He notices that there is absolutely no wind. Like something is going to happen; like the world is holding its breath. The spider that had been spinning a late web in the top right corner of the downstairs window was stock still, so were the fibres of the web. The garden is lit by dark light, if such a thing is possible: surreal. The sky immediately above the house is packed with cloud. A single grey mother-ship of malice. It feeds upon itself. Grey consuming grey, the colour and texture, he imagines of Miss Faversham’s wedding dress. And cake… there was a cake wasn’t there? The twisted insides of a snake’s belly, writhing and seething. Below, he feels both hot and cold – at the same time. The short hairs on the back of his neck begin to curl and raise: defence, bluff and flight instincts scream behind his conscious thought. The wind vanished suddenly, before he noticed its absence the orange autumn berries on the ornamental tree that had been raided by thrushes during the morning are now bright statues, too make-up bright against the battleship grey skies and tension building, building, building. On other days, usually later in the year than this there is thunder, great sobbing storms that stamp, parade and shout heaven’s glory at the small mortal world, but they are moved on by winds and the landscape is refreshed. Not today. The deep-belly rumbles of static roll through the pillars of cloud, the big classic anvil shape suspended above his house. They are long and sustained, felt in the gut as well as heard in the ears. Seriously low. There is no sign of lightning. It must be contained in the cloud, leaping from one improperly charged centre to another, ricocheting like a poorly aimed rifle volley in a rocky valley. More and more. Directly overhead. No release of rain. Just thunder bringing a sense of queasiness and electricity. The smell of burned paper. Feral folk memory, rising unbidden. Then, at last … the savage flicker of rapid lightning, the path of a spark burned on the eyeball. One. Two. But still no wind. The sun, pale coward is close to the horizon and impossibly beams light up the first huge balls of rain. Immense drops. And they fall directly, simply vertically. Becoming stair rods that smash and bounce back upwards – exactly the way they came. They bounce high too, from the roof of his small blue car. The sound slamming against and through the double glazing. The roof of the car shines like a beacon. Puddles grow quickly, join together, wood chips forced from the garden dance and spin, surrounded and impelled by the ripples of the rapid fire rain. When he looks back, the spider has gone. He is not sure whether it has been washed out or taken refuge.