On the plane back home last night, the world looked like it was coming to an end through storm. Three in the morning, the window in that half light stained an odd green as if a port hole in a ship on rough seas. And out in the distance this distorted, baleful factory of electricity and swirling clouds, dark against gray, rising thousands of feet in the air, the hungry lightning jagging through again and again, every second, the light lashing out like the discharge from a huge forge. And, below, on the ground, these gorgeous snakes and beads of burgeoning light that were cities but looked like the life support of some future space station. The whole tableau was as mesmerizing and alien as anything in a novel or movie set in outer space. I felt as if it were something overlaid on reality and if my fellow passengers had woken up, there would have been a sudden dislocation, a twitch, and it would all have disappeared replaced with mere blackness. And for the first time, too, I understood the meaning of the word "maelstrom".