Authors: C. L. Scholey
The fear of the unknown was palpable. Each struggled with his or her own thoughts of mortality and the coming of tomorrow. Would tomorrow come? The house was being battered as if under siege.
Suddenly, Chris jumped up and struck a pose. “What am I?”
“A moron,” Shanie muttered, glaring. Her father gave her a dark look. “Well you have to admit it was a loaded question.”
“I love charades,” Marge, Sam’s wife said.
“You would,” Shanie replied on a hushed breath. Again she was given a dark look, except this time by her mother.
Chris proceeded to twist and turn, making comical faces rewarded with peals of laughter from Michaela. Her laughter was contagious and soon the youngster was up following Chris, repeating his actions with enthusiasm and some skill. A hoard of titles was thrown as he skipped and shied away. With a disgusted look Shanie rose and made her way over to ‘their’ side of the cement basement.
“It’s the Wizard of Oz. That is so inappropriate. I told you he was a moron.”
Shanie plopped down on one of the air mattresses her father set up in the small room and turned to face the wall. There were mumbled goodnights as everyone retired to their spaces. Tansy wrapped her youngest in an outdoor sleeping bag inside the tent beside her. Their home still reverberated as though it may come crashing down and most everyone, except Michaela, slept fitfully, if they managed to sleep at all.
* * * *
Morning came without a stop to the deluge of rain growing in intensity. They ventured up the stairs with flashlights. Nine o’clock in the morning looked like late evening in the gloom. Rain poured into the living room from a tree branch that crashed through a window spewing glass; hail gathered in tiny mounds in corners of the room. The furniture was sodden, the carpet squishy. No electricity meant no fresh water. Thankfully they had the foresight to store what they could. The air about them was chilled.
No one would be coming to rescue them anytime soon. Everyone everywhere was on their own. Armies wouldn’t be able to battle such extreme weather. Sandbags used against flooding would be useless when battered by tsunamis. Tornadoes wouldn’t run and hide from useless weapons. Where could a makeshift hospital be set up, and how could people make it to one regardless?
Their radios were disturbingly quiet. Sam’s CB was without the comfort of static. Tansy lifted the phone from the dripping coffee table; with trepidation she hit the talk button. There was no reassuring buzz on the other end. It was the same with cell phones. Their utter aloneness was frightening.
Tansy replaced the phone, pulled back the draperies in the living room and looked out. Rolling black clouds floated across the skies—ships in an overcrowded sea. The eerie sound of the storm more ominous without streetlights, moving cars, or the few brave souls who battled any weather to walk the family dog.
“Spooky,” Shanie whispered.
“You’re the spooky one,” was whispered into her ear and she jumped.
Chris chuckled holding a bar of soap in one hand and a bottle of shampoo in the other. Shanie, eyebrows raised, looked at him incredulously.
“Where are you going?”
“Outside for a shower,” he answered, stepped closer, made an obvious sniff toward her and scrunched his nose. “Want the soap when I’m done?”
Shanie lunged for him. Sam saw the exchange, anticipated what was coming and threw open what was left of the battered front door. He gave a forceful shove, sending both teens outside into the pouring deluge of water and slammed the door closed.
Tansy squealed in protest, racing for the door to let them back in, but Sam barred her way. Tansy looked at Shane who was leaning nonchalantly against the living room doorframe, giving her a shrug.
“They’ll be hurt, or killed. It’s too cold and windy for them to be out in this nightmare. They could be hit by flying debris,” Tansy yelled, pulling at Sam’s arms. Pounding on the outside of the door began, then yelling followed by more pounding. Then the pounding stopped, but the yelling continued. Sam smiled down at Tansy and pulled her to his chest as she began beating at him.
She gave him a solid kick to the shin. He lifted her off her feet with one arm, stilling her assault while she struggled and held a warning hand to his wife, with a pointed stare, who looked ready to take up the attack and offer Tansy support.
The yelling behind the door reached a fevered pitch. The teens weren’t yelling to get in but at each other. Tansy’s face reddened at some of her daughter’s use of colorful words.
Bits and pieces, half sentences were caught through the foray; the intensity was dying down until silence remained. Everything on the outside of the door was quiet except for the terrible storm. A knock at the door sounded. Not pounding, but a knock you’d expect company to use while visiting.
Sam set Tansy back on shaky feet and opened the door maintaining a strong careful hold on her. Both teens stood inches apart, drenched to the bone and shaking. They entered and Shanie approached her mother.
“Where did you pack the towels?” Shanie asked calmly, water dripping from her sodden head.
Sam released Tansy; she threw her arms around her daughter, hugged her and walked with her to the basement, but not before giving Sam a look so full of fury he thought he’d best check for glass in his food, or snakes in his bed. Glancing over at Marge who was making a close inspection of their own son, Sam realized two things. The first: although his ploy had worked to help the teenagers realize their situation was too dangerous to be fighting, maybe next time he should try a different tactical move. The second: for a small woman, Tansy had quite the kick to her. Damn his shin hurt.
* * * *
Unbeknownst to the survivors in parts of North America, other areas were experiencing earthquakes as entire states split apart in Grand Canyon-like chasms. Entire cities and towns were under water. Tsunamis struck Brazil with an impact the equivalent of a large meteor, pounding Australia, Hawaii and New Zealand. Greenland was hit with brutal force as was Baffin Island and Victoria Island. Many of the smaller islands were obliterated. California succumbed to predictions, falling into the ocean.
Half of Africa floundered under water; most of China was gone. Sink holes erupted without warning across the world, killing in droves those unaware as cities and towns disappeared overnight. Massive global warming hit many areas causing immediate drought, temperatures spiking higher than two hundred degrees; fish and other aquatic animals flopped helplessly on sudden dry land, or boiled in a few puddles. Other areas were frozen instantly, suspended in time amidst rolling waves that ceased movement above water instantaneously.
Not tens of thousands were dead or dying, not hundreds of thousands; by the time the world calmed enough to emerge from various hiding places, more than three-quarters of the world’s population was gone. The geographical damage was horrific.
Animals fared no better. Sea animals kept in captivity couldn’t be released into the wild nor could they save themselves. They and any caged animal were destroyed by weather or starvation. A giant killer whale lay at the bottom of his tank with little water and no food; he breathed his last agonized breath, for him it was finally over.
Not so for a man trapped in his cell in a penitentiary, his own caged hell in solitary confinement below ground. The howls of fear around him from others turned to insanity. The guards fled to save their families. The inmates were left to die. Helpless and now hopeless, many succumbed to starvation and injury from throwing themselves at the bars keeping them captive.
Half sitting, half lying, a dark-haired man leaned against the ice cold bars. His lips cracked and bloodied from thirst, his throat dry and his voice hoarse he coughed and felt his chest tighten in agony. At first he felt too proud to cry; then later, too bewildered wondering what had occurred, why no one came to talk to him, or bring food and water the tears fell. Now his eyes were too dry for tears.
“Move your arm,” a hiss sounded near his ear.
The man would’ve jumped if he’d had the strength. He looked up through glazed eyes seeing a man he knew was one of the guards, a man he semi-befriended and thought was a decent sort. The dark-haired man thought he must be dreaming. It was the same dream every day and every night; someone remembering him, someone rescuing him from a tortured hell.
“Move your damn arm,” was commanded louder. He felt the bars slide back and with little remaining strength he rolled out of the way.
“You’re free,” the guard said. “Not that it will do you much good, you sorry looking bugger. Not that freedom will do any of us any good.” The guard strode away.
“Wait,” the dark-haired man croaked, a shaky arm attempted to rise toward the fleeing man, but he was gone. Had he been an apparition? The cell was definitely open. He was alone, he crawled through, tried to stand, faltered and collapsed, his face pressed to the dirty cold tiled floor. His eyes closed.
* * * *
After two weeks of living side by side in the basement, everyone was experiencing cabin fever. There was little to do except worry or argue. The toilet upstairs had been used as often as possible, water from a bucket to pour down the drain was easy enough to obtain as the deluge still fell with regularity from the sky. They used garbage bags and pillowcases filled with clothing, bedding and muddy dirt from outside to try and stop the rain from leaking through the bottom of the basement. They ripped the wallpaper from the walls upstairs to burn as fuel, gathered their books that succumbed to the same fate, as well as wrapping paper, burnable ornaments and gift bags. Their small fire that was at first a blessing smoked, forcing them to keep the basement door partially open, a necessary danger. The old walls and ceiling were thankfully cracked in a few places leaving tendrils to make their lazy way topside, giving small relief.
Shelves and kitchen cabinets were burned; the need to keep the fire going for warmth exhausted their indoor supply of flammable material. It was bittersweet to traipse through the house, knowing it was too dangerous for them to leave the safety of the basement. From quick glances outside, they could see neighbors’ demolished homes. Debris strewn across the road was in abundance, only a hint of the pavement peeking through. A hesitant hand reached to turn on light switches, knowing it was futile, yet hope was always there.
The propane in the hibachi was gone; Tansy and Marge tried their hand at cooking over open flames with varying degrees of success.
Sam and Shane began going out into what was left of the city. Occasionally, they saw other people but not often. They were surprised anyone was alive at all, including themselves after witnessing the destruction around them.
Rubble lay where the city once was. It was a miracle most of Shane’s house was standing. It was one of few. Debris littered the street, the devastation was horrendous. Cars were turned upside down, sideways, smashed like toys. One turned end over end, leaving a path of destruction in its wake until it came to rest, front bumper down into the ground while the body leaned precariously against a tree.
Glass littered the streets crunching under Shane and Sam’s feet as they sloshed ankle deep in murky water. Bodies were strewn about like some mad scientist’s cadaver puzzle as stray animals and birds feasted on them.
The rain beat down, the weather frigid; dark gray and black clouds hung overhead moving with a rolling surreal motion. Tremors shook the ground occasionally as though the earth were shuddering from cold.
Sam and Shane refused to let the others join them when they went out in search for food. They looked for anything left to aid their survival. Batteries, food, weapons. Most of what they found was useless. Batteries, when found, were soaked to the point of rusting; weapons were nonexistent, except for the occasional kitchen knife. Those were dull or bent. Some rope, though drenched, was salvaged and packed in one of their backpacks along with any other item considered useful.
Their gold was found in the form of canned goods, soda pop and the rare bottle of water they came across. Any blankets or winter clothing, sodden or not was a blessing; they could dry it hung up over the fire or add it to aid with the wet basement floor. The basement was cold and damp, any wood they found needed to be dried before they could use it or it smoked, making them cough, their noses dripping, clogging their chests, their eyes burned unable to escape to another room for relief.
Shane and Sam had broken up the furniture in the house. Shane and Tansy argued over the antiques. He told her the items would only be worth something if they kept them warm. Shane declared he’d burn the Mona Lisa, if he owned it, if it kept his family from freezing to death.
“We need to get back; the wind is starting to pick up. Who knows when or where another tornado will touch down?” Shane yelled to be heard, the wind blew his words back in his face and he tried again as Sam leaned closer.
“All right,” was all Sam could shout.
Morosely they walked, heads bowed to the wind, using a different route than the one that brought them there. It wasn’t long before they stood in the backyard of a neighbor’s house that was half missing. They ventured inside what was left. Shane had never seen anything like it; half of the house was gone, split right down the middle.
“What the hell are you doing in my home?” came a commanding voice.
Sam and Shane spun around. Standing before them was one of the men who’d been fighting on Shane’s lawn. His lanky appearance was bedraggled, his clothes hung in tatters. An un-kempt beard stuck to his chin, trails of bloody scratches covered gaunt cheeks.
His snarl of anger was punctuated by a wave of his arms. Both men took a step back. In his hand he held a black revolver. It was pointed at Sam’s chest.
Shane held out his hands in supplication. “We’re just looking.”
“Well go look somewhere else.” He gave a quick motion with the gun.
They turned, prepared to go, but a small sound stopped them. Off to the side, behind the man was a young woman. Her hair was a wild mess. Her ashen face was bruised, her arms were bruised. The harder Shane looked, it appeared every bare spot on the girl sported bruises. The girl hardly wore anything in the biting cold.