Thursday, August 25, 2011

2014: The Way the World Ends (Chapter XXIX: The Shattered Spider)

Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011
Full Version of my story can be found at:

Chapter XXIX: The Shattered Spider

My pulse beats fast, my nose started to bleed when I was unconscious in the bus. I wipe fresh blood on my sleeve as I attempt to gather my wits. I stop carrying about the blisters on my feet. Having a constant flow of adrenaline jacks the senses and helps isolate the pain. My ears ring constant, the roaring of water escalates outside.

My shoulders scream in agony, when the bus flipped my upper body rolled, I think I have a sprain or maybe it’s broke. I put one foot in front of the other, I think we went up three stories; it’s hard to tell in the dark. Many people bump into me, a lot of the street kids are praying to God. My legs burn, I want to stop but I can’t. A few people are behind me. We don’t know if the water is going to come up the stairs. In the near distance I hear ocean water pound into the first two floors.The sirens no longer wail over Washington DC.

I hear April, she is three to four people in front of me. She tells no one in particular, “I never wanted to leave the Upper Peninsula! I could be home with my Sam and cats! I want to paint; I don’t want to be here…” On and on she vents. I’m happy for as long as she talks I now she is safe. I slip as the building shakes, debris from the ceiling fall on someone in front on me. 

My wife continues, “I want Pastel paint with some special canvas when I get home, I want to paint for a month and have Asian food delivered.” On and on she talks about her preferred tastes and idealized month of tranquility. I’m surprised she isn’t talking about luxury traveling overseas. I hope my step son is safe. For the first time today I worry about him.

What’s happening in Michigan? How am I going to get home when I can’t get out of this city? Didn’t my son go to Wisconsin for a concert? 

My awareness goes full circle as I temporally lost touch of the moment, I slip to my knees again. The blood from my nose tastes sweet and metallic. Sweat pours into my eyes which are pointless to have in the dark. I feel my feet and back. Sighing I mutter, “Why me?” 

I jump as Vincent answers, “Why not dude? The law of probability says it has to be someone, why not you?” I wonder how the medically handicap smoker is doing.

How are doing?” One foot in front of another, I think we are four stories up. Fred stops the group. I never thought he was the leader type but I’m grateful to have someone take responsibility. Colon figures out how to turn on a light on the camera, April and others use their camera lights to illuminate a few feet in front of them. I lost my phone.

Fred’s voice sounds more western and drawn then earlier, almost a little husky, “I think I heard someone, the floors go up but someone might need my help. How many made it?” The corridor is tan in color; fire hasn’t touched this section of the building. Many photos of children and family dot the walls. Most of them look like they are recovering from various illness or injuries. 

Beige furniture pleasantly beckons us to take a seat. None do, we are scared of what’s happening outside. The plasma flat screens are broken, not many windows are intact. A pigeon flies around not knowing how to get out.

I have an idea, “How about we count. Each person should count in order out loud.” Fred starts; within a minute I learn we have over a nineteen of us. There is: Fred, Colon, Sean, and John, seven nameless street kids, Kyle, Susan, Vincent and my wife. There are three babies and toddlers. I hear what Fred is saying. Down a corridor I hear children yell is distress. Little light illuminates the corridor as we make our way to the source of the noise. It’s a children hospital, it only makes sense children need help. A child steps into the hallway; she wears a hospital gown and holds a teddy bear. Another two children are behind her, they have blankets and sheets wrapped around their fragile frames.

The young girl frightfully asks, “Are you here to rescue us? What’s happening and where did everyone go?” One of the other two children walks into the small light. They look dirty and hungry. My heart wants to break.

Fred doesn’t hesitate, “The building is burning, why are you kids still here?” He stops in front of them, the three children run for his embrace. Susan remembers she is a reporter, she shows Colon how to film. 

The girl cries softly, “They all went downstairs and told us they were coming back. They never came back.” A new wave hits the building; I don’t lose my footing. April reaches for one of the children as she tries to clean the boys face with her blouse. All she manages to do it put more grime on her clothes, sometimes it’s the gesture that matters.

Fred replies, “Jesus will protect us. We need to get to the roof.”

The little girl stalls, “Wait, there are more of us.” I feel dread. We now have twenty two people and no food or water. 

I whisper, “Shit.”

Vincent replies, “Shit indeed. Did you know shit floats on water? If we were pieces of shit we could float out of here.” I don’t laugh but want to. Vincent mutters something I don’t catch. 

Fred ignores Vincent, “Let’s get your friends little one.” We are near a nurse’s station. The three children turn around and quickly enter a closed room, we all follow. I’m not expecting to see what I see. The room is a large medical waiting room with a large television set and a small playground. Two dozen beds line the room; two dozen children look back at us. A few of the beds have IV’s and monitoring equipment. 

I again mutter loudly, “Shit.” The jerk from the Smithsonian is pissed. I wasn’t impressed with him earlier and part of can’t believe he’s the son of Fred. Fred doesn’t look like a simple machinist from Coca Cola in Minnesota. Don’t get me wrong, he still looks like a redneck, but he’s carrying himself with confidence and it feels natural to let him lead.

Fred doesn’t hesitate a moment, “Alright, I need you all to get your belongings as fast as you can, we need to get to the roof. Please don’t panic. Vincent beckons me to come to his side. He’s near a window. I don’t want to see what he sees but I find myself putting one foot in front of another. I note this is a burn ward, these children need special treatment. The window is small, roughly three feet by one foot. It’s enough to appreciate outside but not enough to let a breeze in.

Outside is covered in ocean; waves continue to rush into Washington DC. I can’t see far but the view shows me what’s happening across the street. The VA hospital crumbles into the ocean. Water easily laps the first two stories of the surrounding buildings. The entire street is gone; vehicles ride the waves, most booming noises are coming from large objects hitting buildings.

The suns are out, the cloud passed sometime when we were on the stairs. The ocean and buildings tilt downwards; it appears Washington DC is slowly sinking.

Fred regains my attention, “Alright, everyone ready?” A few of the children need help; the more sturdy street kids offer their services. April grabs a girl who looks frail, half her hair is buzzed off. I’m having a hard time helping myself let alone helping others, my back screams in agony. Mentally I’m on board with my wife and Fred. Kyle is the only one with deep seated issues. 

Thankfully he’s keeping much of his opinions to himself. He seems to be fond of his backpack. I’m beginning to be reminded of Golem from Lord of the Rings. The only thing missing is him saying, “My precious.” I wonder what’s in the bag. I shrug it off; it doesn’t matter for it’s not mine to worry about. I doubt it’s something major. One of the children asks if I can carry a few of their belongings, I say sure. They have a few flashlights which they hand to the adults. I put one in my pocket. Before leaving I see a fresh water tank near the entrance. I grab a cup and get my full. The children move slowly, I have time. I don’t look back out the window. The whole time Susan and Colon film the rescue operation. She tells him to be selective with what he films; the battery only has so much life. I’m surprised to see that my wife remembered to grab our back pack from the CNN bus; I’m having a hard time recalling what’s in it.

If you told me earlier I was going to be saving children I would have laughed.

A new wave hits the building, I stumble as the floor cracks in many places, the room we just left ceiling caves in, it sounds like a whoosh followed by crunch. Rubble buries the entrance; luckily we are all out of the room. The nursing floor creaks, one of the walls lurches forward. Sunlight streaks in from the outside as the central floor within the nurses’ station collapses a level. The children scream, they remind me an ill equipped middle school chorus who are drunk, I grab one of the children who almost loses her balance near where the floor breaks apart.

Fred musters, “We need to get out of this building!” Another child walks to close to the edge; I sling the backpack between my shoulders and yank the new child back to safety. Susan tells Colon to film, ocean water covers all of Washington DC; there isn’t a square inch that doesn’t look like it’s under water. The waves bring death and destruction in their wake, each wave is a little a higher than the last, I watch as a large blue condominium spurs into our building. The right front side speedily hits the first story, two people scramble on the roof.  They don’t know whether to go back inside or stay where they are, they try to get our attention by flapping their arms and shouting. Each new wave has a lot of whiteness which reminds me of foam on top, it’s the whiteness which appears to be doing most of the damage. As soon as it hits a building everything disappears from sight. 

Moments later some of the buildings reappear. Many big buildings and streets on hills bypass the tsunami.

Susan shrieks, “We can’t stay in this building, we won’t make it the roof!” Looking around I deposit the two children on more secure flooring, the stairway going up to the roof collapses after its support beams groan under the pressure. The building lurches another few inches, my body doesn’t roll with it. My toes try to hold onto the ground but it doesn’t matter. A brown house crashes into the first; they appear to be locked in place.

Vincent gets back to his feet while using his crutch, “Oh man, we should have stayed in the bus. Dudes, lets bum a ride on of the houses, if we go down a level we can jump on the roof!” I hate to admit when an idea that crazy makes sense, but what do we do? 

If we stay in the building we die, if we leave we die. At least the roof is intact and the houses are floating. 

Fred prays, “Lord Jehovah, please deliver us from this plight, we are your servants and need your protection!” He reaches for his cross and bible, it’s evident he really believes in his God. It’s not like I believe in this stuff, but I can’t believe what happens next. The building continues to tilt as Fred prays; all of us pitch forward as we tumble over each other heads over heels. 

Somehow the two houses remain where they are but move upwards while the current wave moves inland. I and everyone land on the roof of the brown house, I blink in confusion. Somehow the few children with IV’s are safely next to me.

How did we end up here, what happened to the hospital building? 

April cries, “Shit, shit, shit…” Looking over my shoulder I watch as the brown house breaks away from the Children’s Hospital, we are being carried back East towards the VA hospital as the current wave recedes. Children around me are just as dazed and confused as I. The two people on the roof on the other condominium attempt to jump into the collapsing building. One makes it but the other fails short and ends up in the ocean. Moments later a final groan gives testimony of the destruction of the medical facility as the walls disintegrate. I stop looking as I crawl to my wife. She’s still crying; I reach her and wrap her in my arms. Vincent is shaken; he drops his bag of pot, off it goes into the ocean. He’s speechless. Colon triumphs over his wisdom and fortune of finding Fred. A new wave sends our new house into a new direction. We miss the VA Hospital. To the East much is gone, our mode of transportation heads that way.

Colon looks in awe at Fred, “Your prayer saved us! God is with us, thanks for being here!” Other street kids don’t argue, they flock around Fred while asking him to bless them. 

Fred blushes as his son retorts, “Come on people, we are heading opposite from the hospital, stop acting this way to my dad!”
Fred meekly responds, “It’s all about Jesus Christ, please don’t praise me like this.” The children from the hospital hurdle together.

The little girl from earlier asks, “Can you pray for a helicopter to safe us? Please?”

Fred looks towards Vincent who replies, “I think he can. Why don’t we all pray with him?” April doesn’t fight; she crawls on all fours to the small group huddled at the center of the floating roof. I follow; I don’t want to be near the edge of the roof anymore then I have to be. 

A man pops out of the chimney like a puppet in a box. A few children point and giggle, some cry and others look off into the distance with no emotions. The man is dirty with grime and suit from the old chimney, he startles and shouts at us, “Help, my family is stuck in the living room.” He writhes out of the chimney while wheezing, “Danny is in the chimney, get Danny!”

Fred steps forward, but colon stops him, “We need you to pray, how about a few of my friends and that dude get Danny?” He points at me. 

Oh, I can I do this. Why not? Didn’t I joke today was just as good as any other day to die?

I look at my wife apologetically, isn’t it my duty to help those in need? I gulp; moving on the roof isn’t easy. It’s a lot like sailing as the roof pitches back and forth, our house passes the VA building, and we head east. I glance to my left, a large wave heads west. It appears to hover above many buildings, as it moves everything rolls up in the wave, it looks like the perfect wave but instead of being blue it’s pale. The pale water tumbles beyond my anything my mind can fathom. I blink a few times hoping the image would go away. It doesn’t.

Why do current go every which way?

I want to be puke but I try to be tough for my wife and kids. The man covered in grime holds her head and wails. Colon reassures the man, “We will safe Danny. Is there anyone else inside?”

The man sighs in defeat, “My wife never came home. We were hiding in the basement when I thought I heard her at the door! A car crashed into the living room and…”

Colon cuts him off, “Sir, I need to know how many living people are down there?” The man lifts his hands without opening his eyes and extends two fingers.

Fred finds his voice as he remembers Psalms 23, if I was younger I would thought it was cheesy, today it fits:
LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

April crawls over to me; she throws her arms around my shoulders. I breathe in her scent, her curly hair remind me of the dew in a meadow in summer. For a moment I forget where I am, I only feel her. Aprils love pours into my fatigued weakened frame. I open my eyes, the sunlight glares off the water making me squint. 

“I love you more than anything babe.” Tears run freely, she tugs the straps of the back pack from my broad shoulders.
She looks me deep in the eyes, “I love you too, and don’t do anything stupid down there. Do you want me to come with, I’m smaller?”

My ego gets in the way. Colon hands the CNN camera to another. Fred asks Jesus out loud, “God Jehovah, these kids want a helicopter, can you please bring a ride and keep us protected?” The children huddle around Fred, Kyle sits in the distance but not far away.

“I can handle it; I want you to keep safe and come up with a plan when I’m gone. The chimney looks not that small. I should be able to fit in.” I focus on the task at hand.

Colon directs two other kids who carry a large white rope which looks out of place, “Can you guys get secure that rope down the chimney?” 

One replies while another nods in approval, “Sure Colon, whatever you want.” I’m very humbled and awed these street kids act good and kind. I briefly wonder if others in Washington DC are experiencing unity and goodness. I wonder how Mark is doing.

I mutter to my wife and the others, “There isn’t a reason for anyone else to go down there. You know, if the house sinks we all die?” 

Vincent despairingly replies, “Did you know after the Earthquake in Japan the Tsunami took entire blocks of houses out into the Pacific? American Aircraft carries and naval vessels picked up people who were floating on their roofs for up to three days. There were found many miles in the Pacific. God have mercy on us.”

I roll my eyes while not disagreeing with his point, “Thank God we are not in Japan, hope fully we will be out of this in a couple of hours.” I didn’t believe my words; I want the children to have some hope. Not many buildings are standing, the ones that are in either fire or in the process of crumbling into the newly made ocean. Maybe one of twenty remains erect. A new cloud of dust covers the two suns. I note the two suns are now a few inches apart, they look about the same size. I squeeze April and let go, “I will be back in a moment.”

Looking over at Fred for the first time in my life I say, “I think I believe in God completely today, can you ask the man or woman in the sky to watch my back?” 

Fred nods, “Sure thing pal. Sorry I didn’t chat at Burger King, you’re a good man.” Kyle bustles at his dads praise; I wonder what’s up his butt.

I respond, “No problem, I now have to go be Santa Clause, be back in two wags of a dog’s tail or something.” I was never good at old clashes’. 

A third street kid decides he should join us, his name is Vinnie. I don’t argue. I don’t want to go inside the house but whatever, someone by the name Danny and another needs my help. If I was down there I certainly would hope someone would try to save me.

Colon peeks in the hole and jumps back a foot, “Someone is near the top! Help me get them up Mike.” I peer inside; a male teen with dark straight hair is very fat and is very much stuck in the chimney. I reach down with Colon and yank the fat teen up, after a few jerks and tugs he plops near his Dad.

The dad pats his son, “Danny, your safe. Where is your sister Megan?” 

Danny looks like he’s in shell shock, his dad has to ask him again, “Where is Megan?” 

Danny replies sullenly, “She went back to her room to get her teddy bear. I tried stopping her.” I groan as the implications of having to go into the house after all. 

How long in the house going to hold?

The rope is secure as three street kids wrap it around their waists; I gulp and look back at my wife once. Colon asks, “Where is Megan?”

The dad responds, “Her room is near the kitchen, if you go pass the bathroom you went too far. Thanks for your help. God bless you, I heard that man pray when I was in the chimney.” He nods towards Fred who blushes deeply.

I grab onto the rope and swing both legs into the deep black hole. I don’t like this one bit. Before I can reconsider the house lurches on a new wave, I lose my seating and fall, I hear my wife gasp. Catching the rope I don’t go far, my knees bounce into the brick, I swear as I feel a new wound open on my left leg before the knee. I try to ignore the discomfort as I let myself down the rope, I swear my legs had more of a say in the matter. By bracing my legs and feet along the chimney I’m able to direct myself down. It doesn’t take long to get to the bottom. The metal grate has been discarded to the other side of the living room. It’s a big 1900 two story Victorian house, with all the ruined trimmings. Their color scheme is beige and white but most things are broken. None of the furniture is in place, nothing is on the walls. The house rocks back and forth, I wonder how the floor boards hold.

Colon hits the ground hard; he didn’t use his legs as a brace. He quickly gets up and yells, “Megan!” I direct him to what I think might be the kitchen. It’s not the kitchen. I found their dining room. A long wooden table is on its side, chairs are all bunched at one side. The moment the wave eases the furniture rolls half way to the center of the living room. Back and forth the furniture moves. I walk over chinaware and silverware, never will it used again. The kitchen loom to the right, to the left is a hallway. I assume Megan’s bedroom will be in there.

Colon yells, “Megan!”

A girl responds, “I’m here!” She bounces out of her bedroom holding a teddy bear. She is frightened, “Where is my dad?” She cries.

Colon softly tells her, “Everyone is on the roof, let’s go.” He grabs her hand and turns around. He doesn’t make it far. The floor starts to buckle, a few floor boards break apart, water flows within the room in an alarming rate. Vinnie sinks into the water instantly; he yells one shout as he tries to grasp the furniture around him. The ceiling fixture breaks from the wall and hits him on the head. Vinnie’s body turns upside down as he no longer struggles.

I yell, “Back into the bedroom!” Colon takes the girl back the way she came and I follow. My heart races as I feel the floor boards give under my weight, I manage to get into the room and shut the door. I don’t know why I shut the door, maybe it has something to do with imaginary comfort. A closed door symbolizes a form of protection in my weird world. The girl’s room is decked out in soft pink and blue colors, many stuffed animals and dolls look blankly at us. She has a princess set up; her television and computer are broken on the floor. She wears shoes, I’m glad she isn’t cut on the feet.

The girl stalls as she shouts, “Watch out for my tarantulas!” I don’t understand what she is referring to, the boards shift as more floor gives to ocean. Wooden furniture such as the dining room and chairs clatter on the wall, the heavier objects instantly sink. A chair bumps into Vinnie’s still form.

Colon jumps onto the girl’s bed as he points and shouts, “Spiders, near the shattered glass!” Sure enough there are six to seven tarantulas milling around a broken holding case. 

Why would an adult allow tarantulas to be kid pets?

One speedily heads towards me, my eyes open wide. I can’t believe a giant spider is running towards me while I’m stranded in a floating house. I try to stomp at it but the little girl shrieks, “Don’t hurt Peppy!” I slam lock the door behind me, I know my gesture is futile. The floorboards are not breaking apart in the girl’s room. There are curtains above her bed which is draped in pink. There is ample room for all three of us. I grab the child and jump on the bed with Colon.

I’m mesmerized as I watch the floor boards buckle underneath the spiders. The boards creak, water appears beneath the spiders in the once gorgeous glass case. Within moments I can’t see them, the boards are breaking down at an alarming rate. 

Colon breaks the window with his elbow and shouts, “You guys, down here! I need the rope at the side of the house.”

The little girl howls, “My spiders are dying! Someone save them!” A remaining courageous tarantula darts under the bed as it runs for it life. I continue to watch the front door opens as the wood around its frame creaks. The hinges pop out and the door swings free. The hallway in nothing but walls and water, I shudder as I watch Vinnie’s limp body float.

The ocean water in the bedroom lays claim to the other side of the room, like a jig saw puzzle I watch lines appear on the wooden floor and objects disappear. It smells like rotten fish which I wasn’t expecting. 

Colon continues to yell, “Down here, I need the rope!” I can’t hear anything over the waves pounding all around us. The water reaches under the bed; I grab the blanket expecting the worse. The bed drops a few feet into the water. The girl screams but luckily no one falls off. The mattresses floats on the water but takes in much water.

We are doomed! Please God save us! 

I never prayed like that. I hear a thump as a heavy rope bounces off the window sill. Fred’s voice can be heard in faintly over the waves, “Hold on, we are securing the rope!” 

Colon urgently tells the girl, “I need you to climb the rope! It’s like gym class; you climbed ropes in gym right?” With any luck the girl won’t be as incapable as her brother who got stuck in the chimney.

She mutters, “Yes, I can climb a rope.” Colon picks her up and brings her to the rope. He tells her, “Climb girl! Climb like you never climbed before!” The bed sinks into the water as it absorbs the sea; I have to hold on the sides for my dear life. 

Is that a chopper in the distance?

I think I see a helicopter head towards the boat, I think I’m hallucinating. Colon stalls and suddenly jerks. His eyes roll in his head as he collapses into the middle of the bed. He manages one sigh. A small dark black tarantula crawls from near his out stretched hand. It crawls towards me. The girl is gone. I kick at the spider while closing my eyes. I visualize it biting me while standing on four legs, its fangs hungrily seeking my blood. I open my eyes. The tarantula is floating in the water, within moments it’s gone.  I see a military helicopter in the distance for a moment. I reach for Colon, he still has a pulse but his hand and arm are three times its size. I don’t know how to take care of him. I see the bite marks on his swollen hand. 

Thinking fast I can’t find a tool to drain the poison and I don’t want to use my house keys. I take the end of the heavy rope and tie it around Colons waist. I tell the unconscious teen, “Hold tight, I will be back in a moment.” I never climbed a rope, but I don’t hesitate. Reaching for the rope I dangle my legs out of the broken window, ocean water is a few feet underneath the window sill. It looks cold and empty.

I swing out while holding onto the rope with my dear life, at first I think I won’t make it but I find my feet holding firm within the broken window. Looking back I see Colon is firmly secure on the bed with the rope around him. I hate to use him as an anchor but if this works he lives! I attempt to climb up the rope. It’s not as easy as some make it look. I realize if I jump out a few feet with my feet I can gain a foot at a time. My shoes give me good traction; I’m surprised for they are dress shoes. I make it the second story, my arms want to rip out of their sockets and I’m tired.

April appears near the edge, “Mike, are you down there?”

I tiredly reply, “I’m at the second story window, can you please have the guys pull me and Colon up?” I hold onto the rope with the last of my strength. My body jolts up quick; I look down and see Colon bump into the siding of the house.  He’s still out cold, I hope he isn’t dead. 

I tell them, “You guys need to rescue Colon! He was bit by a tarantula on the hand in the girl’s bedroom.” They get on it. Within minutes we are on board the helicopter and buzz off into the horizon. The house fades into the distance as it becomes smaller and smaller.


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