A frantic knock shook Garbol’s Winnebago door, disrupting his concentration on the song he was writing about taking a platypus through airport security.
He grabbed his cue stick by the door out of habit and opened up to one of the teenagers a couple slots down, straggly hair and a jeans jacket, named Kieth or Kyle or something. “What is it… er… Kevin?”
“It’s Mathias. My pop told me to come warn you. Tornado’s coming. Gotta bug out or go for shelter.”
“How far is it?”
“Almost here. If you ain’t on your way in ten minutes, head for the bunker.”
Garbol grabbed his pool stick, stepped down to the slab. “Show me.”
“Show you? You ain’t listening, wizzo. We gotta go.”
“You said ten minutes.”
“Yeah. And that’s shorter than you think.”
“Just show me.”
“Whattaya mean, show ya. It’s right there.” He stepped back and pointed past the RV’s nose toward the sky.
Garbol followed where the kid pointed. Over the tops of some trailers in the distance rose a fat, charcoal worm that joined with the dark sky above.
“I’ve gotta warn the hobos in the woods. You get moving, all right?”
The boy ran for the trees along the back corner of the park.
Several RVs had started up and rolled down the lane to get to the open road. Small clusters of residents clutched scant belongings on the way to the bunker on the other side.
Garbol wove his way through campers to the open soybean fields that extended to a line of trees in the distance. The lower half of the tornado in view, it was the most enormous one Garbol had ever seen, five tails whipping in and around each other, tearing up trees and throwing them everywhere like a giant weed whacker from hell.
The wizard had heard of multiple tails on a tornado before, but five?
“This is a warlock’s doing.”
To face a given phenomenon of a warlock’s power, a wizard must find the method, which can be many things, but is usually fairly obvious. The warlock he’d fought in the laundromat zombified people with an emanation that didn’t penetrate water well and was dependent on his vision. The warlock who’d caused mayhem in midtown relied upon a talisman. There was always something to focus on to solve the problem, but Garbol hadn’t the slightest clue what propelled this gargantuan tornado.
One of the tails twisted up and arced outward as if it took a step.
Garbol held his arms out, his cue stick glowed green. Lightning flashed from the tip, crackling a net of electricity which he flung in front of the tornado, but it weakened at that distance, and the torrent charged right through it… and visibly sped up.
“Shit.” The wizard drew from all the forces disposed to him, propelling them all toward the twister, battering against the wind, but it had no effect.
By the time he got back to his RV, the monstrous twister reached the main road, and several RVs reversed in a panic, piling up on each other and snaring up their way. The tornado was bearing down, so Garbol ran to the line and started helping people out so they could run for the bunker.
The boy’s father, named Jack or Jebb or Jason or something, abandoned his own and assisted some of the elder residents. “You seen Mathias, Garbol?”
“Oh, yes… Jerry. He went to warn the hobos.”
“My name’s Rick, but Mathias has to get back now, or he’ll be caught in it.”
“I’m here, Dad.” Mathias appeared between two trailers and helped with some of the kids.
“The hobos coming in?” asked Garbol.
“Yeah. All but three demented hags who won’t part from their soup. Smells like diarrhea”
“Show some respect, Mathias,” said Rick.
“Wait.” Garbol grabbed Mathias by the arm. “Three old crones cooking in a big pot?”
“Yeah. And they freaked out on the jacket my girlfriend gave me.”
“Ah, man.” Garbol rolled his eyes. “It’s not a warlock. It’s a coven.”
The roar of the tornado got louder, its tails whipping along the access road directly toward the park.
“How do I get to them?”
Mathias described the path into the woods and off the trail where the witches toiled.
“Mathias. This may seem an odd question at this time, but have you remained pure?”
Mathias looked away. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Ye-yes.” His voice meek.
“Nothing to be bashful about, young man. So your jacket was a gift given in purity.”
“I—I guess so.”
“Mind if I wear it for protection from these witches?”
Mathias took it off his back and handed it to him.
“Now, go! Get everyone under cover.”
Garbol raced to the woods to find the hags. Just inside the tree line, the smell was so horrible, he could have found it blindfolded.
The witches hissed loudly moments before he burst upon them. One of them stirred a caldron dangling from a tripod, the other two next to her.
“I command you to stop your brew, right—”
A bony fist crunched his nose and sent him to the ground. Another witch landed on him, her knee on his chest, her rotten breath stifling him, the jacket of innocence not giving him the protection he’d hoped for.
Garbol pushed the witches off him with his staff and rolled to a stand. The tornado’s rumble seemed to loom right above him. He charged for the caldron to topple it and dump its contents, but the witches drove into him with their heads, clawed him, and kicked him, relentlessly fighting him back with a speed and strength that defied their frail looks.
He scrabbled through mud to get away from them, grabbing his ribs, hoping they weren’t broken. Mathias’s jacket constricted him, so he pulled it off, covered with mud. The witches cringed.
“A gift from innocence.” Garbol rolled the jacket into a tight ball, tucking the ends into the sleeve to keep it together. He drew it back with one hand and feinted a throw at the closest witch. She dodged and he tossed it into the caldron.
The caldron’s fluid burst up and splattered all around. The witches screamed and cowered. The roar of the tornado reduced but continued.
Garbol dashed to the caldron and kicked it. It swung wildly, but didn’t empty. He felt a vice grip on his shoulder, but he grabbed the top of the tripod and lurched in the direction of the witches hand, pulling the tripod down. The putrid concoction spilled out onto the ground and the roaring ceased, the source of the power driving it now ruined.
The witches attacked, pummeling him and scratching, bringing him to the ground. He scrabbled away, carrying them with him, through the spillage. His hand landed on the jacket, so he grabbed it and whipped it back on them. Barely able to get loose of their grips, he kicked into a stumble and stumbled into a run.
When Garbol broke from the woods and entered the RV park, they didn’t follow. He slowed and sucked air, leaning on his pool cue. He made his way to the access road, and the residents were just coming out of the bunker. The first RV on the lane out had been tipped on its side, but the rest were intact.
“You stopped it,” said Mathias.
“Yeah.” Garbol handed him the beat up and soiled jacket. “You did, too.”