There once was a man who stayed outside during storms. He would take a hat, a pen, and a post-it pad, shielding the paper with his chest as the rain sleeted into his face. From the first drops to the last cloud scatter, he would stand immobile for hours, moving only his pen.
Sometimes, the storms would go on for longer than he could stand and he’d collapse, still clutching the post-its as low, growling sounds rambled out from his throat. His neighbors thought he was crazy. His priest thought he was possessed. His boss thought he was lazy, and fired him.
Homelessness changed only the amount of time he spent looking at the sky. When asked what exactly he was doing, he would simply smile and say, “Listening,” before going back to jotting down seemingly meaningless symbols.
A year passed. One day, during a break in the summer storms, he plastered all of his notes on the ground in neat, ordered rows. They filled the sidewalks of nearly two blocks. The whole city watched curiously as he paced back and forth along the yellow slips, muttering incomprehensibly.
Three days he spent studying his notes. The sky was dark with clouds, but no rain fell to blur the ink. Then, just as city interest began to wane, he approached an onlooker, running a hand through his scraggly beard. “Get me a bullhorn,” he commanded, as though there was no choice but to obey. “Find a bullhorn, and bring it to me at the highest point in the city.”
He left the notes behind with the air of someone about to complete their life’s work. A young boy managed to get his attention by tugging on his pant leg as he walked, a growing crowd following close behind. “Mister,” he said, “What’re you doing?”
The man stopped. The crowd held its breath as he stretched his arms out, tilting his head up. “I am going to teach the thunder to speak.”
There was an incredulous silence. He moved on obliviously, steadily making his way to the tallest skyscraper in the city. Employees looked up in surprise as he and the crowd entered, but no one moved to stop him.
A bullhorn was obtained and brought to where he waited on the roof. Someone brought him a sandwich and a water bottle, but they remained untouched on the ground like an offering to a god. “One week,” he was preaching to the others gathered on the roof with him. “One week, and the sky will find its voice.”
On cue, a soft drizzle started to patter down onto the cement. As though a spell had been broken, the crowd disappeared, dispersing back down the stairwells and elevators. A few remained long enough to watch him take up the bullhorn and angle it towards the sky before they, too, found themselves drifting away.
For days, his voice carried chant-like over the city, battling with the thunder. People marveled that a human throat could make those sort of noises. He did not sleep, or rest, ceaseless like an ocean.
After a time, the oldest among the city became agitated, covering their ears with their hands whenever thunder echoed through the streets. “That’s not right,” they would say. “It’s different. I’ve never heard thunder like that.”
On the seventh day, the crowd gathered again at the base of the building. The man’s hair flowed in the wind like an ancient prophet, or something from a dream. He lowered the bullhorn suddenly and looked down for the first time, the absence of his voice nearly palpable.
“Listen!” he cried to the onlookers. “Listen! We can be gods. We can master the thunder, teach it, use it. I have tamed it!”
The wind fell, leaving a void of silence. Then, imperceptibly at first but growing-- growing till the crowd covered their ears and huddled together—a peal of thunder so vast that it seemed to echo around the whole world resonated the ground beneath their feet and shattered windows. Some fell to their knees and began praying feverishly. Some wept.
The thunder seemed to warp, reverberating against itself into a roaring noise beyond comprehension. Later, people would say it was a scream—though accounts differed on whether it was of fear or of defiance.
In slow motion, the sky split apart into two giant lightning bolts jagging downward. They intersected with a flash of burning, blinding light on the man standing straight-backed with a feral look on his face. There was a deafening crack, and then silence.
When the crowd dared to look again, both the man and the clouds were gone. There was no body, no damage to the building, just a vacuum of space where he had been and blue skies.
The next day, the remains of a bullhorn were found two miles away, shattered as though dropped from unimaginable heights.