Sunday, September 25, 2011

2014: The Way the World Ends (Chapter XXXII: Franklin School DC)

Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011

Chapter XXXII: Franklin School DC

Donna tries asking Mark about the missing Janitor but doesn’t get far. The children excitedly tell their parents about the daring rescue and Marvin’s unfortunate demise. 

Donna tells Mark, “It sounds like your building a reputation Librarian.” Mark blushes, he never felt so alive being a scholar. He doesn’t want to correct anyone when all their doing is praise him. 

Mark smiles, “All for America and her citizens. I’m just doing my duty.” 

Stephanie howls, “What about my children Donna? We need to take the raft to the Franklin School and rescue the children!”

Donna doesn’t have time to grief Marvin, “Librarian, did you find a man named Chuck? My husband was on the seventh floor.” Mark doesn’t know how to tell her she is a widow. 

There isn’t a seventh floor. It caved in on the sixth floor, the kids are lucky to be alive.

Stephanie doesn’t ease, “Look, I think I see people on the roof of the school!” Mark sits down hard, his muscles ache. His mind is numb.

Now what, I want to go to sleep.

Mark peers to where Stephanie points. In the distance he sees the last few stories of the Franklin School. Most of the school is submerged, but on the roof there seems to be feint dots which could be people, light is reflected of glass and mirrors. 

Is someone trying to the Morris Code?

Many children draw their parents to the side of the building, they excitedly point. Everyone can see the shimmer of light on glass. Adults join in with Stephanie desire to help.

A homely looking woman in office pants and blouse holds her recently rescued child close, “Donna, she’s right. It looks like children are stuck on the building at the school. We need to do something.” Children become a sing song, “Help them.” 

One of the children changes track, “Librarian, save them!” The other children sing along, “Librarian save them!” Mark blushes deeply.

What can I do?

Steve immensely enjoys his new fame, the petite blond hangs all over him. Her two peers hold each other as they cry while looking at the raging ocean which swamped Washington DC. Steve looks at Mark, “It’s a catchy sound your new nickname, Librarian. Why don’t we take the raft and see what we can do?” Mark nods; all the attention makes him feel special. He doesn’t want to disappoint the children. The children cheer. 

Mark gets back up, his muscles cramp but he ignores it. The shade of the building feels good. Donna says, “Good luck, and bring back as many as you can.” She goes back to helping the two EMT workers. The Red Cross helps the office workers and prepare for the new children.

Everyone thinks we are coming back? This is odd. What happens if we die or if a new wave comes? Or if something else happens like a tornado?

Mark shrugs off the paranoia. 

The world is full of what ifs. It is what it is. If everyone lives in fear then nothing will ever get done. Fear is the enemy.

They get on the raft; two male office workers help them launch back into the ocean. Sea water briefly lifts, soaking Mark in its stench yet again. Steve starts the engine and off they zip. He tries waving back at the people he’s leaving behind, the children wave back.

Steve laughs, “She’s so hot! What a find. I can’t believe this day. How are you holding up chief?”

Mark enjoys the warm breeze as they speed towards the sinking school. Looking around he’s surprised to see many people in windows in surrounding buildings reflect light off of shiny object. There must be at least a hundred people needing help around the square. Many people have clothes and various woven articles hanging out windows. An older man screams from a nearby sunken tree near a fountain. Branches stick above the water, he looks like a wet cat who is terrified as he scrambles to higher branches. Pigeons take flight.

The sculpture of Commodore John Barry stretches above the ocean. Its base is gone, but a dark robust of a man wearing an old school navy hat stands proudly holding an officers sword. Two homeless men hug the statue, they drunkenly insult the world. Mark bypasses them for the man who is stuck in a tree.

One drunken man tells the other, “Look, it’s a raft! Save us!”

Mark tries telling them, “Sit tight, we will come back in a bit.”

The other drunken man holding onto Barry wails, “Go to hell and safe us now! Who cares about others?” Mark looks at Steve who maneuvers around the drunken men on the sculpture. The man continues his hateful vent, “If you don’t save us now I will kill you, get your ass back here!” They direct their raft to a tree which easily looms many feet over the ocean. Most tree tops brush over the ocean, anyone on any floor in buildings lower never had a chance.

Mark can no longer see the Almas Shrine Temple or the surrounding business; he went to the Temple once. He no longer agrees with Dan Brown, the Franklin Square no longer towers over the block with prestigious golden spires. Everything is in ruin. The fountain in the center of the square is fully submerged. The Franklin Square is a block away, but the businesses along K Street NW remain under water and have collapsed. This gives Franklin Square the prominent space it has always craved for. No buildings mean zero competition. Sadly, it stands alone. Mark sees the cathedral in the distance. A few new helicopters that he can’t make out buzz over head, occasionally he hears a jet, but he can’t see anything in the sky.

It doesn’t seem right it’s all gone. I ate lunch right off of McPherson Square at Potbelly’s. Right down here I sat with Irina and commented on the impression of Benjamin Franklin had on the city on a park bench. We watched a street performer on the corner of I and K St NW. Weird how there isn’t a J St. 

The massive tree has a blue bold sign securely fashioned on its trunk, it says Franklin Square. Steve gasps, ahead is another tree with a bunch of scooter Segway Tourists. Somehow a few scooters got washed up a tree. Of course the people were not in the tree, but it’s still weird to see. The branches secure the machines in place, none appear to be idling. 

They ocean must have picked the scooters up.

A man wears a Haitian shirt and a straw hat; he looks down at their raft. He doesn’t say anything. Mark is reminded of the Chester Cat. Steve shouts, “If you drop into the water we can get you on board!” The man in the Haitian shirt hisses at Steve. 

He thinks he’s a cat? What drugs is he on?

Steve yells, “Come on dude, we need to rescue some children. Jump and swim to the raft!” The man claws the air with one hand and continues to hiss. Mark can’t help but smirk.

Mark tells Steve, “I think the man is crazy. Let’s get to the high school.” Mark vaguely sees what he assumes is a group of children on the roof of the old trade school which sticks above the ocean. They howl towards their raft, a few hold a bathroom mirror which they use to reflect sun light. A light beam hits the man in the trees who roars like a lion. Hundreds of pigeons on branches above his take flight to the sculpture. The drunken men curse as bird shit land on them. 

Steve mutters, “Your nuts old man. Let’s go.” One of the drunken men on the fountain throws his shoes at the raft as the pass. Next comes a half empty vodka bottle. The bottle somehow manages to hit the side of the raft.

The drunken man shouts, “You pieces of shit don’t deserve a boat. I’m going to hurt you when the water goes down!” His buddy has to hold him back from jumping after them. Mark doesn’t understand why they act the way they do. 

They proceed to speed towards the high school. Another person stuck in a tree yells from their left, “Pardon me. Please lend a hand!”

Steve brings the raft to an idle, a man in a tree. The man looks important, he reminds Mark of someone but he can’t place him.

The man yells, “I need rescuing. The weather isn’t agreeing with me today, I’m afraid I’m in a predicament. If I jump down will you help me?”

Mark yells back, “We sure will.” The man jumps out of the tree. The current isn’t strong. He comes to the surface within seconds.

The man easily gasps for air, “That was fun.” Mark helps him on board.. The man adds, “Thanks so much, I think there are some people on the roof of the old school. I saw light beams.” The man shakes from the cold, his hair is matted firmly on his brow. 

Steve asks, “Who are you? I’m Steve and this is the Librarian.” 

The man shivers, “Thanks Steve. Isn’t the Librarian as a name being a little auspicious? I’m William.”

Mark laughs, “It’s a long story about the nickname. I’m Mark.” A dog howls from a door which floats past. Mark looks at the yellow dog with a orange blue tag. The Scottish terrier quips as it drifts away. The man gasps, “I felt the earth not far below. I think the water must only be six to eight feet deep.” Steve tries whistling to the dog but it doesn’t want to go into the water. 

Steve replies, “Yes, I’ve been notice the ocean is receding. With any luck it will be over by nightfall. Talking of which, what time is it?” Mark looks down at his watch; the time says 7:19 PM.

That can’t be right. The sun is still bright.

The man they rescued answers, “Its 7:22 PM.” Mark looks up to the sky. The sun is bright and looks big. He looks down and nods in confusion.

The man asks, “Why would there be children in that school? It’s a homeless shelter and a trade school for adults.” 

Mark is confused, “Maybe her kid is learning a trade?”

William asks, “Why isn’t it getting dark?” Mark and Steve have no answers. They continue to the old trade school which was recently made into a trade school and homeless shelter.

After a moment of silence William begins to dry quickly, he continues, “Don’t fret the small stuff. You men are courageous for saving me, you deserve an award.” Steve starts the motor. The dots on the roof get bigger, the children don’t take on clarity but all go inside. The building is a large brown brick structure with three floors and a roof. The Atlantic Ocean recedes, now the only floor submerged is the first floor an half the second. 

Maneuvering the vessel becomes more difficult as large obstacles such as trucks and utility vans start emerging from the water, a lot of bodies float to the surface. Mark gags in disgust.

William expresses horror and awe, “How many bodies are there?” Hundred of bodies drift to the surface; no currents carry the bodies away. Across the block Mark sees the mini whirl pools ebb down, vehicles are no longer being pushed in currents. Steve directs the raft up the front door near a broken window. The people in on the roof are nowhere to be seen. 

Steve tells William, “I need you two to control the raft. Can you do that?”

The man replies, “I served in the Navy. You can count on me.” Steve jumps into the window, Mark groans but follows. He’s getting good at this, he doesn’t lose his footing. He wants to help as many as he can. They enter the second story window and find a large old school class room. The window is a tight fit for its slender and only four feet in length. The earthquake did a great job in dislodging the glass.

Steve depressingly comments, “So much for the restoration of the building. Did you know back in 1869 Adolf Cluss pioneered a new class room setting by incorporating aged-graded classrooms with cutting edge curriculum?”

Mark happily replies, “Even though Marvin was a little Jerk he was cool. Did you know I went to a few concerts in this building in their main hall when I was a kid? This school was originally two one story wooden houses; it was used for vocational training.” Something doesn’t feel right. Mark pauses as he gets to the front door. He hears muffled voices sounding deep and mean in the distance.

Steve counters, “This section of the city always crepe me out. Did you know there is a homeless shelter somewhere in this building? The Franklin School should become a hub for educational research and job placement for the needy. Instead they let the homeless in and things go to shit.” Mark walks out into the hallway. 

Mark replies, “They could always get a special grant for that type of thing. The problem comes from a lack of private donors. What the hell?” Something is right down the hall. Mark expects to see children, not adults carrying guns and pipes.

Is that the Michael Jackson impersonator from earlier?

Steve continues from behind him, “Why can’t the homeless become students and enroll in adult programs? It would be a win-win situation for everything. The current Administration is all about education, oh wait, the destruction of DC just happened, and sometimes I’m really stupid. What’s wrong Librarian?”

A group of men look down the hall with much hate. The man who let Mark cross the street earlier looks deadly and crazy. The man points in his direction, “Look, I found them. Let’s get them!” Another man fires a pistol in their direction. 

Fear radiates from deep within Mark, He yells, “Turn around! Get back inside!” Steve’s eyes grow big; as his body slams into the wall. Blood spurts out in a giant arc. Mark screams, “No.” He slams shut the door and locks it. Men slam their shoulders and feet on the other side, the door threatens to break under the stress but the solid oak holds, the walls are thick and look in good condition. 

Mark hears someone shout, “Maybe we can get him by going in another room!” Mark runs back to the window, the couple are still there. The man looks up in confusion.

Mark flings himself through the window and lands in the raft. William has time for, “What…”

 Mark insanely yells, “Bushwhackers!” After saying this he knows it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t take the man long to realize what’s happening as a few homeless men break a window in a nearby classroom. They point and shout towards their raft.

A man wearing a heavy metal t-shirt yells, “I found them, there are two and they have a raft with a motor!” The man lifts a gun at them but doesn’t shoot. 

Mark yells, “They killed Steve, get the motor running and let’s get out of here!” The motor is already purring, Mark is having a hard time keeping cool. He doesn’t like getting shot at. This is the second time today.

William barks, “Let’s get out of here!” Mark cries in despair, he wasn’t expecting to lose Steve. He huddles into a ball in the middle of the raft. 

The man behind the motor steadily directs the motor boat away from the Franklin School, he continues, “I heard the gun shots, what happened?” 

Mark finds his voice, “I don’t understand.” Within moments they hear more gun fire as the homeless try to shoot them. They speed off fast and are not in hitting distance. Mark tells William, “Head to Franklin Square building, there are good people there.”

William interrupts, “Look, I think that’s the high school you were talking about.” He points to the right. A school is mostly destroyed but a few teenagers on an upper level wave at them, a teacher is in their presence. The building comes up fast. The Ocean recedes another few inches A fire eats away the building, smoke comes from their window which silhouettes the teens and the teacher. They appear as dark figures before a stage of red and orange. They also hold broken glass which they use to reflect off the sun light to get people’s attention. Many such lights appear in the surrounding blocks.

The woman, who Mark assumes to be a teacher, throws a few wooden desks out the window.  The wood floats. She grabs both children and jumps. Smoke drifts into the sky where they once stood. The man directs the raft to the woman and two children. Mark and the man’s wife helps them board. 

The teacher blurts as soon as she gets on the raft, “Senator Carlson, you’re the last one I was expecting!” Mark startles, he never once thought William is a Senator. Now he recognizes him, he just saved the State Senator from Texas. 

Senator Carlson responds, “I had some help, meet my friend the Librarian.”

The teenagers and teacher are grateful, “Thanks so much, we need to get these children home. Err, or something. I’m glad we are out of the building.” One child sneezes uncontrollably. Mark watches the sea dissipate another few inches as the raft speeds back to Franklin Square. The people on the upper floor are almost unattainable; the water levels are receding steadily. 

A few office workers instantly recognize the State Senator.

Mark asks, “Are you a teacher?”

The woman attempts to drain some water from her blouse, “I am a guidance councilor. Thanks for coming when you did, my name is Sierra.” It doesn’t take long to get to Franklin Square.

Excitement radiates from the small group who mass near the water’s edge. Many people hope help is coming and remain optimistic. A male office worker yells, “Wow, its Senator Carlson, we are saved!”   

The children yell, “The Librarian is back!” A few adults help bring the raft in. The Senator is a pro at directing the water vessel to safety. Donna is one of the first to greet William Carlson. She excitedly draws in her breath as she introduces herself. 

The blond office worker calls out, “What happened to Steve?” Mark nods in sorrow and does the thumbs direction. The petite girl runs off crying. Her two peers follow while giving words of comfort. 

Donna thrusts her chest out mirroring a hen protecting its eggs, “Senator, we need direction. We have many children and many injured. What do we do?”

The Senator pauses for a moment as he takes the group, “I see you have a few First Responders, that’s good. Do we have any telecommunication equipment which works?”

Donna calls forth a office worker, “Sue don’t you work with security? Is there anything the Senator needs in the building?”
Sue answers, “There is a backup generator and radio equipment in the middle of the building. There’s an electronic store on the second floor.” 

William cuts him off, “Well there you go. Let’s go inside and try to get some things working. Mark, I want you to ask around and get someone to help you rescue more people out there.” Mark doesn’t mind being told what to do.  The State Senator quickly coordinates a group together and they head inside. He takes with him one of the EMT specialists, another first responder and two male office workers. Mark notes there are over forty people.

Not knowing how to precede Mark raises his voice, “Is there anyone who can help me with the raft. I need someone who can use the motor and is physically able to do some lifting.” 

Many people sadly respond no. However one of the three petite females he saved early rises to the challenge. The woman wears a blue blouse and dress slacks. She has silky dark hair and almond eyes which remind Mark of an Egyptian Siamese cat. At first he doesn’t take her serious. 

Mark continues, “I’m looking for any men who can help…”

The petite woman becomes a fiery cat, “How typical of a male. Who are you to say a woman can’t do anything a man can do?”
Mark sputters, “…it’s dangerous out there and females might get hurt.” He doesn’t have much conviction, the woman bold and exotic in her gestures.

The righteousness woman continues, “I don’t think you can afford to pick and chose who helps. I know how to raft; I spend many years camping with my family.” Mark’s eyes widen, he looks around for support. Office workers are depressed and quiet. Many want to be left alone. A few lively people talk to Donna and the EMT worker. A group of bankers appear to be preaching up a storm, but they do so peacefully.

No one wants to help outside of this small fragile woman. Should I take her help even if it means she might get hurt?

The woman continues, “Come on; give me one good reason outside of me being female why I shouldn’t help? Are you afraid I will show you up Librarian? Or maybe you’re afraid I will bite?” Marks blushes, she continues, “My name is Angela; I really want to help my fellow Americans. Please let me help.” Mark relates to being patriotic, he finally puts his ego on the back burner. Smiling he looks up at her as a real person, not a hot petite female. Her outspoken behavior wins some respect.

He changes his tone which becomes softer. He talks to her as a tomboy, or one of his buddies, “Angela, cool to have you on board. I saw many people reflecting light in buildings, let’s try to safe as many as we can?”

Angela’s feline eyes take on joy, “Yes sir, your name is Mark isn’t it?” She walks over to the raft and throws a few water bottles and candy bars inside. She continues, “People might need water from hydration, I found something that can be used as an oar.” Angela shows a metal pipe with a wooden plank securely fastened to one end. He tests it out, it appears solid. Mark tosses it in the raft. A couple men help them back into the water. Angela manages to start the motor with incident. 

Mark points to his right, “I think there are bad people to the left, let’s see what’s to the right.” 

“Aye Aye Captain Mark.” Angela’s voice sounds light and chirpy which soothes Mark.


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