Author's Note 3/23/13: There are pictures relating to this story mentioned further on in this story. You can find a link to them from my profile page. Also, as much as I love hearing that people still appreciate this story, please don't review every chapter while reading it. I'd rather leave review notifications on, but getting spammed by almost 80 reviews is enough to make me want to turn them off.

I don't own anything except the character of Rachel and Kari. All other names, places, creatures, etc, belong to Tolkien (or at least to his estate). In other words, I don't own them, and I'm not claiming to.

-1: Rain-

There are a lot of foolish things I've done in my life. Most of them I've paid for, either promptly or later in life, and so I learn that the thing is foolish and I should not do it again. Unfortunately, I have friends, most of which do not either have the experience with doing certain foolish things I've done, or have done them and endured no consequences.

Like, for example, dancing in a rainstorm. A crazy thing to do, I know, but I've been called crazy many times in my life. Dancing in the rain is actually one of the less crazy things I've done, but one of the more foolish, as whenever I do it, I catch a cold. So, I know it is a foolish thing to do. My friend Kari, however, seems to have an internal furnace, and dancing in the rain does nothing more to her the get her wet and, depending on whether she's dancing on grass or dirt-turned-mud, either cleaner or dirtier. So she often convinces me to come out dancing in the rain with her, and I invariably come down with a cold afterwards, while she suffers no consequences whatsoever.

Despite this - or perhaps because of it - whenever there's a rainstorm outside, and Kari's feeling cheery, we invariably go out dancing in the rain. It was during one of these escapades in the rain that I discovered something even more foolish then dancing in the rain - dancing in the rain of a thunder and lightning storm. Especially when you're out in the middle of the Australian outback, with nothing higher then you for miles except your house.

I suppose I should have seen it coming. I mean, our house was like a magnet for lightning - it was the largest concentration of metal for miles. Kari should have seen it if I didn't - we usually catch the things the other one misses - but she was concentrating solely on the rain. So we both jumped several feet in the air when, as we danced in front of our house, a huge peal of thunder came from right behind us.

It was several minutes before I managed to drag myself out of the mud I'd fallen into, and looked up at the house. It was burning, of course - we had a lightning rod, but that strike had just been too much for it. And it had been too much for my ears, I realized as I discovered I couldn't even hear the crackling of the flames as they ate at the house, nor the sizzle of the rain drops falling into the fire. Tentatively, I put my hands up to my ears, and when I brought them back in front of me, there was blood on my fingers.

"Great. My ears are bleeding." I mumbled to myself, though I couldn't hear it. I considered running into the house to phone the nearest town's fire department, but the fire looked as if it was in the kitchen - the location of our only phone, as it happened - and was spreading quickly through our small house, with smoke already pouring out of the windows and door. Sighing, I turned to Kari.

You may think I surrendered too easily, but you should know that Kari and I have had our house burn down before, about a year ago, while we were away on vacation. So anything of real sentimental value was long gone, and the fire had taught us to keep numerous backups and copies of anything important. Which was why, when I saw Kari still face down in the mud, I was more concerned about her then the house.

I went over to her quickly, kneeled down in the mud next to her, and carefully rolled her over. There was no response from her, and, worried, I felt at her neck for a pulse. After a few minutes, I gave up and grabbed her wrist instead - I could only ever find someone's pulse in their neck when it was incredibly strong, and Kari's pulse was evidently not incredibly strong. But after a few minutes of trying, I couldn't even find her pulse on her wrist. Now extremely worried, I leant down to put my ear to her chest to see if I could hear her heartbeat before I remembered that the thunder had wrecked my hearing. Instead, I put my hand on her rib cage and relaxed so my hand would rise and fall with her breath - but it didn't.

Now panicking, I searched my memory for the CPR course that my mother had made me take when I was younger, but discovered that I'd done another foolish thing when taking that course and not paid attention. I could remember nothing - or at least, nothing so clearly that I would risk trying it. I looked at the house again, and from this angle, I could see that the fire was mostly in the living room; the north wall of the kitchen - the wall with the phone - looked to be untouched. I was panicky, and worried for Kari, and so I did another foolish thing - I ran into the house to get to the phone.

I got to the phone alright, but only then realized that there was only a small chance of all the necessary connections needed to run the phone being intact. I also realized that it was basically useless for me to try and use and phone when unable to hear. But, hoping against hope, I grabbed the phone, dialed the nearest hospitals emergency number, waited for a few moments, then quickly rambled off what was happening, explaining that I couldn't hear so I was just trusting that there was someone on the other end. By the time I was done, the heat had become so strong I felt as if my clothes were going to burst into flames at any moment, so I hung up the phone quickly and dashed for the door.

I don't think I made it. That part of my memory has never been very clear, but I think one of the beams of the roof came loose and hit me while I was running. It probably killed me instantly. I figured that out later, of course. All I knew at the time was that one moment I was running for the door, and the next I was enveloped in a comforting darkness. The next part of my memory is pretty fuzzy, as well, but I remember seeing a bright light, and hearing a voice. I think I replied, though I can't for the life of me remember what was said. Then I was enveloped in darkness again, and my consciousness slipped away.

-To be Continued-
(Man that sounds corny...)