Fire erupted in the twisted branches and dried leaves of the fallen tree that spread around them. As the fire grew, its light illuminated first several nearby cars, then the parking lot, and then the gym, the administration building and the classrooms of their old, familiar school.
"Get away from the tree!" Collin shouted over the crackle of the fire and the continuing crash of thunder.
He, Courtney and Morgan began to crawl on hands and knees toward the school. When they were safely away from the flames, they helped each other to their feet. They stood in front of the classroom building and looked around apprehensively. All the lights were out in their school. The windows, dark and empty, seemed to be watching them.
Behind the blazing oak tree, the heavy sky over Kinetic remained unnaturally dark. Then the three heard a frightening sound just beyond the crackle of the flames and the rumble of thunder. It began as a deep, low moan and rapidly increased until it became a roar.
Morgan spotted it first. She pointed silently toward the massive dark funnel off in the distance. It flung itself across the land and sky; it twisted and turned ... speeding toward the school.
"Tornado!" Courtney yelled. "Run!"
Collin pulled open the heavy steel door that led into the classroom building. As Morgan and Courtney dashed inside, lightning struck the flagpole not twenty feet away, filling the air with an electrical smell and sending vibrations through his shoes. Even his teeth rattled. He had to get inside. Quick!
Courtney and Morgan were already banging on classroom doors when Collin started running up the dark hallway.
"Tornado! A tornado's coming!" they yelled again and again.
Collin jerked open the first door he came to. Inside the dark classroom, 25 terrified fourth grade students squirmed nervously at their desks while their teacher tried to calm them.
"I know that lightning strike was close, but everybody calm down. Just stay in your seats. We're perfectly safe in here...."
"No, you're not, Mr. Miller!" Collin interrupted, "It's not just a storm! It's a tornado!"