The Twister

The Twister


Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh,

Titled: ‘Under the Trombe’(‘Unter der Windhose’), written in 1886

The golden threads had vanished. In their stead I noticed several dark streaks, probably created by the melding of the threads. It connected the cloud, which had turned almost black, with the northern horizon. The rest of the sky was still clear. The streaks seemed to pull the cloud down towards the north, as if they were strong taut ropes. The speed with which that was happening gradually increased. The closer the cloud was being pulled towards the ground the clearer the transparent, but increasingly darkening mass, was becoming that lifted from the ground. Broad on the bottom, weaker towards the top. It was spinning and reaching for the fluttering tail above. The cloud sank lower, got broader on top and nar- rower underneath and extended its appendage towards the ground. The two tails met. When they touched, it seemed as if the cloud was going to be pulled to the ground; but it remained in the air and together with the whirlwind from the ground formed a double funnel that spun at a raging speed.

The extreme funnel ends had probably reached a diameter of fifty metres.

Because there was only low scrub in our immediate vicinity, we were able to observe the terrifying display of Nature in almost its entire extent. It whirled and twisted ahead fast, straight towards us. There was a stillness of air about us, and it had suddenly become so muggy that the sweat instantly poured from our pores.

“The young Indian was right,” I said. “It’s a matter of life or death. Quickly, Will, we must save ourselves and the woman!”

“How and where to?” he asked with trepidation.

“On our horses.”

“We don’t know where we ought to turn!”

“The movements of such a twister are unpredictable, of course, but we have to change our direction as soon as it changes its course. Perhaps the river will hold it off and it won’t cross over to our side. Fetch Rollins’ nag from behind the fence. I’ll get the woman!”

I found her busy at the hearth, unaware of the threat. She nearly fainted when I told her what was unfolding outside. I grabbed her and quickly carried her outside. Will came around the corner with the nag.

“The animal is obstinate,” he shouted.

“I’ll ride it; it isn’t saddled and the lady would be thrown at the first step. Put her on my chestnut! Quickly, quickly!”

“Can you ride?” I asked the woman.

“Not the way it’s required here,” she lamented.

“Then I’ll take you up on my mount.”
I leapt onto the chestnut as it could more easily carry two people than my lame bay, pulled the shivering woman up and placed her in front of me, grabbed my own horse by its reins and followed Salters who was galloping ahead.

Everything had happened so fast that no more than one minute had passed since the first sighting of the twister. I wasn’t very comfortable. With my right arm I had to hold the woman and with my left steer the chestnut and lead the bay.

But I managed. When we had fled a fairly significant distance, I called to Will to stop. He did and we turned around. The trombe had almost reached the river. It formed a sinister, elongated hourglass shape of gigantic proportions. There was no trace of a clear sky or the previous cloud. Uprooted bushes, rocks and huge pieces of turf, together with masses of sand whirled around—a terrible, seemingly supernatural monster.

It got to the riverbank. Would it stop—move along the other side, up or down—perhaps collapse? Those were our questions. A human being within its reach would surely be lost. Being sucked up inside the tower, whirled around, one would suffocate if not be smashed to the ground beforehand, or crushed inside the revolving mass.

The twister stopped as if it were reflecting about something. The upper funnel leant across to continue in our direction. It tugged at the bottom funnel; it appeared as if it wanted to separate from it. Then, there was a frightful noise; the darker and more compact mass of sand, rocks bushes and turf on the ground disappeared and, in it’s stead, a long pillar of water rose. At first, it attained a regular cylindrical shape, then tapered off towards the middle and took on the earlier hourglass shape. The twister had turned into a waterspout, which moved with twice the speed, as if it had become angry at the delay suffered by the riverbank and momentarily engulfed the block hut as it headed straight for us.

“Away! To our right!” I yelled out.

We had only with great difficulty managed to hold the horses. They recognized the danger and dashed away without having to be encouraged to do so. I looked back at the waterspout and to my relief saw that it took a westerly direction. It moved away from us. We could stop again and were saved if it didn’t turn around.

But it kept going. It moved with undiminished speed, no longer transparent as a waterspout, but dark and solid again. It had ripped out and sucked up everything in its path. We noticed its force increase. Anything it couldn’t contain within was flung far away as it travelled along its destructive path. All of a sudden, there was a thundering roar in the distance, and then the ground shook—the twister had vanished.

Almost at the same moment, however, and impossible to say how, the entire sky turned black and a deluge with drops as large as peas poured down on us.

More: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh