Cloud Cover

Neil crouched with his camera tilted high, snapping pictures: puffy white clouds tumbled through the heavens, somersaulting in shades of pink and vermillion, silver linings curved around voluptuous breasts and fingers stretching through the sky to touch them.

In his dark room, Neil dipped blank pages into one solution after another, their liquid tombs undulating as they sank to the bottom, splashing along the sides of every bin. Soon he hung them on a taut piece of string strung from one side of the room to the other like a thread of lightning marrying the heavens to the earth. The saturated paper dripped, splashing like raindrops beneath him. Soon this wouldn’t be the only rain he could create.

Later Neil stood on his roof beneath the night sky, the stars shut by the thick, blanketing grey clouds threatening him. In the distance, blue and orange lightning gave warning of what the storms rolling in. A ring of candles, tall and wide, burned around him, flickering as the wind tried to stifle them. Neil laughed—the wind wouldn’t berate him much longer.

On a raised table before him, a pile of cloud photography spilled out beneath a large circle of twisted rope, the two ends hanging off the table near his legs. He lifted a silver chalice and began chanting, the metallic surface cold beneath his palms, flickers of frost wherever his fingers hadn’t touched. In his spare hand he lifted a small bowl of salt and poured it in.

“To earth and fire and water,” he continued, holding out the chalice and pouring its contents over the clouds, “I summon the wind, the air, the sky itself.”

As the brine seeped into the pictures, the clouds roiled above him and a tornadic tendril slipped down toward the circle’s center: It branched out, forming an ethereal hand that scooped up the pictures. Neil grinned, grabbing the rope and tightening the circle into a knot around the air elemental; as he did so, the cloud pillar dissipated into empty air, but the knot glowed white.

Neil held it in his hand and looked skyward, rubbing his thumb along the knot: the storm split apart, the stars finally opening their eyes. His laughter echoed louder than thunder.

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