Chapter Eight ~
The air was heavy with humidity and Faith's clothes stuck to her body. She grasped her shirt and pulled it away from her damp skin and groaned. “Ugh, this humidity is crazy.”
“Yep, you’ll have to get used to it, no air conditioning out here.” Jim gave her a hundred-watt smile and her heart flipped. I think I’m in love.
Everyone stood around Jim's SUV, making small talk and getting to know Faith better. She would get along with all of them, now that Alex was gone.
"So how long have you been a meteorologist?" Jenny asked. Faith liked the quiet girl and hoped they’d become friends.
"I've been at the TV station for about four years now. Before that I taught a class for two semesters at the local college." She smiled, welcoming the questions.
"So what made you decide to chase?" Vince Dobbs asked, joining the conversation.
"It was actually a fluke. I took some footage of the storm yesterday and when my boss saw it she took it straight to the station's producer and she loved it so much she decided it would be my new job. She thinks it will boost ratings for the show." She gave a rueful grin. "I actually loved doing it so it’s all good."
"I bet she's right. It should boost the ratings. I've watched the show and I have to admit, it's a little stale," Jim admitted with a grin.
Everybody laughed, totally comfortable with Faith. They treated her as if she was already a member of the team and a wave of gratitude swept through her as she laughed with them.
"I think we should get her a jacket, Jim. What do you think?" John Haney asked.
"That’s a great idea. They're in your trunk, aren't they?" He asked his sister. She nodded and he took the keys she offered him and came back a couple minutes later with a bright red jacket with 'Twister Tales Storm Chasers' on the right breast with a bigger logo across the back in white letters. There was a huge tornado swirling among the words in such a way it looked like it was in motion.
"This is awesome, who designed it?" She asked.
"Jim did." Jenny glanced at him with pride. "He's pretty artistic, huh?"
"It's a great design. I'll wear it proudly." She put it on and twirled around for all to see. Wearing the jacket in this heat made her even hotter, but she knew she’d be thankful for it later.
Jim’s sister looked at the computer she had set-up on a small metal table beside her SUV and said, "The storm's almost here. There are still three pronounced hooks, but they look like they're swirling around each other. We should know pretty soon what we're gonna get. I'm surprised it traveled this far without causing total chaos. I've had several reports of tornadoes on the ground, but nothing unusual for any tornadic system. Maybe it's just a glitch and it's not really a triple-hook system. Or I guess it could be clouds in a rain-wrapped tornado."
"Jenny, don't be ridiculous. You know what that looks like and this isn't it. I wouldn't have rushed us all here like I did if I hadn't seen the same thing you're seeing," Jim told her in more of a big-brother voice than a boss's.
"I'm gonna go call one of the local TV stations and see if they're seeing the same thing we are." He moved to the back of the SUV to make the call.
"You don't have to do that,” Jenny called after him. "I've got the local TV station right here," She said and turned the other laptop around. She turned the sound up and they all watched as a newscaster lost total composure right on the air.
Jim came back to her table and shushed one of the guys who started to say something to him. “Let’s hear this.” He gestured to the screen and everyone went silent.
"...It's a massive storm system. Please take cover! If you live in a mobile home, get out! Find a ditch, or even a creek, I don't care, just get out!" The newscaster was saying in a flustered voice. "If you have a basement or a storm cellar, get in it and take your animals with you," He yelled just before the station went out and a buzzing noise replaced him.
"Wow, it really is true!" Jenny cried. The emergency broadcasting system came on then after a 'beep, beep, and beep' sound.
"This is a message from the emergency broadcast system. A massive-sized storm is just northwest of the Dallas Metro area. Take cover at this time. Do not waste time gathering material items. Take shelter now," The voice said. It wasn't the normal pre-recorded voice that usually ran in these instances, but a live female voice sounding shocked and stunned.
Just then the first wisps of wind began to kick up. Faith looked at the sky and was mesmerized as the massive wall cloud appeared right over top of them. Small pellets of ice began to hit and Jenny grabbed an umbrella from the side of her chair to protect her computers.
"You might have to take them to the car, Sis," Jim said. "Look, the sky's going green."
He sounded excited and Faith was glad she wasn’t the only one to feel exhilaration, even in the face of such fury. Am I insane for feeling the way I do?
Bigger pieces of hail began to fall, and at a faster pace. Jenny grabbed her computers and ran for the car. She dumped them in the backseat, ran back for the table, but it flew through the air on a gust of wind.
"Oh no, I thought we had more time before it got here,” Jenny said as she pointed toward the sky. "That's the biggest wall cloud I've ever seen!" She ran back to the car and set her laptops up on the dash. "Jim, come look at this," She yelled in excitement.
"What is it?" He ran toward her, Faith right on his heels.
"What is it?" Faith asked. Even though she didn't know her that well, she knew the sound of terror when she heard it.
"It's...I...Oh my, we need to pray," She yelled.
The rest of the crew ran toward Jenny's SUV, too. They were all standing around it, holding umbrellas above them when she pulled her radar computer up and turned it around for them to see.
"That's impossible, there's no way," Jim said in disbelief.
"Is it a joke, or for real?" Faith asked, her heart tripping in fear.
"We need to take cover right now! Pack up and get out. We need to move," Jim ordered.
The radar was one massive tornado that was bearing down on them faster than they were going to be able to run. There were hook-echoes everywhere. Faith had never seen anything like it. She still didn't know whether to believe what her eyes were seeing. They'd never mentioned anything like this in school...What was going on?
Huge hail began to fall then, hitting the roofs of the SUV's and making massive dents as they hit. They were the size of small soccer balls. Faith stood immobile, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. Of their own accord, her hands had pulled up the camera hanging around her neck and begun to film what she was seeing. In the back of her mind she heard a noise. It was Jim's voice.
"Faith, are you crazy? Let's go while we still can."
That was the last thing she heard before the wind carried her away.
Faith screamed with such terror Jim began to pray, "Dear Father, please keep her alive if it's your will." Then he was swept away too. The trucks were jerked from the ground like Tonka toys and the roar of the wind was like a hundred trains converging in one spot all at once. In seconds, every vehicle from the team was gone and the only thing left was Scooby, Faith's small Chihuahua. He lay cowering in the ditch where he'd run when the noise started. He whined pitifully, looking for his master.
Faith must have lost consciousness because the next thing she was aware of was the cold rain hitting her in the face. The hail had finally stopped and she dared to open her eyes. What she saw was so dismaying she closed them again for a minute. When she re-opened them the landscape still looked the same. Huge chunks of ground were pulled up. She could see big chunks of red metal that was the remnant of the crew's trucks lying all over the area. Massive trees were pulled up out of the ground like toothpicks and lay discarded on the ground, their roots showing with clumps of dirt still hanging to them.
Faith heard a moan and it took her several minutes to realize it was her own voice. She began to scream, "Jim! Jenny! Anybody, can you hear me?" There was no reply. She glanced up at the sky and saw another rope tornado on the ground just to the west of where she lay, but it was small and nothing like what she’d just endured. She thanked God she was still alive. "Scooby, where are you?" She'd never felt so alone in her life. "Scooby Doo, please come!"
She heard a small whimper and that motivated her to try to get up. "Jim! Jenny! Can anyone hear me?" Large trails of tears sped down her already wet cheeks as she maneuvered her way to a sitting position. A piece of red metal held her legs in and she couldn't move it at first. She pushed again with all her might and it finally gave way with a loud screeching noise. She felt her legs and ran her hands all along her feet, but felt no pain. She was lucky she didn't seem to have any injuries. She got up and made her way to Scooby's whimpering noises.
"Oh Scooby, you're okay too," She cried as she scooped him up and hugged his skinny little body to her. He was shivering and she shoved him up under her coat before starting off in search of the rest of the crew.
She began to yell again, "Jim, Jenny! John, Vince?" She choked back a sob and continued to yell as she moved forward, "Bobby, can you hear me?"
"Over here," A weak voice squeaked. She barely heard it, but ran toward the sound when it reached her ears. It was Bobby Cantor, Jim's navigator. She crouched down beside him and asked, "Are you okay? Is anything hurt?"
"I can't move my legs," He said as he looked up at her with terror in his eyes. Her own eyes watered in response. His hand reached up to her face and when he brought it back it was covered in blood. She gasped. Was she bleeding? She hadn't even noticed.
"You hurt your face." His voice sounded funny and she believed he was in shock and needed a doctor.
"I'm okay, Bobby. We need to get you out of here," She said in a conversational tone as she walked around him to see what was going on. She tried not to let him see the horror in her face of all that she saw around her. "I'm gonna go see if I can find the rest of the crew. Will you be okay for a while?" He probably couldn't feel his legs because there was a heavy piece of red metal holding them down. She checked them and they still had color, so that was a good sign.
"Yeah, you wouldn't happen to have any water would you? I am so thirsty!"
She smiled widely. She'd found Scooby's satchel laying on the ground a few hundred feet back and there were four bottles of water in the side pouches. She pulled one out now and handed it to him. "Try to hang in there. I'll be back as soon as I can."