Thursday, July 28, 2011
Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011
Chapter XXVI: The Paladin’s Training
Juliet pauses as she watches Larry toss children and woman aside. He appears to have forgotten the entourage as he drunkenly shouts to hospital staff workers, “I’m a cop and I demand treatment.”
An older woman bumps into Larry and falls. They pass Lot 1 & 7, emergency vehicles camp at Lot 7; Lot 1 is full of people who wait to be seen. The crowd pushes them forward but not threateningly. No one gets crushed or hurt but it does feel like they are being herded while on First Street. The old ladies cane skitters, Juliet helps the old woman.
“Sorry Ma’am, don’t mind the cops rudeness, he is a good guy, and he’s just stressed.” The masses engulf Larry; she doesn’t see where he goes. The VA Hospital is to the right; a massive fire burns the hospital to the ground. Much of the building lies in ember, and is vastly quiet. It’s evident many firemen and police officers sacrificed their lives when the earthquake struck. A few red fire trucks wait for crews who will never show.
Juliet looks in awe at the transformation of the parking lot in front of the hospital as they pass the now fenced and guarded street. Military personal are in the process of putting fences which divide the street from the hospital and have fenced off the Bus Turn Around. The masses have made their own path cutting through Hospital Center Drive, Juliet turns left as she passes POB North which is a small building before the main entrance. Half a dozen armed guards keep thousands from entering. Near the front entrance loom three medium size tents hugging one gigantic circus looking tent which spans the entire street.
Someone dressed with taste blows a whistle while directing the masses into four different lines in front of the beg tent; near the whistle blower are two nursing aids who direct the injured depending their need. They survey the injured and put them into two categories, life threatening and non life threatening. Both the National Guard and the Reserves keep the peace as they help the best they can. Many tables are set up with people handing out sandwiches and chips in the midst of the Parking Pavilion 1 for Staff and Visitors. Many people are frustrated and grief as they are rejected for not having serious wounds or needs, they head back towards where the tables with refreshments are set up. A closer inspection shows a group of college students manning the tables. A group of battle worn solders finish putting up armed perimeters at every exit; the soldiers look like they could have come from the war fields in Iraqi. The Hospital Main Entrance is clear but not twenty five feet away people beg and plead to be allowed in. Larry reappears; he makes dramatic gestures and is allowed into the hospital.
Juliet is squished in the crowd. She innately reaches for her backpack to make sure the zipper is closed. People from all walks of life shuffle around, all are sandwiched like sardines. A lot of street kids dart in the crowd, Juliet doesn’t doubt many will have their wallets missing by the end of the day. A lot of people speak foreign languages such as Spanish and various Asian tongues. She feels something cold and wet nudge her left hand and smiles, if dogs could smile Pixel would be smiling back.
Larry forgot his dog? He doesn’t seem to care about anything outside of chasing tail and booze.
“Hey boy, is it Pixel?” The K-9 looks at her with love and her heart thaws. Pixel barks in approval. People nearby are timid of Pixel, many part. The dog lovers don’t notice but it’s easy to walk pass them. Chuang is nearby. Juliet doesn’t know where Becky disappeared to. Juliet takes advantage of Pixels presence and makes her way to the big tent and the nurses who are surveying.
Becky reappears near Juliet. All the people make it hard to figure out what’s what. She tries gaining the attention of one of the nurse aids as she ignores the line, “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to my dad who works here?” The nurse evaluates a family and ignores her request. A middle aged woman holds an infant while a teenager has homemade bandages wrapped around his head and chest. His body is on a homemade stretcher. Blood cakes the bandages and many wounds openly seep blood onto the cement.
The nurse patiently explains, “I’m sorry but your son it to injured, we need to treat those who are going to survive.”
The teenagers Dad fumes at the nurse, “What do you mean you can’t help my son! He needs help!” His son doesn’t seem to be breathing.
Is he dead?
The nurse’s name-tag reads Michelle. Michelle patiently tells the angry parent, “We are only accepting breaks, burns and things we can control in this line. Please step aside and allow us to examine the people behind you. There is nothing we can do for your son, he is dead.” Michelle puts a black tag on the teenager’s wrist, the mother wails.
The father pleads, “Will you at least look at him? How much do I have to pay to be heard?”
The nurse directs National Guard personal to remove the family as she apologizes for not being able to help. There are five more people waiting ahead of them. Juliet tiredly repeats herself, “My dad works here! Please let me in.” She steps in line.
Many people flock to an EMT worker who screens any in the crowd who could use his support. This ironically made many in line leave their spot. There’s a lot of confusion and very little communication.
The nurse hands out color coded tags, each tag directs the injured towards a different emergency tent. Four lines create a web reminding Juliet of a shattered spider, the big tent is its head. She stalls as she sees a pile of corpses with black tags near one of the smaller tents. A crude sign says T5 with a black back drop. A few soldiers quietly carry bodies into the main building. She’s speechless as the dad carries his son to the pile of corpses; they lament as a male nurse tries cajoling them over their loss.
The next couple in line makes little sense as they urgently explain an injury one experienced, the nurse rolls her eyes and rejects them instantly. Before the couple exits the line a man behind them rushes in with a heavy country accent, “I need my insulin, I am diabetic.” He waves his wrist which has a nifty medical bracelet telling who he is and what his medical issues are. The nurse smiles and asks him to fill out a white form. Within moments she directs the southerner to a line in front of the small tent labeled T3 which has a green back drop.
Michelle concludes by telling him, “You I can help, and you are very much welcome. Next!” A family of four tells the nurse one of them has a broken arm. After filling out a white form the nurse directs them to a tent labeled T2 which has a yellow back drop.
Michelle explains to the family, “You will need to separate and meet after she gets her arm set. We are overcrowded and cannot allow everyone in. You can choose one person to accompany her. Next!”
An elderly gentleman shuffles forward. He tries being cheerful but sounds scared, “I cut myself on the face and it stings. Can you do something, I’m worried about infection.”
Michelle looks him over, “Sorry sir, you need to get that looked at but we can’t help you at the moment. You can try again later. Make sure you clean the wound and apply Neosporin. Next!” The National Guard usher the elderly gentleman away, apparently his injury doesn’t merit attention.
Juliet glances behind her and sees the masses. She doesn’t understand how she got in front so fast but is grateful. She tries looking sweet and innocent, “Hi Michelle. My dad works here and I really would love to see him. My friend Becky has a minor wound but I cleaned it up.”
Michelle sighs, “I’m only used to injuries today, you’re a welcome surprise. You’re a new request. What’s your name honey?”
“Juliet. Can you help me? Please?” She pleads as tears threaten to run freely. Michelle looks perplexed.
“Who is your dad Juliet?” Michelle genuinely wants to know.
“My dad is Riley Johnson.” She doesn’t add he is a janitor.
Michelle whispers to another nurse, “Juliet, we are understaffed and I cannot allow you access to the hospital. However, if you would care to volunteer your time I might be able to do something at the end of my shift.”
Juliet can’t believe she is bartering to get into the hospital. Harry steps in, “We would love to be volunteers! Any way to help fellow Americans is my motto.”
Michelle says wonderful and gives them a white name tag to wear over their shirts. While asking them their names she pauses with Chuang; she shrugs and scratches Choou. Michelle explains, “These are your passes. Keep them near your heart and above your clothes. If you lose them you will be removed from the premises. I don’t know when my shift ends but when it does I will allow you to come into the hospital. Is this acceptable? We really need help on the bottom level.”
Juliet beams and tries her best to mimic Egor from Frankenstein, “Yes Master, direct and I will obey.” Michelle points to the Green Tent after giving Juliet a weird glance. Juliet sees Larry in the Yellow tent, so does Pixel. Pixel heads off to Larry who flirts with an attractive nurse who is not interested in his advances. Juliet does not wave or try to gain his attention. Their guided by a young looking Reserve. He has a sad expression as he absently starts conservation.
“I’m Ben. This is a terrible day. Thanks for volunteering. The hospital is an entourage of a whole bunch of hospitals and buildings. Did you see the Children National Medical Center? The earthquake destroyed the ceiling which caved in.
Surprisingly no children were hurt. I can’t say the same for many adults. We have emergency tents in the Parking Pavilion I for those who are in dire straits. We had to put the children into the National Rehabilitation Center a couple of hours ago. It’s like God is protecting the children. As soon as we evacuated the building the entrance collapsed but no one was hurt. The yellow tent is for patients who have potentially life threatening injuries but who can wait 6-8 hours. We need to treat the most severe but not waste our resources on those who will die.”
As a child her Dad volunteered her time. Tears come as she slowly understands the building is now destroyed and those memories will always be memories.
They reach tent T2 which is used for severe injuries. Hundreds of people stand and sit on various objects such as boxes and gurneys. College students from a surrounding University carry spare mattresses to the tents. They set them in a large pile near the big tent; a few men in the Reserves carry the mattresses to the tents. They put them in aisles, ten beds a line, three beds deep. The injured gratefully take comfort in the seats; many have been on their feet for half the day. Each mattress holds two people, depending their size and depth of their injuries. No one is worried about blood this day, the nurses still wear gloves but they stopped trying to change them as they go to patient to patient. Resources are scarce.
A large woman booms, it’s obvious she is in charge, “Mack, I need you to go back inside and bring out antibiotics and other supplies! We are under staffed and don’t have enough resources to go around!” Mack is a male nurse who patiently accepts her orders.
Ben introduces Juliet to the large blond woman who has short cropped hair. “Samantha, I would like you to meet your new staff. Juliet, this is Samantha.”
Samantha doesn’t respond but continues to talk to Mack, “Please go inside and get us more supplies.”
Mack groans, “They won’t give us anything. They say they don’t have it. They are waiting for someone else to come and help. They only are allowing for T1 patients. I don’t think anyone is coming to rescue us, do you hear the noises in the distance? What is it?”
Samantha booms, “That’s just great! The state doesn’t care enough to help us, we need to get resourceful. Take the sheets of the beds; they will have to become bandages. Look around and see what we can use to secure breaks. Maybe we could cut a wooden pole down and make stints. The college students could help by scavenging their pharmacy and cafeterias. Get a few solders and secure more resources at the University if you don’t want to go back inside.” Samantha walks up to a man who can’t move his left arm. She gestures the man to hold still as she gets Juliet's attention. The booming voice asks, “Who are you and what do you want?”
Harry steps up, “I was in the war in Korea, and I was a medic. I have been showing Juliet how to help the injured. We are volunteers.”
Samantha beams, her booming voice takes on rejoice, “Well that’s good! We need more people who care. I can use you and her. What’s you name girl? I missed it earlier.” She’s looks at Juliet.
“Juliet. What can I do to help?” Juliet fidgets as she tries spying her dad. He isn’t around.
Samantha ponders for a moment, “I want you to come here and help me set this broken bone. Can you do that? This is the Yellow Tent. We fix minor amputations, flesh wounds, fractures and dislocations. I hope you’re not squeamish with blood?”
Juliet timidly looks behind her, for a moment she thinks the nurse is talking to someone else. Harry smiles, “Juliet, I noticed you have a knack for helping people; give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.” Chuang gaily takes her hand and leads her forward.
Samantha explains, “Juliet, who is your friend?”
Juliet doesn’t remember the lad’s name, Harry answers, “Chuang. He is from China and doesn’t know English. I think he might be deaf.”
Samantha grimaces, her current patient cuts them off, “The ceiling in my house fall on me. Can you help me please?” A middle age man must be a car salesman. His slick hair is now disheveled. He doesn’t show much emotion, “My wife was crushed. I can’t believe she is dead. My dog is dead too. They were sitting on the sofa when the earthquake hit.” His facade breaks as he angrily stomps his feet.
Samantha pats him on the knee, “I understand your grief. I can’t do anything about your wife or your pet but let me help you get your arm correctly set.”
The man stairs off into empty space, he shifts which allows them access to his arm. Samantha beckons Juliet and Chuang; in sign language she tells Chuang something. Chuang beams and says something back with his hands. Juliet thinks Samantha looks tranquil and pretty when she isn’t booming.
Samantha explains, “I know a little sign language. I want you and Chuang to work together. I want you to watch how I set this arm. Then you and Chuang are going to repeat it as many times as necessary throughout the day. Do you understand?”
Harry counters, “Ma’am, I know how to set bones. How about I show these kids how it’s done and you take care of the serious patients.”
Samantha gratefully accepts the offer. She adds before moving on to a new patient, “Alright, I will always be a few beds down if you need anything. I want you to teach her how to set broken arms and legs. Get me for anything more serious. The hospital operates under the Triage system. Do you know what the Triage is?”
Harry nods affirmative but Juliet responds, “No.” Chuang looks on with innocence as his large eyes take in the motions around them. Juliet wonders about the Asian boys story as she listens to Samantha; she feels relief from being out of the sun and briefly wonders if it’s safe to be under a medical tent. Becky isn’t around again.
Samantha narrates, “World War I ushered in the Triage which comes from the French. During times of war and natural disasters medical personal need to ‘sift’ through victims. The reason for sifting is due to inefficient resources, not enough staff and too many victims.”
Harry snorts, “I always thought of Triage as a form of selecting who lives and who dies. Sorry, no disrespect attended.”
“Well yes, during medical emergencies doctors and nurses are in low supply while demand for our services is high. I’m not the one who makes the rules, I just follow them. No disrespect taken.” Samantha deftly cracks the middle aged mans arm back in place. He grimaces but does not cry out or mutter a word. Samantha nods towards Harry to help her with an arm brace, “You can show them the next patient, speed is essential.”
Samantha continues telling Juliet, “It’s our job to determine the order and priority; luckily we have an aid who is doing a great job as you can see. This tent is for broken bones. There are three types of groups which we focus on. The first are those who will more than likely survive. These people are high priority; this tent is for many of those people. The second tent, which is the other small one, are for those who have more serious injuries or who are about to die. The National Guard escorts them to a secure building away from the others. We do not want mass panic or have a biological incident on our hands. Normally we would separate the injured for evacuation but no one seems to be coming, we need to improvise. The serious injured are allowed in the hospital.”
Juliet hopes her dad isn’t in the Black or Red tent. She hopes he is safe inside the building. She watches closely as Samantha and Harry put the finishing touches on the middle aged man.
“The big tent is for the last group which is Red T1. There we treat internal hemorrhages, lesions and major injuries. Maybe if you do a good job we will have you go there later or tomorrow if you’re still around.” Samantha pats the gentleman on the knee, “You’re done, and have a good day.”
The middle aged man dryly mutters, “How can I have a good day after what happened today? Thanks for helping.” He gets up and shuffles off. As soon as he is a few feet away the next people in line take his seat on the mattress. More college students pile mattresses from the dorms, a few now bring random things they think the hospital could use. Juliet is unsure what University they come from. The hospital has two nearby. She thinks its wonderful people are banding together.
Before Samantha becomes engrossed in her next patient Juliet asks, “Do you know my dad? His name is…”
Samantha cuts her off, “Sorry honey, I’m a volunteer too.” She greets her next patient who tells their ordeal. Juliet looks at Harry who says, “Hi,” to a twenty year old looking female who has a broken wrist. He explains to the lady they are volunteers.
Everyone pauses as a dull roar can be heard in the distance. Many whisper it’s the tsunami but no one can do anything about it.
Thousands of people bypass the hospital as they continue their trek out of Washington DC. Juliet wonders if she is making a mistake staying here but soon forgets this thought as Chuang happily takes her hand. Together they set many bones.
Faces and people become a blur, hours pass. Juliet goes on autopilot and soon discovers she isn’t afraid of the injured. People from all walks of life come in, most men are scared and don’t want to talk. A lot of women hysterically recount their day. The Old canter about children and grandchildren but many don’t know where their families are. A lot of people look like lost souls; they have a haunted expression which will stick with Juliet until the end of her days. Names are not important. What is important is doing a good job and healing as many as she can. She learns she can intuitively feel out broken bones and injuries by tentative touch and by listening to her patients. Most people are in shock and don’t react negative to her or Chuang. Harry does a wonderful job in telling them what to do. The people who are lively and outspoken have nurses and military personal escort them off the premises. Juliet sees one real doctor in the red tent, but he is swamped by patients. The National Guard and Reserves keep the masses out of the tents and hospital but she doesn’t notice them anymore.
Juliet comes upon her first horror experience. An old woman unlike the previous man who had diabetes is experiencing severe trauma in her foot. She didn’t get to take her medication and her left foot bulges. She can’t walk. Michelle asks Juliet for her assistance, she needs help to amputate a toe which is full of infection. Amputating the toe will release stress on the woman’s foot. Michelle things the blood infection might have come from blood clotting and not circulating correctly.
Juliet shuts her eyes and envisions herself as her Paladin. Her Paladin in World of War Craft is near Shattrath City, something went dramatically wrong in the instance/dungeon. She didn’t get the dragon and it somehow got out of the dungeon. She’s killed dragons before but this one is destroying her home. Sometime’s a paladin needs to put her sword down and heal her people.
Samantha’s cuts into Juliet’s day dream, “This poor woman is going to need her toe removed. We are out of morphine, can you give her something to help her not focus on what I’m about to do?” The old woman blinks and sputters something about her grandchildren.
The Paladin isn’t in Shattrath but is in a camp in the woods nearby, tents line the horizon, a dragon can be seen in the distance. It breathes fire onto the city. Many characters swarm the flying beast but to no avail. Colorful spells shatter off its thick hide, the giant lizard sweeps doom upon the characters with its own dark spell.
The old woman screams in agony as Michelle prods at the toe. Looking up Juliet sees thousands of injured before her, she doesn’t want to see the toe removed, it’s better to look into the masses. Juliet forgets her character’s name, now she is Juliet in her Paladins body.
Is there a end to the suffering and injured? How are we going to take care of all these people? You would think the woman just got her toe removed.
“Juliet, I’m going to start soon, can you hand me the blue marker? We need to prep by sterilizing her foot.” Juliet opens her eyes and sees the injured in the medical tent as the injured in world of war craft. She prefers to parallel gaming with real life. She’s going to have to look at the procedure which makes her queasy.
There is no reason I can’t make my fantasy world into my real world. What would my Paladin do?
Her Paladin would look for something the old woman could use to help with the pain when the cutting starts. The pain is going to be great. She remembers the vodka in her pack. Juliet offers the vodka to the older woman but the granny refuses to drink it. Juliet opts to give her wooden stick nearby to grip, she saw it in a movie.
My Paladin focuses on healing by tapping into her light source, can I find something like that within me?
“Lady, squeeze the wood when you feel pain. It might help.” Juliet goes back to her imagination as Samantha cuts the toe off. All the while Juliet keeps her eyes open and registers proper techniques in dealing with the amputation. She wonders if it’s possible to get healing powers such as her Paladin. She feels something warm and light tug at her conscience, Juliet feels good helping the masses. She reaches out for the old woman’s shoulder; she visualizes positive healing energy flowing into the woman. She opens her eyes and is startled to see the old woman calmly smile back at her and say thanks as she firmly grasps the wooden dolly.
Juliet’s feet hurt, but the blisters gives her a sense of satisfaction, her knees are rubbed raw from kneeling and applying bandages and fixing fractures and dislocations. She dreams about the cheeseburgers she gave Mike. She’s a little hungry. Every hour or so a volunteer comes around with clean water and vanilla wafers, she drinks a lot. For some reason she hasn’t needed to use the bathroom, or maybe the incident earlier at burger king made her a little bathroom shy.
Rumors go around the President is dead. Some say terrorists attacked from the Middle East, others say the President is hiding in another State and will come to their rescue when things settle. Too many say they were at the White house and saw the building collapse on him. A simple redneck is rumored to have spiritually quieted down tens of thousands after they saw the President being carried to Air Force One in a coffin, yet others say it’s a ruse to keep our nations enemies off their feet. A few crazies talk about an alien invasions but looking into the sky Juliet sees no space ships. She doesn’t understand why people can’t admit it’s simply just a earthquake. Many point to two suns but she has yet to see for herself and assumes they are hallucinating due to the stress of the day.
Why do people have to make it worse then what it is? Why are so many people talking about God and Jesus? I guess it comes down to ‘to each or own.’ I would like to know more about God though. Would a person like me be good enough to go to heaven if I died and was judged? Why would God or Jesus even care about someone like me? Maybe someday someone will come and help me figure it out.
She appreciates hearing all the opinions; her tranquil bliss is cut short, Juliet thinks she recognizes the general outline of the person in the next bed. Sure enough there’s Mat’s boyish voice before she sees his face.
“Juliet, Oh my Sweet Jesus, you made it!” It’s Matty Fatty. Juliet loves giving pet names to people; of course he doesn’t know she calls him that.
Juliet blurts, “You’re alive! Do you know what happened to Sean and Steveo?” They are two gamers in the group whose apartment she was at earlier. Juliet hopes Matt went back to the apartment but her expectations are dashed.
“Sorry. I tried going back to church. My priest was helping some poor kids in a different parish and I wanted to help them but I missed the bus. My shoulder is broke.” Matt flexes his left shoulder and gasps from pain, his brown eyes plead for Juliet to relieve his hell. He pauses, “Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be working at Burger King?”
Juliet directs Chuang; she learned a few new movements with her hands saying Help and Thank You. She also knows a few hand gestures to direct him towards specific injuries pertaining to breaks. She’s been learning broken limbs can be fixed with a little patience. Chaotic mayhem has turned into systematic order. Muscles and bones connect certain ways which need to be directed other ways for they can mend. Breaks come in three to four different styles throughout the day, the outlier breaks get sent to Samantha.
Juliet flips her hair, “It’s a long story. By volunteering I get to see my Dad sometime tonight. I think he’s in the main building.” She evaluates Mat’s shoulder. Something feels odd, she cannot pin point the break. She tries feeling around for it while having him lift his arm.
Matt yelps, “My arm feels really heavy. I can’t move it.” Harry comes back from using the bathroom. He looks at Matt quizzically. Matt wheezes and profusely sweats as he shutters.
Harry wants to know, “How did your shoulder or arm break?”
Matt ignores the one arm homeless man, “Juliet, can you and your dad help me get home?” He tries flexing the arm but grimaces and looks like he’s going to hyperventilate. Juliet begins to wonder if Matt doesn’t have a broken arm but something worse. A little voice in her urges her to get him to the big red tent.
“Sure Matt, as soon as I meet my dad we can go. How did you break your shoulder?” She continues to feel around but won’t ask him to take off his shirt. She knows he is embarrassed for being obese. Back in high school he was picked on for being fat, many nick named him ‘bullet tits’ and the meaner kids put training bras in his gym locker.
“Gee, I don’t remember. I hit the ground at the bus station. The people in front of me got killed by glass!” Matt wails as tears flow freely.
Harry demands, “Can you breathe well?”
Matt continues over Harry, “I’m so glad I ran into you Juliet, can you fix my arm please?” He briefly looks at Harry, his contemptuous attitude bothers Juliet.
Juliet asks, “Matt, can you breathe?” She doesn’t want to hear his answer, she worries he is having a heart attack. She understands Harries question.
Matt looks at her, his boyish eyes cloud with concern; he slowly understands why she asks these questions. He remembers doctors and bullies talking and joking about him getting a heart attacks or stroke. His face pales, “No. I can’t breathe and my arm feels heavy. Help me Juliet!”
Juliet barks for Samantha, the second time she gets the nurses attention, “I think this guy is having a heart attack! What do we do?” Juliet is in shock and feels not so competent to deal with Mat’s medical crisis.
“Take him to T1 which is the red tent and ask someone there!” Samantha continues to help her patient; she puts her back to Juliet.
Juliet sighs in exasperation, “Get up Matt. You don’t have a broken arm.”
Harry interrupts, “To the big tent, kid you need to lose some weight.” Matt blinks and becomes aware of Harry.
Matt ignores the rude remark, “Please Juliet, I need help getting up. This mattress is low. How do people with broken legs get up and down?”
Juliet replies, “They do it very carefully.” Juliet takes her plastic gloves off; they are smeared with a lot of medical waste. She shutters in disgust as she makes sure to not get anything gross on her. There are two buckets nearby, one is for washing wounds and the other is clean water. A large pile of torn sheets are heaped in a smelly garbage can with many flies buzzing around. Juliet tosses the gloves into the biological nastiness.
Harry stretches out his good hand, “I’m traveling with Juliet, pleased to meet your acquaintance.”
Mat’s eyes go big, Juliet thinks he looks like a deer trapped in head lights late at night. Juliet sighs, “Harry saved my life; he can tag along as long as he wants.”
Matt grimaces but nods in acceptance, “Hi Harry, I could use your help for real. I thought you were a homeless person who was butting in. It’s cool you saved Juliet. How did it happen?”
Harry smiles, “Lad, how about we get you fixed and then I will buy you a beer when this is all over, it’s a long story.”
“Cool. Juliet, please don’t leave me, I’m scared.” Harry helps Matt up.
“Don’t worry Matt, everything will be fine. Let’s go and see the fat lady sing.” Chuang is quiet but follows. Juliet lost track of Becky hours ago.
Together they head to the big red tent labeled T1. No one stops them, they have proper passes. Many people sit on the road and the sidewalk, in the distance a murmur starts in the masses but she doesn’t know what they are saying. Juliet remains focused on getting Matt looked at. The beds are a mess; it looks like MASH from when she watched FOX as a child. This tent is much larger than the rest, there must be three to four hundred beds touching each other with no apparent order.
I was stupid to think there is just one doctor in here, is that four I count? Oh no, just three, one person looks like a doctor but isn’t.
Heavy duty emergency equipment blocks the aisles, injured people with acute injuries moan and cry. Unlike her yellow tent this tent reeks of body odor and something that smells sweet and pungent. Juliet gags as she smells stale blood, urine and feces. A black woman looking like her grandma reaches out a frail hand; her eyes beg Juliet to ease her suffering. A respiratory system sits idle near her, the lack of electricity has cut off her life support.
Rasping for breath the old woman beseeches Juliet, “Heeelp me, I… cannnn’t breath.” Juliet pauses.
Harry pushes her along, “Juliet, you can’t save everyone. Tend to the ones you can save. I’m sorry.” They pass her bed. Juliet freezes as she sees the doctor telling a soldier what to do with a few patients a few beds later.
In a heavy German accent a blond hair middle age foreigner briskly informs a young soldier, “I marked the tags of the most urgent. I need you to evacuate them on the medical helicopter as soon as possible. There are eight I think we can save.”
“Yes sir! We only have one helicopter.” Juliet sees its Ben from earlier. “Hi Juliet, this is Dr. Schiller from Berlin. He had the misfortune of visiting DC for a conference. He’s the one who is in charge out here; he helped everyone set up the tents. Dr. Schiller, this is volunteer Juliet, Harry and Chuang. I’m sorry; I don’t know who this man is?” Ben looks at Matt.
Juliet cuts to the point, “Doctor, Matt might be having a heart attack! Can you help him? Michelle from T2 told us to come over.”
Dr. Schiller pauses over his now deceased corpse; he absently marks the black tag with his marker. After a moment of he says, “Ben, kann Sie bewegen diese Leiche und lassen sich Matt hinsetzen?”
Ben stutters, “English doctor.”
The doctor rubs his brow, “Err, sorry about that, I’m tired from flying over the Atlantic. Can you get the corpse of the bed to allow Matt to take a seat?”
Matt and Juliet look at the bed as Ben gets the attention of another soldier to help with the dead weight of the corpse. Dr. Schiller continues, “We are allowing too many people in we can’t help. I lost count of how many people died from internal hemorrhaging.”
Juliet looks at the dead corpse. She’s never been into dark morbid things. The corpse makes her discomforted. A dead twenty year old looking fit man has a wound in his chest. Blood spills from his open mouth as his eyes blankly stare at the canvas ceiling. His hand clutches a picture of someone who looks like it could be his wife or girl friend.
Matt whines, “Juliet, maybe this isn’t a good idea. I don’t want to sit there. Ben and the soldier carry the body to the building. Juliet wonders how many bodies are in there and what they are doing with them.
Maybe they have my dad cleaning the corpses before they burn them. Are they cremating them?
Juliet doesn’t have much patience for Matt, “Get on the mattress Matt. We need to get you looked at.” Harry directs Matt to the bed. Matt groans as he accepts his fate.
Matt squirms as he tries to sit on the edge of the mattress, “This is so disgusting Juliet. I can’t wait to I can go home.”
Dr. Schiller looks Matt up and down, “I’m guessing you have high cholesterol and are inactive.” Matt nods as the doctor continues, “Do you smoke or have high blood pressure?”
“I don’t smoke and I don’t know about my blood pressure.” Matt looks at Juliet as if she could answer the questions for him.
Dr. Schiller doesn’t have any gloves on, “Take off your shirt.” Matt blushes but obeys. Juliet doesn’t understand why kids in school made fun of Matt. The doctor asks, “Is there history in your family of heart attack?”
Mat’s eyes become beady, “Yes. My dad had a heart attack.” Juliet didn’t know.
Dr. Schiller whimsically declares, “Matt, you need to incorporate moderation into your life style. Stop eating fast food.”
“I know.” Matt sullenly agrees but hates being told the same thing over and over. Juliet pats him on the knee.
Dr. Schiller mutters, “Fastfood wird der Tod von Ihnen sein.” More loudly, “You are lucky. Most people during natural disasters who get heart attacks have to wait one to three days before being seen by a doctor, I remember watching CNN show a special on La Plata which talked about it.”
Matt cuts him off, “Am I having a heart attack?”
Dr. Schiller raises an eye brow, “Everything will be answered in good time. Juliet, please get one of the EMS workers to come over for a moment?”
Juliet is confused, “Who are they?”
Harry replies, “They are the ones in this tent dressed in white.” Juliet feels a little stupid thinking they were doctors. She maneuvers around beds trying to get one’s attention. It doesn’t take long.
Dr. Schiller tells Matt, “I have a few more tests to perform.” A dozen firefighters pass through the crowd; they carry one of their own to the tent. Dr. Schiller tells the EMT worker to assess Matt as he quickly goes to the firemen. “Sorry Matt, you’re in good hands with Zack.” He puts a red tag on Mat’s wrist.
Zack is a heavily built middle age Caucasian. Zack isn’t into small talk. Dr. Schiller yells over the commotion, “He might have had a heart attack. I wasn’t done checking him out.” Matt vomits all over himself and feints.
Zack mutters, “We don’t have electricity to perform a MRI or an echocardiography. There might be a backup generator inside with something working. I know the National Guard was digging the generator out of the rubble hours ago. Why don’t we bring him into the hospital? I need to put him on an ECG to watch his heart beat if nothing else.” Juliet and Harry agree. Zack puts a finger into Mat’s mouth; he deftly makes sure Matt doesn’t swallow his tongue or choke on the vomit.
Maybe I will find my dad.
Harry pipes, “I think the heat and stress of the earthquake jacked his blood pressure which messed with his heart. Zack, can we get him on some oxygen?”Chuang appears with an oxygen tank. Juliet looks at him with some respect.
Chuang carries himself with dignity and seems to have a knack for bandaging people up. I wonder what his story is. I think his last name is silly but maybe it has a meaning? How old is he?
Zack cleans the vomit off of Zack and Harry picks up the obese male. Matt has a pulse. Juliet forgets about Chuang as they make their way to the hospital. Becky darts from the yellow tent and joins them. The sky gets dark as the sun blots out, dark clouds fill the sky. The entrance to the hospital yesterday looked over large round sidewalk with many colorful flowers and white park benches. All the flowers have been trampled and a few trees have fallen. One tree is on top of an emergency ambulance.
Juliet pauses at the entrance; two armed guards with machine guns manually open the front entrance. They don’t use the revolving door which has rubble from the ceiling heaped in a pile. Rather they use the door near it. Shutters close off most of the windows. Guards are stationed every forty to fifty feet along the walls. Every ten minutes or so a person makes a mad dash to the hospital; it’s as if they have a need to touch the walls, similar how a moth goes for the light. The guards peacefully and apologetically escort them back to the masses.
Zack declares, “Matt is having arrhythmias, we need to get him looked at ASAP.” Juliet looks up as she catches her breath. It’s going to take the guards at the entrance a moment to open the door. She knows he’s talking about irregular heartbeats. Her inner awareness is tuned with the injured.
Zack tells no one in particular, “The Washington Hospital Center is a private hospital. We cater to Georgetown University School of Medicine. That’s where I go to school. I was doing a class in the ER when the earthquake struck. Many doctors were killed when the cafeteria’s ceiling caved in. Others didn’t come back from lunch who dined out. They must have gone home or something. We only have 926 beds and one of the wings got destroyed. It’s a mess in here.”
Juliet peers towards the clouds which dot out the sun. She knows more than Zack about the hospital her dad works at. Back in 2011 Mayor Vincent Gray declared a budget crisis for the city. Every hospital was slapped with a $500 bed tax. Over 200 employees lost their jobs at Washington Center Hospital. Juliet’s dad was almost one of them but God had mercy on her family, or so that’s what her dad says.
The mayor should never have implemented bed taxes. Policies such as this directly affect American families and medical services. Rather, Washington DC could implement other ways of creating revenue. The city could collect recycled materials such as pop and beer cans. Or how about legalizing medical marijuana and charging patients and dispensaries steep taxes to help bolster health care or public education?
Juliet is glad her dad didn’t lose his job. Pandemonium breaks out down the street. The crowd surges forward as a new hysteria can be heard and felt. The earth shakes with a deep rumble but it’s not a earthquake or tremor. The masses hush. Scores of birds fly overhead, they fly inland.
Is it the Tsunami?
The front entrance is open. Zack and Harry carry Matt into the receiving area. The guards at the entrance forget what they are doing as they look in the direction Juliet looks. Becky and Chuang are near her. Becky gasps.
In the distance a large wall of blue water surges towards them. It looks like one big mass of water with a raging river on top of water wall. It’s big, but not as big as the movies show. The wall of water looks to be about 30-40 feet high. Maybe it was higher when it hit land. The wave behaves odd. It appears buildings and the topography of the city is altering the tsunami.
Juliet is scared, she feels Chuang left hand in her right. He feels warm which comforts her. Juliet fatalistically says, “It’s a tidal wave.”
Becky corrects her, “No it’s a tsunami. Tidal waves look different. But I did notice there are two suns which confuse me. Tidal waves react off the sun and moon. The waves are going to come in for many hours, maybe a few days. We need to get inside now!”
Chuang moves forward while holding Juliet’s hand. She lets herself be herded into the waiting room. She lets go of his hand and runs for the stairs. She needs to see what’s happening and the roof is the best place. No one stops her. Chuang accompanies Juliet. She bounds up the stairs; two heavy fire doors are open due to debris but the others are securely shut. There doesn’t seem to be any order, she sees Harry help Matt who slowly comes back to conscience.
I need to see what’s happening. Then I will come back for Matt and my dad, we’re all in the same building, they need to take care of themselves for a few more minutes. The entrance faces north, if I remember correctly there are windows in a waiting room on the second floor overlooking east within the NE wing. The water is coming from the East.
Juliet runs up the stairs and leaps over an upturned food cart. It’s eerily quiet compared to the rest of the hospital. Nearby a hallway leads to a waiting room, many of the windows are shattered, sunlight comes and goes quickly. Clouds move fast, even during overcast Juliet’s surroundings are illuminated.
Half the window is intact; no one seems to have been injured on this wing. Juliet looks out, the first wave of the tsunami rushes past the VA Hospital. It’s not high, but it moves steadily forward. The hospital takes the brunt of the assault and stands, people on the road rush to the buildings. None of the armed forces deny people entry. Everyone abandons their posts; the masses easily overcome the fences. Juliet can hear distance noises as people pound on the windows and doors for entry.
Juliet encourages people as many crash through windows on ground level buildings and disappear inside. It’s not enough, the first wave washes many away. The people on the middle of the street never had a chance. Within moments the wave has become twenty feet, the buildings have reduced much of its velocity. It continues forward without mercy. One large blue and gray cold mass hungrily engulfs the medical tents Juliet was in not five minutes before. Chuang reaches for Juliet’s hand. She feels comforted knowing someone else is near her. She shuts her eyes as thousands of people vanish in the cold blue sea.
Chuang gasps, Juliet opens her eyes. Many bodies float to the surface, a lot of people are still alive. Juliet watches as various wooden objects life, the wave is now across the parking lot and is continuing west. A fire still rages in the VA Medical Building. Support beams break under fire and water pressure, the building collapses with a final boom.
To her left Juliet sees the Cancer Institute. The building is half submerged under water but holds, a dozen people escape to the roof. Two of them appear to be doctors. POB North building is on the other side of the Cancer Institute. Juliet watches as a group of people break a window on the third floor and toss out wooden tables and doors to the ocean. People in the water swim to the wooden platforms and hold on for their lives. The hospital wing creaks under the brutal assault of the ocean. Juliet hears many windows break, the roar of the ocean is deafening.
She looks back to the medical tents where she set many broken arms. The tent cannot be seen, not many bodies appear on the surface. Juliet knows the people instantly in the tents had a quick death. She is glad she wasn’t one of them. Looking up Juliet clearly sees two suns. One is normal and the other is half its size. It appears to be shining brighter than the normal sun. Juliet doesn’t know what it means.
Juliet sighs in bitter defeat; she heads back downstairs to Matt. She grasps Chuang’s hand, she is grateful he is around. She doesn’t make it the top of stairs. Military personal rush up, each soldier holds as much medical supplies as they can, behind them doctors and nurses shoulder patients, hundreds of people flood the stairs. Juliet has no choice but to step aside. Ocean water floods the lobby, critically injured patients don’t have time to get of their beds. Within seconds ocean laps half way up the stairs but abruptly stops, water recedes for a moment and then picks back up. Young adults and a few fire men scramble over each other on the wet stairs, as soon as one person makes it to safety everyone would watch as the ones behind them struggle to survive.
Shit, everyone is going to higher ground! What was I thinking of leaving Matt down there? I’m so stupid!
Tears build as Juliet scans the people as they enter the second story waiting room. She hopes her dad, Harry and Matt materialize soon. Ocean water covers many, it looks cold, and Juliet is dry so she wouldn’t know. Harry boldly carries Matt who is cries like a lost cat. He shrugs off the watery assault as Matt clings to his neck. His left arm holds onto the left railing banister.
Young men use Harry as leverage as they scramble to safety but Harry doesn’t let go. Half his body is submerged in water.
“Harry, Matt! Over here!” Harry looks up, he squints as new water hits him hard, a staff stool slams into his back and he almost loses his grip. The water rises two to three inches, another man rudely yanks Harries jacket as he tries to survive.
Harry fumes, “I can’t hold on, sorry!” Harry kicks the man off while Matt reminds Juliet of a Banshee from Dungeons and Dragons. The man falls into the water, half a dozen others fall like domino's into the cold depth. Chuang isn’t holding her hand, he found a water hose. Juliet is stunned as Chuang expertly entwines the water hose from the emergency latch around his waist.
Juliet screeches, “Hold on Harry, Chuang is coming!” Harry fights for his live, he slips to his knees. The ocean water covers his chest and almost all of Matt. Juliet looks around for the firemen and doctors but they are across the room and are exiting to higher ground. Most people are running to higher ground as soon as they get to their feet. Juliet pauses as the building groans from the assault outside.
Chuang briefly touches her shoulder, Juliet spins around. Chuang looks handsome; he smiles and gives her the thumbs up.
“Hurry Chuang, they need your help!” Chuang leaps over a few people who gasp for air, within seconds he’s in front of Harry. Matt reaches for Chuang who isn’t as strong as Harry. Mat’s weight makes pushes Chuang under water, but only for a second.
Juliet needs Chuang to survive, “Harry, don’t let Chuang drown! Matt, get your fat ass up here this instant!” Matt freezes, his eyes bulge. Juliet sees everything in slow motion. Matt steps forward but his heart gives under pressure. He looks at Juliet with love and remorse; his eyes lose contact as they go dull.
Did Matt say I’m sorry?
The obese boy crashes back into Harry and Chuang. The two men feel and see something isn’t right with Mat’s posture. Neither grasp for Matt as the current wave lays claim to its newest victim. It doesn’t take long for Harry and Chuang to get to safe ground. The water levels increase a couple more inches. Harry doesn’t take a breather.
Harry peels off his leather jacket from the Salvation Army, “Thanks. The jacket takes on too much water. We need to get to higher ground ASAP.” Harry wears a solid black short sleeve shirt. Juliet is speechless as she follows.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Written and owned by Greg Miller 2011
Chapter XXV: Aye Aye Captain Mark
Mark’s heart races as he returns to his abode. He knows something isn’t right. He expects the worse. Running past the front hallway he enters the kitchen, his room is to the right but he knows no one will be in there. The bookshelf in front hallway leading to the kitchen crashed sometime earlier in the day. Books lay scattered around broken knickknacks his mother collected from New York. Porcelain pieces crunch under foot. Mark flinches as he remembers the moments his mother bought a few of the dolls. The front hallway is dark, turning on the light switches yield no results. His rental consists of a two bedroom two bathroom.
Mark yells, “Dad, Mom! Are you guys here?” He has to turn on the flashlight as he enters the kitchen. The stove and cabinets are to the right. He smells burned bacon, his Dad loves eating bacon with a steak for lunch. His father cherished odd meals like that. Mark’s light illuminates two frying pans on the floor. He sees the oven is still turned on but is not leaking gas. The air smells like chlorine. He turns the gas knob just to be safe. Shining his light to the right he sees the kitchen table is still intact and has only moved a few inches. The cabinets are all open and almost all the dishes are broken on the floor. He sees a few plates have nudged themselves firmly in the cabinets but most are destroyed.
Mother is going to hate cleaning this. Maybe I should get a maid and safe her some back ache when this is over.
Mark rushes into the living room where he sees a little light “Is anyone here?” No answer. Tears run freely. Mark fears they are dead.
He enters the living room while hoping to see his parents sitting on the couch in front of the flat screen television set. Instead Mark finds nothing but a stuck pigeon flying and making a mess. The flat screen lies on its side, it is destroyed. All the shelves and cabinets lie open and in ruins. He couldn’t see color for everything looks gray, almost as if it wasn’t his home. Sunlight comes from the balcony, the door is open and a slight breeze drifts into the living room. A few loose papers move a couple of inches in the stifled breeze. Mark feels alone. He feels abandoned. The apartments are full of glass furniture which scares Mark now that it’s not safe to walk without shoes. The appliances consist of slick looking gray metal and soft black furniture. The problem is almost everything is made from glass or steal and the glass is now broken. Many must have cut their feet during these types of atrocities. The apartment is 800 square feet. Mark loves the pool on the roof; he can be found reading a book their most nights.
My parents are dead! Oh God, why can’t I find them? Are they dead?
Mark shines the flashlight at the walls expecting to see his family looking back in holiday portraits. Only one picture is on the wall. It’s him graduating from college. His parents beam with respect and love as he happily accepts his diploma in two pictures framed side by side.
“Dad, please be here somewhere. Are you here?” H e is losing hope. He doesn’t want to give up as he rushes to his parent’s bed room. The door freely swings open. The bedroom has little damage; the bed and dresser are still in place. His heart pounds as he sees something looking like a lump in the middle of the bed.
Running forward he pulls the sheets back as he yells, “Mom, Dad!” It is no one but a pillow under the sheet. Mark crashes into the bed and cries; he doesn’t know what to do. He smells his parents on the sheets, it fills him with memories.
Where are they? They can’t be dead if there are no bodies!
He is tired and doesn’t want to get up. He wants to close his eyes and pretend none of this is real. Instead he cries as his mind freezes. He doesn’t want to think anymore, he wants someone to rescue him. He wants to be spoiled. He wants his parents to be home and to be safe. The room loses some of its light which makes Mark go back to the living room. The carpet is full of water smelling like the pool which really bothers him. Mark is confused and thinks he hears rain. Looking outside he sees no rain. Water streaks the window and the carpet is wet. Water drips from the ceiling and is collecting in a puddle. Much of his belongings have been destroyed, Mark sees the dining room wall has a very large crack allowing him to see outside.
What do I do? Is that pool water from the roof?
Mark feels he could use a drink. Or maybe even wash up a little. He moves away from the living room, he doesn’t look outside. He walks into his parent’s bathroom and tries the faucets. Nothing comes out. He laughs at the bitter humor of being home but not being able to clean up properly. Remembering his mom puts a pitcher of distilled water in the fridge he makes his way back to the kitchen with a bar of soap. He shines the flashlight at the slick gray metal fridge, random notes tell of chores and when dinner is going to be ready. Tonight for dinner is Roast Beef, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. He freezes as he sees a new sticky note.
If anyone comes home meet me at Joes- Dad
His Dads friends apartment is on the fourteenth floor, one story above them. He doesn’t understand why this building has a thirteenth floor but it does. His dad was born on the 13th so the place was perfect for his family. Mark pauses a moment as he dualistic-ally thinks of two things. It’s good his dad is safe! The second is his mom left some fried chicken in the fridge from last night’s family dinner and maybe she is with him. Opening up the fridge he finds the chicken is gone.
What the hell? No one but me was going to eat the fried chicken! What’s going on?
The water and juice are gone. So are the high carbohydrates and the meat. All which is left are condiments; food not touched for a week, butter and sour cream. He sees some cheap pop on the bottom shelf. Hurriedly he drinks it. He wanders to the pantry to find a few random boxes of cheap noodles and nothing else. The water is still in the pitcher. Mark greedily washes himself the best he can. He remembers to keep half the water for himself this time. He finds an empty pop bottle and fills it with a liter of clean water.
What happened to the rice and other starches?
He checks the pantry for cookies or other treats. A few potatoes look over ripe as they bud; it looks like someone cleaned the pantry out. He runs to his room before he heads to the fourteenth floor, his room is barred. Something must have fallen and blocked the entrance. He shrugs the latest insult off as he decides it’s time to go upstairs. He doesn’t think of taking anything before he leaves.
He manages to walk half way up when he smells something burning. Peeking over the rail he thinks he catches whiff of some smoke coming from below. No one needs help, he continues up. He pauses a moment and decides to go back for his tennis shoes.
These dressing shoes are killing me. Hold on Dad, I’m almost there.
His tennis shoes are near the front entrance. He doesn’t have time to get anything else. He wants to write a second note for his mom but can’t because he can’t find a pen to write with, he decides she must be upstairs and to not worry about it. His heart races with excitement knowing his Dad is doing well. The floor with the fire hasn’t got worse; he briefly gets a flash of Irina burning at the Library of Congress when she opened the door.
I should be careful when I know fires are around.
Marks mind thinks of Irina as he trips. Something catches his right foot which sends him to his knees. Reaching out with his left hand he feels pain reawaken from his flesh wound as he attempts to brace himself from falling on his face. Shining the light down he sees the floor has a three inch fissure.
The floor is losing its durability!
Mark forgets about the pain in his hand as he urgently picks up his pace . It doesn’t take him long. Within moments he is in the hall way. The apartment is to the right and the door is shut. Mark doesn’t knock.
Yelling he announces his presence, “Dad?” He hears voices pause. His Dad’s voice answers yes and to come in.
He’s already in the apartment before his Dad finishes. The apartment is different than his. Joe has three bedrooms. Like his dad he too is a retired police officer. Unlike his dad, Joe is seventy and is healthy. He lives with his wife, collects trains and loves to camp. The apartment is full of light and the curtains are open. His dad looks proud and old. He is hunched over camping gear as he discards the fishing line.
“Mark, I’m glad you made it home! I see you got my letter? Is your mom behind you I hope?” He looks stocky. Cancer has taken much of his weight but it hasn’t touched his soft facial expression. His dad looks wizened and reminds him of what Bill Cosby cousin might look like. Of course they are not related.
“Come here and give your dad a hug!” Mark isn’t crying but smiles as he reaches for his Dad. He doesn’t worry about hurting his Dad as he lifts the old man off the ground. Mark tries mimicking Mike’s bear hug but fails miserably. His heart is full of joy.
Joe greets him. Unlike his Dad, Joe is uniquely bland in appearance. His neck merges with his head. Mike thinks he looks like a troll. It doesn’t matter because Joe is one of the nicest individuals Mark has ever met.
In a light voice Joe says to his Dad, “But fishing wire can come in handy if fishing is needed in the next month. You need to have the basics in a camping survival set. You need fishing gear to catch fish Benjamin.” His dad tells Mark to sit and catch his breath. Benjamin tells Joe he is correct and the stress is making him not think right. Joe continues, “In this bag we have: a Swiss army knife, water proof paper and pens, chord for building, a whistle in case of getting stuck, a flashlight with extra batteries, a BIC lighter, fishing hooks, safety pens, tuna, crackers, a compass, water purification pills…” Benjamin cuts him off saying he knows for he helped pack.
"Dad, what are you doing?" The living room is clear of most furniture. In the middle of the room is a lot of camping gear which Joe and his dad are putting together. The glass dining room table is in shards, thousands of pieces glitter as they reflect the sunlight. Whenever someone moves Mark can hear glass break.
His dad points at the pile closest to them, “We are getting some supplies together. We need to prepare for the tsunami. This pile is things we take and that pile is the garbage pile.”
Joe snorts as he kindly interrupts, “It’s not garbage. It’s just things we can’t carry. You see this; it’s a water pump and is worth hundreds of dollars, garbage my ass!” He picks up a large looking plastic contraction and tosses it with the rest of the stuff in the garbage pile.
His dad continues, “We now wait for our wives. When they come home we will get out of here.”
Mark catches his breath, “Dad, it’s a mess out there. We won’t be able to get to the highway. I saw terrible things when I was coming home.” He doesn’t get a chance to tell about his adventures.
Benjamin continues, “We all have had a bad day son. I need you to keep cool and have your wits sharp. Here is some chicken if you want.” Mark looks where his dad is pointing and is surprised when he sees the plate of chicken which was supposed to be in his fridge. Even though he ate a few hot dogs he hungrily gobbles down a chicken breast. He sees all their food is in a pile, along with Joe’s food.
Mark sighs, “I thought we were robbed. I saw fissures and a fire down below. The front doors at the entrance are locked.” He remembers Irina but doesn’t say anything to the retired cops.
His dad says shit and Joe instantly gets up. Joe tells his dad he needs to get to the front entrance in case the wives come back. Within moments Joe is gone. Right before he leaves he tells Benjamin to continue to get the supplies together on the roof.
Benjamin tells Mark to look out the window if he wants to see something epic. Marks gut clinches as he gets to his feet. Mark learns the older ladies went out for lunch at eleven.
The view overlooks the Navy Yard; it takes Mark a moment to understand what he sees. On a normal day you could view the capital building above three brown apartment complexes. You can even see the dome of the Library of Congress nearby with many white government buildings and the National Mall. Presently he could see the Capital Building but it did not have its top. Two thirds of the cylinder dome has collapsed. One of the brown apartments is shifting, or rather the earth underneath the building shifts, it looks like the earth is not solid for it rolls back and forth. Mark is confused for he feels no current tremor or earthquake. He can’t see the Library of Congress. There are hundreds of pillars of smoke rising to the sky which dots out much of his vision. Very few military helicopters are in the capital. He still hears a periodic fighter jet and many sirens. Many sirens and police and ambulance are heard in the distance. The Washington Monument proudly remains erect throughout the carnage.
He watches as a few people jump from the burning apartment building nearby. He flinches and looks away as their bodies disappear from his line of vision. He doesn’t want to see them make impact. He rushes to another window which overlooks the Navy Yard as his dad continues talking; his journey takes him into the bedroom. Joe has a corner apartment which overlooks much. His apartment view overlooks the river. He gets on the bed with his knees, the man’s window is at the middle of the bed.
It feels good to be off my feet. I hope mom is alright.
“Mark, we have a raft set up on the roof near the pool. Err, the pool isn’t there anymore, I watched it empty into our living room earlier, but that’s beside the point.” Benjamin continues to put things in a bag, Mark isn’t watching but he listens. He looks towards the Navy Yard but doesn’t open the window.
Normally there is a parking lot and a few gray buildings, getting a parking permit costs a lot. The coolest thing about this view is that he can see the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. Beyond are the Anacostia River and the Atlantic Ocean. Mark took Mike to the new stadium a few months back. He managed to get a dozen people from the office to experience their first baseball game and it made him happy. They even got a dozen fellows from England to join them. He briefly wonders how they are all doing. He thinks perhaps he should have brought a few friends home. With the new baseball stadium came a decrease in crime and his neighborhood was becoming safer.
The stadium fills up with people; mark sees military personal direct the set up of refugee beds, there are a lot more people then beds. This isn’t what catches Marks attention though; in the distance he sees the lack of the Anacostia River.
“Dad, what happened to the river?” Mark looks harder but still can’t see it.
His dad raises his voice as he responds, “It vanished. The tsunami is coming. Whenever water recedes at an alarming rate something bad happens.” Marks gut tightens as he thinks of the implications.
If a tsunami comes then DC will be destroyed and all the people stuck in buildings from the earthquake will die. Is this how the people of Senia in Japan felt in 2011? Didn’t everyone experience enough shit already? What are my friends and coworkers going to do? Who is going to save us? It took the Japanese three to five days to respond and it took a week in New Orleans after Katrina.
His Dad continues, “We have a raft on the ceiling we are gearing up. If the water comes we get in the raft and pray to God to save us.”
Mark remembers what happened to the people on the highway, he doesn’t want to worry his Dad about mom. He keeps his fear to himself. They can’t see the highway from here. Looking past all the buildings he tries spotting the Atlantic Ocean. He can’t.
Where did the ocean go? Dad is right! A tsunami is coming, holy shit.
Mark sees the ocean way in the distance. It’s much further out then it should be, then he remembers previous tsunami accounts and real fear sweeps him up.
No. NO! God will save us all, there will no Tsunami.
Deep down he knows it’s not true. The big one is coming. His Dad continues to talk to him from the other room, “Son, I was always proud of you for being with the United Stated Congress. You make me proud to be your father.” He pounds his fists into the pillows as he listens.
This isn’t happening, I will open my eyes and all will be fine! Irina is alive, my office is intact and my parents are making dinner downstairs.
Mark opens his eyes. It’s the same old shit outside. His Dad doesn’t miss a beat, “We have food for a week, pills to purify water, and I put my gun in the back pack.”
Mark blurts in between his tears which now becomes rage, “Why do we need a gun? Nothing is going to go down Dad. Things will be alright.”
Why are you doing this God? Why are you making us suffer? Why have you forsaken us?
Benjamin answers, “The end is coming, I’m not religious but I think this might be the end everyone talks about. I had the weirdest dream earlier.” His dads voice putters off and then picks back up. “Regardless of my stupid dream you will need to take precautions. You are going to need a gun to defend yourself in the upcoming days.”
Mark angrily tells his dad, “Your being over dramatic. Nothing is wrong and WE are not going to need any guns in the future. Things will be fine dad.” He doesn’t have much conviction.
His dad talks over him, “Son, things will be alright but not until a lot of bad stuff happens. I put two clips in the bag with the gun. Did I ever tell you how you made me feel when you got employed with the federal government?” Mark looks out the window. Many people try to get into the base ball stadium but are being rejected. He doesn’t understand why the military soldiers are refusing civilians entry. They appear to be ushering people back out in an alarming rate.
This sucks man! Why is my Dad talking like this? Doesn’t he understand things will get better? America has been through worse. What’s that in the horizon?
His dad continues, “Son, I love you a lot. When you went to government I thought to myself, ‘he’s going to go further then you’ and I was proud of you.” Mark listens without wanting to listen. He sees without wanting to see. Something in the distance looks like a deep blue bulge coming from the Atlantic. His dad canter is full of love, “You will need to do more for America in the future. Mark, you are going to have to get your hands dirty and do a lot of physical labor which you are not used to. Let me clarify when I say dirty. You are going to need to help America rebuild once the disaster calms down. Your office skills will have to be put to the side and you are going to have to use your smarts and hands to help the American people rebuild. I have taught you a lot in the last thirty years, you have more skills then you are aware of. Do you remember when we went camping? Life is going to be like that for a time.” Mark watches the bulge in the ocean expand into a wave.
It’s big. Oh my God it’s big!
His dad continues, he doesn’t notice do to the living room windows facing towards the capital, “I love America son, and I know you do to. I want you to bring back American principles and democracy after things settle down. I have a feeling the bad people are going to come out before the good ones. There is saying I want you to always remember, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.’ Martin Luther King once said this. Remember to always fight for America and for what we stand for.”
Mark can’t handle it. He tells his dad to stop talking like this and to come in the room and see what’s happening. His dad shuffles through the broken glass and comments on how it’s a shame all the television sets and computers have been destroyed by the earthquake. They didn’t have anything firmly secure because no one was expecting this to happen.
His dad adds, “Did you know when I was eight years old my Dad brought me to a march in March led by Mr King. It was 1965…” Mark remembers his dad story. His dad got arrested for being black and spent the weekend in jail in Montgomery. That's when his dad decided he wanted to be a police officer. He wanted to fight corruption and end racial inequality. Benjamin continues, “I was a teen and I saw the power of the masses. We all need to fight until the end. Look at us now! Remember to always fight for what’s right and you will always make your mom and me proud.”
Mark doesn’t want to listen to his banter, “Look Dad, the tsunami is coming.” His voice is void of emotion. This is too much to handle.
Benjamin draws in his breath as he replies, “Not yet! Your mom isn’t home. Mark, please go to the roof and I will meet you there. I need to make sure your mom isn’t down stairs. Always remember I love you and your one of the good guys.” Before he can stop his did Benjamin shuffles out of the room. He hears his dad yell from the entrance, “I had a dream son, you are going to be alright and you will help rebuild America. Now remember to pick up the back pack in the living room and go upstairs to the pool. You will find an inflatable raft Joe was keeping locked up in storage.” The pool area has extra gated rooms with space for people to rent at an extra charge. Mark is alone again.
He looks back out towards the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is hits the highway in one big wave. There are more waves behind the first. It doesn’t look good for the vehicles on the highway, many try to escape but its all in vain. Little spots which are cars and trucks disappear under water as the ocean easily crosses from ocean to land. The ocean looks dark blue, gray and cold. Dust picks up; the ocean continues to approach the city. Wave after wave pounds into the earth, each one is bigger than the last. They waves start way in the distance, so far out he can’t see its starting point. He stops looking and leaves the bed.
What do I do? Dad where did you go? Oh yeah, he is getting mom. He wants me to get to the roof for some reason. Did he say a raft is up there? Is he crazy?
He walks back to the living room and picks up the back pack his dad was talking about. He decides to shove the rest of the fried chicken into the backpack and takes a quick look around.
What’s the point in getting to the roof before my dad and mom? I think I have a moment.
Glancing out the living room window he sees a lot of birds fly northwards. Along with them are a few news helicopters which Mark did not see earlier. He briefly wonders if Mike and Susan are on one of them. He decides that’s silly. The sun glares through the window and for a moment Mark think he sees two suns. He looks away and trots to the discarded garbage pile. He sees a crank radio and wonders why his dad didn’t put it into the back pack. He does. He sees a few rolls of soft toilet paper and soap. He puts them in the backpack and decides to make his way to the roof. It doesn’t take long. His Dad isn’t around. No one is.
The pool has a large crack going down its side. The water has drained out. Walking around isn’t hard. He quickly spots the storage rooms and sees the raft. It’s not big. Maybe it could hold up to three people.
How was dad, mom, Joe, his wife and I going to fit in that?
Mark twirls around as the door behind him shuts and locks in place.
Shit, I don’t have my keys and I didn’t prop the door open! Now what?
Marks curiosity gets the better of him. He takes a pool chair and plops down near the rail. He looks at the pool briefly and wonders what it would have been like to have Irina up here. He looks back towards the baseball stadium. The ocean has it surrounded and waves are reaching for the surrounding buildings. He watches spots in the distance take on clarity. The waves have picked up thousands of vehicles as it sends them crashing into the stadium and the surrounding buildings. As waves recede many vehicles simply disappear in the raging ocean, other random things drift to the surface. Military personal climb the steps of the stadium but he can’t see their gestures. Mark never thought it was fair he and others could use a telescope to watch a game where as others have to pay for it. He wonders if his dad put the telescope in the bag? Security guards often patrol the roof making it not possible for people to get a free show for his mother complained about the morality of the situation. The staff at the apartment complex was more than happy to cater to her but warned she couldn’t do anything about people watching games from their homes.
Is that people in the cars which are being swept up by the ocean?
Mark sees many new dots getting out of vehicles only to get swept under water. He didn’t’ want to watch but can't help it. The waves are carrying boats like battering rams. A large fishing boat hits the side of the stadium; Mark hears a boom ten seconds later. He watches water rage into the field, the civilians go down without a fight. Many people manage to climb the steps to higher levels. Still the ocean comes in a new wave which is bigger then the last. Boats and vehicles crash into surrounding buildings. A small six story apartment complex across the parking lot gets picks up as the sidings crumbles inwards. Within moments the building is swept into a nearby ten story apartment complex, Mark doesn’t know what the buildings are called. The small building tears apart the bigger. Water gushes into the empty spot, people try to grab onto something, anything. It doesn’t matter. In seconds the apartment complex is reduced to nothing as more boats from the Navy yard ride new waves.
Anacostia River is soon over saturated with ocean water. The ocean hits his building, at first he feels nothing. Water passes by. He turns around and watches waves wash over the street. He hears people screaming. Thousands of people he can’t see scream for help and mercy. His apartment building pitches forward a few inches. Mark gasps as his body moves towards the rail. He doesn’t go over but feels adrenaline rush none the less. The building isn’t moving anymore, he moves towards the river raft his dad and Joe prepared. He slings the backpack into the raft and jumps in. He closes his eyes but nothing happens. He hears roaring and can feel the power of the ocean. But nothing happens on the roof.
When is it going to hit? Anytime now, what the hell?
After five minutes of not feeling the building shift, Mark wants to see what’s happening. He opens his eyes and sees a lot of packs in the boat; there is only room for one or two people not three or four.
Why did you leave me alone Dad. I need to get downstairs and safe Dad and Mom. Dad, why don’t you open the door and come to the roof? I need you.
He stares at the door but it doesn’t open. Mark gets out of the raft after sweating under the sun for another three or four minutes. He peers over the rail; the ocean still comes in waves. It’s like being on the beach and watching the tide come and recede but each time the tide comes forward its larger then the last. Every few seconds higher waves pick up where the last one ends. The first three stories of the surrounding buildings are under water. His building is under water. He watches as one of the big brown apartment buildings tilts and collapses to its side. New waves cover where it once stood. Corpses, wooden furniture and appliances pop up in between waves. Many people are dead; others try to grasp things that float. Mark watches as the waves take the bodies’ further inland, both the dead and the living. A large freight carrier from the navy ship yard which is supposed to be in the Navy Museum, comes for Marks apartment building. It looks like it’s at least six to seven stories tall. Without pausing he braces himself as he watches it make impact.
Metal screeches on metal. Mark runs back to the raft and throws himself in it. Something explodes from within the building. The building shifts a few more inches to the right and settles. Mark closes his eyes and prays the day would end with him being safe. Nothing happens. He adds it would it would be sweet if his Dad and Mom show up but he doesn’t know how to pray and get results. Still nothing happens.
It takes him ten minutes to gain the courage to open his eyes. The sun disappears as a dust cloud obscures his vision. He hears more thuds as waves crash more unspeakable things into his home.
If someone told me I was going to be in a raft on my roof this afternoon I would have told that person he or she is crazy. This sucks. I’m hot and dirty again.
Mark decides to grab onto some rope lines, he doesn’t know what to expect if the building goes under. The building shifts another few inches. He hears people from his apartment scream for help. He feels like a monster for not being able to help anyone. He closes his eyes and wishes they would be quiet. He opens his eyes after another minute of nothing happening.
I’m the captain of a one man ship. I don’t even know how to swim. I’m going to die today. God, I never prayed before but please save me. I will do whatever you want if. I will be one of the good guys like my dad wants!
The roaring becomes louder; the dust cloud completely blots out the sun. The building shifts more to the right but unlike last time it doesn’t stop.
Here I go! Dad, I’m sorry for leaving you! I love you and mom!
Mark shuts his eyes as he wraps both fists around a line in the raft. The raft slides forward or maybe the building is tilting. Mark doesn’t know. All he knows is his little raft is moving fast. Cold water rushes over his body and drenches him in its bitter saltiness as he drops twenty to seventy to eighty feet. The raft doesn’t lose its upright position.
It’s as cold as ice and it smells like rotten fish!
The raft rocks left to right with the waves, without opening his eyes he pukes over everything. He can’t stop puking as he feels nausea creeps over his awareness. A new wave drenches him. Mark opens his eyes and watches as a blue Buick nearly misses his raft. The driver looks back at him while crying. It’s a bald headed man; the Buick disappears into the ocean as it sinks. Other cars swiftly pass around his little raft. He doesn’t know where he is. All he see’s is water and various vehicles with and without people in them. A new wave crashes into Mark as he shuts his eyes in horror.