance. The full payout wouldn’t come until I turned twenty-five.
As I sat there on the bench crying, I noticed the sweet smell of fresh lilacs. I looked down and saw that I was holding a small blooming twig in my hands, a twig I did not pick myself.
I’ve always loved the smell of spring lilacs, always found them to be as soothing as a breath of fresh air. As I raised the blossoms to my nose and inhaled the delicate scent, I felt the same soothing calm come over me. I didn’t know how the lilacs came to be in my hands, but I was grateful. It was as if nature herself was trying to help me.
I would need nature’s help again tonight, if I was going to find my brother.
Damian aged out of foster care three months ago. He moved in with me in my apartment above the café, and I got him a part-time job at Coffee Magic. He’s finishing up his senior year in high school in a couple of months, and hopefully, will be going to college in the fall.
My brother and I have gotten along well since we moved in together. There have been minor disagreements, as there would be with most siblings, but nothing we couldn’t work out.
At least there wasn’t until eight days ago.
It was our father’s birthday. Zina had offered us both the day off, so we could travel to our hometown to visit our parent’s gravesites. I had gone every year since they died. Damian went with me the first year but refused to return since.
I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t go. I thought it was disrespectful and I told him that. I told him he was being selfish. He was furious with me, and I couldn’t blame him.
Our parents’ death had more a profound effect on Damian than on me. It wasn’t that I didn’t love them, or didn’t miss them; of course I did, very much so. It’s just that, I was sixteen, going on seventeen when they passed, Damian was only fourteen.
I had already reached my independent stage. I was much more interested in hanging out with my friends than my parents. Even when I was at home, I was either on the phone talking or texting, or checking out my social media apps.
Damian was a hockey player, and a very good one at that. He was the best player on his team, and a league all star. Most of his time was spent on the sport - going to tournaments or fundraisers, practicing, or watching games on TV with Mom and Dad.
Our Dad was the vice-president of our local league, and Mom was the treasurer. All of their non-work time was spent on hockey - and on Damian. He was always with them. Hockey and my parents, that was Damian’s life. He hasn’t played a game since they died, hasn’t even put on a pair of skates.
When I yelled at Damian that he was being selfish, he screamed at me, told me that I just didn’t understand. He was right, I didn’t and I’m not sure I ever will. I told him that staying away from their graves doesn’t mean that Mom and Dad didn’t die. I told him he had to accept it. He didn’t want to hear what I had to say, so he stormed out.
That was the last time I saw my brother. When he didn’t come home that night, I went to the police department. The officer I spoke with showed little concern.
“Damian is eighteen years old, Brianna,” he stated. “He probably just wants some time to himself. I’m sure he’ll come home when he’s ready.”
Two days later, when my brother still hadn’t returned, and after endless hours of searching for him myself, I contacted police the second time. They said they would list him as missing person and do a ground search, which they did. The search ended after a few hours with the police still under the assumption that Damian had just gone off on his own.
I knew better. There was no way he would disappear without contacting me. With little to no help from the police, I knew I had to look in other directions. I knew there had to be a connection with those nightly purple clouds, but I had no idea what it was.
When I asked Zina for help, she told me there was a message in the clouds, but I had to figure it out for myself.
So, here I sit alone on this bench, staring at the sky through tear-filled eyes; begging answers from dancing clouds. This is the eighth consecutive night that I’ve been here alone, talking to a world that’s not listening, screaming into the cumulus.
I take Damian’s drumsticks out of my backpack and sit tapping them on knees. I don’t know why I think this will work. Nothing has yet.
Three days ago, Zina suggested I take something of Damian’s belongings to use as a sort of offering to the clouds, hoping they will give me direction. First, I brought his hockey medals, but I got nothing. Next, I tried the purple stuffed bear that our parents gave him when he was six, thinking surely that would work. Again, I was left with disappointment.
Tonight, I have his drumsticks. As I continue to sit on the bench, still tapping the wooden beaters against my legs, I begin to give up hope. I’ve been here for three hours, and once again am getting no direction.
I scream and throw the mallets on the beach and am stunned by the purple streak I see racing across the sky, following the precise path of the drumsticks I tossed. As I stand and walk to retrieve the sticks, they begin to glow a blushing pink and spin like the needles of a compass.
The clouds part and fade into the sky until only one purple cluster remains, situated precisely in the direction the drumsticks are pointing.
I recognize the place.
I think of the day that Damian and I were hiking in the foothills and discovered the entrance on the rock face. We had been to that same location several times before, but had never noticed the glowing light emanating from the mouth of the cave. It was as if the sun was shining out from entrance, rather than flowing in. As intriguing as it was, we didn’t attempt to the reach the opening that day, for we knew the climb was far too dangerous without safety equipment.
That cave is exactly where these clouds are leading me. I don’t know what I will find when I get there, or even if I will survive the treacherous climb, but I feel I must go. Damian’s drumsticks are pushing me forth and those purple clouds are calling me towards them.
I know now what I must do. I pick up the drumsticks from the beach and head home to collect some supplies before starting my trek.
As I stand at the foot of the trail, looking up onto the rockface, I feel a sense of gratitude to the no-longer-visible purple clouds, the same clouds on which I swore for eight straight nights, the same clouds that, I know, will now lead me to my brother, and whatever else there is to be found within that glowing cave.
About the Creator
Canadian family girl with a recently discovered love for writing. Other loves include animals and sports.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
There is a lyrical beauty to your words in the opening of this intriguing story. Bravo once again dear Cathy - keep on sharing your gift!
Absolutely Great Cathy! You are so talented!
Nice Job, I like the image of spring this story portrait through the story . ❤️🥰 very mysterious story for sure.
Love this Cathy! Have to know what happens next!
Oh nooooo, I gotta know if Brianna finds Damian! Please write part 2 🥺 I loved this story so much!
Great world building, and what a fitting name for the town. I started imagining a whole TV series based on your little town lol nice work!!
Uncanny is a really cool name for a town. ❤ Well written as ever Cathy!
Ah, I'm willing her to find her brother.
That cave better have answers!! I was so upset they were reunited only to be pulled apart again!!! I loved the way you used the clouds as kind of guides. And the cafe owner is an intriguing character. Loved it, nitty!!
Beautiful! Loved it! You drew me in and kept me there from the beginning and that's no easy feat! Well done!
Cathy, your skills just get better and better. Great job
Great work!! I loved your descriptions of the cafe especially and I am super intrigued about this cave!!
Great job, Cathy!
Wonderfully written and a lovely interpretation of the prompt, Cathy! I so hope that the cave holds answers we crave!
Wonderful story Cathy! Wow. This is touching and filled with intrigue. 🥰 Well written and I like the way the pace carried me forward leaving me to want more. Chapter 2?
Very personal and thoughtful piece. I felt connected to the characters!
I was waiting to see what you would come up with and I am so happy to finally read it 😄. I delighted in the small Town of Uncanny and fit so well with the genre of magical realism. Beautiful, aching story 🤗
Good story, Cathy - don't know what you're complaining about - I found it very entertaining, mysterious and look forward to reading more. :)
Great story Cathy, surely will be at least a Top Story
I need to know what is in the cave!! 😍 This was really entertaining and soo intricate - loved it!! I felt the magic, and there is such a sense of mystery and intrigue you have created! Love!! 😍😍
A creative story, it's so good!!!
The author does an excellent job of creating a sense of atmosphere, making the town and its inhabitants come alive.The story is engaging, well-written, and leaves the reader wanting more.
Magnificent mystery story!!! Loved it!!!
This had my attention almost immediately. Great story.
So many little plots intertwined to make one heck of a good story. This is the beginning of a great one. Well done Cathy.