Frankenstorm! — an Origins Story
By Jeffrey Bishop
Tell Time: 7 minutes
Scare Rating: 2/5 Ghosts
We hope this story provides some entertainment, perhaps most of all to those who might be shut in or otherwise affected by Hurricane Sandy. Our prayers are with everyone in the path of this incredible, too-real storm: that you fare it well and safely!
Dr. Mark Shelley was convicted to do something to cure the drought that had afflicted the nation since early summer. As Halloween approached, he saw opportunity in the mix of his lifelong work and natural occurring phenomena in the environment.
He’d been researching weather and climate his entire career as a meteorologist, and knew he was close to making a breakthrough on weather control. The scientific advances that he was pursuing had the potential to save millions of lives globally, by ensuring that mankind could create the optimal weather conditions anywhere, at any time, for growing crops needed to sustain an exploding human population.
He knew the formula — the right mix of elements to combine. They were the same elements that Mother Nature brought together to create weather: moisture, air flow, air pressure, heat, particulate matter and electrical charge. The challenge for humankind — Dr. Shelley’s present challenge — was getting these ingredients to the same place at the same time in sufficient quantities to create the desired weather effect.
In the week leading up to Halloween, Providence and Dr. Shelley’s life work had perhaps created an opportunity to demonstrate in a practical sense the theories that he’d been advancing for years. The drought afflicting the central midwest was severe and ongoing, but a fall hurricane system — Hurricane Sandy — presented the opportunity he needed to prove the concept beyond computer models and thesis reports.
“We’ve got half the factors at hand that we need to bring large quantities of rain to the midwest,” he explained to his colleague, Dr. Mary Stein. “We’ve been given a large hurricane off the East Coast. Its size alone is necessary to help the entire midwest, and not just pockets of area.
“Sandy’s weakened to a category 1, which means it can be beneficial as a rainmaker, without being destructive,” Dr. Shelley continued, using computer models to illustrate his case. “The only catch as I see it is that she’s moving out to sea. But I think we can steer her back to the U.S. — straight into the heartland — with our seeding process.”
Dr. Stein had worked with Dr. Shelley for the past 5 years, and believed that his work held great promise. But she was much more a realist than her mentor, and was perhaps more aware than he of the blind spots he had in his zeal for his life’s work.
“Are we certain in the safety of this approach?” she asked. “Did you account for the full moon in your calculations? The coastal tides will be almost a foot higher, and will last hours longer, due to the lunar phase.”
“The tidal pattern will simply further load the weakening system with rain as it comes ashore,” replied Dr. Shelley with characteristic confidence — or perhaps overconfidence. “Remember, we need a real soaker of a system to improve drought conditions in the farm belt.”
“What about the auroras? Dr. Stein interjected. “Solar activity is at an unprecedented high. If we steer the storm over the midwest, we’ll steer it right into the magnetic storm. The northern lights might react with the particulate matter in unpredictable ways.”
“We’re on the back-end of that cycle,” Dr. Shelley responded. “Minimal risk.”
“Ok, but what about our particulate matter?” said Dr. Stein of the materials the scientists used to seed clouds and to steer storms by leading them to where they are most needed. “We know from smaller scale experiments in the past that we need highly organic matter. The sands and dusts we’ve tried don’t do a thing; only sediments with high carbon content from organic sources seems to work.”
“I’ve got that covered, as well,” came Dr. Shelley’s retort. The weather guru sounded slightly annoyed at his colleague’s continued well-intentioned line of questions. “We’ve got all the soil from the Swamplands highway dig at our disposal.”
Dr. Stein’s shock was visible. The Swamplands project had been halted due to concerns from the archeology community and from Native American groups that it violated sacred lands that had been the final resting place of indigenous populations for thousands of years.
“The government wants us to use this stuff; after all, no one can contest what isn’t around any more,” said Dr. Shelley with wry humor. “I’ve tested the matter, and it’s rich in organics — just what we need.
“And if you’re concerned about the presence of supernatural effects, don’t be,” said Dr. Shelley, anticipating his co-worker’s chief concern. “Nevermind that you and I are on different sides of the metaphysical issue, but even if there was a spiritual world to contend with, I think our processing of the soil would remove any, would you say … “unnatural” effect?
Dr. Stein was clearly conflicted. She believed in the promise of her mentor’s work. But she knew that his approach — and his compromised morality on the issue of respecting the sacred rights — and perhaps also the power — of the dead. And there was something vaguely, horrifyingly familiar about the idea of combining discrete and deceased organic life in a cauldron of electrical energy, and of dabbling in primary creative forces of the universe. Based on this familiar but unnamable recollection, Dr. Stein didn’t think things would turn out well with the experiment.
“I can’t be of further help to you, Dr. Shelley,” said the protegé, as tears welled in her eyes. “Not this way. And not with so much at risk.”
“I truly regret your decision, for this night, and our creation, will be historic!” the senior scientist said.
“We start at midnight, with or without you!”
The destruction was extreme and widespread. The rainmaker, meant to be a savior for the midwest and the key to ending drought, famine and death worldwide, was quickly dubbed Frankenstorm, due to its coincidence with Halloween and its incredible size and strength, not to mention its unscrupled and unrelenting assault on the entire Eastern half of the U.S. The storm surge alone wiped out every populated coastal city from the Carolinas to New England. A week-long blizzard assailed populations in the Appalachians, with roads impassable for more than a month. Only those with sufficient rations survived. The storm spawned hundreds of deadly tornadoes that caused further damage across the heartland, while lake surges caused additional flooding in coastal cities around all the Great Lakes.
In 10 days time, more than 20 million Americans had perished, and tens of thousands more were affected in a significant way. The seat of U.S. government relocated to St. Louis while disaster relief and recovery commenced as soon as possible.
Though tragic and bizarre, most of the population believed the storm to be a natural and freak weather occurrence that perhaps mankind indirectly contributed to due to pollution and its effect on global warming. Conspiracy theorists, however, were well aware of Dr. Shelley’s work, and though benevolent in intent, they rightly suspected government collusion and support in the unnatural storm.
This suspicion was somewhat borne out, as Frankenstorm did not peter out after landfall as other inland hurricanes do. Instead, she moved across the country’s midsection and then north over Canada to settle over the Arctic Circle in a smaller, weaker, but apparently persistent if not permanent form. Over that winter, she swelled in size and intensity with each new magnetic storm-fed aurora. The conspiracy theorists alleged that Sandy had sentience; that the supernatural essence of the tribal nations that seeded her path inland gave the terrible storm consciousness — life — in Dr. Shelley’s creative hands.
Dr. Shelley was wracked with guilt over the incident, and almost immediately went mad — truly becoming the “mad scientist” he’d seemed to be as he zealously pursued his folly. He was committed to an insane asylum, where he nervously eyed the daily changes to the weather in his padded cell, through a tiny six-by-nine-inch window to the outside world.
Dr. Stein was forced to take a different research focus in weather control. With a desperation not unlike that of her mentor’s, Mary Stein’s work was now devoted to understanding — and with hope, defeating or at least controlling — the Frankenstorm weather monster that she had helped Dr. Shelley to bring to life.