Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chapter XXXI: White Watering in Washington DC (Rough Draft)

Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011
Full Version up to date can be found:
I will be making the story into a novel early 2012.

Chapter XXXI: White Watering in Washington DC (Rough Draft)

Mark is completely drenched; he doesn’t know how to operate the raft. He’s never rafted or wanted to. An extreme sport such as this is not his cup of tea. Cars pass him fast, he doesn’t know how to safe anyone at the moment, he doesn’t know how to safe himself. While walking pass Newsstands he’s never had the inclination to read about any outdoor sport. The most Mark knows about this type of thing comes from glancing at action movies or from listening to his dad and Joe talk. The wave carries him on a foam of white, behind him he sees the ocean is a cold dark gray blue.

Joe really loved his outdoor sports. Is it possible they survived?

Deep down Mark knows better think that way. He was on the building when it went into the ocean. No one survived that. Not even his dad. He’s on a current which takes him straight into a light poll that sticks out of the ocean; he can’t do anything to stop it as the light bulb hits his raft. He feels a slight bump as the canvas contrite around the obstacle. He braces but nothing bad happens. The raft doesn’t flip. He lost his paddle earlier when falling from his apartment building’s roof; half the packs are no longer in the raft. 

Maybe I should sling on my dad’s back pack in case I top size. 

The baseball dome comes up quick; the current takes him towards the ocean in an alarming rate. His raft bumps into the building but again doesn’t flip. A few jostles later and he is free, the building stands for the most part. A lot of people wave for help on the upper levels; he waves back not knowing what else to do. The raft gets picked up by a new wave and starts heading back into the heart of Washington DC. Mark hears a buzz in the distance. A marine helicopter flies high, Mark waves for help. Many buildings which are above three stories stand, many don’t. The ocean is not formally making order, some spots are calm and others are turbulent.

I need to be saved!

The chopper continues to fly by, his heart wrenches as it darts overhead. Within moments it’s out of eye view. A large fishing boat rides a new wave which steadily comes closer and closer. The boat looks small at first but as it picks of velocity it becomes bigger. Mark desperately looks around for something to steer the raft. Mark sees two fishermen who are dressed as if they were out at sea. One points while the other grabs and releases various lines. The large vessel keeps a close distance as the giant wave takes them both back to his half submerged apartment.

What do I do?

Mark recognizes many buildings in the distance as the sunlight shines through the massive dust cloud. Washington DC passed an ordinate in 1899 called the Height and Building Act. Back in the day Cairo Hotel was built over looming the street nearby.

The Act prevented anyone from making a building over 110 feet, in 1910 the 61st United States Congress amended this to allow for buildings to have heights equaling to the width of the right-of-the-way streets. Thomas Jefferson wanted Washington DC to mirror Paris. Other buildings such as the Cairo Hotel bear the assault from the Atlantic Ocean.

Why did our fore fathers want a capital with low and convenient buildings with light and airy streets? Perhaps if there would have been sky scrapers the death toll wouldn’t be so high, or maybe it was going to happen regardless? 

Mark doesn’t know what’s what at the moment. Onyx and First, his apartment, was the fourteenth largest building in Washington DC. Now all that remains is half a building which sticks out of the ocean and it’s on a tilt. Mark doesn’t see anyone outside of broken widows and ruined walls. His and Joe’s floor are no more. The lobby is covered in Ocean; the first few stories sank inwards leaving only half a building with a solid foundation. Mark reaches out for his apartment, he sighs in defeat as his raft passes by. Looking over his shoulder he sees the fishing vessel doesn’t fare the same fate. The two men raise their arms over their heads as the ship hits the remnants of his defeated apartment complex. Mark cries out as more of the building collapses under the attack, the boat turns on its side as it plows into the third floor. The 130 foot high rise built by the Canyon- Johnson Urban Fund from 2008 moans and completely disappears into the sea. The Atlantic Ocean erases his family; he doesn’t have time to look back as the new wave carries him along.

There is no way my dad survived that. I’m so sorry.

Mark’s little raft mimics the lost sunken streets as it zips on the latest white water which churns above the wave. Many buildings which still stand gives him an eerily since of place. The US Capitol remains above the water, the ocean only covers a third of the stairs and doesn’t touch the deflated structure. Dozens of stranded civilians and government workers gesture like Monkeys as he swiftly passes. Mark reaches out; he desperately wants to be around human beings, but his raft has a mind of its own. Mark sighs as he takes in the visual of the dome which has collapsed in a diagonal, the building looks like it’s only half there, almost as if Moors and Christians from the middle ages have been busy capitulating each other. Many birds take to the sky, most are pigeons but he sees a few ducks. Mark freezes, in the distance he sees the Washington Monument. In between him and it comes lamp post which sticks a few feet out of the water. The Washington Monument stands proudly erect while the sea rages around its symbolic power. Its engineers did a good job in securing a strong foundation. Mark briefly wonders if anyone is stuck inside.

No! Please don’t take me in that direction!

The lamp post comes closer to the raft. Mark wonders if the wave will clear the metal post. Mark has an ungodly fear of water. When he was a child his Dad took him on a not so successful camping trip in the backwoods in New Hampshire. Mark was seven years old and his best friend Dominic was invited. Neither of them knew how to swim and Dominic liked to rough house. Even with parents in the lake, Dominic managed to grip onto Mark to tightly; Mark dropped like dead weight in the still water and had to have CPR. The man who rescued him was very fat and smelly. It took Mark a few days to get the man’s taste out of his mouth. Don’t get Mark wrong, he is grateful to be alive, but the ordeal left a bad impression. Mark craftily and wistfully manipulated his high school experience with never having to swim in the pool. 

Mark doesn’t know what else to do outside of make sure the back pack is securely on his person. He grasps the ropes built into the sides of the raft. The wave does not clear the post. Mark gasps as he feels the upper section of the raft lift upwards. Mark then yells as the raft flips him into the water upside down. 

Cold water drenches his small frame. Instantly Mark begins to sink, he desperately kicks but his shoes are dead weight. He doesn’t let’s go of the rope, he doesn’t want to die. Pushing up he fights with the ocean which eagerly thirsts for his life. 

 Stay away Davy Jones! I don’t want to go into your locker or feel your embrace!

Mark kicks off his shoes. The water, even though freezing, feels comforting as it surrounds his feet. The nasty putrid saltiness of the Atlantic chokes him as his nostrils breaths in water. All Mark wants is to breath, he manically kicks his feet. He wonders if he should remove his belt and trousers but manages to lift himself out of the ocean into the small enclave of the flipped over raft. The rest of the backpacks and survival gear are gone. Mark attempts to wipe his eyes with his injured hand but a new wave sends them forward with much velocity, he goes back under. Up and down Mark bobs, eventually he learns the rhythm of the sea. He can’t see where or what’s happening outside. Something new hits the raft, again the raft flips over. Mark holds on with every ounce of strength he can muster.

Bright sunlight instantly glares onto Mark as the raft settles properly. He lies in the center staring up at two suns. The new sun seems to have grown a few inches and is no longer overlapping with the old sun.  Mark laughs in relief, his hands won’t stop shaking. For a time Mark doesn’t want to sit up. The raft catches a new current and starts heading east. Mark sighs in defeat as a marine helicopter flies overhead. He doesn’t bother to try to get their attention anymore. His arms feel like they were almost ripped out of their sockets, he marvels on not drowning.

After a few moments he decides it’s best to see what’s happening, even if he can’t do a thing about it. Mark wraps another rope around his ankle. He doesn’t want to lose the raft. His feet feel cold. He tries to peel of his left sock but its tightly molded to his foot. The more he stretches the fabric the longer it gets. He stops trying.

I guess I shouldn’t have let my shoes go. Damn this sucks.

Without all the survival and camping gear the raft appears to be able to hold between 4-6 people if he made the effort. Sadly there are no oars but there is a motor. His mother referred to Joe’s raft as the rubber duck. The motor lies inoperable near the rear and he doesn’t want to try to make it work. This how ordeal is making him nauseated and he’s afraid if he starts touching things then Murphy’s Law will come into effect. The floor of the raft is appears to be made from synthetic sheets of hypalon. Even though the raft flipped once, Mark believes the little transport has good buoyancy as he feels many random things brush along the bottom. None of the obstacles hurt the Zodiac vessel.

Ahead looms the Old Post Office Pavilion. Constructed in a Romanesque Revival fashion, the 1899 building boasts to be the first building in Washington DC to have a steel frame. Back in the day, the neighborhood was very seedy, city ofcials wanted to clean up the area between the Capital Building and the White House so they made the Post Office. Not all of the rustic semi circular arches are in ruin. 

The squatness of the columns held during the earthquake! Go American Engineering!

A dozen people peer from windows as he gets closer. The large foliate sullivanesque capital-frieze still holds its clock. The clock however has a large crack in its center, the time stopped when the earthquake hit. Mark freezes as the raft hits the steps. It doesn’t flip but it does smoothly roll onto the stairs. A few security guards run over, they grab the rope lines and drag the boat out of the sea. One is black and the other white. They are both middle aged and are in decent shape.

The African American security guard explains with a long drawn out southern accent, “You should be glad Steve here needed a smoke break. Everyone is inside; the director is keeping everyone away from this.” He tiredly nods towards the destruction of Washington DC. The ocean tepidly touches Mark’s bare feet as he gets out of the raft. There isn’t anything left to take.
Steve replies, “It’s too damn enclosed in there. I keep thinking the ceiling will cave in.” Both men drag his Rubber Duck to the entrance. A few people from higher levels point but they seem to be stuck. 

Mark finds his voice, “What’s happening here? Thanks for pulling me in.”

The white security guard happily drags on his cigarette, “No problem.” 

The African American at the same time says, “No worries.” This draws a smile from Mark. The man sounds like he’s from New Orleans. They both wear security clothes from this government building but the black man don a colorful Rastafarian hat. 

Steve lightly tells his companion, “Oretha, you need to quit those damn cancer sticks, don’t you want to see your grand children? Do you seriously want to be out here?” The sun leaves the sky; a new wave comes a few inches further up the stairs. All three men shudder and head back into the building.

Flip flop flip flop flip flop.

Mark is aware of his shoeless feet as he trails ocean water over the smooth tiles. Many cracks make the surface not as smooth as it was yesterday. The sea water coats him with something sticky and fowl smelling. He sneezes.

Mark doesn’t know what else to say, he adds without thought, “Did you guys know the clock tower makes this building the third largest commercial building in DC?”

Oretha laughs merrily, “Bro, we work here. Did you know we have our own power plant? Sorry to tell you, you’re wrong. This is the biggest commercial building in DC. It’s the third largest building. You looked like you were working?”

Mark sheepishly answers, “Library of Congress, I didn’t know that. It’s been a long day. You guys seriously have your own power plant?” Steve laughs along with Orethra as he unlocks the front door.

Orethra whispers, “Behold.”

The lobby is powered with electricity. Thirty to forty people mingle is small groups. Most are staff workers, a few are first responders. A half a dozen tourists try to remain calm as an officer cajoles their loss. A woman dressed like a banker can be heard talking about Jesus. She has a few other bankers with her.

One of the men Mark assumes to be a banker says, “We are sorry about earlier. I think you might be right, tell us more about revelations.”

The woman happily recites what she learned at church and through the media. Mark hears some of her information is riddled with classic movie story lines. Regardless, she has half a dozen people taking comfort in her rants.

Mark doesn’t know why he focused on them first. Nearby a few firemen walk to an officer. Behind them is someone who likes like a clean cut director fresh from a university.

One fireman tells the officer, “We have a situation. Apparently people are stuck in the clock tower but that’s not the real issue.” The director tries saying something but his assistant redirects his attention as two staff workers hobble to the first responders.

The fireman continues, “We have two people with serious wounds to the head, one is blind. We have another person who is possibly having a stroke. We need to get them to a hospital.”

The officers’ eyes go big “Shit. Does anyone know when help is coming?” Everyone look away as a few mutter no. 

Orethra announces their presence, “We have a new person. He came on a raft; the ocean is rising a little more every minute.” Everyone in the room become quiet. The news terrifies them all. 

The officer looks Mark over, “You have a raft?”

Mark looks at the ground, “Yes, but it doesn’t work.”

Steve illuminates Marks ambiguity, “He lost his oars but he has a motor. Why weren’t you using the motor to direct the raft?”
Mark doesn’t know how to answer. He feels like a dumb ass. Finally he stutters, “I never used a raft and I don’t know how to swim.” Everyone laughs.

These are good people.

The officer rolls his eyes, “Well, you’re the captain of the vessel?”

Mark replies, “If you’re referring to the vessel as being mine, I suppose. You can have it. Is there a bathroom I can use?” He doesn’t want to go back outside. This building seems stable. 

The officer continues, “We need your help and your vessel. How about we try the motor and get something to act like oars? It’s a good day to save a few Americans!”

Mark blushes, he wasn’t thinking this was the type of thing his dad was referring to when he said he was going to have to get his hands dirty. Thinking of his parents and his love to America he replies, “I don’t want to but I will do the right thing. How about someone who knows a little about rafts take control?”

Orethra enters the conservation, “Steve, don’t you have experience in rafting in Canada?” 

Steve answers, “I sure do. I’ve been rafting and fishing up there half a dozen times. The raft is a Zodiac Pro 550. We can fit five people.”

The police officer happily replies, “Good, bring the injured to the raft and get going.”

The bankers and tourist’s pipe in they want to leave but the officer kindly tells them there is no room. No one argues, they all go back to their small groups. The director gets the attention of the officer. They start arguing about resources and how to save the people in the clock tower. Steve redirects Mark back out the door. 

Steve apologizes to Mark, “Sorry bro, time is of the essence. Hey tries these on?”

Mark looks in horror as Steve reaches for a pair of male Nike tennis shoes which are on a dead male teenager. Mark blurts, “I don’t want those!”

Steve chides Mark kindly, “What’s the big deal. This kid doesn’t need them anymore. This is about survival.” He unlaces the shoes from the teenager who was half crushed by ceiling. Luckily Mark isn’t able to see the teenagers face. Weakly he continues in defiance, “Please don’t.”

Orethra interrupts, ‘Bro, your letting us use your boat for our injured. I think this kid would have wanted someone to be able to use his shoes.” Orethra continues on with a fireman, they help the injured into the raft.

Steve adds, “Don’t be a baby. Think of it as a gift for you don’t cut your feet.” Mark begrudgingly accepts the gift. Steve whistles in appreciation as he tries the rafts motor. The motor purrs without a problem. The three injured people secure themselves on the boat. 

Orethra tells Steve, “Make sure you bring back help. We got enough food and water to last a week; we need to get to our families as soon as we can.” 

Steve hugs Orethra, “I will. Say bye to the director. I will be back as soon as I can.” The fireman is quiet. Steve and the first responder push the raft back into the ocean the moment Mark climbs aboard. His pack back is firmly secure on his back.
Mark looks over the three injured people. Two are staff workers and one is a civilian female who looks like a female looking like she’s a home maker.

Mark asks the three, “Anything I can do? My name is Mark.” Mark wants to puke as the sea takes him on a new ride. The motor stalls for a moment. 

Steve curses, “Shit, hold on a minute. I flooded the engine; let’s give it a new try.” He does something with a chord, the engine turns on and again purrs. Mark feels comforted as his raft maneuvers the current wave. Steve directs the raft into calmer water, he heads north. 

Peering to his left Mark thinks he sees the remnants of the dome for the Library of Congress. Tears come to his eyes, he doesn’t want to look or think about his place of employment. A few cables and telephone lines are almost head level at some places. Steve has to direct the raft around these obstacles, they almost learn the hard way. 

One of the injured staff workers illuminates his injury, “I was in the bathroom when the earthquake hit, and the mirror shattered and blinded me. Can you tell me what you see?” Steve is busy directing the raft through the ruined buildings. They are nearing China Town. The People’s Gallery lies to the left, the Verizon Center to the right. A large group of homeless men and woman are on the upper floors of the Gallery. Someone points a gun in their direction and shoots at them.

Steve curses, the female injured woman weeps. She received a wound to the head and her bandages are bloodied and old. Someone screams something. Mark can’t distinguish what the scavengers scream from the Gallery. Loiters scream in rage as they pitch priceless paintings into the ocean. Steve speeds them further down the block. Within moments they are safe from being shot at. Various trees can be seen popping out of the ocean; it looks like the sea levels are not level.

Steve draws in his breath, “Look!” Ahead is a mini whirlpool in between two buildings. A wave comes from the east but quickly gets sucked into the whirlpool. The wave that continues west becomes half its original size. Steve directs the raft away from the whirlpool but continues to go north. Many vehicles churn in the whirlpool, the current tugs at their raft but the motor prevails.

The one time Steve tries saying something he almost gets his head cleaved.  It wasn’t long past the gallery when Steve tries cajoling the female staff worker, “Things will get better when we get you guys to the hospital. Do you have family waiting somewhere?” These questions are the wrong to ask. Mark quickly realizes during natural disasters people are often in shock. Some prefer to not talk about their families or loved ones for it makes them feel worse. Many people natural will fear for the worse if they don’t know what happened to their families. 

The woman staff worker wails, “I don’t know if my husband and son are safe! Oh my God what am I going to do?” As she cries her case a cable almost hits Steve and the others. 


The cable cord clears their heads with inches to spare. Steve brings the raft to an idle as they look upon the rising sea levels. They ocean now covers three stories; Steve continues on, a new wave brings forth new turbulent water. The warm hot air feels cool as the raft makes good time. The woman cries herself quiet. The third injured female isn’t moving. They pass McPherson Square Station which Mark’s sees is the culprit of the mini whirlpools. The underground station appears to be funneling much of the sea water into something akin to a whirlpool.

Is she alive? Is she the one with the stroke? Best not to get stuck in a whirlpool like that.

Mark reaches out and tries nudging the woman with his foot, “Are you alright Ma’am?” No response. He shudders and tries nudging her harder, “Ma’am are you alright?” 

The injured male worker sounds urgent, “I can’t see! What’s happening?” Mark feels something isn’t right. The female staff worker tries finding a pulse on the still civilian female. 

After a moment she depressingly tells Mark and the others, “She’s dead. Should we toss her over?” Someone young screams from a nearby half submerged building. Steve brings the raft to a stop near a street sign which pokes from ocean. The street sign has a blue metal sign saying evacuation route over 1300NW.  The Franklin Square stands eerily quiet around the raging ocean; the giant building spans the block. A small metal sign floats past their raft as Steve brings it to a complete stop. Etched in bold navy blue is a plague declaring Hines Interests 1989. The small plaque drifts east towards the ocean as the latest wave recedes.

Two thirds of the building has collapsed within itself, many people are on the fourth floor which is exposed to the ocean, they surround a small congregation of Red Cross workers who are stationed near a fallen wall. A few trees poke out of the water here and there. Behind them is much ruble.  The building looks like it was broken in half, almost as if someone broke a twig in the middle. A few young couple howls for help on an upper level. Mark can’t tell if it’s the eighth or ninth floor, the levels above are nothing but rubble. The terrain goes uphill which means less water to deal with. 

Steve reflects a natural hero, “We need to help these people, and maybe they can medically help our injured!” No one argues.
Close inspection shows over three dozen civilians, two EMT workers who seem to be at the right place at the wrong time, and the Red Cross.  They are helping the office workers and keeping order the best they can. 

Mark yips, “Can you guys help get our raft out of the water?” A couple civilians in suits happily oblige, within moments he is back on solid ground. His knees wobble and his ass hurts. A few people eye his raft but everyone seems to lean more towards being honorable.  Most of the buildings on the block are empty looking office buildings, in the distance he sees Franklins school which is mostly submerged. The square can’t be seen but what strikes out is the fountain which barely sticks above the ocean and absence of buildings. 

The raft isn’t suited for office workers. There isn’t any reason to watch over it here. I will have to keep an eye on it in the future; I hope I never have to use my dad’s gun.

Steve jumps out; a slick looking woman asks him if he’s a cop, he nods no. The guard pinpoints an authority looking figure who is a middle ages brunette who is cleanly dressed. Her name tag shows she’s the manager, her name is Donna. 

Today wasn’t her lucky day.

Steve doesn’t miss a moment, “We have three injured, one might be dead. If you help us we will help you, we have a raft and plenty of gas.”

A thin woman who talks fast interrupts. She’s frantic, “I’m sorry for interrupting but I need to get to my kids! They are stuck at the school.”

Donna firmly but kindly replies, “Not now Stephanie, we will get to you when we can. Please be patient.” Donna looks to Steve and Mark, “We really need your help. People are stuck inside and children are missing from the day care on the sixth floor, I don’t know where to start. Thank God we have the Red Cross and the EMT workers.” Their little set up is impressive.

Mark blurts, “Day care? You guys look like office workers?”

Donna replies, “We have a day care on the sixth floor. Many of us office workers have children which need to be watched.”

Donna stands over a man who isn’t moving. Following Mark’s and Steve’s gaze she instantly understands their unasked question, “We had a heart attack before the earthquake. The EMT was here when it all started. Their vehicle got destroyed and no help came. Then the Tsunami came and now we are stuck. Many people are stuck inside but we don’t know how to get to them.” Nearby Mark sees a ruined fire truck which sits half out of the sea, it appears they were trying to rescue people when the ocean swept them away. Half their metal ladder sticks straight up out of the water.

Behind the entourage dozens of males come and go from broken sections in the wall which leads further into the building. They deposit resources such as food and whatever else they think may come in handy, mostly candy bars and pop from vending machines.

Donna continues to explain, “We have a group salvaging any resources that we can find from the lower levels such as the cafeteria. Many of us didn’t want to leave and were confused, still many left. We don’t know how long until help comes. We have to pray to God the ocean doesn’t come further up.” Nearby a man leads a prayer session as half a dozen eagerly listen to his words. Their demurer is peaceful; Mark’s mom might have been in that group. 

A man who looks like he’s built like an ox comes out of a broken wall from the left; he carries cushions from a couch. With a large resonating voice he announces, “I found more things to sit on!” Two young Asians help put pots and pans on a Bunsen burner, he doesn’t know where the science kits came from.  

A child’s science kit turned into a fire starter. 

Two dogs yip at each other, both wear dog tags, he doesn’t know where they came from. Not everyone is doing well. About a dozen people stay away from the group of people dressed in office clothes, they look on with bitterness and much sorrow. No one bothers these people; all in all, the people patiently wait for help to come.

The burly man tells Donna, “We might have found a way to get to the people on the above floors. The problem is, the floor caved in.”

Donna gulps a few times, “Did you find my husband? Is Chuck alive? You need to tell me Marvin.” Marvin doesn’t make eye contact with her, Donna goes quiet.

Marvin looks like a janitor, he radiates goodness. Marvin reaches for Mark’s hand, he accepts. Steve says, “I’m Steve, we have a raft, but we need some medical attention.” 

Donna breaks out of her reverie, “Bring the people up, we have things under control now. Can you help Marvin rescue the people stuck upstairs? We will feed you and help in anyway. We will figure out what to do with the raft in a few minutes. People need rescuing and that trumps all else.” Mark nods, he understands.  In no way whatsoever does he take owner ship of the raft. As far as he’s concerned the raft is a tool meant to be used by all.

Today is about rescuing people. Why did this have to happen today? Why not tomorrow? Or next year or how about never happening?

Mark tells Steve, “I think this is just as good as the hospital. The hospital might not even be there anymore.” Everyone quiets down, not many like Marks observation. Overhead a marine helicopter speeds past, its hugging the water to close. Mark watches as people on the helicopter pitch things out the windows such as seats and communication equipment. Within moments the chopper is gone. Many of the people on the steps yell and wave for the chopper to notice them but to no avail.

Marvin interrupts, “There’s no time for chit chatter, and lets rescue us some people.” Two men look like they aren’t older than 21 join their little band as they go deeper into the building. Marvin tells one with short hair, “You got the flashlight?” 

The man takes out two, “Not only do I have one chief, I have two!” He hands one to Steve and the other to Marvin. They enter a small reception office, paper and video cassettes scatter on the floor. Cardboard prints show different floors and what future renters can expect. A coffee stand is broken, Mark smells stale coffee but can’t see things like that in the dark. His new tennis shoes feel like he’s walking on cushions. His injured hand briefly sends a jolt of pain but he soon forgets it. His adrenaline keeps on rushing and he’s long past feeling fatigue and tired. Mark is now on auto pilot.

The front door is propped open, the band continue their journey deeper in Franklin Square. Marvin asks his new volunteers, “Where do you fine folk come from?”

Steve replies, “I’m a guard this guy is from the Library of Congress.” 

Marvin looks surprised, “You’re a librarian?”

Mark rolls his eyes; everyone asks him if he’s a librarian. He dryly states, “I’m with the Kluge Center, it’s complicated.” He didn’t really do much librarian stuff, most people thinks he works behind a desk checking in and out books. Sure, some workers did that, but not him. He had an office. 

Mark’s mind goes back to books; he always loves reading anything and everything about his beloved city. He tells no one in particular, “Today Washington DC reminds me of people like Frances Burnett.”

Steve takes the bait, “Who is that?”

Marvin cheerfully responds, “He was the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Not many know where his house in because it was destroyed, it was here on this block. That’s a odd comparison Librarian.”

Mark ties explaining, “I’m more a staff worker who works closely with Congress.”
Marvin snorts, “Do you or do you not work in a library?”

Mark becomes more expatriated by the moment, “Well yes…”

Marvin happily whistles, “Then you’re the Librarian.” Mark sighs; he doesn’t know how to explain his job to some people. He does work in Library but it’s much more complicated. They easily climb two flights of stairs. In the distance Mark hears the roll of the waves, it sounds peaceful deep inside the building. He walks fourth in line, two people hold their lights, they sweep light beams in a chaotic fashion.  The hallway is surprisingly clear of much debris.

Marvin concernedly mentions two his younger buddies, “Mrs. Smith is going to need help rescuing her kids from Franklin School after this, any suggestions people?”

Steve replies, “We haft a raft, we can get them when this is over.” Mark doesn’t mind, he hopes the children in the high school are safe.

Marvin counters, “I think little Debbie must be crying up a storm. I would never have thought a raging ocean would be between us the school today. I pray Sweet Jesus saves us and puts an end to the sea outside or front doors.”

The two youngish men in unison respond, “Amen.” It’s not they are being religious, but everyone needs to put their faith in something during times like this. Mark wouldn’t mind some tranquility, his mind is simply to scientific to accept those type of beliefs. Sure, he thinks there is a God but he’s too small of a person to ever get Gods attention. He’s been baptized and he tries being a good person, what more could one ask?

Marvin wonders out loud, “I wonder if the Franklin Hospital Center is still intact?” 

One of the nameless men ghastly expresses, “I hope so, my mom works there. I was supposed to meet her at school at three but I wasn’t feeling good.”

Marvin Jackson warmly directs the group, “This way, it’s not far.  Your mom would have preferred you to be here today. I hope she comes home; I will keep an eye out for her. Don’t blame yourself for not going to school. I’m just not the janitor here but I’m also a deputy fire warden. I was hoping to become a Fire Warden later this year, the pay raise is nice.”

The male teen sadly replies, “I won’t be able to handle it if I find out she tried going to the high school.”

Mark tries sounding wise, “That’s why you folk need to always have an emergency plan set into place. It’s paramount that Americans have designated places to meet in times of emergencies. Maybe have three places in case one place gets destroyed.”

Marvin has a little cynicism, “Now isn’t the time for lectures Liberian. Did you know this community prides itself in not using government in our schools, we won awards! Not only that but we created the laser beam.”

Mark is interested; he’s always open to new knowledge. He isn’t bothered by the man’s rants, he knows many people are uncomfortable with government and he is a government worker. Marvin isn’t being rude, just opinionated. 

Dale Carnegie once said the best way to make friends with your enemy is to show interest in what they know. Don’t criticize, complain, or condemn and get Marvin to open up.

Mark tries an intellectual approach as they walk through the rubble, “Please tell me more! I’m not familiar with this part of town.” Mark indeed knows, he only wants the man to be friendlier.

Marvin happily obliges, “I would love to Librarian, some things can’t be found in a basement with books with cobwebs.”
Mark counters, “I don’t have the skills of the ordinary man who works the streets, and I’m always coped in a room in a building. You said something about lasers? How is that possible?”

Mark steps over a broken section of the floor without incident.

Marvin continues, “Alexander Bell made his fist wireless message outside on a bench near the high school. He sent a light beam to 1325 L Street and within it was a message.” 

Mark tries sounding genuinely impressed, “What was the message?” 

Marvin tries remembering but can’t, Steve comes to the rescue, “He set up shop on the school roof and used a photo phone to transmit sound by light waves.”

Marvin doesn’t mind Steve interrupted him, he continues, “Did you see both suns in the sky? That’s what did this wasn’t it?” Mark doesn’t have an answer. Deep down he wonders the same thing. 

It does seem odd this is happening when there are two suns.

They enter a large conference room; Marvin points his flashlight at the far wall. Etched in marble is the General Motors mural, a bronze buff of a wizened man peers intently back at them near the entrance. The bust is secure in its concrete foundation. Marvin continues walking, “I really hated cleaning the boss’s messes. Did you know even though the big shots are married to upper class woman who look like models they still bring in young secretaries to have sex with. Who do you think cleans there messes Librarian? Do you guys have congressmen act that way?”

Mark tries keeping humor out of his voice, “There are good congressman and bad.”

Marvin directs them across the conference room into a side hallway. This hallway has various historical still shots scattered on the floor from the buildings conception. Mark doesn’t have time to examine anything closely. The groups pace quickens as they leave the room. They enter a large rotunda which has most of its windows broke. Sunlight streaks in from the once glass ceiling, a fountain no longer works. Metal signs point in many directions with a few colors. Business showing Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLP, Reed Smith LLP, SNR Denton and Xerox Corporation to name a few.

Marvin tells Mark and Steve, “We evacuated most workers when the earthquake struck. Surprisingly a few people are found who are in shock. Most people left the building before the Tsunami came.” Mark see’s a sign directing to a stairway to the daycare. He heads for the door.

Marvin tries stopping him but is too late, “Don’t open that door, something…” Marks flings the stairs open, he doesn’t need the flashlights as long as the sunlight streaks in. Instantly he wished he didn’t. A dozen trampled bodies greet his gaze. Men and woman were pushed down the stairs and trampled when the emergency evacuation started.

Marvin sadly interjects, “It was a mess in here when the earthquake struck. All the fire alarms went off and no one directed the people trying to escape. Drills were pointless. Many people died because everyone else was in a frenzy to get out and the fire wardens or deputies never showed. The stairway collapsed. We need to find another way.” Mark shuts the door without saying anything. He feels nauseated. He smells a slight odor which reminds him of things best not thought about.

Steve asks, “What’s the plan Marvin?”

Mark sees a utility closet near the receptionist; he asks one of the men to accompany him to the closet. It’s not locked. Inside he finds an emergency light.

Maybe this time I should hold onto the flashlight. I better start learning from my mistakes.

His hand burns but he ignores the pain. Marvin tells give then new information, “I forget. Here’s the bomb.” Mark doesn’t like the sound of this. Marvin continues as Mark turns on and off his newly acquired flashlight, “We have a lot of people missing. After the roster from the evacuation count was counted we have a total number of eight office employees missing. The fire and emergency wardens and MIA, many left when the earthquake struck, which never happened before. But then, we never had a epic disaster such as this have we? Three are on this floor. There are four people on the floor above us, one above them, and the children in the daycare above them.” Mark groans.

Why can’t anything ever be easy?

Marvin is full of ill fated news, “Here’s the kicker. I was thinking we could use a corridor near the Property Managers Office; it’s often only used for Executive personal. You wouldn’t believe the messes I’ve cleaned in there. This is as far as we have reached.” A new wave can be felt in the distance; the hallway reacts as if he’s on a fast Interstate. The ground rumbles and floor rumble. 

The corridor is full of fallen ceiling; it doesn’t look like it’s navigable. Marvin shines his light, due to their being no sunlight in the hallway after leaving the reception area, there appears to be a section in the wall that is caved partially caved in. It looks whimsy. 

Marvin tells the two volunteers, “We are attempting to break the wall down. We got these axes from the firemen who sacrificed their lives saving us. Did you see their truck on its side out front?”

Mark responds, “Affirmative.” 

Marvin surprises them when he yells, “Don? You guys still here?” 

A few muffled voices can be heard on the other side of the wall. Mark makes out a man’s voice, “Thank God your back. How’s it going out there? Lucy can’t keep her eyes open, you need to hurry.”

Marvin counters, “Wasn’t Lucy a deputy fire warden for this floor?” Don muffles a reply but Mark doesn’t think Marvin is wrong with his guess.

Marvin hands them an axe, there are two. They take turns swinging at the broken wall without commenting. Within minutes they have a small hole and Marvin shines in light into it. He yells at the first people they rescue, “Stand back, we are making good progress. Sorry we took so long, we picked up a few emergency assistants.” Five minutes later they have a hole in the wall big enough for the people inside to crawl through. 

Don is a wiry thin Caucasian man who looks like a math geek. His voice is whiny and low, “Lucy isn’t moving. I think she might be dead.” A few others follow him out the hole. 

Marvin tells them, “A lot of people died today. Is there anyone else in there?”

Don replies, “No, but we didn’t try to go up. There is a stairway that is open. Maybe you can get to the children from there?”

Marvin doesn’t hesitate. He tells of the nameless men in office clothes to direct the survivors out. He tells Mark and Steve, “We need to go into the hole and rescue daycare. Are you in or out Librarian? Thanks for helping with the wall.”

Steve answers, “I’m in until the end bro.” Mark nods in approval. 

Marvin smiles for the first time, “You’re not a sissy Librarian after all Mark. Did I ever tell you I loved Indiana Jones, you’re the black version of that professor who does the adventures, you know, Indy.” Mark likes the comparison.

Steve adds, “Let’s get this show on the road. Who do I remind you of?” 

After a moment of thinking Marvin answers, “You remind me of the dog Toto from Wizard of the Oz.” Mark laughs.
Steve dryly replies, “I don’t see the comparison.” The other nameless man says something Mark doesn’t pick up but it’s not rude in intent. 

Marvin crawls through the medium size hole head first. After much squirming and cussing he makes it through, “Come Indy the Librarian, then Pete. Steve can you can be last? You’re tough and if anything goes wrong you can drag someone out by their feet. We have five more office workers to rescue.” Mark doesn’t understand why the janitor wasn’t made into a fire warden or something. The man knows how to lead and his understanding of the building is profound.

Mark, Indy the Librarian, attempts to go through the gaping hole in the wall. He doesn’t know how why the movies makes it look easy. 

The edges are rough and metal stuff protrudes around wire. At least there isn’t any electricity. 

Mark nimbly touches the wall, drywall crumbles in his hand. He tries wiping it off on his sleeve but it smears over whatever is already there. He puts one foot in and hops around one foot.

Marvin snorts, “You don’t have dexterity like Indiana Jones. How about I just call you the Librarian? You can try head first, and make it quick. The children must be terrified.” Marvin doesn’t wait with his flashlight. He tries finding the stairway Don mentioned. Mark closes his eyes and dives head first.

Steve gasps, “Dude, maybe you should try with your eyes open next time.” Mark blinks in the darkness; he was fortunate and didn’t land on anything hard.

Next time I’m going to not look down or keep my eyes shut. Stop being a dork Mark!

Marvin jumps up and down excitedly. Mark sees his flashlight make erratic movements in the dark he switches on his flashlight and holds it close. Marvin shouts, “I found it, I found it!”

Steve helps Mark to his feet and all three men join Marvin.  Mark is bewildered the building is in such good condition. 

He can’t help but ask Marvin as they walk up a flight of stairs, “How is possible this building has so little damage. I noticed there aren’t any fires which are rare today.” The stairwell is well lit, with emergency lights.

Marvin gruffly explains, “I can tell you why the fires didn’t hold. The stairwells are two-rated. We have concrete floors, granite and metal exterior walls. What’s cool is the flame retardant gypsum board with metal studs.” The man goes on and on. Mark doesn’t understand much of what the man is saying but he knows Marvin finds comfort in talking. 

Damn, the man reminds me Gump man from movie…

Marvin is full of passion to his building, “Did you know there is a diesel generator on site, the only problem is its control system is in the penthouse and the penthouse is no longer there.” They open the emergency door and enter the 4th floor.

Steve mutters, “That’s stupid. It should be in a bunker in case of other calamities like terrorists.” Mark didn’t have an opinion one way or another. Emergency lighting can be seen in some offices. Others are completely dark. 

Marvin yells, “Anyone here!” Someone in the distance shrieks. Mark can’t tell if it’s a male or female. The shrieks come closer. A woman looking like a witch with long matted down dark hair stumbles on a computer monitor. Mark can’t make out her works. They sound jumbled. 

Marvin cusses as he rushes forward. “Ms. Sherman. Where are the others?” The woman cries as she points at them. Saliva dribbles from her mouth. Marvin doesn’t have patience for this nonsense, “Someone escorts her down below.” The last office worker grunts and takes her hand.

The man in the office suit tries directing her, “Come on Ms. Sherman, let’s get you to safety.” 

Marvin hurriedly trots ahead, Mark and Steve follow. Mark doesn’t want to deal with the crazy woman but he does feel sorry for her. 

Marvin continues to shout, “Anyone here?” They are on a floor that seems to be all about data collecting and processing. Little cubicles lie empty, the office is very quiet. They have access to no windows this deep in. Marvin continues to shout, “Anyone here?” 

A young woman shouts back, “Over here! Oh please help us, over here!” They follow the voice, a petite Latino dressed in a silky black blouse and matching skirt huddles with two others. 

Marvin excitedly shouts even though they are all close, “We are here to safe you! I’m the deputy fire warden and this is the Librarian and Steve!”

The other two office workers are very attractive females. They jump up and hug all three men. Mark smells their perfume and feels very much male as he hugs the brunette. He misses Irina. 

The blond hair bombshell teases Steve, “Your hero’s, what do you do? Do you want to go out for dinner sometime?”

Marvin pokes a joke at Steve, “Hey Casanova, why don’t you escort these pretty girls downstairs. Try to bring up a few guys; we are going up a level.” Mark finds another flashlight; the office building is stocked well with emergency equipment. The three girls and Steve go back the way they came. 

Mark hears Steve’s voice go distant as he and Marvin continue the office’s to the stairwell on the other end. The blonde continues to flirt with Steve, “You’re so strong, what’s happening on there? What’s the rumbling I hear?” Her voice is sweet and feminine, Mark feels energized. 

Marvin comments, “I wouldn’t mind having one of those bunnies over for dinner. Too bad the Misses wouldn’t have any of that. They were hot though, it’s just me and the Librarian now. Aren’t you suppose to have a special tool like a whip or something?” 

Mark counters, “I have a gun. Does that count?”

Marvin whistles, “It must be in your back pack? Why do you have a gun? You’re not a bad fellow or a cop.” They crunch through the rubble, emergency lights easily illuminate the darkness, but as soon as they get in hallways all is pitch black. Mark thinks of his dad and wants to change the topic.

Thinking fast Mark blurts, “Did you know this is the one of the settings in Dan Browns The Lost Symbol?” He doesn’t want the tears and anguish he feels to show. 

Marvin kindly snorts, “There you are being a librarian again. Do people actually know the stuff you talk about? Thankfully my wife read the novel when I got my job here. She says it was like the Da Vinci Code or something? I don’t know, I don’t read for fun. Give me a good football game over a book any day.”

Mark steps over a broken table as they pass another conference room, the windows are all shattered, and not one computer is on a desk. He answers, “It’s actually the sequel to the Da Vinci Code. I really like the way Robert Langdon was portrayed.”

Marvin stops and excitedly asks, “You’re a big shot aren’t you? Are you a mason like those characters? Do the illuminati actually rule the world?” For the first time Mark hears respect in Marvin’s voice. He’s happy he spent the time listening to the man. It seems like he just made a new friend. Marvin sounds simple and innocent. They are now on the stairwell and are walking up to level five. 

Mark tries sounding wise, “No I’m not a free mason. I hear many Congressmen are. They wear rinds with symbols looking like crescents and compasses. Nice lot they are. I really like Tom Hanks in the first movie.”

Marvin adds, “Hear hear.” Marvin reaches for the door while commenting, “To bad there are no demons and angels. Do you think God had anything to do with what happened today?”

Mark answers, “Sure, God has something to do with everything. But I don’t think the rapture or anything like that is going to happen. The sun goes up and it will eventually go down.” He’s confused of why two suns are in the sky but he doesn’t think Marvin has any answers.

Marvin tries opening the door but it doesn’t budge. He yells, “Is anyone on the other side?” He uses his heavy duty flashlight as a knocker and repeats his question many times. 

Mark ponders the situation and asks, “The daycare is on the other side?” Marvin grunts yes and continues to pound on the door. Mark is about to tell the burly man that maybe he was wrong when he hears distant voices coming from the other side. Half a dozen children clatter over broken stuff, many small voices break the silence. One in particular overrides the rest.
A boys voice shouts, “We are here and stuck! It’s been forever, help us!” His voice doesn’t hold over other children who all want to be heard at once. Marvin gives the thumbs up to Mark. Mark smiles in relief. He’s glad he didn’t bail sooner.

Marvin tries sounding like a carrying adult, “How many of you are in there?”

The boy responds, “Eight. We were playing hide o seek and got trapped. The floors and ceiling are caving in, please safe us! We are so sorry for not being where we were supposed to be. I take full responsibility.” Mark feels admiration for the boy taking responsibility.

Mark answers, “Now isn’t the time for that. Don’t worry about getting in trouble. What’s blocking the door?”

The boy replies while two others tell him what to say, “It’s the ceiling. It caved in.” Marvin swears and looks like a deer caught in head lights. 

Mark asks, “How bad is the floor and ceiling?” He’s trying to figure out a way how to safe them. He tries opening the door himself but it won’t budge.

The boy answers, “Half the upper floors collapsed on the lower floors. Majority of the floor isn’t here. We can see the sky. We are scared. You’re going to safe us right?” 

A young girl shrills, “I want my mommy.”

Yet another girl tells the crying girl, “Be strong. Mommy isn’t here.”
A boy sounding like a bully kicks the rubble, “This sucks you guys. I want a chocolate bar and a Pepsi.” 

The conservation goes full circle as the first young girl screams, “I want my mommy now!” Mark looks at Marvin. He has an idea.

He asks the children who are on the other side of the door, “How big are the holes in the floor and ceiling?”

The children pause, the boy answers, “Very big.”

Mark’s plan unravels, “Hold on a minute. We are going to go up one level. Meet us where the hole starts, can you do that?” 

The children agree. Mark hears them shuffle over the rubble back into the distance. The little girl continues to cry for her mommy.

Marvin tells Mark, “What’s your plan Librarian? How are we going to get them out?”

Mark tells him, “Give me a minute. I’m figuring this out as I go.”

They walk up a floor, the door opens without effort. The floor goes on for about thirty feet and then nothing. Sun light streaks in a fifteen foot gap in the middle of the building. 

It looks like everything fell inward. How is that possible?

A few brave children manage to walk out a few feet by balancing on pipes, “Down here, we are down here!” 

Mark sees them, “We are almost there. Is there anything you can use to climb up?” Everyone looks around for something. A ladder sticks under a painting tarp in a room under construction. Nearby a sign welcomes people to SoHo CafĂ© and Market. Mark picks up the sign and ignores the market. He runs back to the hole while carrying the ladder.

Marvin yells, “The Librarian has a plan. We are going to safe each and every one of you.” Mark inches towards the gaping hole in the floor. The sun beats heavy on his shoulders. He starts to profusely sweat. The ladder clears the gap. Four children immediately rush forward and eagerly crawl up the unstable ladder. The boy is the first to come up.  Marvin orders the remaining children up the ladder.

A few girls retort, “We can’t do it, it’s too scary.” Marvin huffs and puffs while looking at Mark with confusion.

Mark shrugs, “It’s just one of those days.” Without looking down he swings his legs over the edge and starts inching down the ladder. He doesn’t close his eyes, he gains strength from knowing he’s do his best to safe children. 

Today I save American children and whoever else needs help. Dad, I will make you proud of me!

He hits the bottom floor. The young girl children swarm him, “Now who is going first. There isn’t any time to kill, your moms and dads miss and want you all!” Two of the girls shimmy up the ladder. That leaves one left.

Mark tries a different track, “What’s your name? You have a pretty dress.” Of course she is cakes with dirt, she holds a teddy bear. Mark’s heart goes out for her, she looks at him with big deer eyes, and she looks like Bambi. He reaches out for her, she steps in. Tears come to her eyes. Mark pats the girl on her head.

He looks back up, Marvin looks down. Mark tells the girl, “I need you to put your arms around my neck. He takes off his backpack and puts it around his left arm. The girl weeps but silently obeys his orders. Mark feels her weight add much to his exhausted frame. He suddenly feels all his strength leaves him, he totters near the edge.

Learn from your lessons and don’t look down. 

Mark shuts his eyes and imagines himself rooted like a giant oak tree. He feels the little girl’s breath on his neck. Her pulse reminds him why he must endure. 

I must go on for the children and for America. This is what my dad wants of me. God, you were once part of America’s history. For Christ’s sake the U.S. dollar bill quotes ‘In God we Trust.” God, I don’t know you but I need you, gives me strength to go on.

Something connects deep in Mark. He doesn’t feel tired anymore. He is aware his feet hurt and hands hurt. His focus sharpens; the girl doesn’t feel as heavy. Mark feels tranquil as he reaches for the ladder. Inner peace rolls from deep within.  A deep inner voice is faint but steady. It assures him things will be alright. 

Is that God or Jesus? Or maybe they are the same, I'm so confused. It's dogmatic.

Mark doesn’t know. He does feel different, he doesn’t feel alone. Before he knows it he’s on the floor with Marvin. His hands shake as new adrenaline kicks in. Mark melts to the floor as the children cheer him on. 

They take on Marvin’s pet name, “Librarian, librarian!” Mark has never been so happy. His confidence soars through the roof.

The boy cuts their celebration short, “That’s only seven. Where’s Mickey?” Marvin and Mark are dumbfounded. Marvin sighs in defeat.

Marvin tells Mark, “I guess this makes it my turn. Hold the ladder.” Mark reaches for the ladder. Marvin gets to the bottom without incident. A few minutes later he appears with a very young boy who isn’t old enough to climb the ladder.

He shrilly tells Mike, “I found the kid. We are coming up.” They don’t make it to the ladder; a new wave hits the building. The floor underneath Marvin and Mickey groans and collapses. Marvin yells, “Help!”

Mark and the children scream out in horror. It’s too late for stillness and darkness greet their shouts of denial. The janitor and the eighth child are no more. There floor shakes and feels unstable.

Mark shouts, “Get to the stairs now!” The seven children don’t need to be prodded or shouted at. Mark lets go of the ladder and swings his back pack on his back. It doesn’t take them a minute to get back to the stairwell. Another minute and they are on the fourth floor. Mark sullenly escorts the children to the hole in the wall and patiently waits until they are safe. The adults from the other side shout in celebration when the children arrive. Only one parent bears witness to the bad news.


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