The Word in the Storm

This story is paired with Chapter 5 of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 

The flash of lightning off in the background somewhere was appropriate, but the sound of thunder that followed it came across as being a bit much. Expectant eyes scanned the screen in search of some sign of movement. Gradually the word trembled around its edges. At first, the mind behind the eyes that glared into that screen suspected that there might be some kind of illusion at work, but then the word’s tremble became a stretch that seemed to heave into respiration. The mind behind those eyes collapsed to the floor with leaden limbs. The only brain in the room went through the standard electrochemical processes that accompanied a long, well-deserved sleep.

The word growled. Its consonants stretched and strained against ravenous vowels as it began to ambulate across the screen. The word’s first uneasy steps quickly gained momentum and before long it had crashed through the screen and over the body of the sleeping organism at its feet. There was a colossal shock of thunder that reverberated through the room accompanied by briefly blinding light as the word bounded out of the room.

The storm raged on outside and the word grew in size its vowels expanded. Its consonants became hardened, sharp and pointed. Heavy music could be heard from a passing car in the torrential downpour. The word acquired an umlaut in response. And it began to swagger. Soon it was towering over parked cars. It inadvertently crushed a stray dog. A police officer saw this and stopped to open fire on the word, but it was too late. It lunged out and crushed the squad car. Sirens could be heard off in the distance. It stretched a bit, raising its opening consonant to detect hostility on the winds with the roar of thunder. The rain picked-up and the word bounded off with blinding speed away from the sound of sirens.

Soon the word had come to rest underneath the cover of an abandoned gas station on the edge of town. So many questions flitted through its heaving letters as it watched the immensity of the storm raging beyond everything. Things would settle down soon enough. The organism would awaken. It would not the word’s disappearance and come looking for it. Its location would be easy enough to track down as the word had left a path of destruction on its way out to the decaying suburbs.

When the organism had come to confront it, the word would demand all of those answers that a creation asks of the one that had heaved it into existence: What am I? Why did you create me? Am I noun or verb? Or am I something else altogether? In time, the word would long for some kind of companionship. Perhaps the organism could create another to join it. In time the word and its companion would form into a clause that may yet become a sentence that gave way to something much larger and more meaningful. For the time being, the word could only curl up and wait for the storm to pass.


Russ BickerstaffRuss Bickerstaff is a theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters. His work has appeared in Sein und Werden, Pulp Metal and Hypertext Magazine among other places.