Authors: C. L. Scholey
“What police are left can’t control the volume of hysteria; a few were knocked to the ground for their weapons. Some of the police are using their weapons to steal alongside the civilians. Everyone is saying it’s as bad here as it was overseas. They haven’t guessed at the death toll, but states and provinces are missing. Missing, Tansy. How the hell do you lose an entire province or state?”
“But how could they keep something like this from the public? We need time to find shelter; why did they wait so long? Why weren’t we informed weeks ago this was going to happen when we could’ve prepared ourselves?” Tansy cried out. Shane grabbed her hard, holding her closer; he looked her intently in the eyes.
“Because there is no shelter, babe.”
“What’re you saying, Daddy?” They turned to see Emmy standing on the stairs shaking. Shane released his wife and strode over to his eldest; he pulled her tiny frame close.
“The borders are closed from the States. People are trying to flee to Canada but it won’t help; it’s just as bad here. Our people are fleeing to the States; no one knows where to go. The Garden City Skyway is on the verge of collapse; the Peace Bridge is gone, it collapsed while crowded. I heard someone say Niagara Falls is flooding from the volume of water pressure.” Shane gathered his entire family into his arms. “The storms are here; they didn’t lessen in intensity. Tornadoes are destroying anything on land. Hurricanes are raging in the oceans. Earthquakes are rocking California, British Columbia, Washington. There’s no rhyme or reason where they’re hitting; we’ve nowhere to run. The oceans and waterways are advancing on us in an army of typhoons.”
Tansy shoved Michaela into Shane’s arms and fled to the kitchen. Her family followed, shocked into silence as she raced from here to there filling any container she could find with the water surging from both taps. She pulled the half-filled water bottle from the cooler, intending on filling it to the brim, and mentally noted there were two more full ones in the basement, and a stack of water bottles in the garage.
“Tansy,” Shane began brokenly.
“Hurry,” she yelled. “Before the water is contaminated. We need to get to the basement. Inland, we’re in more danger from the storms aboveground than below. We need to build a barricade; we need food, blankets and flashlights. Help me find the candles and batteries. We need warm clothing, blankets, towels, matches....” Her voice trailed off as she threw open cupboards and drawers. Hearing only silence behind her, she spun around. No one had moved. “We will not sit and wait to die. We’ll fight for every breath. Now move!”
They sprang into action to raid the freezer and refrigerator of its contents including condiments, flour, sugar, salt and spices from the cupboards. Because it was the holiday, Tansy shopped early in light of the company coming, her neighbors. Always wanting to be one step ahead, for every step she seemed behind, her pantry was loaded with canned goods, treats for the children, a twenty pound sack of potatoes, a huge bag of carrots, fresh vegetables, hors d’oeuvres, the frozen remains of half a butchered cow and pig with frozen vegetables. Different types of loaves of bread lay in the freezer. It would all have to be moved.
They grabbed pots, pans, blankets, a can opener, towels, dishcloths, soap, cups, dishes, utensils, matches, candles, newspaper and old flyers for fuel, garbage bags, shower curtains and picnic table coverings, plastic to aid against the wet weather approaching.
To occupy her, Tansy sent Mike upstairs to her room for her rag doll and a few other toys and books.
“Tansy, I’m going outside for the tarp off the boat. If the ceiling’s ripped off we may need it. Remember to grab what you can from the medicine cabinet, and the first-aid kit, and pull down those fire extinguishers. I’ll help drag down some mattresses and small pieces of furniture when I come back in, and don’t forget the hibachi, we haven’t used all the propane since camping last month, and the tent and camping supplies. We can set the tent up under the stairwell,” Shane yelled and dashed outside while Tansy and the girls began throwing supplies into any carry-on they found.
They raced the items up and down the cement stairs. With intuition aiding her desperation, Tansy grabbed large rocks from inside the fish tank and the numerous special ones she had scattered about the house to build a circle in the basement. They’d need to contain the fire they’d have to start for warmth by defining an area. More were found outside. Once done she returned indoors with the backyard foremost in her mind. They might have time to gather the many sticks of autumn littering the backyard from windstorms she and the girls hadn’t had time to rake.
* * * *
Tansy heard a commotion from outside. Shane came crashing through the front door followed, on foot, by their neighbor, Sam Market. Sam was a robust, burly man of fifty-nine and a good friend, it was his family invited to their Thanksgiving dinner. Sam grabbed Shane by the arm, pulled him to his feet, hauling him back outside where yelling and screaming could be heard as though a large mass had gathered.
Tansy stood for a moment too stunned to move, mouth agape, wondering what could be happening. She’d never seen Shane fight. Was Shane actually fighting? Emmy’s scream jarred her back into reality. Shanie had raced for the living room where a shattering of glass was heard. Tansy sprinted to her daughter, when reaching the living room there stood Shanie, her great-grandfather’s rifle held under one arm while she fumbled with a piece of jagged wood. When Emmy had been born, her great-grandfather had recently died and left the old rifle to Shane. Tansy hated weapons, not wanting it around her child. As a compromise, Shane placed it in a sealed glass case, the proverbial ship in a bottle. He couldn’t bear to part with something his granddad had loved.
“Shanie, what on earth?” Tansy said.
A snap sounded to reveal a secret door holding shells. Removing them, Shanie loaded one into the barrel, slid it into place, and then clutched the weapon. She turned to her mother, smiling triumphantly. “Bet you didn’t know about that.” She moved off toward the door.
Shanie was unsuccessful at dodging past Tansy who grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. Shanie, about to protest, had the weapon jerked from her hands. Tansy scooped up a frightened Michaela from the stairs and gave her to Emmy, passing a few of the toys the child had gathered to Shanie. She propelled Shanie in her sister’s direction.
“Emmy, take your sisters and those other bags and go hide in the basement.”
“But,” Shanie protested.
Leaving no room for argument, the girls headed for the basement as Tansy strode for the battered front door. Stepping through the open doorway holding the rifle, Tansy was horrified to see Shane, and Sam Market; they were fighting, with others she wasn’t sure she knew. Her eyes grew wide as Chris, Sam’s boisterous fifteen-year-old son, whacked a balding man on the head with what looked like Shanie’s tennis racket.
And, oh my God, is that old Mrs. Mason on some man’s back? That’s it, it’s happened, I’m in the Twilight Zone.
Without thinking how and why her front yard had turned into a war zone, Tansy raised the barrel of the gun into the air and fired. Next thing she knew she was on her ass, her shoulder aching like hell. What was that Shane said years ago about a kickback?
Everyone stopped moving. Shane strode toward Tansy; he helped her up and took his weapon into his hands looking confidant.
“Everyone needs to calm down,” Sam boomed. The disgruntled people milling about sectioned off into different groups, when Shane shifted his rifle pointedly at a certain belligerent few.
“You got a basement. I need the tarp to protect my family,” a man yelled, trying to disengage old Mrs. Mason from his shirt collar.
“It don’t belong to you, it’s ours. You’re a stinking thief,” Shanie shouted, appearing at her mother’s elbow.
“Does not.” Her mother corrected her grammar out of habit, though still dazed from the shock of the blast. She absently rubbed at her sore butt.
“That’s what I said,” Shanie replied. “So back off you scum-sucking dirt bag,” she howled at the man, her fist waving in enthusiasm.
“Shanie, you don’t address your elders as ‘dirt bag,’” her father scolded. “But I can. He gave her a conspiratorial wink.
Emmy and Michaela joined them outside, terrified from hearing the gun blast and stood by their father.
“Listen up,” Sam yelled. He came to stand beside Shane and his family. “Those with basements might be persuaded to accept other families if you have stuff to offer in exchange. Stealing won’t solve anything. Fighting won’t help anyone. Try to come to some kind of an agreement with each other peacefully.”
“You mean a bribe,” shouted an angry woman.
“I think he means share and compromise,” Shane corrected.
“If you don’t have a basement why not take supplies to the church? It has a huge basement,” Emmy said.
As if a light went on inside the people’s heads, they started to disperse. Most realizing that they should grab what belongings they had and head to not just shelter, but to a place of spiritual safety and comfort.
“You’re welcome to join my family. After all there’s safety in numbers,” Shane offered Sam. “It might be more of a comfort not to wait this out alone.”
“You’re right, buddy,” Sam answered; he reached over to tousle his son’s hair and tweaked Michaela’s nose.
“If we are, we best gather our things quickly,” Sam’s wife said with urgency. Her weathered face glanced to the sky where gray storm clouds were rolling in. Rain began to spit down on them, gaining in intensity with each passing moment.
* * * *
Darkness settled by late afternoon. The small band of eight sat drinking instant coffee and hot chocolate with marshmallows in ceramic mugs around oil-filled lanterns Shane had pulled off the knick-knack shelves in the living room. Tansy had bought a few at garage sales after Shane’s mother gave her the ones she received from her own mother. Shane preferred the variety of battery operated lights they took camping but wanted to save them in case of an emergency. Tansy had looked at him dismayed. This
an emergency. Wouldn’t they be back to normal before long? Disasters had befallen countries throughout the centuries, things always settled down to normal after a while.
* * * *
Sam reported the streets were deserted on the way back, everyone taking shelter as the wind picked up and the harder rain began to fall. Walnut-sized hail bounced on the pavement of the streets and sidewalks causing the family to hurry to their destination. Both families were huddled in the basement, sitting on cushions lying atop plastic covers scattered around the tiny fire that burned brightly against the gloom, surrounded in mismatched-sized rocks keeping it contained. The double-hand-sized fire gave off little smoke, small tendrils found their way out through numerous cracks.
Shane and Sam had stapled the boat’s tarp to the ceiling. A storm was battering the windows and doors upstairs as if an angry mob were trying to break in. They lived in an older home, high on a hill, the roadways meandering down toward town, and didn’t have any windows in their basement. An old coal chute had been bricked over eons ago. They could hear the occasional shattering of glass coming from upstairs. Continuous large explosions sounded as lightning struck. Thunder crashed loud enough to make them feel the entire house move.
“I guess this means no math test on Tuesday,” Chris said.
“I would’ve preferred the math test,” Shanie said.
“Boy you’re scared,” Chris said.
“I’m not scared. I’m stuck in an old leaking basement with you. What’s that god-awful smell?”
Chris turned crimson. A strong odor of cologne wafted from his direction.
“That’s enough,” Shane said. “We might be down here for a while so we best keep it peaceful.”
“The storms went on for months in the Middle East. As far as we know they’re still going strong, even if they’ve hit here,” Emmy said.
“Well thank you, Miss Sally Sunshine,” Shanie snapped.
“Why don’t you leave her alone; it’s not her fault she knows stuff,” Chris yelled.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Shanie demanded, jumping up hands on hips, her look murderous.
“Enough,” Sam boomed in his commanding military voice.
Michaela jumped and buried her face into her mother’s shoulder. Shanie sat abruptly, scowling over at Chris and Emmy. Shane put a soothing hand on his daughter’s shoulder. He reached over to stroke Michaela’s cheek and offered a wry smile to Sam. The couples had been neighbors a long time, ever since the birth of Shanie. It was Sam who rushed Tansy to the hospital when she collapsed in the backyard almost four years prior. They found out afterward she was pregnant with Mike. Shane told her for a woman who was never supposed to have kids, she was really damn fertile.
Sam had slapped Shane on the back and said he was just so charming her eggs couldn’t refuse the little critters. Tansy laughed at the joke, but when Shane leaned over to kiss her, she grabbed his collar, pulled him close and said maybe after this one was born he could be a little less charming.
As much as they wanted Michaela, Tansy and Shane enjoyed traveling with their older girls. Their family was financially stable, both with moderate incomes. Their girls were independent, went to camp, after school programs. Michaela had been a wonderful surprise, their third miracle. For a while, a new baby in the house had been a juggling act. Shanie, no longer the baby of the family, seemed at times to have difficulty wondering where she fit in. This was one of those times her uncertainty was expressed in a fit of anger. All was silent for a while, giving everyone a chance to regain their composure.
The power lasted long enough to finish cooking the turkey, pumpkin, blueberry and apple pies in the oven upstairs before hauling everything into the basement, closing the door behind them. Tansy couldn’t imagine cooking something that large, or of that quantity on a hibachi. The potatoes and yams turned out well, only needing a few extra minutes on the gas burner downstairs, and no one was hungry. Tansy didn’t know what to do once the propane ran out. How were they to cook then? Over the open fire? The basement was drafty and they needed heat or they never would have entertained the idea of open flames inside. Thankfully the flooring was cement and there was little chance of the fire spreading. With the cracks in the old home’s basement, as long as the wood was dry the smoke was manageable. What were they to do for facilities and showers? How were their neighbors and friends faring, the rest of the world?