‘Storm In A Bottle’ by Ann Roberts

Daniel knew what people would say: ‘He’s your father – of course he loves you!’ But why ‘of course’ was what Daniel thought? Perhaps once, when he was a dumb baby and an innocent child, but now! He loved his car because it was a Mercedes; he loved his house because it was valuable real estate. He didn’t love it simply because it was his car or his house. Why would he be any different?




Daniel lay in the dark, replaying the fight in his head. The crunching of snow beneath their feet as he and his opponent circled each other with swords in hand.

His muscles twitched as he recollected each deflection, strike, dodge, and weave, the ringing of steel striking steel in the air. He became emotionless when he fought, pure skill, reflex, with no presence of fear or doubt or consequence. He launched a powerful riposte and soon his blade, which had been named Servant because it seemed to do whatever Daniel bid it, found an opportunity to slide between his enemies momentarily exposed ribs, piercing his lungs, drowning him in blood. He yanked the signet ring free from the dead man’s finger, for which he would receive a significant bounty for his pocket and reputation.

It was more real in his head now than at the time it had been happening. The white snow around him became the white walls of his room again. The only red splashes were that of the digital numbers on his alarm clock telling him it was 11:57. He was happy because that victory meant he was going to go to the next level in the game, but disappointed that he was really only an awkward, powerless, fourteen-year-old boy. Daniel sighed and rolled over thinking he should probably try to go to sleep.




The lid slid sideways, and Daniel jerked the pot in reaction to catch it, and somehow ended up dropping the whole thing. The red wine and oil rich sauce splashed further than he thought would be possible. It scattered meters across the floor, all the way up the cupboards. The kitchen was pure white – white marble benchtops, white high-gloss cupboards, the ones up high had glass fronts with lights set inside the cupboards. The kitchen was his mum’s newest pride and joy. She was on the scene in seconds. She looked at the mess and then at Daniel.

‘How did you manage that? Your dad’s arriving home any minute now. You’d better start cleaning up.’

He picked up the pot and saw the dint in the floorboards. There would be no hiding that.

‘The sauce is going to stain your school clothes. Take them off so I can soak them straight away.’

‘I’m not taking off my clothes.’

‘You can pay for a new shirt and pants if they stain, then.’

He was still cleaning in only his underwear when his father arrived home. He heard him walk into the room. Daniel didn’t turn around; he didn’t want to see him there, tall, in his suit and polished shoes. His father had impeccable hands – half-moons, pink nails, the length never varied. He said it was important for him to always look clean and professional because so much trust was placed in him, with his hands inside open flesh. It was impossible to argue against that. There was silence in the room for a minute.

‘What happened?’ his father asked.

‘I dropped a pot,’ Daniel replied.

‘Of course, you did!’ his father said sarcastically, and then he noticed the dint in the floorboards. ‘You damaged the floor. They’ve just been done, for God’s sake.’

‘It was an accident.’

‘You’re always having accidents! What’s wrong with you?’ Daniel didn’t answer. ‘Look at me when I’m talking to you.’

Daniel looked up at him.

‘I bet if it was your house, you’d be a bit more careful,’ his father remarked and then left the room.




Daniel was riding home from his friend’s place on his bike, but still had a spare ten minutes before it was his deadline to be home. He left the road to where a tea tree-stained creek cut through to the beach. He dropped his bike at the edge of the sand and walked along next to the amber flow to where it trickled into the sea. Messy waves were breaking, the sky was overcast, and the scene awash in cold-hearted colours. He sat down next to a dead puffer fish and pulled out his vape. He was feeling quite hopeless really – the future was a place where he would only continue to be trapped by his anxieties and failings.

He stood up again and wandered along the water’s edge to look at what debris had been left behind by the receding tide, drawn by the chance of finding something interesting. He thought it was some unusual shell when he first spied its rounded form emerging from the sand. He dug it out of the sand and turned it carefully over in his hands. It was a bottle that was only about ten centimetres in length and looked hand made as its shape was irregular. The once clear glass was now frosted from being tumbled through the sand for what looked like must have been a hundred years. In its neck was a waxed cork. But even more curious was the contents of the bottle. It contained what looked like a gas or vapour that was moving, swirling, of white and grey and ink colours – it looked like clouds. The glass was cold, and condensation gathered on the outside and he could feel it vibrate occasionally. He put his ear to it and could barely hear a rumble. He gave it a shake and there was a small flash inside and his hand holding the bottle got a tiny electric shock.

When he got home, he tried various google searches. There was something called storm-bottles, but they looked nothing like this – this was extraordinary. He wiggled the cork out and a little wisp of cloud emerged from the bottle’s neck immediately. He put the cork back in, but the little cloud hung there in the air. He watched it as it grew in size and a breeze was blowing in his room. The air became damp and there was a smell that reminded him of thunderstorms. He stuck his finger into it and was rewarded with an electric spark. ‘What the-’ and he laughed in disbelief. The little storm cloud continued to swell in size and Daniel became concerned, so he waved a magazine in front of it to make it drift towards his open window. He herded it slowly out.

Clouds built in the sky that evening and an unexpectedly wet and windy night followed. Daniel hid the bottle in the deepest part of his wardrobe. He also googled images of “houses damaged by storms”. ‘Cool,’ he remarked.




Daniel’s door was already open so that he could hear his mum call him to the dinner table; he knew he should never have to be called twice. He’d heard his dad arrive home from work ten minutes ago.

Unexpectedly, his father was standing in his bedroom doorway – Daniel hadn’t heard him come up the stairs.

‘You left this downstairs,’ and he threw Daniel’s school bag over to him. But there was something ominous in his father’s eyes. ‘And I found this in the pocket.’ He held up a vape.

‘Shit,’ thought Daniel.

‘So, you lied to us. You were vaping too that time. I won’t be treated like a fool, Daniel. I’m not going to believe a word that comes out of your mouth anymore. I don’t understand the point of it!’

‘You don’t need to; you’re not doing it.’

‘Do you think it makes you look cool?’

Daniel let out a tense breath, ‘No.’

‘Then why?’

‘I don’t know,’ his voice raised in frustration.

‘You must know.’

‘It’s not that big a deal.’ Daniel rested his face in his hands, elbows on the desk in from of him, trying to block his father out.

‘It does pointless damage to your health.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘Take your hands away from your face.’

He didn’t want to, but he put them down and they became balled fists under his desk instead.

His father’s voice droned on, ‘You should be worried more about how you are doing in school rather than impressing your friends. Well, I know how to fix that. You are grounded for the next three months. You are to go nowhere except school and here.’

‘Three months!’

‘Yeah, three months.’ His dad said with satisfaction. ‘You’re just a child still, Daniel. Don’t forget that. You’ve got a way to go yet. Choosing to vape just proves that to me.’

Daniel had mused about running away before, about living on the streets, but he had laughed at himself – as if he’d be able to pull that off, he’d be eaten alive out there. Yes, he would continue to remain under his dad’s rule and order.

‘What about tennis then? School requires me to do a sport,’ Daniel said facetiously, but there was a shake in his voice, which he was ashamed he couldn’t control. His dad was always in control; there’d never be a shake in his voice or his hands. He had to be good under pressure; it was a part of his job.

His father sneered but didn’t bother to reply, but thankfully, at last left the room.




Daniel was leaning against the wall, his thumb rolling over his screen.

‘Do you have to be on that thing all the time? What could you possibly be looking at all the time,’ his father said.

Daniel shrugged. ‘Stuff that friends have posted, messages, nothing much.’ His eyes barely came up from the screen.

‘Show me what it is,’ his father demanded.

‘What? No!’ replied Daniel, nervously.

‘Give me your phone.’

Daniel put it in his pocket. ‘I’m off it.’

‘Give me your phone,’ his father repeated with quiet menace.

‘I’m sorry. I won’t use it as much. You don’t need to take it.’

‘Don’t make me ask you again.’

His father held out his hand for the phone. His mum continued on with her cooking as if oblivious to what was happening in the room.

‘What are you going to do with it?’ Daniel asked.

‘You don’t care about being grounded because you’ve got that thing. You can have it back in four weeks. And your laptop can stay downstairs. You can study downstairs. You’re probably just playing games most of the time. That’s probably why you’re not keeping up with your homework.’

‘No, I’m just dumb, Dad,’ said Daniel pitifully. He knew he would never be able to live up to his father’s expectations. He would look down on anything less than his own success. What could compare to being a surgeon?

‘It’s a waste of time sending you to that school. Give it to me, Daniel,’ he said through gritted teeth.

‘But I need my phone.’

His father advanced on him, his anger growing at Daniel’s defiance, and it turned into a scuffle. Daniel knew this game; they’d played it before. It was a contest that Daniel never won. His father was still taller and stronger than him, and Daniel felt sure he would always be. His small stature was another one of his father’s disappointments in him. If children could be cloned Daniel was sure that would have been his dad’s preferred method of reproduction rather than the random results created by primitive nature.

His father shoved him in the chest and Daniel fell back against the built-in shelving and something toppled behind him. The phone was wrested out of his hands. He remained unmoving for many moments after his father had walked away. Some strange sensation had begun to pulse through his veins.




Despite the scuffle, they sat down at the table together to have dinner as if nothing had happened. His father asked him to pass the salt, and Daniel couldn’t believe his arm carried out the action for him. His blood had become very hot inside of him.

He went back to his room after the meal and retrieved the bottle from his wardrobe. He was burning up so bad that its coolness was soothing. The lightening inside found his fingertips and crackled against the glass trying to connect just like a plasma ball as if feeding from his anxious state. He thought of the weather that small drop had made. He gave the bottle a shake and it rumbled at the disturbance. He thought about how his father kept the house at the same temperature all year round, and outside the watering system was set on a timer. Daniel laughed.

He pulled out the cork and an icy breeze drifted out, and when he breathed it in and it hit the fire in him, he breathed out steam. His hand tightened around the glass, squeezing it. How much power to cause destruction did this sorcery have? Why would it have fallen into his hands if it were not for this? He had read enough fantasy books, played enough games, watched enough series to know this.

He smashed the neck of the bottle on the edge of his windowsill, the broken glass tumbling away from the alchemy which began to swell in size immediately. He shepherded it out the window with a book, he saw small flashes of lightening within it already. As soon as it was outside, it drew the clouds from every direction in the sky, and moisture from the ground, mist rising upwards, fuelling it. It was like gravity to atmosphere, drawing air and moisture and electrical currents. A wind whipped up around it immediately.

Fringes of it had broken away inside his room before it left and had drifted to the ceiling and a stormy atmosphere began to form there also.

An hour later it was too inclement to stay in his room, so Daniel went downstairs to get a drink.

‘Make sure your window’s shut, Daniel, it’s getting a bit wild out there,’ remarked his mum. ‘I didn’t know we were meant to have a storm.’

‘Sure,’ he replied supressing a smile, and went back upstairs to hide in the bathroom at the end of the hall.

Over a couple of hours, the storm grew in intensity in every way. The cloud had swelled to fill the sky, and the wind sounded like a banshee screaming under the eaves. The trees were contortionists, and the air was full of things being flung about and could be heard hitting the sides of the house. Flashes of lightning rippled through the clouds, and rain was drowning everything already. Thunder rumbled low and ominously, and that deep primal rumbling stirred something in Daniel; it made his heart beat faster and his muscles tingle with anticipation. He was primed with hope that this storm, of a supernatural source, was going to build to catastrophic proportions. A craving to see destruction raged inside him. He wanted his life to be torn down and then rebuilt differently.

Daniel remained in the bathroom until he was plunged into darkness when the bathroom light went out. A great clap of thunder immediately followed which made the panes of glass tremble and Daniels pulse race. This was how he felt in his fantasies before a battle – at the ready, alert, alive.

Daniel opened the bathroom door; the whole house was dark except for flashes of light coming through the windows. He walked to the top of the stairs. His parents were at the bottom of the steps, talking in voices raised to be heard over the roar of the rain.

‘There’s nothing we can do but wait for it to pass, Richard. I don’t think you should go out there to check the fuses,’ his mum was saying, ‘We may as well go back to bed.’

Glass shattered somewhere downstairs – it sounded like a large window. His mum gasped and his father swore. ‘I’ll see what’s happened.’ He left her holding onto the stair rail. ‘The roads are going to be a mess in the morning, and I’ve got a nine-am appointment,’ his dad was complaining as he disappeared, and then, ‘Damn it! There’s water everywhere.’

Lightning struck the roof like a whip crack and every hair on Daniel’s body stood out for a split second and he tingled with electricity. He heard his mum yelp in fright. The whole building shuddered, things exploded, and timbers split.

‘Richard,’ his mother called but there was no reply from downstairs. ‘Richard. Richard.’

A burning smell was now in the air. Daniel descended the stairs and followed behind his mother who cautiously moved through the dark in the direction her husband had vanished. They entered the kitchen and the next flash of lightning lit up his father’s form, lying on the flooded floor before them.




The news headlines the next day were: “Man dies in freak accident when struck by lightning inside own home”, “Residents want to know why they were not notified sooner about severe thunderstorm activity”.



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