Authors: C. L. Scholey
Finally, she crumpled back onto her seat. Her anger spent, shoulders drooping.
Shane crouched before her chair. Taking her hands in his, he smiled at her.
“This too shall pass.”
She groaned, her head rolling back to look up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, like the mother of all gallstones,” she muttered, allowing her head to drop forward.
He chuckled, winked at her, dropped a fast kiss onto the top of her head then made his way to the living room. Tansy knew she’d find father and daughter curled up companionably in the easy chair. Both laughing over the antics of ‘Swiper’ the fox. She moved off into the kitchen to make herself some Earl Grey tea, decided on an orange vodka and crème de cacao martini instead and began a tossed salad with rolls to serve with the steaks she had marinating for dinner.
* * * *
Later that evening, well after Mike—the nickname for their three-year-old daughter—went to bed, husband and wife curled up together on the living room couch. The news of late had been disturbing. Astronomical storms developing into fierce hurricanes in some areas and tornadoes in others had the entire Middle East in a state of pandemic emergency. Earthquakes rocked their countries into rubble, while volcanic activity escalated into gigantic proportions.
Tsunamis struck, eroding shorelines, battering the helpless and those unsuspecting. No one knew or could predict where a storm would hit next; some appeared out of thin air, struck violently, retreat and struck, leaving guessing in a quandary. Citizens remained vulnerable to the next assault, cut off from the rest of the world.
Rumors floated of a weapon of mass destruction, a laser, its molecules manipulated into an excited energy state; its precise wave lengths directed toward satellites. These unsubstantiated rumors hinted at terrorist attacks run amok. Rumors insisting the weapon had turned the earth into a volatile state.
Graphic pictures from satellites appeared on every station. With the mounting destruction, people were evacuated into neighboring countries; the volume of people became too great. Borders closed, causing panic among the citizens. Deaths surpassed hundreds of thousands until calculations were abandoned. Mass grave sites were constructed then destroyed by fierce weather conditions leading to disease as the exposed remains rotted in the open. Soon the neighboring countries became plagued with the same violent destruction.
People ran out of places to flee. The army, marines, navy and nations leaders were forced to admit defeat. They pulled their people out, saving as many as was humanly possible, then fled, leaving behind the numerous unfortunates. Advanced technology through ‘Big Brother’ allowed any and all to witness the horror via satellite—an unwelcome intruder in their homes, though many succumbed to the morbid fascination of watching a person’s last breath. The storms were too irregular. People were resigned to watch the tragedies unfold before their eyes, sickened at such loss, and an uneasy fear of what was coming their way.
People were buried alive as dirt and mud avalanches assaulted them while they tried fleeing to higher ground to avoid the rapidly rising waters. Drowning victims’ lifeless bodies caressed the turbid shoreline or floated adrift flooded roadways. Drifting bodies, humans, animals and sea creatures washed inland. Sharks swimming confused through residential streets struck those unaware.
Help couldn’t come. People around the world were just as helpless and seemed to be facing the same danger. The storms were heading out to sea, grounding all flights, docking seaworthy vessels. An evil threat of nature advancing on polite society, and there were few answers to the alarming questions. The nation’s governments did their best to assure the people the storms would run their course before coming into contact with the rest of the world. If not, they wouldn’t strike with the same magnitude and destruction seen overseas; they couldn’t possibly enter farther inland. The people were guaranteed a plan of evacuation was in place on the slight off-chance minimal destruction might occur. People wondered where they could be evacuated to. Where exactly was safe above or below ground with the high winds, lava, fires and severe flooding? In short, there were no assurances.
“Shane,” Tansy said in an uneasy voice. He tightened his arms around her. “Will we be okay?” She looked at him as he smiled at her; she could see the worry etched in his troubled eyes.
“Everything will be fine, babe, don’t worry.”
Maddeningly, it had been his reply to everything for as long as she’d known him, twenty-one wonderful years. They’d met when he moved in with his family across the street from her when she was fourteen. That very day she’d been told by her mother she’d never have children because of an accident when she was young, too young to remember.
She’d raced from her mother in a disbelieving frenzy to curl into a ball at the base of her favorite tree in a deeply wooded area. Weeping her heart out and crying at the unfairness of life. She’d always had high hopes of a fulfilling career, many children to love and nurture; she wanted it all. Now who would she share her dreams with, who’d share their dreams with her?
“Everything will be fine,” said a deep, calming voice; an awkward hand patted her shoulder. A warm, large body sat next to hers. She looked over and stared into beautiful blue eyes full of concern. The young man then draped an arm around her shoulders. His blond hair ruffled in the warm summer breeze. He offered her an enchanting smile.
“How do you know?” she whispered, captivated. His hand reached for and clutched her hand, pulling her closer.
“Because I’m here now,” he replied. His voice so full of sincerity and truth she’d believed him.
Love at first sight was an astounding occurrence. It was as if life stood still in the uniqueness of the event. The two became inseparable afterwards, spending every spare moment together. Everything had been alright for a time and then turned frighteningly wrong. At sixteen, Tansy became the mother of a miracle. One she would’ve liked a little later in life, though thankfully her parents were ecstatic, thinking they’d never see a grandchild. Emmy, short for Emily May entered the world at six pounds even.
Her proud father, Shane, barely eighteen, acted like he’d done all the hard work, floating through the hospital corridors handing out chocolate cigars to complete strangers with the caption;
It’s a girl
, written in pink.
Tansy was overwhelmed. She was never supposed to have children. Yet here she was, this pink squalling mass of...poop, spit-up, and some smell Tansy couldn’t seem to put a finger to. Although Tansy was elated at having a child, she was so young.
Tansy looked at the baby a bit fearfully; the baby gave her a direct stare in return.
“Don’t think I can do this, do you?” No response. Well, what did she expect...an amusing anecdote? “I can do anything,” Tansy answered her own question as her child nursed, and moments later mother and child formed an unbreakable bond.
Looking at Shane in the dim light of the living room while the gas fireplace flickered invitingly before them, Tansy smiled. Shane was right, they were home, they were all together, safe. It was all she needed. Shane turned off the disturbing images on the television, arose from the couch; they locked hands and walked upstairs.
They went to the first door and peered in. They smiled at Emmy, back for a visit from University. She was sitting comfortably, writing an essay in her easy chair, with her laptop. She smiled at them, blew a fast kiss then became reabsorbed in her work. Just starting her second year she was home for Thanksgiving. On the honor roll and having earned a scholarship, she was a bright young woman on her way to a bright future.
The next, recently-repaired, door opened to reveal a room so messy a pig would’ve been aghast at the sight. Sprawled sound asleep on her bed, Shanie was lying amidst a pile of dirty and clean clothes. A bag of half-eaten potato chips lay at her bare feet, curdled chocolate milk on a side table. She rolled over, muttered something about a boy with a nice ass and settled again on a soft sigh. Shane turned off her television and unplugged her video games for the night.
Her parents offered each other supporting looks, closed the door and made their way to Michaela’s room. Their youngest daughter lay surrounded by a multitude of stuffed animals, picture books and the latest numerous toys on the market, her room full to bursting. Her angelic face peaceful in the soft moonlight bathing the room. Tansy reached out and smoothed back a long lock of sweet smelling, chestnut hair and placed a kiss on her sleeping baby’s brow. Shane did the same, then pulled her princess covers up under her chin, tucking her beloved rag doll in beside her.
Neither adult noticed the subtle movement of the tree branches outside the darkened room window as they tapped at the house as if in warning. The last few leaves of fall drifted to the ground in a spiral motion, only to be picked up and captured by the wind, sailing into the moon’s illuminated sky.
Smiling adoringly at his wife, Shane took her hand in his and embraced her. Keeping his wife pressed possessively to his side, the young couple made their way to their room and went to bed.
“Mom, hey Mom,” Shanie yelled, running into the house, slamming the door on a gust of boisterous wind determined to make its way indoors.
It was the last day before the Thanksgiving long weekend. It was shortly after lunch. Tansy stood sorting socks at the kitchen table, she loathed this job. She looked at them in disgust. It appeared the proverbial sock fairy was at it again, too many without matches. She groaned. She didn’t have time for this; she was supposed to be writing out a quarterly review that was already past due. As it was, she was running late her wrist automatically twisting to reveal the time indicated on her watch. The turkey was in the oven cooking early and would need basting; she’d just have to freeze it for later. If she could keep Shane out of it, she thought with fond annoyance.
“Must you slam the door? And why are you home so early?”
“Mom, really, you’re not going to hurt the socks’ feelings by scowling at them,” Shanie said.
“I thought I could intimidate them into telling me where the other wayward truants are,” she replied, indicating the growing pile with a bit of frustration. “Speaking of truants...” Tansy gave her a direct stare, brows lifted with meaning.
Shanie rolled her eyes then came directly to the point. “They closed the school.”
“For Thanksgiving?” Tansy asked, shooting her a quizzical glance.
“I think for good,” Shanie stated with a dramatic flair. Tansy’s hand stilled. She looked at her daughter waiting for a punchline. When none came, she gathered her thoughts and asked as calmly as she could, “What do you mean, you think for good?”
Explaining on the way, Shanie took her mother’s hand leading her into the living room. “An announcement came over the PA, we were to head straight home, not bother with our lockers. Not to stop to talk to our friends, just go home. The principal said we weren’t to return for any reason. He told us to turn on the news channel the minute we got home and find our parents. At first we thought it was a bomb scare, but on the way home I saw people rushing around like crazy, there’re some creepy clouds in the sky.”
Shanie grabbed the remote to click on the television and both watched as the scene unfolded. Words like; “Roads closed,” “State of emergency,” resounded throughout the room from a frantic anchorman, his plea to the public to seek shelter, help their neighbors, friends. Remain calm.
Tansy perched on the edge of the couch. She watched devastated as half of Florida seemed to be covered in torrential water, hurricanes like never before battering the state from all sides mercilessly. At another flash through satellite, Mexico was gone—just gone, barren ocean where it once sat. Tips of buildings could barely be made out over rolling white-capped waves, a frightening testimony of what once was. Another flash and six tornadoes were battering Texas, another three bashing Missouri, hurling homes and property into oblivion.
Unsure what the next flash from satellite was, the announcer assured them they were looking at Arizona, a massive ball of dust storm so intense those caught unaware perished from asphyxiation. Another flash, California seemed an inferno of billowing flames, rolling up lethally from the ground. Volcanic eruptions spewed instant death from Yellow Stone Park. Image after image assaulted them.
Tansy could hear the newscaster’s harried voice ringing in her ears, battering her mind, urging everyone to seek shelter. Grab any survival kit they had stored and stay put. Do not venture outside.
“Shane, Mike,” Tansy whimpered.
She jumped from the couch and headed to the front door, grabbed her purse, spilling its contents onto a nearby table, snatching up her car keys.
“No, it’s too dangerous,” Shanie cried out.
At that moment, Shane stormed through the front door, his normal continence gone, his face ashen, a crying Michaela clutched in his arms. Tansy flew to them and reached for her daughter.
“Shane.” Tansy clutched at his jacket panicking.
“I know. It’s bedlam out there. I tried to call, but the phones aren’t working, my cell phone wouldn’t get reception. I had to leave the car in the middle of the highway; traffic’s backed up for miles. When I got to the preschool, Mike was crying off to the side alone; parents were racing, screaming for their kids. The teacher abandoned her class to get her own children. One woman stayed, thank heavens she doesn’t have a family or all the kids would’ve been left alone.
“Christ, can you imagine an entire class of children three and under left unsupervised? Toddlers, infants abandoned. If the other teacher hadn’t sworn she’d stay, a few of us parents would’ve grabbed some of the children to bring home with us.
“News of the storms is just hitting the airwaves; at least, what stations are left and not annihilated it happened so fast. Like a damned plague of locusts. They must’ve known; somebody had to have seen it coming. But we weren’t warned because of the fear of mass panic.
“But that’s what we have now. People are terrified of the unknown; they’re racing for the stores to grab food and supplies. No one’s bothering to pay for anything; they’re just grabbing and running, the employees alongside them. Shopping carts, wagons, bags, all are filled and people are racing down the street with what they’ve stolen...in broad bloody daylight!