A faint rumbling came from outside. The sound was definitely not from the waves. Nat nervously got to her feet and walked over to the narrow cave opening.
“I see lightning. There’s a storm brewing. I thought you said there would be two veils before a storm.”
“I was trying to make an educated guess. Does it look like it’s coming our way?”
“I can’t tell. Griff, what if it’s a regular storm, and not an acid one?”
“We’ll have to wait and see.” Getting up, he went over and drew his arms around her waist. Together they stared out past the stretch of beach, into the nearly absolute darkness. The clouds masked any stars or moonlight, making it difficult to see anything.
“Where’d you see the lightning?”
She pointed off to their left. At that same moment, a jagged line of bright, neon green raced toward the horizon. Griff gasped and pulled her away from the cave’s entrance.
“That’s one of those acid storms. We best retreat farther inside so we don’t get any of it on our skin.”
“What if it’s not coming our way? What if it bypasses us?”
“We can’t take the chance.”
She resisted the pull of his arms. “What’ll happen to the ocean after the storm rains acid on it? Will it kill the fish?”
“I don’t know. I can’t even begin to hazard a guess.”
A shudder went through her. “What if it’s rained here before? Have we been eating tainted seafood?”
He understood what she was trying to say. “If we’ve been eating tainted fish and all, I think we would’ve felt the effects by now, don’t you think?”
He tried to urge her back inside the cave, when a hard gust of wind buffeted them. It slid around from the side instead of head-on, which told him it hadn’t originated from the storm they were watching.
“Nat, get back,” he ordered, almost pulling her out of the entrance.
This time she obeyed. “What?”
“I don’t know, but that wind isn’t coming from that storm. It’s coming from behind us.”
She gasped. “From another storm?”
“Could be. Let’s go over to the fire to wait this thing out.”
“Since when do two storms show up at the same time?” She paused. “What if it’s not a storm? What if it’s a veil?”
“Veils aren’t preceded by winds,” he argued.
“That we know of,” she challenged. “Ever since those veils showed up, we’ve tried to make sense of them. Just when we thought we knew what was going on, the tables were turned on us. We’ve tried to figure out why they started, and why things changed so much after we go through them. Why are we in the middle of farmland one moment, and in a desert the next? We’ve been in a jungle, on a mountain, and now this island. And, on top of that, one time it was the middle of winter, then it was summer, then the fall. We don’t even know what year it is!”
Her voice was rising as panic started to overtake her. He felt the same fears threatening to overwhelm him. Taking her face between his hands, he kissed her, cutting off any further protests. It wasn’t meant to be a sexual kiss, but it was a loving kiss. One that conveyed his growing affection for her. She calmed and leaned against him, kissing him back.
In the few days since they’d found each other, he’d come to realize how much she meant to him. At first, he’d argued with himself that their mutual attraction was because of their circumstances. They were two survivors of a catastrophic event no one understood or had anticipated. They needed each other the same way a drowning person clings to a life preserver. But of the handful of people they’d encountered since the veils overtook the world, they’d quickly discovered they could only count of each other.
Another blast of wind whistled through the cave opening, throwing sand into the air and nearly blinding them. Coughing, Griff lifted the neck of his t-shirt over his nose to keep from breathing in the grit, when another gust swirled inside. This one was strong enough to extinguish the fire, plunging them in blackness.
Nat clutched him, burying her face in his chest against the flying sand. He enveloped her in his embrace and guided her to the far end of the cave without going deeper into the rear cavern. He didn’t know if the coming storm would penetrate the back area, or if it would even reach them. Either way, they needed to stay far away from any openings to prevent themselves from getting hit by the acid rain.
They remained in each other’s arms and watched what they could of the storm. The wind continued to blow fiercely against the island, and several times they felt drops of sea water reaching them.
“Could this be a hurricane, you think?” Nat yelled at him to be heard over the gale.
“Or a water spout. Let’s hope it’s over with soon.”
An unearthly howl began to screech around them. Griff wondered if his guess was correct, and a twister was descending upon them, when Nat jumped.
“The water’s coming in!”
She stepped back. He felt the water’s resistance against his boots. Bending down, he dipped his hand into the coldness that was almost at his ankles.
He sensed her starting to retreat farther toward the inner chamber, but stopped her. “No! We need to get out of here before the tide rises!”
“But the acid rain will scald us!”
“We can’t stay in here!” he insisted. “We could get trapped. We need to get above the water level. If we’re lucky, we might find a ledge or something to hide under.”
They’d discovered yesterday that the small spit of land they inhabited was actually the upper cone of what had been a volcano, whose eruption from the ocean’s depths had created this solitary island. The inner part of the volcano was honeycombed with caves, but they’d held back from any further investigation for fear of getting separated. Or worse, falling into a crevasse and dying.
“Griff, the water’s getting higher!”
“Come on! Hold onto me!”
She clutched the waistband of his pants as he started to wade toward the cave entrance. The water was up to his calves and quickly rising. He heard the pounding of the waves coming from outside. The sound grew louder as it grew closer. Stark fear went through him as he realized at the last second what was about to happen. He turned to grab Nat when icy water surged into the cave, blasting them like a gigantic firehose, and sending them flying into a rock wall.