Our backs pressed into the grass bent beneath us. Night hid the snow-capped peaks on either side. The sky above was clear—a portal open wide to the heavens. Stars, frozen a million years in the past, held sway over us in their own distant way. Our breath rose in the blackness, a ghostly mist that occluded the twinkling lights before dissipating, passing up and away.

The clouds that rolled over the mountains into the valley, that pooled like liquid between those rocky borders and spread thickly over us, might have been a thousand years of breathing. The stars disappeared—or rather we were hidden from their gaze. Seen from the outside, Earth’s atmosphere is a threadbare blue blanket wrapped thinly over it’s surface. Some call it ‘the perfect blend for life on Earth,’ but it isn’t. If it were a different mixture, some other material cut and sewn into the blanket, it would simply be the perfect blend for whatever other life thrived beneath it. We aren’t an accident, but we aren’t a deliberate creation either. We are here because Earth is as it is. If it were different, we would not be.

We were not thinking about any of this while we lay in the valley. When the clouds came we watched the stars extinguished by the curtain, candles blown out one by one, leaving behind only smoke. There was no thought, only the sight of the coming storm. The first wisps rose as the current flowed in and curled beneath them, piling higher, thicker, the darkness absolute.

We were told not to stay in open spaces during a thunderstorm.

Immune fear, we stayed.

Our bodies were pressed tightly together, level with the grass and far from the edge of the mountains. The first bolt seared into our eyes, jagged white light and an afterimage that melded with the second. Thunder shook down out of the sky, calling to the world with each blinding bolt of power. The many voices of the Earth were speaking to us. No rain fell. Our hands intertwined as we listened. They spoke of ages past, mountains that have long since crumbled into deserts and hills given way to sweeping plains. Oceans dried and abandoned, small forests that came to cover the world—the valley that would one day no longer be, the mountains that even then had begun to disappear, stone becoming sand, one pebble at a time. Only the sky remains, turbulent but constant, the blanket that wraps the sleeping world.

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