Thursday, June 23, 2011

2014: The Way the World Ends (Chapter XXI; Mark Goes Home- Rough Draft)

Written and owned by Greg Miller 2011

Chapter XXI:  Mark goes Home

Mark really enjoys helping Mike and the others but it was time to go home.  He looks down at his dirty hands; grimacing in discomfort he tries to clean them on his dark blue slacks.  It doesn’t work.  Now he looks like he’s been playing in the sand box.

This isn’t fair.  I’m so dirty.

The girl from Burger king stops laughing and crying.  She looks humble and passive; the leather jacket didn’t fit her to well.  She’s offering everyone Dasani water and cheeseburgers.  He takes water but doesn’t drink it.  He attempts to clean the crud off of his hands but it’s not working.

Mike comes up and pats him on the back, “Thanks for helping.  Are you ok?”  Mark never told Mike he was his best friend.  Mark was grateful when this Midwesterner came to the office.  At first he didn’t think he was going to like Mike.  People from Michigan have a tendency of being brash, their communication isn’t suave.  Mark’s heart thawed when he watched Mike work hard.  Mike’s merit is sound and he has a good character.  Mark couldn’t help but grow fond of Mike and April.  But it was time for their story to end, to close the past chapter.

I need to get to my parents and family.

Mike repeats, “Is everything alright Mark? You look distant.  I know what’s happening sucks but I need you to keep it together.”  Tears start running freely from Mark.  The Dasani water is not cleaning his hands and it frustrates him.  

I need to get home and take a shower.  I need to get home to be with my family.

He couldn’t talk.  Sounds escape his throat but sounds jumbled, he’s afraid.  

My dad is home and is sick.  He needs me.  Maybe mom came home from work?

Mark’s dad was a retired police officer.  He lives as a disabled American who relies on crutches and a respirator.  Back in 2001 his dad was one of the first responders who answered when the Trade Center got destroyed.  Rubble and bad air gave him chronic lung disease.  As far as Mark is concerned his dad is a national hero.  

My dad needs my help.  I’m sorry Mike but I have to go.

He stops trying to clean his hands.  A police dog comes over and licks them.  He briefly remembers hearing somewhere that dogs have natural antibiotics in their saliva.  He shrugs and lets the dog finish.  He then uses the last of the water to clean his hands.

Looking at Mike he heart fetchingly declares, “I need to go and be with my family.”

Mike doesn’t look to tough as true compassion enters Mike’s persona.  This was going to be harder then he thought.

Fidgeting he continues, “I’m sorry bro.  I don’t want to go but I need to.”  Not knowing what else to say he adds, “You are from the great woods up North; seriously you don’t need my help.  Keep to the tracks and get out of Washington DC before nightfall comes.”

April is busy talking to the National Guard.  The only one listening is Juliet and the Asian boy.  They don’t matter to Mark.  He looks deeply into Mikes eyes, “You were a good friend.  I enjoyed working with you.”  Extending his right hand he firmly grasps Mike’s left hand.

Tears appear in Mike’s eyes.  He tightly grips Mark’s hand.  Mark grimaces in the vice like grip.

Mike says, “Thanks for everything Mark.  If you ever find yourself in Michigan you know where to find me.  We are going to have to go back for our son and family when things settle.”

Mark understands.  It’s the same reason why he has to part.  

“Do you remember your first day at the office?  You were scared of the politicians.”  Mike nods; he remembers all too well the stresses of starting the new job, “Well, I never told you but I thought you were a massive big Troll on your first week.  But you showed everyone, even when you accidentally spilled coffee on the Congress man from Ohio.  I thought for sure you were in over your head.  But look at you, six months later and you have become a success.  Take care of your wife and be safe.”  Mark can’t help but let the tears run freely.  Without notice Mike steps in gives Mark a gigantic Finnish bear hug.  Mark knew it was a custom from the mysterious people in the UP and let Mike have it his way.  Deep down he’s moved his friend cares.

April excuses herself from the National Guard and the news reporter, “Mike, be careful, your back can go out!”  Her statement reminds Mark why his best friend is lucky.  He instantly remembers the Russian fellow, his lover, burning.  He loved her and feels a new despair build deep within.  He was going to ask her to marry him.

He lets Mike go and quickly turns around.  The air in Union Station smells of burned rubber.  Sweat pours from his brow making him waver from heat exertion.  

Now isn’t the time to get weak.  I need to get going.  I can’t think about her at the moment.

Not knowing what else to say he leaves.  April asks him where he is going but he decides to let Mike explain.  He never minded April.  His mind goes to the current task.

I have to get home to the Onyx Apartments.  I then need to clean up and network with the entire family.  We need a solid game plan.

He currently lives with his parents in the South East section of DC, south of I-295.  He only has to walk a half mile to get to work; he prides himself of not having to take a car or the metro.  It didn’t only help the environment but it kept him in good shape.  He didn’t need to live with his parents but he preferred to be there for Marvin, his dad.  When he was in his early thirties his dad and mom moved back to Washington DC after living in New York.  Marvin was four years away from retirement when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Dust from ground zero was toxic and his dad breathed too much of it in.

His dad didn’t get a chance to retire and lost most of his pension.  Mark believed his parents gave him a good childhood and put him through college.  It was only right they moved in together.  His dad kept on getting sicker.  They didn’t know what to do for his red blood cells are under constant attack.  Marvin has to go to chemotherapy every few weeks and lost all his hair.  His mom has him on a barrage of nutrients and amino acids but it was a losing battle.  The doctors labeled his dad as having “permanent respiratory disability”. His family wept with joy with the Bin Laden was eliminated by US Navy Seals in 2011.  All terrorists deserve to go to the guillotine and should go to hell.

We need to gather supplies from our home and evacuate DC!  We need to get to the rest of the family after I get home.

Mark’s extended family ranges all over the city and in New York.  Some are doing very well and others not so much.  He was doing well at the Library of Congress.  He makes roughly $78,000 after taxes.  His apartment only costs $1500 a month and came with a whole bunch of amenities.  More importantly, even though it was over sixteen stories, it was very handicap friendly.  

He passes the street without looking back.  Sometimes it’s better to not look back.  

He lives on 1100 First St. SE, it’s not far.  He quickly chides himself it might take many hours with all the destruction happening.   His apartment is on the tenth floor.  His dad never had a problem in taking the elevator.  He was afraid his dad wasn’t going to be alive in a few years; he was hoping to introduce them to Irina.

Irina, why did you have to leave me?

She filled a deep longing, when she was around he felt complete.  He spent thousands of dollars on an engagement ring and now this happens…

She burned within seconds.  My library is gone and the woman I love is dead!

Mark decides it might be safer to take 2nd Street NE and bypass the military sniper.  He was glad the dude was on his side but didn’t want to experience that again.  He crosses Massachusetts Avenue to get to the street.

Getting shot at once today is enough.  

His minds drifts back to Irina.  He remembers the first time they met.  She was scared and looked like a lost exotic bird.   Russian elegance and fine education made her into his goddess.  The first day he helped her get her Identification Card, she was wandering down corridors not knowing where to go.  The library of congress is made up of three buildings and many passages.  His heart went out to her and he showed her the ropes.  First thing he did was bring her down to the Adams building where anyone can get a library card.  Fellows and important visitors get a red star.  Stuff like that makes Mark ponder the significance of mixing Russian political ideology with western democratic symbols.  

Why do communists and democracies use similar symbols to represent power?  Especially when each country is supposed to represent something different, which in turn is supposed to reflect their different cultures and norms?  Hitler, America, Ancient Romans, Hindus all use the eagle.  Could you imagine something like a turtle or mouse as your countries symbol? 

Mark shrugs this thought off while concluding, Pop culture and American capitalism has definitely changed cultures and people around the world.  

Even though Mark is African American he’s 110% American.  Patriotism boils deep in his blood.  The only reason he didn’t become a cop like his Dad was because he is frail.  HE makes up for this in his smarts.  He finished his doctorate by the time he was twenty-four.  He always gets sick for the stupidest reasons and his allergies are terrible.  He looks down at his hands and grimaces.

It’s going to take forever to clean up!

He crosses onto 2nd Street without incident.  No longer does he hear gun fire close by, in the distance he could hear something sounding like firecrackers.  It doesn’t take him long to realize it hand gun fire coming from the rougher districts.

In front of his is Union Pub, which is barred up.  In the middle of the street is a white man wearing a purple Michael Jackson jacket.  He’s directing survivors down the road, there are about a hundred who are shuffling back and forth.  No one is being violent, they simply look lost.  Mark see’s the man who looks like Michel Jackson blow a whistle while pointing for a few people to cross the broken road.  There are no fissures.  In his left hand is a bottle appearing to be Orange Bacardi.  Most of it is gone.  He flashes a smile.  Mark can’t see his eyes due to some very dark shades.  

“Hold on bro, traffic you know?”  The man does the moon shuffle, flourishing into a bow he continues, “Your turn, the light is green.”

Mark says thanks and crosses the street.

The man looking like Michael Jackson smiles broader; Mark shudders, the man is missing most of his front teeth.

“You are very much welcome.  Have a nice day!”  Mark quickens his pace.  He doesn’t feel threatened but the dude seems a little to nuts for his taste.

The buildings on this block are not in bad condition, broken windows and glass crunch under dress shoes.  Many signs are still intact, clearly marking his location at D Street SE. Mark finds himself thinking it’s amazing there are no loiters.  The Tsunami alert scares the hell out of him.  Deep down he doesn’t think a tsunami is coming, but his expertise wasn’t into the environment.   

The last thing we need is to have is mass panic.  As soon as I get to my parents we can all leave safely.

The sun beats heavy on his brow.  Mark doesn’t remember it being so hot and for the first time in his life wonders if he’s going to get sun burned.  

This is a terrible day.  I wish this was a dream.  Why couldn’t I be back in undergraduate school at John Hopkins?  Why can’t someone in my frat have slipped me some acid for shit in giggles?

Mark never touched drugs but he did have one experience on liquid acid.  He joined a fraternity at his university but they took the hazing a little too far.  As a pledge he was told to drink a awful tasting beverage.  Later he found out it was laced with acid.  After brief flashes of bright colors and listless voices, his frat dropped him off the hospital.  He spent the next six hours reliving his child hood as the drug sent him on its journey.  

Drugs are not Mark’s cup of tea.  He told the fraternity to get lost and never looked back.   

Today he felt like he was on a acid trip.  He wishes he was on an acid trip.  The ramifications of what is occurring are too much for him to handle. 

It would be best to just focus on getting to my family.

He decides to throw caution to the wind when he sees a group of homeless men eye him menacing on Pennsylvania Avenue.  One has a cardboard sign on a string on his chest, he recognized him from earlier.  He doesn’t have anything they want but the second they start moving towards him he bolts like a rabbit.  It doesn’t take long to run three blocks, the homeless men aren’t following.  It doesn’t look good on when he gets to E St NE.  He stops, his sides hurt from the exertion and heat.  Breathing comes difficult, but not in an unhealthy way.  His allergies are not kicking in, even though there is a lot of dust.  Deep down it feels really good to run; now he wishes he kept the water.  He hears car alarms before seeing the cars.  To his right is a block looking not like the other blocks.  Large congregations of poor African Americans are systemically destroying the block.  There must be at least three to four dozen.  Most look young, many have pipes and crowbars.  They appear to be in frenzy as they flip a parked luxury van.  Within seconds they violently crush the windows and tear it apart.  They are not looking for stereos or money, they simply enjoy causing destruction.  

Oh my God, these aren’t my people.  Why are Americans acting like this?  They should be helping each other.

Many cars are destroyed, within minutes the crowd goes to another parked car.  Deep down Mark understands the poor have a need to express themselves but he doesn’t think this is the way.  Looking past them he sees more African Americans exit a building through a broken window.  They are carrying television sets and paintings.  He pauses as he notes large groups of woman exit a gift shop.  They head towards the males who are causing the destruction.  Near the end of the block he sees a large U-Haul with its doors open.  Walking back in forth are some very scary looking black men with guns.  One is particular looks like a fat cat, he directs the men with a cane and a cigar.  The U-haul appears to be filling with merchandise quickly.  A second U-haul is being directed towards the first one.

Shit, the people who hate are organized already?

One of the woman points in his direction, he wonders if they are prostitutes, not knowing where they came from.  He sees a few guys break from beating a parked Rolls-Royce. Mark decides it’s time to do some more running.

Where are the police and the military?  Why are they allowing this to happen?  They are a couple of blocks away from the Capital!

The side walk is back to being jagged and broken.  There are many fissures.  Mark pretends he is in track at gym as he’s continues to ignore his safety.  It is now an absolute necessity to get home. He hopes his Dad has enough common sense to shoot trespassers.   He is scared for their safety.  He manages to run a few blocks south and refuses to look towards the Library of Congress in the distance.  Military helicopters can be heard overhead.  He doesn’t look to see who they are, at the moment he doesn’t care.

He jumps over a broken Stop sign and is brought to a halt due to a fissure.  His thighs burn, he drops to his knees, tears run freely.  He didn’t know why he is crying.  

I’m tired.  I want to be clean and go to sleep.  This is all a nightmare!

He doesn’t wake up.  After minutes of sobbing he calms down.  Metal wires stick out of the middle of the road.  It looks like broken straws; the grey contrast very much shows wicked looking metal pipes.  There’s no color to the road.  Everything looks dark gray.  A capital city utility vehicle lies half in the fissure.  The driver long evacuated the vehicle.  For some reason its front lights shine back at the sun, he can tell due to a feint yellow shining around the edges.  Nearby are some broken trees.  One fell into the fissure and another into a building.  Looking around he sees he’s at the corner of D Street SE and 2nd NE; he crosses over to 1st SE.  This street directly takes him to his apartment.  No more detours.   There are no making shift bridges like earlier.  The block is empty outside of a few people who wander aimlessly.  No one asks him for help.

He sees the fissure isn’t long.  It looks to be about four to five feet in width.  The fissure goes far, he doesn’t want to try another street.   He’s getting afraid of dangerous chaotic encounters.

Maybe I can jump the span if I use the utility van. 

Looking closer he sees he could possibly climb the front hood of the van and make a jump for it.  The van is a good four feet above the broken street.  He didn’t know what was keeping it from falling in the fissure; his love for his parents drives him forward.  The front end of the van burns into his palms as he crawls on the hood.  The van starts to shift.  Looking inside the front window Mark sees a city engineer sprawled on the front street.  Mark’s heart races when he sees a large black power cable dangling near the bumper.  He pauses for a second as a peculiar morbid fascination makes him look at the corpse.

Thank God there is no electricity working!  Do people feel things after they die, or do they simply not exist?

His victory is short won; the van begins to roll into the fissure.   Mark frantically gets to his knees, almost falling off of the van into the waiting abyss.   He’s thinking twice about his decision to jump the fissure but it’s too late to turn back.  The van starts sliding without resistance.  Mark begins to pitch forward, using the last of his strength he jumps.

He could have made it but he makes the mistake and tries to look down.  Two thirds of the way through the jump he loses his momentum.  His right foot connects to the broken pavement but his left foot misses.  The ground on the other side isn’t stable and crumbles under his weight.

Mark screams “Help me!”  His lower body falls into the fissure, he urgently tries to grab something but everything on the ground is loose.  Using both hands he tries digging his hands into the ground but a metal pipe rudely cuts into his left palm.  Pain explodes up his arm as his hand instantly loses strength.  Any grip is lost.  

NO, I don’t want to die!

He shouts, “Please help me someone!”  He’s slipping quicker.  His right hand finds the other side of the black cable which was touching the utility van.  For some reason his mind didn’t register it being a possible route earlier.  Ignoring the pain in his left hand he grabs the cable and holds on for everything he is worth.  The cable comes lose, Mark finds himself pummeling into Sheol, his Ministers messages of heaven and hell flash forward as he recalls his life in less than a second.  He feels he is lived his life a good person.

His breath is knocked from him as broken earth meets him; solid earth greets his already bruised and abused body.  He didn’t drop more than three to four feet.  His heart rushes and his mind refuse to acknowledge the notion he’s alive, he laughs in grateful relief as a new appreciation for life courses through his being.  

Looking down he sees the fissure is not an abyss.   No demons lurk in the shadows, no claws tear him apart.  Unlike the road earlier this isn’t a massive hole.  Adrenaline continues to rush through him, he can’t stop shaking.  Letting go of the cable he sees he’s on top of a lot of turned over rubble and pavement.  A police cruiser lies mostly submerged near him.  Mark lets go of the cable and feels like a dumb ass.

Why didn’t I look into the fissure?  How stupid am I?  Is that a cop in the cruiser?

Looking around he’s instantly relieved when he sees the utility van has a small metal ladder which was once attached to its roof.  Now it lies in front of him, inviting him to become free of this hell.  It doesn’t take him long to get out of the fissure.  He leaves the ladder behind; not thinking it might be prudent to have for future use.  Mark isn’t in the mind set of scavenging; he just wants to get home.

 Within minutes he continues his journey.  His left hand is hurt, the pipe dug into his palm, leaving about an inch of skin looking like mesh and loose.  It’s not bleeding but it doesn’t look good.  The flesh is pale white, surrounded by bluish and purple coloring.  Minor blood seeped from the where the pipe dug in but it wasn’t bad.  It hurt more than anything.  The minute he gets to street level he falls to his knees and kisses the ground.  His head swims, his vision is cloudy.  New pain shoots up his hand which makes him howl for a few seconds.  

This is to stressful.  

Mark gives up on wanting to be clean.  Now all he wants is his bed and for everything to go back to the way it was when he woke up.  

Life was peachy earlier.  What did humanity do to deserve this treatment?  Who is to blame?  Is there an enemy?

His apartment is in Ward 6, in the Navy Yard.  Most people refer to the district as Southeast Washington DC.  It’s on the green line if one was to take the metro.  The district caters mainly to African Americans.  Hit apartment building overlooks the Anacostia River.  He never risked inviting Mike and April to his home.  Sadly their skin color would have got them in trouble.  He never told his girl friend where he lives.

Mark keeps trekking forward but fondly remembers the history of The Navy Yard.  The Navy Yard was originally a ship building complex but reverted to producing ammunition and fished pieces of ships.  Mark has fond memories of touring the facility with his Dad when he was a kid.  Today it’s one of the largest federal facilities in America.  Back in the day Anacostia used to be a great river and had many channels.  Pierre Charles L’Enfant remapped and built a new Washington DC in the 1790’s.  Commercialism was at its boom.

Mark snaps out of his reverie as he sees a sign directing to the Navy Museum if he goes to his left.  He didn’t need to take that direction; he just needs to move forward.  

I wish I could do something to make things better.  What is America going to do?  Another ten minutes and I should be home.

Walking to work only takes Mark 15 to 20 minutes on a normal day.  The distance is only .40 of a mile.

This is ridiculous.  

He’s nears the beginning of the residential neighborhood.  As far as he could see, there are cars and trucks abandoned along I-295.  Some doors are open and others are closed.  Cars and Trucks attempted to head west, not many cars face east.  It’s obvious the police tried enforcing Marshal Law.  The road is empty due to a police barricade, beyond are thousands of cars, many people fled on foot as soon as the Tsunami alert began.  Things didn’t look right, not even for an evacuation.

The cops tried stopping the poor from evacuating before the middle class?  What the FUCK!  

There are signs of a gun battle.  Dead police men lay scattered around a makeshift barricade.  Multiple strips of metal with sharp looking barbs kept vehicles from moving forward.  Many vehicles have their tires shredded.  The cops fired upon the civilians with real ammunition.

Oh my God… How many did they shoot down?  Why did they shoot?

He knew his district was poor but this is ridiculous.  Never in his wildest dreams did he think HIS people would be treated in such a fashion.  He couldn’t fathom any other reason for the barricade.

This isn’t why I am with government or why my Dad was a cop!  How could they do this?

Six fallen police officers lay in bloody pulps.  The dead bodies have been stripped of their body armor and all their equipment is gone.  He couldn’t recognize them even if he wanted, they looked like bloody pulps.  The heat from the sun bakes the corpses, he wants to puke.  

It smells like sweet rotten vegetation after my mom gardens.  The American people fought back, my people fought back.

A rage builds deep, threatening to rip through his awareness.  Mark feels a blood rage as his gaze takes a closer look at the damage the bad cops did.  African American children and women are riddled with bullets.  Countless husbands and boyfriends lay in various death poses, all shot in close range as they tried protecting their loved ones.  Half a dozen cars and trucks are destroyed as drivers forever blankly stare into nothingness.  Many of them still have their eyes open in shock and fear.  A dead child clings to her mom, a rag doll inches from her lifeless fingers.  Blood cakes the windshields, bullet holes can be seen in the cars behind.  Many cars are still idle.  Dozens of people are in the process of unloading their vehicles to move on foot.

Mark asks a real thin teen what happened.  He asks why the cops stopped the people.  He doesn’t expect the answer.

“Yo man, tis dig this shit and get out of here.  Them fuckin red necks killed the cops and mowed us niggers down using the cops gear.”  This kid is a normal teen who is trying to escape.  It takes Mark a few seconds to understand what he’s saying.

Mark is confused, “Pardon me, what happened bro?”  He didn’t want to talk like the man, after all he is educated.

The teen looks back at him quizzically, “Nigger listen! Crazy rednecks shot us, they pretended to be cops.  We taught them.”  He points back towards the police barricade.  His other hand rubs a police side arm stuck into his waist band of his trousers.

Looking down he sees tell tale signs of what the teen is trying to say.  The bodies at first glance appear to be cops but now he sees tatters of blue jeans and flannel.  He shakes uncontrollably.  A brass pro fishing hat lies near empty Budweiser beer bottles.  A pickup truck lies in flames in the far ditch.  Mark didn’t notice it before.  A few African Americans scavenge through backpacks taken from the police cruisers and the pickup truck.  Other peacefully rummages through vehicles abandoned by their owners.

Redneck hillbillies did this?  Not cops?  It’s only been two hours.  I don’t understand.  This is happening to fast.  Why are people hurting each other?  Didn’t other cities with natural disasters have their people band together?  Why do some people make it about skin color?  This is America, not Haiti!  It doesn’t matter what you look like, what matters is what type of person you are.  Didn’t African Americans suffer enough already?

He asks “Do you know whether or not the Onyx apartments are still intact?”  Mark feels dread as he ponders the new hostility threats.

“No man I don’t know, I need to go.”  The teen slings his pack over his shoulder and trots towards the metro tracks.  Mark knows the tracks are to be followed to get out of DC.  When 9-11 occurred the federal government shut down all public transportation systems.  People were advised to walk near the tracks; it took some 6-8 hours to get home to love ones.  

Mark doesn’t bother to ask others.  Everyone is scared.  A large group of African Americans are walking past the cars, there must be hundreds.  They seem to be large families; everyone is carrying as much personal belongings as they can.   No one is being violent.  His home is less than eight blocks.

The natural disaster siren still blares; he wishes they would turn it off.  A pickup truck exudes its own alarm, the owner is long gone.  Somewhere in the distance he hears Gangsters Paradise but can’t pinpoint its location.

Trying to wipe the sweat from his brow Mark finds his sweat aggravating to the wound on his left hand.  His hand throbs from the wound he received earlier and his temples pound with a raging migraine.  He quickly makes his way past the lineup of stalled vehicles.  Now he is six blocks from his apartment building.

A few teenager girls pass him while looking at him like he’s stupid.  One flippantly treats him like a retard while trying to explain, “A tsunami is coming.  You’re going the wrong way.”

Mark doesn’t bother to explain his motive, he shrugs and says thanks.

One block later and he comes upon I Street SE which crosses his street.  The streets are built on diagonal pattern mirroring the German city Karlsruhe.  When Mark was fourteen years old his dad took him on a bus tour of Washington DC.  He loved the way his guide narrated the history of the city.  

Thomas Jefferson when visiting Europe fell in love with a few palace and city designs in Germany.  He quickly had Charles L’Enfant draw up city plans showing a similar design.  Washington DC was built on the grid system, many diagonally cut streets allow for impressive open spaces for parks and vistas.

The street he currently is on should have been J Street but the city planners didn’t want to create confusion.  Some conspiracy theorists argue it was a deliberate slight to John Jay.  Rows of brown condos greet him in furlong salience.  His stomach grumbles as the smell of burgers and hot dogs engulf his senses.  Around forty to fifty people stand in front of one the condos he is passing.  Everyone is scared but friendly.  It seems the block got together and decided to have a grill out.  Alcohol runs freely and as doe’s food.  Young children run in between groups of adults, they aren’t laughing or giggling like they often do, none the less they are playing tag.  The vestige reminds Mark of the 4th of July.  Large concentrations of African Americans have three grills side by side.  They distribute food and beverages as fast as it cooks.  A young couple comes bearing gifts.  

The man in proper English says, “Friend, rest for a moment.  We have food and drink!”

Mark steps trekking and inaudibly asks, “Why are you doing this?”  He shakes in fear, remembering the shot bodies a block away.

His companion answers, “Why not?  The end of the World came and all our food is going to go bad.  The fridges don’t work anymore.  The least we can do is sending people off with a full tummy.”

Mark plops on the ground out of exhaustion.  Panting he replies, “Please, I would love some food and beverage.  Do you have some water?”

The man responds, “No water, but we have some coca cola.  Liz, give the man some food!”  She hands him two hot dogs and apologizes that they just have ketchup.  Mark ignores his hurt hand as he hurriedly inhales the hot dogs.  He eats them so fast he doesn’t get a chance to appreciate the taste.

Liz says, “Would you like some more?”  He nods.  He’s never been so hungry in his life.  Closer inspection shows the people on the block are Catholics.    

Mark spills coca cola on his chin as he drinks the soda in one large gulp.  The man asks Mark if he knows Jesus.  Mark nods and the man looks a little saddened he won’t be able to go on a tangent.  Seeing new stragglers he beams and leaves Mark. 

That’s cool.  These people are helping people in need.  Good for these Catholics.

Mark feels better with a full stomach.  He waves at no one in particular and continues his journey after the girl gives him another hot dog.  He doesn’t ask for a second soda.  He knows there is some in his fridge when he gets home.

It doesn’t take him long to cross K Street and L Street SE.  Nothing out of the ordinary is happening outside of people packing their cars and abandoning their homes.  No violence or destruction.  A lot of teenagers are aimlessly wandering on drugs, but that’s not really anything new to see.  He is now three blocks away.  One more block and he will be able to see his 12 story apartment building.  He quickens his pace.  

I hope Dad got a survival pack together.  I wonder how much food we have.  I can’t remember if Mom went to the store like she said she was going to?

M Street SW appears, a few cars honk their horns as vehicles slowly snake around each other at a snail’s pace.  There are Four M Streets in Washington DC.  City planners drew out streets mimicking the Cartesian-coordinate-based system adopted in Europe.  Mark never understood the reasoning of allowing any east-west street twelve blocks from the capitol to be named in this fashion.  To be honest he understood but it’s a headache to explain, he often tells his friends to take a cab when in Washington DC.  To state it shortly, Washington DC has four quadrants; each M street is designated as either NW, NE, SW and SE.

Don’t they know they won’t be able to get on I-295?  Oh wait, how would they know?

People are getting frustrated and many swear and shout of their windows.  Entire families abandon cars as wives and mothers hysterically wail for the people in front of them to move.  Some don’t move fast enough which makes others panic.  Mark attempts to squeeze past a station wagon and a family minivan.  A woman screams into the ear of the man behind the wheel.   The man behind the wheel of the station wagon guns his car and hits the minivan in front of him.  Somehow the car pushes the mini-van aside, the man behind the wheel angrily drives on the curb, and he passes many.  Mark swears as he quickly dodges the stupid idiot.  Before anyone can fill the spot he runs across the street.  His inner thighs have rubbed raw from all the running.  A man gets out of the minivan swinging a golf club.  Within seconds he is at the station wagon, his golf club sends glass shattering.  Mark doesn’t wait to see what happens next.

Shit that stings, I’m going to need soothing cream after I shower!

Mark sighs in relief when he sees his apartment building is still intact.  The knowledge of his family being close gives him a new bout of energy.  Ignoring his discomfort and pain he sprints the last two blocks.  Cars and trucks blur by as he runs, people are all in grid lock, nothing different then M Street SW.  No one bothers him.  To his right and left are large apartment complexes.  Many look safe in the day time, but it’s not always wise to walk alone at night.  For some reason he was never mugged or bothered.  He always thought it must be his karma and good disposition.  Many others he knew could not brag such a fate.

His feet burn, he can feel his socks have worn out from all the running.  Multiple spots near his heels feel like will be blistering tomorrow.  Something squishy can be felt between his toes in his right shoe. 

A liquor store nearby lies open, its windows smashed by loiters.  Mark gets the feeling there is no more liquor.  Smashed bottles lay on the road.  Nearby he sees an apartment complex completely destroyed by the earthquake.  People grieve near the rubble.  A boy and his dog beg passers to help find his parents.  Mark feels terrible when the child asks him for help.  His heart goes out but he doesn’t let it show.

There isn’t anything I can do.  Maybe I can come out later and help after I see my parents.

He pretends he doesn’t hear and continues to run.  He no longer has the endurance to call it running; it’s more a fast trot.  He sees the entrance of his building.

Almost there!

He looks to where his Dad’s car is supposed to be parked.  They were given special treatment due to his disability.  They were allowed to park their car near the front entrance.  It wasn’t there.  His apartment is located at the corner of the street.

Maybe Mom took the car or never came back?  Let my Dad be alright!  

Leaping over two to three stairs at a time he makes it to the front entrance.  A large slick looking logo greets renters and visitors with Welcome to Onyx on First Apartments!  The front doors are locked.  Mark surprises himself as he curses.  Fumbling for his keys he realized he left them in his office at the Jefferson Building.

Mark forgets about his injured left hand, and pounds on the front door.  He soon shifts to just using his right hand as the pain becomes unbearable.  He sees a shadow down the hall near the reception office.  With new fervor he pounds on the door while screaming, “I live here!  Please let me in!”

The shadow takes on depth.  He sees Steven the day security guard shuffle to the front doors.  He looks nervous as he unlocks them.

“Sorry sir, I thought you might have been a thief.  Most people evacuated half a hour ago.  You look disheveled sir, please step in and stop drawing attention!”  Mark feels better as he steps in.  His forehead and brow feel relieved to get out of the heat.  His shoulders felt like a furnace.  The security guard offers his a water bottle half full.

Mark sputters thanks and downs the water.  After a moment he burps and tastes the hot dog from earlier.  After catching his breath he urgently asks, “Is my dad here?”

It takes a moment for the security guard to understand what Mark is asking.  He is partially deaf and is easily in his fifties.   “Why yes he is, I remember your mom went out to find you.  That was hours ago.  No one came back who left.  The power is out.”

Mark runs past the security guard to the elevator.  He presses the button but it doesn’t work.  The security guard shuffles towards him while repeating, “The power doesn’t work.  You’re going to need to take the stairs.  Mark feels his gut wrench.  He didn’t want to take the stairs.  He didn’t know if he had the strength.

Steve tells him to hold on a minute and shuffles off.  He hears Steve tell him he’s going to give him a flashlight but he needs it back when Mark is done with it.  

Mark waits patiently while looking around he sees minimum damage from the earthquake.  Furniture is scattered and everything small is broken.  A book shelf and computer terminals for renters in the lobby lay broken.  Glass from mirrors and doors are shattered.  A couple of computer terminals are in no longer working as they lay on their sides, the corridor leading to the stair way looks very dark.  No one seems to be around which creeps Mark out.

He hears shuffling, Steve is not crunching the broken glass, Mark meets Steve half way and quickly grabs the flashlight.  It’s a heavy duty mach light.  The black metal polishing feels smooth and cool to the touch.  

Steve asks, “What happened to your key?  It’s going to cost $35 dollars to replace.  Maybe management will be back later.   What’s happening out there?”  Fear creeps into Steve’s voice.  Mark tells him it was a earthquake and what they are feeling are tremors.  Steve dryly comments that it’s nice of God to ease up on the aftershocks.  Mark is surprised when he realizes it’s been awhile since the earth shook.  He sadly tells Steve a tsunami might be coming.

“Steve, don’t you think you should go home to your family?”  Mark doesn’t wait to hear a response.  He can’t wait to get to his Dad. 

He does hear Steve reply, “I don’t have any family.  This is it for me.  Remember to bring me back my flashlight.”

Mark enters the stairwell after turning on the flash light.  It works nicely as it illuminates a good five to six feet.  He sees himself in a reflection and shudders.  He looks like a zombie from Night of the Living Dead.  All he needs now is some blood on his chin and to mutter ‘brains, give me your brains’.  He quickly puts the childlike thoughts away and sprints up the steps.  He makes it up three stories.  Going up the fourth story he slips on something slippery but doesn’t get hurt. 

What was that?  This reminds me of a cheesy horror movie.  I can’t wait to I get home.

Mark shines his light at whatever made him slip and sees it’s a pool of blood.  Nearby, a man has blown his head off with a shotgun.  

There’s nothing I can do.  Who was that?

Another four stories pass without incident.  Now there are only three left.  He hears someone shouting.  A man is yelling at a woman.  He’s screaming at her that she is stupid and to shut up and do whatever he says.  He’s not threatening rape or anything sexual but he doesn’t seem to be kind.  

Why do girls go for rough bad boys? What’s wrong with good guys?

Mark is reminded of Irinia, which threatens to bring him to tears.  He is able to isolate the emotion and continues past the couple who are walking down.  No one says anything.  As soon as he’s past them he hears the man belittle his companion further.  He continues on to his floor.  Red Exit signs eerily give their own soft glow.  Mark doesn’t understand why the glow doesn’t extend more than a few inches.  It would be nice the light illuminated the hallway.  Neither the steps nor the rails are broke. 

He finally makes it to his floor.  The door to the hallway is not locked but something feels wrong.  His apartment is unit 10C, 10A and 10B lie widely open, briefly looking in Mark sees someone went through his neighbors belongs.  He can’t help but yell, “Dad, are you ok?”  The front door handle is busted and the door swings freely.  Shining his light he sees something looking like a massive boot print.

Someone kicked the door down?  Please be safe dad…


Shanna_Redwind said...

Great story so far. I've put a link to it on my webpage

Greg Miller said...

Thanks! More is coming.

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