Summer Under the Clouds
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. It had been that way for as long as Chase could remember. And every night since he'd been staying here at Grandpa's, the two of them had lain on their backs here on the warm, asphalt-shingled roof, watching the softly glowing spectacle.
“Grandpa, this happens every night,” Chase yawned, his boredom obvious. “Do we really have to come out here and watch it every night? I mean, it's cool and all, but it's not like it's going to be any different tonight!
Ed chuckled softly, his lined face calm and his eyes intense, reflecting the purple glow. His deep voice showed no hint of resentment as he quietly replied, “It's relaxing, don't you think?”
Chase hesitated a moment, letting his love and admiration for his grandfather temper his response. Respectfully but honestly, he said, “Yes, sir. Too relaxing. I'm having trouble staying awake.”
Ed's eyes never left the clouds.
“I forget sometimes that you're only fourteen. You're pretty big for your age and smart, too. What you don't know, though, is that the clouds haven't always been there. More importantly, there's much more to those clouds than you know. Are you up for a story?”
Chase suppressed a sigh of frustration. He loved Grandpa and normally, he enjoyed nothing more than to be swept away in one of his tales of the magic and mystery of the world. The man had a gift for storytelling and more than enough experience to draw from.
That was one of the reasons he'd agreed when Mom suggested he spend the summer here on his grandfather's Montana ranch. It was the promise of Grandpa's stories, along with fishing, hiking, camping and the best barbecue in the world that had convinced him to skip the fun with his friends back home in the city.
Tonight, however, Chase was tired. Besides, the big day was tomorrow. He and Grandpa had made plans to drive up into the Beartooth Mountains for a few days of fishing at one of their favorite spots. The anticipation was almost more than he could stand.
The Beartooth camping trip was a tradition in their family and had had been one of the highlights of Chase's childhood. Each year, Dad and Grandpa would always take at least one day to “sneak off” to one of the “secret” spots, while the women and youngsters stayed at camp. Grandma would always pack them a lunch and Mom would fuss over them as they climbed into Dad's old Jeep, making them promise to be careful, making sure they packed dry socks, and so on. Chase vividly recalled last year, when they had invited him to jump in and go with them. It was a rite of passage, he knew, and he had been overwhelmed with pride.
Grandma had passed two years ago and Dad had been taken from them only 6 months ago. Now, with the thought of going without his dad tearing at his heart, Chase understood what it must have been like for his Grandfather to make the trip without his beloved wife. This time, he knew, would be an initiation of sorts for them both, but much more solemn and difficult.
Chase had been preparing mentally for the trip all week and they had worked hard today, packing the camping gear and provisions for an early start in the morning. Still, one of Grandpa's stories was a temptation he couldn't resist.
“Sure, I guess so.”
The clouds shimmered. Ed adjusted his position on the roof slightly and dramatically cleared his throat, for effect. His soft smile spread into a grin as Chase laughed at the theatrics. He took a deep breath of the warm, night air and exhaled slowly, clearing his mind and letting the memories sort themselves.
“Do you remember what I did for a living, before I retired?”
“Not really, but Mom always said you were a famous scientist.”
“Well, I don't know about famous,” came the modest reply. “I was a member of a pretty important team of scientists, though. In fact, that's how I met your grandmother.”
The fact was, Ed had once been the world's leading physicist and the head of the team that had literally saved the world, long before Chase was born. Had it not been for that group, Chase would never have been born, for several reasons.
“Funny thing, science,” Ed continued. “When I was a young man, we scientists dismissed magic altogether. We felt that any force or event we couldn't explain needed to be studied until we understood it and could demonstrate its properties and causes, and so on. We studied, researched, hypothesized and experimented until we came up with answers.”
“But we know magic is real!” Chase interrupted. “I mean, even I can —“ An amused look from his grandfather stopped him short.
“Indeed we do, my boy, but that wasn't always the case. And to be honest, you are just beginning to realize the things you're capable of. Now, if you don't mind...” Ed raised an eyebrow in another overtly dramatic gesture, utilizing just one of the antics in his endless repertoire of storytelling skills.
Duly and gently chastised, Chase grinned sheepishly and offered, sincerely, “Sorry, Grandpa.”
“Apology accepted. Very well, then,” Ed winked and went on, “let's get on with this story. As I said, we once felt the need to explain everything and even sought to control many things. We succeeded in one thing: creating havoc.
Much of what science learned, even before I was born—you know, back in the dinosaur days,” he punctuated the remark with another grin and wink, “was applied in ways that were harmful, due either to their outcome or their impact on our planet. Some of the results were disastrous. As you've no doubt learned in your history studies, we came very close to destroying ourselves.”
Chase's quizzical head tilt stopped Ed temporarily. Knowingly, he explained, “Just ourselves, not the world. That's one of the things my team eventually learned. Our world has always been more resourceful and resilient than we knew then. In fact, at the time it probably would have been much better off if humans had disappeared. Fortunately, we came to terms with many things, and Holly, er—your grandmother, was responsible for that in many ways.”
Chase loved the way Grandpa's eyes sparkled when he mentioned Grandma by her name. Or was it just the reflection of another shimmer in the clouds that he continued to focus on?
“I'm sure your mom has told you about how Holly and I fell in love, not long after she joined the team.” When Chase acknowledged Ed's statement with a wrinkled nose and a nod, he continued.
“Alright, I'll skip that story for now. The important thing is that she was the first to notice a sudden change in a particular type of energy that the team had been studying. It was something we hadn't yet categorized, because it was tied to things like gravitational waves, heat waves, radio waves, electricity and every type of energy we could observe. None of those other forces were observable without this energy in the background.
“While going over some test records, Holly noticed an increase in both the amplitude and frequency of the waves of the energy as we actively studied it. Not only that, but she believed that the concentration of those waves was building up around the facility we were working in. It seemed that the more we concentrated on the phenomenon, the more it focused on us.
So, the team got to work on this “new” thing and before long, we determined that what we had been observing was actually the oldest force we'd ever known. It permeated everything we knew. We could see and prove its effects on literally everything else in our universe, and as the ignorant species we were, we tried to control it. Those efforts, of course, were completely in vain.
Chase's brow furrowed and he pursed his lips for a moment before asking, “But don't we control it now?” The question brought another wide grin to Grandpa's face.
“No, and it was your grandmother and I that finally realized that we couldn't. We knew that this energy was extremely powerful, but it seemed every effort we made to “use” it was useless. We tried a different approach and simply opened our minds to it. We invited it.
“I can't really describe what it was like when the breakthrough came. We were suddenly connected to everything. There was no surge of power or any of the sensations you'd expect. We just suddenly felt the entire universe and understood that it felt us, too. What we felt, more than anything else, was welcome.”
“From that moment on, we understood that everything we knew was, and always had been, based on the magic that had always been there, underlying everything. We are magical beings, connected to each other and everything else in both the known and yet-to-be-discovered universes by threads of magic first woven when time began. There have been many names given to it, but it is the most basic and most important element, and it's ours to interact with. And by any name, it's magic.”
Chase's head spun as he tried to absorb and understand the connotations of his grandfather's story. “So, science is wrong? We're like, wizards? Why don't we just teleport everywhere? What about—“ Grandpa's raised hand stopped the torrent of questions.
“Whoa, whoa! Easy, my boy. All good questions, but let me catch up a bit!” Ed's good-natured laugh helped ground and focus his grandson on his words. “No, science isn't wrong. It's a very necessary part of our learning process. What we know now is that science and magic don't cancel each other out. We're learning more about the relationship between them every day.”
“We're not meant to use magic frivolously. The consequences for that are pretty easy to understand. Aside from the obvious risks to our world and others, it's important for us to utilize our bodies, since they're what contains our “selves” in this stage of our lives. Living as humans is a very special and enjoyable part of our growth. We get to do things like fishing and birthday parties, and all of that.”
Chase thought he understood, but it was a lot to take in. “This stage? You mean, we go somewhere else when we die?"
“You're beginning to catch on. The thing is, we don't really have to go anywhere, and the part of us that matters doesn't really die. Remember, we're not just living in a magical world, we're a part of it. Think of it as our consciousness, connected to the consciousness of the universe.”
“Well, I know you're tired and I won't drag this out by trying to explain everything. We'll have lots of time to talk about it this summer. Let's just say we've learned a lot about magic since those days and we've done some interesting things with what we've learned. So, are you interested in how all of this relates to those clouds?” Grandpa indicated the display overhead with a flourish. Chase thought he noticed a flicker in the glow of the clouds, but wrote it off as as his imagination.
Chase had wondered if Grandpa had forgotten the original topic of their conversation, but hadn't wanted to insult him. “Yes, please,” he responded, stifling another yawn.
Ed's good-natured chuckle led into the reply, “Alright, let me get right to the heart of it, then. As we learned more about the magic of our world, we found that together, using the magic of the cosmos, we could move mountains. Over the next few years, we managed to repair the damage we'd done to the planet. We managed to save it for future generations.”
“But, Grandpa,” Chase pleaded, “What about the clouds?”
“We created them. Each of us that's left this earthbound life devotes a very small part of his or her energy and consciousness to making them visible for the first few hours of the morning, wherever our loved ones are. We use them for many things, including what you and I are doing, right here, right now. In fact, it's time for me to confess that this is exactly why your mother and I wanted you to be here this summer. You've come of age.”
Chase knew, somehow, that he was on the verge of understanding something important, but he just couldn't quite grasp it. As he struggled to make sense of it, the purple clouds seemed to pulse and shift more intensely, until everything else faded into the background of his awareness.
Hello, dear Chase!
He felt the words, rather than hearing them, but he clearly recognized the voice. Incredulously, cautiously, he spoke, “Grandma?”
Yes, Honey. It's me. Are you alright?
Chase glanced at his grandpa, realizing he had been watching intently, with that soft, knowing smile. Grandpa's eyes twinkled and he nodded, the smile brightening.
Chase found the ability to form words again and spoke, louder than he had intended, “Yes, Grandma! I'm okay! This is AWESOME!”
Grandpa laughed aloud, in sync with Grandma's voice in Chase's head, although it felt more like it was in his heart.
Oh, you're going to learn so quickly! Yes, it is your heart that's connected, not your mind. That was the most important thing we had to learn back then. Your heart has matured to this stage. I'm so happy to be the one to welcome you here!
We have so much to talk about this summer, you and I and your Grandpa. Your mother will be listening in, too!
Ed sat up next to Chase and softly cleared his throat.
Oh, my, yes, Ed! Poor Chase is tired, and you two have to get an early start tomorrow! Besides, I'm sure he'll need some time to wind down. I'll let you both get some rest and we can talk tomorrow...
Chase and Ed looked at each other for a moment, then, simultaneously, the two of them lay back down on the roof. Chase was the first to speak. “I think we could probably leave a little later in the morning. Don't you, Grandpa?”
Grandpa, grinning from ear to ear, replied, “Yes, sir, I think so, too!”
About the Creator
Dad, Stedpad, Grandpa, Husband, lover of Nature and dogs.
Writer, editor, photographer and Tech/Internet nerd. Internationally published in multiple languages. I spend my days writing for others and my "spare" time creating for myself.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
I loved the dialogue between Chase and his grandpa. I also love the concept of how magic and science connect. The earth does not really need us and would probably would be better off without us, but maybe we do offer something in the clouds. Particularly loved this line, "Our world has been more resilent and resourceful than we knew then" . I love thinking that our conscience would also carry on. Well done! ❤️
Not meant to use magic frivolously.....such a great read, beautiful. I am glad you shared it
I love the intertwining of science in magic as you've conceived it. Makes me feel (yearn?) that magic might be within any of our reach, which tells me what an effective story this is.
Beautiful thought and story! And it's true about a modicum of energy released when someone dies, but where it goes, no one really knows...
Very nice buddy, what I wouldn’t do for some of that magic 😀
Cool ending, it nice if things happened this way