Under the Rain Shadow
Perturbed by the lack of any rainfall for months in the Central Grasslands, one conspiracy theorist stormchaser bunny starts to seek the truth for himself.
This is an experiment with the idea of putting out my (currently) unfinished stories on toyhou.se, rather than letting them sit until they're complete. I'm used to putting out a story as a whole at once, but given how big they're getting, it's probably a better idea to post it in chunks and let people get notified of them.
If this sorta thing looks interesting, feel free to subscribe! I'll try to keep new chapters fairly regular. This isn't all I've gotten written so far...
"Man...it cooks in here..."
Gonzo lay sprawled out in the upper bunk of the camper van, frying. A woefully underpowered, busted to hell desk fan was all he had to cool it. Parking out of the direct Central Grasslands sun and sleeping shirtless in a bed without blankets or sheets helped some, but only so much.
It was a morning's rest preceded by an absurd drive down an absurdly straight road across two absurdly flat states. Gonzo had seen more bison than people the day prior. Parts of the journey were undertaken in complete silence, so remote that no oldies station or bad overnight shopping channel could penetrate the van. Twice did Gonzo nearly drive off the road in silent exhaustion, but thankfully, a campsite—more importantly with the shade of scattered trees to take refuge in—was discovered, and Gonzo took his rest.
It was only on the back of rumors that sparked his conspiratorial little nomad bunny brain like little else that he even bothered driving this far south. The Great Plains were never lousy for storms this time of year. Normally, thunderstorms and tornadoes roared over the skies, chunks of farmland torn up and tossed miles under writhing bodies of puffy grey clouds—and this, Gonzo lived for.
Except they weren't coming that year. Gonzo would arrive in town, the antenna on his portable TV perched as high as it could go, and the local news would say the same as everyone else's local news. "Historic droughts", week after week; not a drop in the sky around him. It wasn't just the news—every operator taking shelter on the amateur bands, every letter to the editors at Cyclone Monthly, all bemused and a little impatient for the storms to come.
And that's when the speculation started. At some point—sitting at a rest stop, perhaps, fiddling with a paper map or napping—the usual background of fuzzy voices over the radio grabbed him by the throat. The idea was distressingly simple. "There has to be forty different military bases in 300 miles of where the droughts are happening. They got radar equipment, they got antennas, they got satellite dishes, you name it."
"I bet some of those antennas," the sneering, tinny radio voice figured, "are for toying with the atmosphere."
"For what?" Another voice piped in.
"Who knows? I'm not in the military."
That afternoon, Gonzo hung his map in the van window and drove south. Every mile saw the once-healthy vegetation wither further and further into scrubland subsisting not far from bare sand. The dry heat only grew spicier. It was the first time he'd seen a dust storm, kicking up around him in clouds of orange until the visibility was nonexistent and nothing around could take a breath. Thankfully, Gonzo was in a van.
All the traveling landed him within spitting distance of where he thought he'd get some answers: Fort Garfield. No, he didn't intend to break into it—one look at the camouflaged patrol in the towers, their rifles, and the stern, sun-bleached warning signs to trespassers showed how horrifically bad an idea that was—just watch it. From a safe distance. And see what the big deal was.