Night Travelers

Today was very productive.  I have a bunch of stories to be posted.  This one is from the DreamWidth Prompts from NaNoWriYe.

Prompt: Thunder

Erik  woke with a start as a terrible sound seemed to shake the room. His heart was pounding in his ears as he looked around. “Papa?” he said, his voice hardly more than a breath. He slipped off the small cot, intending to go to his father’s side. The sleeper car wasn’t very large, so he’d be there in two or three steps.

Light flashed across the walls and then there was the crash of thunder. Erik threw himself across the gap, hugging his father’s sleeping form and startling the man awake. That, of course, woke Mama and Gretchen as well.

“Hanske,” Papa said, hugging him gently. “What’s wrong?” There was another flash of light, followed closely by a deafening crash.

“He’s scared of thunder,” Gretchen said, sleepily. She sighed and then flopped back down against her own cot. “Now, he’s going to keep us all awake.”

“I’m sorry,” Erik said. He was sorry, but he couldn’t help being afraid. He blinked away tears and rubbed his eyes. “It’s so loud. It’s like the sky is ripping itself apart.”

Papa blinked and then nodded. “The lightning is very close and the thunder is the noise the lightning makes,” he said.

“It is?”

Nodding again, Papa said, “The lightning is a release of electricity, like… static. The clouds have a charge and the ground has a charge and, sometimes, that charge is released and that’s the lightning.”

Erik sat up, settling himself between his parents. He cringed when there was another flash of lightning, covering his ears in anticipation of the thunder. “But… static isn’t loud,” he said. Although, now that he’d said that, sometimes he did hear a tiny sound from it. “Because it’s small and lightning is big?”

“That’s right,” Mama said. She kissed Erik’s brow and said, “Now, can a sound hurt you?” When he shook his head, she smiled. “Then, what is there to fear?”

“I wish it were quieter,” Erik said, his tone a bit sulky. However, he kissed each of his parents and then returned to his own cot.

Papa smiled. “If you count between the lightning and the thunder, every five seconds is a mile that the sound traveled to reach you,” he said. “So… if you can count to five, then you know that the lightning was a whole mile away.”

“Thanks, Papa,” Erik said, his voice soft. He settled down against the bedding and between counting the moment lightning flashed across the wall of the sleeper car. Soon, he was drifting back to sleep. Counting seconds was too much like counting sheep for him to stay awake doing it. Perhaps that was why Papa had told him the trick.

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