As far as the eye could see, crowds of people coloured the squares and the streets of Agratan. Emerging banners revealed the ruling discomfort about the way the weather had been. Antonio was present too. This would not stand.
The sky was as bright blue as it had been for at least six months. People got blisters at first. Nasty skin burns, caused by the unexpected appearance of continuous bright sun. They’d rapidly learn to anticipate these troubles by wearing light, long limbed clothing, the stores of which had popped up all over town. All salesmen of these wearables had similarly shaped, straight, cornered jaws. They all spoke the language fluently and without a detectable accent. Their fantastic merchandise had become the new hype, particularly in the classy neighbourhoods.
The municipality soon had to introduce water use quota. The plants started to hang. Visitors with below average nose sizes suddenly sold little solar pumps with spaghetti thick pipelines that could be unrolled till the river. Streets in the centre were rapidly covered with thin grey tubes. Walking meant trouble, let alone driving the scooter through town. Because of the zooming noises of the little pumps it was hard to have a normal conversation at some spots.
The real trouble had only started two months ago, when the river was evaporated. The noisy tubes over heated and broke down. People with remarkably circular ears tried to sell rain powder. It was supposed to invoke rain clouds when boiled dry, but the process smelled and it did not cause a single drop to fall. Some had wasted their final drinking water with it. The round-eared lads were soon chased out of the village with thin grey whips. Gardens as well as arable fields looked yellowish brown. The city’s food supply was in jeopardy.
‘No respect whatsoever’ said Barth. ‘First they tell you barking weather gods don’t bite, then you stop the rain, then they run out to the streets thinking that if they hold up some slogans and scream, you will suddenly change it back to normal. What do they think we are? Their bosses? Why would we even give them a fleecy cloud? Why?’
‘Remember when years ago you would always love it when they appreciated our work? Their imaginary independence has spoiled them, I agree, but that’s no reason to wish them gone. Think of all the…’
‘We don’t need them! They need us! They survive only for as long as we keep dosing their rain drops and temperature. What if we’d forgot about them for a blink of an eye? They’d all be dead! Weak little bastards. We deserve a break.’
‘Wouldn’t it be a pity? After all these years we invested into their civilization? We’d get bored within a year, and then what? Grow it all again?’
‘Have you read those signs they hold up? “Barth go storm yourself”. Storm myself? “The weather isn’t just yours”. Then whose is it? “Weather gods or better gods?” They think they can live without us? Where is the respect?’
Rothumin opened the air and entered the hall.
‘Have you seen it? They’ve got nerves…First they tell you you don’t exist, then you drop a tiny spark upon them, then they become all spiny and demanding. Then you dry them out a little, and look at them now.’
‘I know, right?’ quarrelled Barth. ‘Shall we flood them?’
People raised their fists into the sky.
‘Barth, shmarth!’ yelled one.
‘No rain, no fame!’ screamed another. There was a flash of light, barely visible under the burning sun. Nobody noticed the man’s collapse. People pushed each other around, then back over the square. The streets kept filling up. Antonio felt this would not work.
‘We should go’ Antonio grabbed Aylita’s hand and moved into the direction of their apartment at Kubili street.
‘Why the rush?’
‘It’s getting dangerous here.’ Getting out of the agitated crowd proved to be a quest. The crowd pulled them towards Liboni street, which would be a big detour through some alleys, likely overflowing with people. Antonio grabbed her arm and forced them the other way. Behind every heavy body appeared another, looking into the sky with wide open eyes and sweat on the forehead. They met anxious kids in the crowd. Antonio held his focus steady on the corner of the Dellastreet. They bonked against shoulders, hips, elbows, fat soft bouncy bellies and the occasional head. Most didn’t notice their bypassing, none moved away. The direction of the movements turned. Somewhere ahead people were pushed up to a wall and started a wave in backward direction. Antonio managed to slip in between some protestors and the couple made a stride forward. As waves of crowd kept trying to engulf them they held on tighter and tighter. Step by step, they managed to get into less thronged streets. After some more quick manoeuvres they reached Kubili street, which was less packed. More people were trying to reach the squares.
Antonio took a bottle of water, gave Aylita a long kiss, and hurried up to Mt. Keytara. The yellow vegetation around him was gave a threatening outlook. Branches broke wherever he placed his foot. Should his people move to a different place?As he rose, the eddying in the movements on the ground shrank. He perceived them as a nest of ants without their queen, desperately oblivious, on the verge of eating each other in the face of scarcity.
It took a few hours before Antonio reached the top, where he met a small group of protestors. He recognized some from the Popular Party of Agrathan.
‘Do you have any water?’ asked a tall one with a beard. He gave him his bottle. ‘What are you coming to do up here?’
‘I’m here to deliver a message to the weather gods’
‘We all are!’ screamed one.
‘Go away!’ yelled another.
‘We will solve this!’, said a third. The group slowly moved forward. Antonio did a step back. Another one. They moved faster. He made a swift turn with his hips and while he did, a whirlwind appeared around him. It pulled him into the air. The quibblers too became smaller as he lifted into the air.
Antonio landed on a cumulus. There was Barth. The average sized human that he was, was not sure if that relieved him.
‘Hello, Antonio’ said Barth. He had the appearance of an enormous snowman, but without carrot and with a longer neck. His eyes sparked with flashes of lightning. ‘My name is Barth’.
‘That’s an impressive name’ answered Antonio, intimidated mostly by the fact that he was sitting on a cloud. He looked at its surface.
‘Well thanks’ answered Barth ‘I’d have preferred Maximilian, but it’s alright… Better than Bart or Bert anyway.’
‘Yes’, said Antonio.
‘Or Antonio…’ said Barth with a grin on his face. Antonio did not respond.
‘Would you like a drink?’ proposed Barth airily. ‘I recommend the cloudshake or the golden raindrops.’
‘A cloudshake would be fine’ answered Antonio, hiding his uncanny feeling.
‘Good choice! I like you! Could you bring us two cloudshakes, Agarabas?’ He yelled. ‘Agarabas makes excellent cloudshakes. Do you like the view?’ Barth kept the chit-chat going until Antonio took the first sip of his drink which, admitted, was the best cocktail he ever tasted.
‘Antonio,’ said the big cloudy man, ‘we have to get to business. The reason why I lifted you and not the others was because I thought it nice that your T-shirt was inside out.’ Antonio looked as his shirt. ‘You seem to be less of a control idiot than the self-proclaimed gentlemen down below.’
‘Thanks’ answered Antonio, perceiving a dubious quality in this compliment.
‘Now, Antonio, could you tell me, on behalf of your people, what exactly is the problem that you seem to have with us?’
Antonio felt bad about telling this nice guy with his excellent drink about his people’s desire to see him drop out of the sky. He tried to postpone answering. A spark of lightning ignited in his host’s face.
‘Well…’ said Antonio, trying to sound confident ‘they are not very happy with the recent lack of rain’.
‘If they weren’t very happy…’ answered Barth ‘they surely would not be on the streets as massively as they are, would they? Please, dear friend, speak the truth. We wouldn’t like it to rain Antonio upon Agratan.’
‘They hate you out of the crevices in their bones. Your sudden ending of the rain has caused them all kinds of trouble. They think it’s cowardly and egoistic. They want you to bring the water back.’
‘They’d die otherwise’
‘Indeed, they would die!’ Thundered Barth while he turned dark grey. ‘They would die! And do you know why they would die?’
‘Because you’ve stopped the rain?’ shortly after his answer, Antonio sank into the cloud, hang there for a while, then bubbled up again.
‘Because they insulted you?’
Antonio sank through the cloud and fell into the air. A sudden upward wind pushed him back, until he sat on the cloud again.
‘No, it’s not because they’ve insulted me’. Another big snowman figure came in. She walked behind Barth, and threw her arms around his neck.
‘Are you threatening this little earthling, dear?’
‘I’m not threatening him, we’re having a drink’
‘Then why did I see him fly below the clouds?’
‘I am teaching him something’
‘What’s your name, little fellah?
‘Well, Antonio, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Perla. I make rainbows. The answer Barth looks for is that the humans would die because they have life, and it was us who gave that life to you.’
Barth shot an angry face at his wife. Antonio was silent for a while. Then he opened his mouth slowly and said ‘thanks…’
Barth looked at him with big eyes. They looked deep black now. He kept staring for some time, then burst into tears.
‘You’re welcome’, said Perla, and she left the room.
Below, big warm raindrops splattered on the masses cheeks.