Thursday, July 21, 2011
Written and owned by Greg Miller 2011
Chapter XXV: Aye Aye Captain Mark
Mark’s heart races as he returns to his abode. He knows something isn’t right. He expects the worse. Running past the front hallway he enters the kitchen, his room is to the right but he knows no one will be in there. The bookshelf in front hallway leading to the kitchen crashed sometime earlier in the day. Books lay scattered around broken knickknacks his mother collected from New York. Porcelain pieces crunch under foot. Mark flinches as he remembers the moments his mother bought a few of the dolls. The front hallway is dark, turning on the light switches yield no results. His rental consists of a two bedroom two bathroom.
Mark yells, “Dad, Mom! Are you guys here?” He has to turn on the flashlight as he enters the kitchen. The stove and cabinets are to the right. He smells burned bacon, his Dad loves eating bacon with a steak for lunch. His father cherished odd meals like that. Mark’s light illuminates two frying pans on the floor. He sees the oven is still turned on but is not leaking gas. The air smells like chlorine. He turns the gas knob just to be safe. Shining his light to the right he sees the kitchen table is still intact and has only moved a few inches. The cabinets are all open and almost all the dishes are broken on the floor. He sees a few plates have nudged themselves firmly in the cabinets but most are destroyed.
Mother is going to hate cleaning this. Maybe I should get a maid and safe her some back ache when this is over.
Mark rushes into the living room where he sees a little light “Is anyone here?” No answer. Tears run freely. Mark fears they are dead.
He enters the living room while hoping to see his parents sitting on the couch in front of the flat screen television set. Instead Mark finds nothing but a stuck pigeon flying and making a mess. The flat screen lies on its side, it is destroyed. All the shelves and cabinets lie open and in ruins. He couldn’t see color for everything looks gray, almost as if it wasn’t his home. Sunlight comes from the balcony, the door is open and a slight breeze drifts into the living room. A few loose papers move a couple of inches in the stifled breeze. Mark feels alone. He feels abandoned. The apartments are full of glass furniture which scares Mark now that it’s not safe to walk without shoes. The appliances consist of slick looking gray metal and soft black furniture. The problem is almost everything is made from glass or steal and the glass is now broken. Many must have cut their feet during these types of atrocities. The apartment is 800 square feet. Mark loves the pool on the roof; he can be found reading a book their most nights.
My parents are dead! Oh God, why can’t I find them? Are they dead?
Mark shines the flashlight at the walls expecting to see his family looking back in holiday portraits. Only one picture is on the wall. It’s him graduating from college. His parents beam with respect and love as he happily accepts his diploma in two pictures framed side by side.
“Dad, please be here somewhere. Are you here?” H e is losing hope. He doesn’t want to give up as he rushes to his parent’s bed room. The door freely swings open. The bedroom has little damage; the bed and dresser are still in place. His heart pounds as he sees something looking like a lump in the middle of the bed.
Running forward he pulls the sheets back as he yells, “Mom, Dad!” It is no one but a pillow under the sheet. Mark crashes into the bed and cries; he doesn’t know what to do. He smells his parents on the sheets, it fills him with memories.
Where are they? They can’t be dead if there are no bodies!
He is tired and doesn’t want to get up. He wants to close his eyes and pretend none of this is real. Instead he cries as his mind freezes. He doesn’t want to think anymore, he wants someone to rescue him. He wants to be spoiled. He wants his parents to be home and to be safe. The room loses some of its light which makes Mark go back to the living room. The carpet is full of water smelling like the pool which really bothers him. Mark is confused and thinks he hears rain. Looking outside he sees no rain. Water streaks the window and the carpet is wet. Water drips from the ceiling and is collecting in a puddle. Much of his belongings have been destroyed, Mark sees the dining room wall has a very large crack allowing him to see outside.
What do I do? Is that pool water from the roof?
Mark feels he could use a drink. Or maybe even wash up a little. He moves away from the living room, he doesn’t look outside. He walks into his parent’s bathroom and tries the faucets. Nothing comes out. He laughs at the bitter humor of being home but not being able to clean up properly. Remembering his mom puts a pitcher of distilled water in the fridge he makes his way back to the kitchen with a bar of soap. He shines the flashlight at the slick gray metal fridge, random notes tell of chores and when dinner is going to be ready. Tonight for dinner is Roast Beef, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. He freezes as he sees a new sticky note.
If anyone comes home meet me at Joes- Dad
His Dads friends apartment is on the fourteenth floor, one story above them. He doesn’t understand why this building has a thirteenth floor but it does. His dad was born on the 13th so the place was perfect for his family. Mark pauses a moment as he dualistic-ally thinks of two things. It’s good his dad is safe! The second is his mom left some fried chicken in the fridge from last night’s family dinner and maybe she is with him. Opening up the fridge he finds the chicken is gone.
What the hell? No one but me was going to eat the fried chicken! What’s going on?
The water and juice are gone. So are the high carbohydrates and the meat. All which is left are condiments; food not touched for a week, butter and sour cream. He sees some cheap pop on the bottom shelf. Hurriedly he drinks it. He wanders to the pantry to find a few random boxes of cheap noodles and nothing else. The water is still in the pitcher. Mark greedily washes himself the best he can. He remembers to keep half the water for himself this time. He finds an empty pop bottle and fills it with a liter of clean water.
What happened to the rice and other starches?
He checks the pantry for cookies or other treats. A few potatoes look over ripe as they bud; it looks like someone cleaned the pantry out. He runs to his room before he heads to the fourteenth floor, his room is barred. Something must have fallen and blocked the entrance. He shrugs the latest insult off as he decides it’s time to go upstairs. He doesn’t think of taking anything before he leaves.
He manages to walk half way up when he smells something burning. Peeking over the rail he thinks he catches whiff of some smoke coming from below. No one needs help, he continues up. He pauses a moment and decides to go back for his tennis shoes.
These dressing shoes are killing me. Hold on Dad, I’m almost there.
His tennis shoes are near the front entrance. He doesn’t have time to get anything else. He wants to write a second note for his mom but can’t because he can’t find a pen to write with, he decides she must be upstairs and to not worry about it. His heart races with excitement knowing his Dad is doing well. The floor with the fire hasn’t got worse; he briefly gets a flash of Irina burning at the Library of Congress when she opened the door.
I should be careful when I know fires are around.
Marks mind thinks of Irina as he trips. Something catches his right foot which sends him to his knees. Reaching out with his left hand he feels pain reawaken from his flesh wound as he attempts to brace himself from falling on his face. Shining the light down he sees the floor has a three inch fissure.
The floor is losing its durability!
Mark forgets about the pain in his hand as he urgently picks up his pace . It doesn’t take him long. Within moments he is in the hall way. The apartment is to the right and the door is shut. Mark doesn’t knock.
Yelling he announces his presence, “Dad?” He hears voices pause. His Dad’s voice answers yes and to come in.
He’s already in the apartment before his Dad finishes. The apartment is different than his. Joe has three bedrooms. Like his dad he too is a retired police officer. Unlike his dad, Joe is seventy and is healthy. He lives with his wife, collects trains and loves to camp. The apartment is full of light and the curtains are open. His dad looks proud and old. He is hunched over camping gear as he discards the fishing line.
“Mark, I’m glad you made it home! I see you got my letter? Is your mom behind you I hope?” He looks stocky. Cancer has taken much of his weight but it hasn’t touched his soft facial expression. His dad looks wizened and reminds him of what Bill Cosby cousin might look like. Of course they are not related.
“Come here and give your dad a hug!” Mark isn’t crying but smiles as he reaches for his Dad. He doesn’t worry about hurting his Dad as he lifts the old man off the ground. Mark tries mimicking Mike’s bear hug but fails miserably. His heart is full of joy.
Joe greets him. Unlike his Dad, Joe is uniquely bland in appearance. His neck merges with his head. Mike thinks he looks like a troll. It doesn’t matter because Joe is one of the nicest individuals Mark has ever met.
In a light voice Joe says to his Dad, “But fishing wire can come in handy if fishing is needed in the next month. You need to have the basics in a camping survival set. You need fishing gear to catch fish Benjamin.” His dad tells Mark to sit and catch his breath. Benjamin tells Joe he is correct and the stress is making him not think right. Joe continues, “In this bag we have: a Swiss army knife, water proof paper and pens, chord for building, a whistle in case of getting stuck, a flashlight with extra batteries, a BIC lighter, fishing hooks, safety pens, tuna, crackers, a compass, water purification pills…” Benjamin cuts him off saying he knows for he helped pack.
"Dad, what are you doing?" The living room is clear of most furniture. In the middle of the room is a lot of camping gear which Joe and his dad are putting together. The glass dining room table is in shards, thousands of pieces glitter as they reflect the sunlight. Whenever someone moves Mark can hear glass break.
His dad points at the pile closest to them, “We are getting some supplies together. We need to prepare for the tsunami. This pile is things we take and that pile is the garbage pile.”
Joe snorts as he kindly interrupts, “It’s not garbage. It’s just things we can’t carry. You see this; it’s a water pump and is worth hundreds of dollars, garbage my ass!” He picks up a large looking plastic contraction and tosses it with the rest of the stuff in the garbage pile.
His dad continues, “We now wait for our wives. When they come home we will get out of here.”
Mark catches his breath, “Dad, it’s a mess out there. We won’t be able to get to the highway. I saw terrible things when I was coming home.” He doesn’t get a chance to tell about his adventures.
Benjamin continues, “We all have had a bad day son. I need you to keep cool and have your wits sharp. Here is some chicken if you want.” Mark looks where his dad is pointing and is surprised when he sees the plate of chicken which was supposed to be in his fridge. Even though he ate a few hot dogs he hungrily gobbles down a chicken breast. He sees all their food is in a pile, along with Joe’s food.
Mark sighs, “I thought we were robbed. I saw fissures and a fire down below. The front doors at the entrance are locked.” He remembers Irina but doesn’t say anything to the retired cops.
His dad says shit and Joe instantly gets up. Joe tells his dad he needs to get to the front entrance in case the wives come back. Within moments Joe is gone. Right before he leaves he tells Benjamin to continue to get the supplies together on the roof.
Benjamin tells Mark to look out the window if he wants to see something epic. Marks gut clinches as he gets to his feet. Mark learns the older ladies went out for lunch at eleven.
The view overlooks the Navy Yard; it takes Mark a moment to understand what he sees. On a normal day you could view the capital building above three brown apartment complexes. You can even see the dome of the Library of Congress nearby with many white government buildings and the National Mall. Presently he could see the Capital Building but it did not have its top. Two thirds of the cylinder dome has collapsed. One of the brown apartments is shifting, or rather the earth underneath the building shifts, it looks like the earth is not solid for it rolls back and forth. Mark is confused for he feels no current tremor or earthquake. He can’t see the Library of Congress. There are hundreds of pillars of smoke rising to the sky which dots out much of his vision. Very few military helicopters are in the capital. He still hears a periodic fighter jet and many sirens. Many sirens and police and ambulance are heard in the distance. The Washington Monument proudly remains erect throughout the carnage.
He watches as a few people jump from the burning apartment building nearby. He flinches and looks away as their bodies disappear from his line of vision. He doesn’t want to see them make impact. He rushes to another window which overlooks the Navy Yard as his dad continues talking; his journey takes him into the bedroom. Joe has a corner apartment which overlooks much. His apartment view overlooks the river. He gets on the bed with his knees, the man’s window is at the middle of the bed.
It feels good to be off my feet. I hope mom is alright.
“Mark, we have a raft set up on the roof near the pool. Err, the pool isn’t there anymore, I watched it empty into our living room earlier, but that’s beside the point.” Benjamin continues to put things in a bag, Mark isn’t watching but he listens. He looks towards the Navy Yard but doesn’t open the window.
Normally there is a parking lot and a few gray buildings, getting a parking permit costs a lot. The coolest thing about this view is that he can see the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. Beyond are the Anacostia River and the Atlantic Ocean. Mark took Mike to the new stadium a few months back. He managed to get a dozen people from the office to experience their first baseball game and it made him happy. They even got a dozen fellows from England to join them. He briefly wonders how they are all doing. He thinks perhaps he should have brought a few friends home. With the new baseball stadium came a decrease in crime and his neighborhood was becoming safer.
The stadium fills up with people; mark sees military personal direct the set up of refugee beds, there are a lot more people then beds. This isn’t what catches Marks attention though; in the distance he sees the lack of the Anacostia River.
“Dad, what happened to the river?” Mark looks harder but still can’t see it.
His dad raises his voice as he responds, “It vanished. The tsunami is coming. Whenever water recedes at an alarming rate something bad happens.” Marks gut tightens as he thinks of the implications.
If a tsunami comes then DC will be destroyed and all the people stuck in buildings from the earthquake will die. Is this how the people of Senia in Japan felt in 2011? Didn’t everyone experience enough shit already? What are my friends and coworkers going to do? Who is going to save us? It took the Japanese three to five days to respond and it took a week in New Orleans after Katrina.
His Dad continues, “We have a raft on the ceiling we are gearing up. If the water comes we get in the raft and pray to God to save us.”
Mark remembers what happened to the people on the highway, he doesn’t want to worry his Dad about mom. He keeps his fear to himself. They can’t see the highway from here. Looking past all the buildings he tries spotting the Atlantic Ocean. He can’t.
Where did the ocean go? Dad is right! A tsunami is coming, holy shit.
Mark sees the ocean way in the distance. It’s much further out then it should be, then he remembers previous tsunami accounts and real fear sweeps him up.
No. NO! God will save us all, there will no Tsunami.
Deep down he knows it’s not true. The big one is coming. His Dad continues to talk to him from the other room, “Son, I was always proud of you for being with the United Stated Congress. You make me proud to be your father.” He pounds his fists into the pillows as he listens.
This isn’t happening, I will open my eyes and all will be fine! Irina is alive, my office is intact and my parents are making dinner downstairs.
Mark opens his eyes. It’s the same old shit outside. His Dad doesn’t miss a beat, “We have food for a week, pills to purify water, and I put my gun in the back pack.”
Mark blurts in between his tears which now becomes rage, “Why do we need a gun? Nothing is going to go down Dad. Things will be alright.”
Why are you doing this God? Why are you making us suffer? Why have you forsaken us?
Benjamin answers, “The end is coming, I’m not religious but I think this might be the end everyone talks about. I had the weirdest dream earlier.” His dads voice putters off and then picks back up. “Regardless of my stupid dream you will need to take precautions. You are going to need a gun to defend yourself in the upcoming days.”
Mark angrily tells his dad, “Your being over dramatic. Nothing is wrong and WE are not going to need any guns in the future. Things will be fine dad.” He doesn’t have much conviction.
His dad talks over him, “Son, things will be alright but not until a lot of bad stuff happens. I put two clips in the bag with the gun. Did I ever tell you how you made me feel when you got employed with the federal government?” Mark looks out the window. Many people try to get into the base ball stadium but are being rejected. He doesn’t understand why the military soldiers are refusing civilians entry. They appear to be ushering people back out in an alarming rate.
This sucks man! Why is my Dad talking like this? Doesn’t he understand things will get better? America has been through worse. What’s that in the horizon?
His dad continues, “Son, I love you a lot. When you went to government I thought to myself, ‘he’s going to go further then you’ and I was proud of you.” Mark listens without wanting to listen. He sees without wanting to see. Something in the distance looks like a deep blue bulge coming from the Atlantic. His dad canter is full of love, “You will need to do more for America in the future. Mark, you are going to have to get your hands dirty and do a lot of physical labor which you are not used to. Let me clarify when I say dirty. You are going to need to help America rebuild once the disaster calms down. Your office skills will have to be put to the side and you are going to have to use your smarts and hands to help the American people rebuild. I have taught you a lot in the last thirty years, you have more skills then you are aware of. Do you remember when we went camping? Life is going to be like that for a time.” Mark watches the bulge in the ocean expand into a wave.
It’s big. Oh my God it’s big!
His dad continues, he doesn’t notice do to the living room windows facing towards the capital, “I love America son, and I know you do to. I want you to bring back American principles and democracy after things settle down. I have a feeling the bad people are going to come out before the good ones. There is saying I want you to always remember, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.’ Martin Luther King once said this. Remember to always fight for America and for what we stand for.”
Mark can’t handle it. He tells his dad to stop talking like this and to come in the room and see what’s happening. His dad shuffles through the broken glass and comments on how it’s a shame all the television sets and computers have been destroyed by the earthquake. They didn’t have anything firmly secure because no one was expecting this to happen.
His dad adds, “Did you know when I was eight years old my Dad brought me to a march in March led by Mr King. It was 1965…” Mark remembers his dad story. His dad got arrested for being black and spent the weekend in jail in Montgomery. That's when his dad decided he wanted to be a police officer. He wanted to fight corruption and end racial inequality. Benjamin continues, “I was a teen and I saw the power of the masses. We all need to fight until the end. Look at us now! Remember to always fight for what’s right and you will always make your mom and me proud.”
Mark doesn’t want to listen to his banter, “Look Dad, the tsunami is coming.” His voice is void of emotion. This is too much to handle.
Benjamin draws in his breath as he replies, “Not yet! Your mom isn’t home. Mark, please go to the roof and I will meet you there. I need to make sure your mom isn’t down stairs. Always remember I love you and your one of the good guys.” Before he can stop his did Benjamin shuffles out of the room. He hears his dad yell from the entrance, “I had a dream son, you are going to be alright and you will help rebuild America. Now remember to pick up the back pack in the living room and go upstairs to the pool. You will find an inflatable raft Joe was keeping locked up in storage.” The pool area has extra gated rooms with space for people to rent at an extra charge. Mark is alone again.
He looks back out towards the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is hits the highway in one big wave. There are more waves behind the first. It doesn’t look good for the vehicles on the highway, many try to escape but its all in vain. Little spots which are cars and trucks disappear under water as the ocean easily crosses from ocean to land. The ocean looks dark blue, gray and cold. Dust picks up; the ocean continues to approach the city. Wave after wave pounds into the earth, each one is bigger than the last. They waves start way in the distance, so far out he can’t see its starting point. He stops looking and leaves the bed.
What do I do? Dad where did you go? Oh yeah, he is getting mom. He wants me to get to the roof for some reason. Did he say a raft is up there? Is he crazy?
He walks back to the living room and picks up the back pack his dad was talking about. He decides to shove the rest of the fried chicken into the backpack and takes a quick look around.
What’s the point in getting to the roof before my dad and mom? I think I have a moment.
Glancing out the living room window he sees a lot of birds fly northwards. Along with them are a few news helicopters which Mark did not see earlier. He briefly wonders if Mike and Susan are on one of them. He decides that’s silly. The sun glares through the window and for a moment Mark think he sees two suns. He looks away and trots to the discarded garbage pile. He sees a crank radio and wonders why his dad didn’t put it into the back pack. He does. He sees a few rolls of soft toilet paper and soap. He puts them in the backpack and decides to make his way to the roof. It doesn’t take long. His Dad isn’t around. No one is.
The pool has a large crack going down its side. The water has drained out. Walking around isn’t hard. He quickly spots the storage rooms and sees the raft. It’s not big. Maybe it could hold up to three people.
How was dad, mom, Joe, his wife and I going to fit in that?
Mark twirls around as the door behind him shuts and locks in place.
Shit, I don’t have my keys and I didn’t prop the door open! Now what?
Marks curiosity gets the better of him. He takes a pool chair and plops down near the rail. He looks at the pool briefly and wonders what it would have been like to have Irina up here. He looks back towards the baseball stadium. The ocean has it surrounded and waves are reaching for the surrounding buildings. He watches spots in the distance take on clarity. The waves have picked up thousands of vehicles as it sends them crashing into the stadium and the surrounding buildings. As waves recede many vehicles simply disappear in the raging ocean, other random things drift to the surface. Military personal climb the steps of the stadium but he can’t see their gestures. Mark never thought it was fair he and others could use a telescope to watch a game where as others have to pay for it. He wonders if his dad put the telescope in the bag? Security guards often patrol the roof making it not possible for people to get a free show for his mother complained about the morality of the situation. The staff at the apartment complex was more than happy to cater to her but warned she couldn’t do anything about people watching games from their homes.
Is that people in the cars which are being swept up by the ocean?
Mark sees many new dots getting out of vehicles only to get swept under water. He didn’t’ want to watch but can't help it. The waves are carrying boats like battering rams. A large fishing boat hits the side of the stadium; Mark hears a boom ten seconds later. He watches water rage into the field, the civilians go down without a fight. Many people manage to climb the steps to higher levels. Still the ocean comes in a new wave which is bigger then the last. Boats and vehicles crash into surrounding buildings. A small six story apartment complex across the parking lot gets picks up as the sidings crumbles inwards. Within moments the building is swept into a nearby ten story apartment complex, Mark doesn’t know what the buildings are called. The small building tears apart the bigger. Water gushes into the empty spot, people try to grab onto something, anything. It doesn’t matter. In seconds the apartment complex is reduced to nothing as more boats from the Navy yard ride new waves.
Anacostia River is soon over saturated with ocean water. The ocean hits his building, at first he feels nothing. Water passes by. He turns around and watches waves wash over the street. He hears people screaming. Thousands of people he can’t see scream for help and mercy. His apartment building pitches forward a few inches. Mark gasps as his body moves towards the rail. He doesn’t go over but feels adrenaline rush none the less. The building isn’t moving anymore, he moves towards the river raft his dad and Joe prepared. He slings the backpack into the raft and jumps in. He closes his eyes but nothing happens. He hears roaring and can feel the power of the ocean. But nothing happens on the roof.
When is it going to hit? Anytime now, what the hell?
After five minutes of not feeling the building shift, Mark wants to see what’s happening. He opens his eyes and sees a lot of packs in the boat; there is only room for one or two people not three or four.
Why did you leave me alone Dad. I need to get downstairs and safe Dad and Mom. Dad, why don’t you open the door and come to the roof? I need you.
He stares at the door but it doesn’t open. Mark gets out of the raft after sweating under the sun for another three or four minutes. He peers over the rail; the ocean still comes in waves. It’s like being on the beach and watching the tide come and recede but each time the tide comes forward its larger then the last. Every few seconds higher waves pick up where the last one ends. The first three stories of the surrounding buildings are under water. His building is under water. He watches as one of the big brown apartment buildings tilts and collapses to its side. New waves cover where it once stood. Corpses, wooden furniture and appliances pop up in between waves. Many people are dead; others try to grasp things that float. Mark watches as the waves take the bodies’ further inland, both the dead and the living. A large freight carrier from the navy ship yard which is supposed to be in the Navy Museum, comes for Marks apartment building. It looks like it’s at least six to seven stories tall. Without pausing he braces himself as he watches it make impact.
Metal screeches on metal. Mark runs back to the raft and throws himself in it. Something explodes from within the building. The building shifts a few more inches to the right and settles. Mark closes his eyes and prays the day would end with him being safe. Nothing happens. He adds it would it would be sweet if his Dad and Mom show up but he doesn’t know how to pray and get results. Still nothing happens.
It takes him ten minutes to gain the courage to open his eyes. The sun disappears as a dust cloud obscures his vision. He hears more thuds as waves crash more unspeakable things into his home.
If someone told me I was going to be in a raft on my roof this afternoon I would have told that person he or she is crazy. This sucks. I’m hot and dirty again.
Mark decides to grab onto some rope lines, he doesn’t know what to expect if the building goes under. The building shifts another few inches. He hears people from his apartment scream for help. He feels like a monster for not being able to help anyone. He closes his eyes and wishes they would be quiet. He opens his eyes after another minute of nothing happening.
I’m the captain of a one man ship. I don’t even know how to swim. I’m going to die today. God, I never prayed before but please save me. I will do whatever you want if. I will be one of the good guys like my dad wants!
The roaring becomes louder; the dust cloud completely blots out the sun. The building shifts more to the right but unlike last time it doesn’t stop.
Here I go! Dad, I’m sorry for leaving you! I love you and mom!
Mark shuts his eyes as he wraps both fists around a line in the raft. The raft slides forward or maybe the building is tilting. Mark doesn’t know. All he knows is his little raft is moving fast. Cold water rushes over his body and drenches him in its bitter saltiness as he drops twenty to seventy to eighty feet. The raft doesn’t lose its upright position.
It’s as cold as ice and it smells like rotten fish!
The raft rocks left to right with the waves, without opening his eyes he pukes over everything. He can’t stop puking as he feels nausea creeps over his awareness. A new wave drenches him. Mark opens his eyes and watches as a blue Buick nearly misses his raft. The driver looks back at him while crying. It’s a bald headed man; the Buick disappears into the ocean as it sinks. Other cars swiftly pass around his little raft. He doesn’t know where he is. All he see’s is water and various vehicles with and without people in them. A new wave crashes into Mark as he shuts his eyes in horror.