The Lightning Riders


Kino knew she wasn't meant to be up this late. She should be at home, sleeping in her hammock, the mud walls keeping her cool and safe from the mighty storm. If her mother found her out this late, she'd holler at Kino until the whole village heard and made fun of her.

But it would still be worth it. Kino knelt behind the wet pampas grass, rain pounding her back and shoulders. The rain had been coming down for hours. When she went to bed, Kino could smell the oncoming storm, sense the fitful blowing of the wind.

In the darkness, Kino peered up the hill. Big clouds blocked out any stars or moonlight, so she had only the dim oil lamps left along the hill and the flashes of lightning to guide her eyes. She saw them nonetheless.

With each bolt of electricity, she saw the lightning riders straddling the bolts. They wore their hair long and wild and at the instant of a flash, jumped from the hilltop with their thunder ropes to grab the bolt by its electric neck. Kino watched amazed as one rider struggled to get his arms around the bolt. Then it bucked him off and disappeared. A monstrous roll of thunder boomed across the sky.

"Kino!"

She gasped and turned around. Marin stood behind her, his arms crossed over his chest and the rain soaking his thick hair. "You know if mother finds you out here, she'll have a fit."

Kino clasped her hands together. "Please don't tell her! I beg you! I just want to watch them work."

For a moment, Marin scowled at her. Then he sighed and squatted behind the pampas grass next to her.

"You know how dangerous it is to be out during a storm if you're not a rider." he said.

"I'm going to be one someday," Kino said.

"Just be careful. It's very dangerous training. There's many a young villager who dies on their first ride because they make one small mistake."

"I won't make a mistake," Kino said. "I'll harvest more thunder than anyone else ever has."

Marin laughed. "Maybe. You'll have to stop chewing your fingernails if you want that to happen. You'll chew off all your grip."

He grabbed Kino's hand and started waving it around. She yanked them out of her brother's hand, stuck her thumbs in her ears and waggled her fingers.

"Just you see," she said.

She turned her vision back to the hilltop just as a rider leapt onto a bright, zagging bolt. He threw his thunder rope around the bolt and dug his heals in. The lightning bucked and bolted, lighting up the dark storm with its brilliance. The rider shouted to the others on the ground and as he dragged it farther down, the others threw up nets and ropes. Others jumped onto the lightning, pulling the nets over its body. At last they pulled it onto the hilltop, tying their thunder ropes around it. When they bound its two ends together, the lightning finally stopped bucking. That was it.

A dulled thunder boom growled from the captured lightning.

That was enough for the riders that night, evidently, because they started the business of picking up the roped lightning bolt and carrying it back to the village.

Kino and Marin scrambled away from the pampas.

"They make it look pretty easy but it's very hard," Marin said. "You think you can jump on a lightning bolt someday?"

Kino laughed while they stumbled around in the dark. "I know I can. I'll rope the biggest bolt there ever is."

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