Tarnished Image

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Authors: Alton L. Gansky
we be dead?”
    Closing his eyes, David thought for a moment. How should he answer that question? David decided that the truth would still be the best approach. “Yes.”
    “I don’t get it.”
    A sadness seeped into David, like water into a sponge. David wished for a clear and concise answer, but he knew one wasn’t available. He could try to explain some of the things he had been taught, arguments like “Death isn’t always a bad thing,” “Everyone dies sooner or later,” and “Bad things happen to good people.” But none of the things he had studied could adequately answer such a difficult question. Timmy’s mind was limited in development, but he was amazingly sharp with those things he could understand.
    There were some people who would offer simplistic answers, but those answers came when people failed to question deeply and honestly. They took platitudes like pills. There were many spiritual questions that humans couldn’t answer—not in this life anyway.
    “You know, Timmy,” David finally said, “at the moment, I don’t get it either.”

    O SBORN S COTT PRESSED HIS FINGERS TO HIS TEMPLES AND rubbed. He closed his eyes and took in slow, deep breaths. Weariness ached within him; fear percolated in his mind; his stomach felt like a vat of heated acid. Opening his eyes again he looked at the data sheet in front of him. It contained information from NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center. Earlier that day, their P-3 Orion aircraft had flown through Claudia, which had been fully upgraded to hurricane status with good reason. NOAA verified information of the earlier fly-through by the Fifty-third Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The barometric pressure at the storm’s center was abysmally low at 875 millibars, and wind speeds had already surpassed one hundred forty miles per hour. Tomorrow it would be worse.
    Part of Osborn felt excited. This was a once-in-a-lifetime—no, a once-in-a-century storm. Scientists waited all their lives for the opportunity to study such an event. The excitement waned. This was more than a storm, it was death packaged in wind and rain. Most would see a monstrous cyclone, but Osborn recognized it for what it truly was: a six-mile-high, fast-moving, ravenous, unrelenting demon—a demon that would not be satisfied without a sacrificial oblation of life and property.
    And there was nothing Osborn Scott, Barringston Relief, or anyone else could do about it except watch impotently.
    The news media were already carrying the story. Every broadcast and cable network told of the impending meteorological invasion. Maps appeared on television screens, and impeccably dressed weathermen and women pointed to the circling white clouds. Each quoted the National Hurricane Center and made prognostications. That was a good thing, Osborn knew. The sooner people knew, the sooner they could protect themselves. Except no one yet knew where Hurricane Claudia would hit.
    Tomorrow they would have a better idea, and they hoped that would be soon enough.
    Osborn pulled open the right-hand desk drawer, removed a five-by-seven color photo in a battered metal frame, and studied it. Slowly he passed his finger over the young faces of the group in the photo. All so young. He paused as his fingers reached one face, that of a youthful woman with a brilliant smile and straight, shiny blond hair.
    The image blurred as Osborn’s eyes filled with tears. In his mind, the hair was no longer the beautiful locks portrayed in the photo; instead the hair was wet, tangled, and matted with blood.
    Slamming his eyes shut, Osborn fought the images that played in his mind like a movie on a screen. He took a deep breath and willed himself to think of something else, anything else. He would not, could not, endure the memory again. It brought too much pain, too much mental agony.
    Blond hair. Wind. Blood. Water. Blood.
    Quickly he put the photo away and slammed the drawer, but it did no good. Osborn Scott was doomed tolive the

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