Satan Sent a Tornado After Me

You better believe I ran like hell

On one dark and stormy Oklahoma spring evening, Satan sent a tornado after me.

But how did I end up in this position in the first place? Let’s backtrack for a minute.

A Friendly Invite

Classmates since childhood, Karen and I disagreed on only one major point in life: Religion.

A strict Christian, Karen’s church didn’t allow the celebration of Halloween or most other non-Christian holidays. Any media she consumed had to be Christian. Music, books, TV — it didn’t matter. Anything non-religious was ungodly and could corrupt.

It's not that uncommon in the Bible Belt. “Harry Potter” is often forbidden around here for witchcraft. I know people who had to burn their non-Christian music CDs and books, per the guidance of their church.

I, unlike Karen, found myself in high school to be a godless heathen. I loved my heavy metal music and horror movies and Hot Topic tee shirts. I dyed my hair red and wore spiked black gloves for style. My combat boots nearly reached my knees. You get the picture.

I had a rough relationship with God. I hadn’t decided on my real beliefs yet. I knew it wasn’t Christianity, but I kept an open mind.

Karen and I were about as opposite as it got yet we were still friends.

She tried repeatedly to convince me to visit her church. One day I finally gave in. As I said, I kept an open mind. If she thought she could bring me to God, I’d let her try.

We were friends, after all. I’d do it for her.

Satan Had Other Plans

Karen picked me up in a van with several other youthful churchgoers. The church sat a town over from ours, a short drive. Dark clouds filled the sky and it neared dusk.

A Hispanic church, services were done in Spanish. Karen and I sat front row and she kept close to my ear to translate. I nodded, listened along, but still found myself an unbeliever.

No epiphany hit. God or Jesus didn’t speak to my heart.

I remained polite and quiet and waited for it to end. I could say now at least I tried, and Karen could feel good about herself for trying too.

Then it started to storm.

Oklahoma springs are wet and tornadic. We average over 50 tornadoes a year but it isn’t uncommon to see that number tick higher, sometimes in the hundreds. That year was one of those high years.

I kept checking the time. I wanted to go home. Home was safe. At home, I have a storm shelter. Here, we had nothing but an open altar room and church pews to hide under. Was anyone eying the weather?

I kept myself calm. It’s just a little rain, I thought. Some thunder. A regular ol’ Oklahoma storm.

Then the tornado sirens sounded.

My heart jumped into my throat. Every nerve in my stomach uprooted.

I needed to go home and I needed to go home now.

I remembered stories about the town we were in. Old timers said it use to be a thriving city of banks and stores and people. Then a tornado came through and demolished everything. Now the town didn’t have much more than its school, a gas station, and the cemetery.

If it happened once before, I thought, it could happen again.

I asked Karen what the plan was. Maybe they had a shelter for us after all. The adults had a plan, didn’t they?

“We’re going to pray,” she said.

I stared, dumbfounded. We’re going to what?

“Pray?” I asked. “Don’t we need to take shelter somewhere?”

“Don’t be scared. God will protect us,” she said.

People gathered in groups. They held hands and arms and prayed. Karen encouraged me to join in but I declined and said I needed to make a phone call.

I called Mom. She knew about the sirens. The tornado-warned storm was headed right in my direction, the weatherman said.

“Where are you?” She asked. “We’re coming to get you.”

I didn’t know the address. I asked Karen. She wouldn’t tell me. She didn’t want me to leave yet. I didn’t even know the church name.

Mom and Dad decided to pick me up at the local gas station. I needed to either get a ride or walk.

“My mom’s coming to get me,” I told Karen. “Can you take me to the gas station?”

She declined.

“Don’t go,” she said. “Don’t you understand? This is what Satan wants.”

“What Satan wants?” I asked.

“Satan is sending the tornado after you,” she said. “To drive you away from God.”

Oh, hell no.

I stood stunned for a moment. Satan had sent the tornado, specifically after me, to force me away from God? I already didn’t believe in God. Such extreme measures were really unwarranted.

It’s Oklahoma, I thought. Tornadoes were common. I had been to church before and Satan never sent a damn tornado after me then. Why now?

“Someone needs to take me or I’m walking,” I said.

Karen again refused. We needed to pray. Satan had come for me. Just pray.

“If Satan’s really sending a tornado after me,” I finally said, “then I guess I better get the hell away from all of you!”

I charged outside. The skies, a bruised purple, scared me with their darkness. When a storm is coming, you can feel it. Your body knows it. Our bones have a way of connecting with the earth — an old, ancestral bond.

Outside wasn’t safe. I had to get home.

I didn’t know the direction of the gas station, but if I ran far enough, I was sure to bump into it eventually. If not, someone nearby probably had a shelter. It’s Oklahoma, after all.

Karen watched me hurry down the road. She saw I meant business and finally gave in. She’d drive me to meet my parents.

We pulled up under the gas station awning. By now the rain poured hard enough now to make it hard to see. My parents’ Explorer idled nearby.

I tried to get out but found the door locked. My head snapped back at Karen.

“You don’t want to do this,” she told me.

“Let me out,” I said.

“Satan is trying to scare you away.”

“Let me out,” I demanded.

She wouldn’t. I tried to manually unlock the van door. It didn’t unlock. Panic seized me. I regret it now but in my fear, I demanded she unlock the door or I would hit her. I wouldn’t have really hit her but she scared me. I needed to get out.

My parents were so close. Safety was a car ride away.

Finally, she again gave in. The door unlocked.

I bolted. My body dived into my parents’ back seat and Dad took off for home.

Soon, the storm passed. No tornado got me.

I guess Satan has bad aim.

In The End

Karen and I are still friends.

Its been almost 10 years since high school. We both live in the same town and see each other often at the store.

She went on to get married and have a few kids. I continued my schooling and adopted more cats than any Cat Dad could need.

She still has her religion. I have none. We don’t judge each other.

She no longer pressures her beliefs on me, and I don’t criticize hers. My lifestyle runs opposite of her own and yet we still maintain smiles and hugs and ask how each other is doing.

That’s how it should work.

Looking back now, I do think she really believed Satan tried to drive me away from God. I don’t blame her for how the situation went down. If one truly believes full-heartedly in a powerful God, why wouldn’t that God be able to thwart something like a tornado?

She didn’t try to put me in harm. Karen honestly thought prayer could keep us safe.

After all, in the end, what can I really say? The tornado didn’t land. The church wasn’t destroyed. I made it home safe.

Maybe her prayers worked after all.

Writer, poet, and photographer from Oklahoma. IG: @sixfeetrooted. Twitter: @cassiuscorbin.

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