It's a crisp night in late October. A friend and I have driven out to the annual “Burning Man Midwest” event that for the past decade or so a local couple has hosted at their place in rural Wisconsin. A stiff breeze is blowing out of the northwest. We process through the woods with jack o' lanterns, and circle up around the Wicker Man.
He's a Cornstalk Man, actually—this is the Midwest, after all—a 25-foot wooden armature covered with bundled cornstalks that we'd harvested earlier that day. As we arrive, we set our pumpkins in a circle around him, at his feet.
The ritual continues, and we all know where it's headed. But Fire has other ideas. From the candles in the jack o' lanterns, the Man lights himself, in several places. The dusty, dry cornstalks kindle with a crackle, and the fires mount alarmingly fast. In a nightmare moment of awe and terror, the separate fires merge into one, and their united voice roars with the terrifying freight-train roar of a tornado.