The storm had taken out a power substation and Max and more than 1,500 others were without electricity. The summer afternoon darkened quickly and the storm was upon Max’s home.
Having nothing else to do, Max sat and watched the storm through the bay window. He saw the lightning briefly illuminate the cloud-dimmed windows in long and short bursts.
“It looks like an old signal lamp,” he said to his old dog, Freda. “Just like I used back in the Navy. I wonder what this storm is trying to tell me.”
He froze in place, thinking.
“What if … what if the lightning were, indeed, a simple message in Morse code from God?” he asked Freda. “Why, surely someone would have thought of that years ago and tested it. Wouldn’t they?”
Freda was deaf enough to miss most of the thunder overhead; her master’s soft voice simply did not register, and she continued to nap.
Max leaped up and went to his desk. He snatched up a felt-tip pen and a notebook and sat down again to take dictation.
He knew his memory of Morse code was fallible after decades of not using it. He jotted down the dots and dashes he saw in the lightning for decoding later. Some letters were familiar, of course: a single quick flash was an “e”; a long and a short flash together made an “n.” He tried not to focus on that, though. He put each new letter on its own line on the page to ensure they would not run together.
The storm produced several short bursts of lightning.
“An error message! That’s what you do when you make a mistake and are going to resend a letter.” That was nearly proof that an intelligence was signaling through the storm. “But … would God make a mistake in his sending?” Max shook off the thought to worry about when he deciphered his dots and dashes.
The storm moved quickly and was out of the area in only ten minutes.
“It’ll be hours yet before the power’s back on,” he groused to Freda. He got the dictionary off the shelf and looked up Morse code. There was the key to the puzzle, and Max set to work eagerly.
“M … s … z … o…” He occasionally called off a letter when he recognized it without recourse to the dictionary. And as he converted his dots and dashes into Roman letters, he began to grow increasingly worried.
When the message began to repeat, Max filled in the first little bit he had originally missed. Then he sat back and stared at what he had written.
I have been known by many names in many lands: Ukko, Indra, Xolotl, Chaac, Xevioso, Thor. But know that I am Zeus, thunder god and father of the gods, and I shall be given my due once more. Worship me or I shall char the earth with my thunderbolts. Instructions shall come through my prophet who alone was wise enough to read this message.
“That’s me,” Max whispered. “I am the prophet of Zeus. Now where will I start? TV? Radio? A website? Should I get a new suit?”
A lightning bug lit on Freda’s large head, but she barely felt it. The firefly flashed its own Morse message, which Max did not read:
I am Puck. I am Coyote. I am Loki, the trickster, and humans are as gullible as ever.