Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2014: The Way the World Ends (260 Pages shared for free)

Written and Owned by Greg L. Miller Copyrighted 2012
Written in America, Costa Rica and Spain 2011-2012
Its a zombie book! This is book 1 out of 3. Each book will be 500 pages.
Its going to be published this year. Keep coming back for more updates and changes. The first half of the novel is free. Enjoy!

2014: The Way the World Ends

Prelude:  “The Beautiful Island”

Dr. Joseph Herbert watches as a large migration of birds take flight; he wishes he hadn’t forgotten his binoculars which would have allowed him to see the small critters with solid clarity. Joseph bursts with excitement as he hikes the stone path which is riddled with petro glyphs. Jessica, an undergraduate student in archaeology, has been making him a little uncomfortable of late.  She asked him to meet him for lunch at a clearing up ahead. The terrain encompasses three colors which are blue, green and black. The blue represents the ocean, the green the plants and foliage, and the black comes from the volcano rock. The terrain is Spain wasn’t what he envisioned as a child. A lot of yellowish sandy spots full of rocks and brush can be seen on the beautiful island.

Herbert is a conservative and is happily married. Earlier in the day he decided it’s time to put the student in her place. It is university policy that faculty under any circumstances are not allowed to have intimate relations with their students. This still doesn’t stop many of his colleagues from having affairs but he isn’t one of those men. The hills in front of him lazily sprawl in the distance. The island is small; the Atlantic Ocean fills the space around it with crystal blue and green water.

Herbert asks himself in personal reflection, “So why am I out here? I could have e-mailed her.”

The path leading up Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma is a very beautiful. Dr. Herbert has been making it a point to study the volcano for the last ten years. Eight months out of the year he teaches at Michigan State. The other four months he’s at the Canary Islands directing study abroad programs and volunteering his time at the observatory. This is his 9th trip. The island is the fifth largest island out of seven.  It’s roughly 700 km and is made by a chain of volcanoes. The environment consists of a temperate cloud forest with many Jupiter trees; the smell of pine lingers in the air. Paths are not rigid as one would expect but have been smoothed over from much use over the last thousand years. Herbert loses himself in his thoughts.

The island has a large highway system made from asphalt but he’s not on that. He prefers dirt and rock under his feet. He ponders his luck on being able to teach on the island which pays for his trips.

This year has been different. For the first time in his career an undergraduate student by the name of Jessica has been making him feeling athwart. Whenever she’s around his heart races and he loses focus.

The professor chides himself, “It’s almost as if I’m in puppy love. There are more important things to worry about then a hussy.”

Michigan State awarded him a grant to help put into place a new seismograph in the volcano. Seismographs detect signs of movement which is a precursor to the volcano erupting. Up to date there are only three devices monitoring the volcano but in his opinion there should be five or six. In 1949 the western flank of the volcano split and a future eruption could possibly generate a tsunami that might destroy the East Coast of America within eight hours. Not to mention many other countries and coasts.

But in all honesty it might take over 1000 years for this to happen. It’s uncommon for earthquakes to hit the Eastern Seaboard and what’s the probability it will happen during his life?

Herbert smiles as he pauses on the path.  He sees the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the distance. The observatory is one of the world’s leading astronomical observatories. In conjunction with Michigan University the observatory received a donation from a private donor to install the new monitoring device this summer. They had to cut through much red tape to get this far. The government in Spain has a very slow administrative system which means it takes years to get something like this done. The people in the Canary Islands are not on their list of importance when it comes down to end of world scenarios.

A rustle in the dull green bushes gives Herbert a new pause. Ten feet to his left is a paved road leading to the summit, he’s on the dirt path. Up ahead the road branches to the right which leads to the observatory. The locals call the rock formation around the observatory ‘the lad’. The summit of the volcano is four miles above sea level. He’s supposed to meet Jessica another ten minutes ahead.

Herbert asks himself, “Why is she doing this? I haven’t given her any mixed signals have I?”

A lizard deftly flips flops onto his path with its tiny legs. It pauses as it looks at him with calm eyes. Herbert happily intakes his breath, he fears any movement might startle the magnificent lizard. Until recently the lizard was presumed to be extinct.

Dr. Herbert whispers, “You’re a Gallotia auaritae. You’re a beautiful La Palma Giant Lizard aren’t you?”

The lizard looks at him lazily, after a moment it begins to wobble away. Herbert takes out a dessert made from honey and almonds. He tries making a clicking sound to gain the attention of the lizard. He got the dessert while drinking coffee earlier in the day. The locals refer to the dessert as Pricipe Alberto. Originally the dessert is made with sponge, chocolate and almonds but his has honey in it. Over the years the café owner learned his preferred taste. Now he gets desserts just the way he likes. He really loves the Canary Islands. The giant lizard pauses and sniffs the air. The professor is excited as it attentively becomes interested in his dessert. Herbert urges the lizard to take the dessert by praising the endangered species.

The professor beckons the lizard, “Come here boy, no one is going to hurt you.”

Both Herbert and the lizard smell the honey. Herbert continues, “Your species has been rediscovered in 2007. What came first, the lizard or the egg?”

The lizard flicks its tongue and tastes the honey. After a few licks it darts into the brush. The foot long lizard is gone as fast as it came.

Dr. Herbert continues his hike. He’s surprised the lizard would be this high up on the volcano. Usually they only come up 700-900 meters past sea level. Lizards on the island have become rare do to rats and being a favorite cuisine of the locals.

Dr. Herbert’s thoughts are cut short.

A geeky male yells to him, “Hey Professor, I’m over here, fancy meeting you out here!” It’s not Jessica but a male student who has been giving him grief of late.

Herbert attempts to put on a fake smile but his disdain still comes out. His moment with the lizard is deflated as his attention zeros on the lad in front of him.

“Hello Steve. What brings you out here this fine morning?”

Dr. Herbert attempts to walk around the skinny male student dressed in khaki’s. A few buttons on his shirt are loose. The lad doesn’t know how to dress properly. The young adult looks like he should be in Hawaii, not the Canary Islands.

My God, why is he wearing flip flops on this trail? I think I will be giving him a C, his papers and topics are always based on the Volcano erupting and the world ending. I prefer more objective students who appreciate the moment, not those who live in a fantasy world where everything is about conspiracies.

Steve comes from a rich family. His air is snotty as he responds, “I’m trying to gain evidence for my blog on the bloody conquest of the Spaniards over the locals in 1400. Check this out, I found this arrow head in a pile of bones. I think it might have come from a Spanish soldier.”

Dr. Herbert rolls his eyes, “You mean you’re not trying to show me how the volcano is going to create a tsunami which will destroy man kind?”

Steve refuses to take the bait. He continues, “The threat is real. Can you look at this for a moment professor?”

Dr. Herbert sighs in resignation. Jessica is going to have to wait a few extra minutes.

“Sure Steve. What did you find today? I hope this isn’t going to be like last week when you found a local fisherman’s wheel and thought it was prehistoric. Do you remember that?”

A week previous Steve thought he found something ancient which ended up being a lost fishing pole that wasn’t even twenty years old. Steve excitedly gestures to the right; it’s obvious he doesn’t feel any embarrassment from past mistakes.

In a hush tone Steve replies, “So I was walking and pondering stuff when I stumbled on this, what do you think?”

They reach a clearing. At first Herbert doesn’t see anything outside of dense folia. Steve directs him to a hollowed out tree.

On the ground is a pile of rags mixed with black volcano rock. Dr. Herbert brushes some of the debris off of the rags and startles with the discovery. In the midst of the rags is a scabbard. Without pausing Herbert brushes off the dirt and whistles in surprise.

“Steve, did this come from in the tree?” The professor doesn’t really care but doesn’t want to be rude.

Steve nods, “Is it old professor? What is it?”

Dr. Herbert smiles in disbelief, he can’t believe this. Without hesitation he brandishes the scabbard and draws out a small short sword with the Spaniard emblem stamped near its hilt.

“Steve, I think you just redeemed yourself from last week’s blunder. If I’m not mistaken this sword is an officers sword from Alonso Fernandez de Lugo.”

Steve replies, “There is more stuff in the tree. Who is that?”

Dr. Herbert can’t keep the disdain from his voice, “Haven’t you been paying attention to anything I teach? Lugo is the Spaniard who defeated the local chief Tanausu in 1493. The Spaniards set the local chief up and ambushed him during a made up truce. What else did you find?” Steve withdraws a few arrows and a Spanish helmet from the tree.

Steve becomes more excited, “Is it worth something on e-bay?”

Dr. Herbert doesn’t bother to give the lad a response. He’s engrossed in holding the odd shaped helmet. He doesn’t understand why the stuff would have been placed into the tree but shrugs it off. He instantly thinks of fame as he starts putting two and two together. He’s sure the new discovery will lead to a wonderful journal or article which would allow him to receive new grants in the future.

The discovery is short lived, the earth shifts as a new tremor mildly rocks the island. He doesn’t pay it much attention for the Island has minor earthquakes and tremors weekly. Steve however isn’t used to it. He’s from New Hampshire.

Steve forgets about his discovery as his eyes go big. The earth under their feet gives off a small rattle. It abruptly stops as fast as it began. They do not lose their footing.

Steve shouts, “Is this the big one professor?”

Dr. Herbert sighs, “No Steve. This is normal for the island.”

Birds fly over head. There must be thousands. They are small birds referred to as ChiffChaff. They have round wings. Dr. Herbert enjoys hearing their sing song chirps. Within moments the flock is gone.

Dr. Herbert tells murmurs, “We need to get this stuff to the capital city of Santa Cruz de La Palma. I have a few friends who can help us determine the age and origin of the sword and helmet.” Steve doesn’t let go of his fear as he starts to hyperventilate. Dr. Herbert doesn’t respect the show of weakness in the lad but tries to hide his feelings. He gathers the sword and helmet.

Steve interjects his fears as he forgets about his discovery, “Professor, what happens if the volcano erupts and we all die?”

“Steve, there is no recorded history of a tsunami destroying the eastern sea board like your wrote about last week. Philadelphia and Delaware experienced a tsunami in 1817 and 1884 but it did very little damage. I tried explaining this to you in your last paper which you got a C on.” Dr. Herbert wonders why the sword and helmet weren’t in a cave and why Steve was able to find them in a tree.

Herbert asks, “Why were you looking in a tree?”

Steve doesn’t calm down. The lad continues his charade, “Professor, I had a bad dream earlier. An earthquake destroyed everything and a tsunami took out our capital! I looked because it was a feeling.”

Dr. Herbert snorts, “Steve, that scenario isn’t possible. If a tsunami hits Washington DC the Potomac River will surge and create only a little damage to DC. Do you remember hurricane Isabel in 2003? The Chesapeake Bay would flood its estuaries and bays which would in turn create minor damage to the city and the surrounding area. Your fears of the capital being destroyed are not real.”

Steve interrupts, “But professor, if Cumbre Vieja erupts it will send a massive landslide into the ocean which in turn would send a three hundred foot tsunami to America, this would destroy everything inland for about twenty miles!”

Not too kindly, “Steve, why do you go on and on about this? Did the volcano erupt? Are we dead? What’s with your morbid fixation?”

Steve stutters, “But Professor, do you deny the 1949 eruption didn’t create a separation in the island? There is a massive amount of earth which is ready to fall into the sea at any time! Anyone can see the rubble in the bay.”

Dr. Herbert explains, “The threat can happen anywhere between 10 years to 50,000 years from now. The likely hood of us being alive is almost zero, and that’s if it happens. Current scientists have rebuffed your fear, why don’t you take comfort in what the professionals have to say?”

Steve kicks at the dirt. He shrilly responds, “Professor, I read your marks against my paper. I understand that a massive flank failure on the left flank is unlikely and is a rare phenomenon. Please hear me out. The volcano has already erupted twice in the last hundred years in 1949 and in the 1970’s. We already have a large section of earth on verge of falling into the ocean which would create the tsunami! Anyone who visits the island can see it.”

Dr. Herbert doesn’t want to deal with this outside of the classroom. He would prefer Jessica’s company over Steve’s any day. He attempts to walk past Steve but the lad doesn’t catch a clue.

“Steve, why don’t you head back to the observatory and see of the new monitoring device came?” Herbert thinks it’s amazing that Fed Ex is global, twenty years ago it would have taken 4-6 months to ship something to the islands, or so he assumes. Steve doesn’t want to stop talking.

The kid won’t stop being annoying, “Professor, I think the situation is direr then you give credit.” Dr. Herbert doesn’t hide his annoyance from his voice as he quickens his pace. He forgets about Jessica as he tries explaining to Steve how wrong the lad is.

Dr. Herbert goes into lecturer mode, “Even though there is evidence within the world’s history stratovolcanoes fail in their underwater flanks, there is no written account of what you postulate. It’s an idea based not on fact. Current data shows the western flank of Cumbre Vieja to be made of pillow lava which is supported by pyroclastics. In other words, your worry is simply an unjust fear. You can learn from Freud when he says sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Steve doesn’t want to listen which is typical of most students.

“Professor, what happens if the sea floor buckles with an earthquake? Would this not create a gravitational pull which in turn would send a landslide into the ocean which could create the tsunami?” Steve is out of breath, Dr. Herbert hopes the lad will run out of steam if he keeps his fast pace.

“Steve, I know you fear the 2.5 kilometer rift which was created in 1949, but the depth is only 2 meters deep. There is no scientific data that shows the volcano is unstable.” Steve is losing ground; the lad is now five to six feet behind.

Steve counters while puffing with exertion, “What happens if magma is rising and if the volcano blows? This would create enough inertia to create the landslide and tsunami.”

Dr. Herbert wipes the sweat from his brow, “The BBC document END DAY blows your hypothesis away. By the way, you really should do thorough research. Your idea was originally voiced by BBC Horizon in 2002 and was shown to be a fallacy. If you would have written this in your paper without citing the proper sources you would be plagiarizing. Recent documentation shows the 1949 eruption did not drop the earth towards the sea and there is no evidence the rift you mention is a threat. For that matter there has never been a written record of a mega tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean. Why don’t you do proper research before bothering me with your fears? We have gone over this many times in the classroom.”

Dr. Herbert enters a clearing; and almost trips over a large black lava rock. He’s stunned when he sees Jessica. He forgot about her.

Jessica is dressed in a red slip. She is 5’6 with blond hair going down to her waist. Her crystal clear blue eyes go big as he bustles into the clearing. She smiles and stands up in one fluid motion.

Jessica’s voice is full of sultry intent, “Professor, you came!”

Dr. Herbert’s freezes and his heart beats faster. This isn’t what he wants or is expecting. Within seconds Steve plows into Dr. Herbert and they both fall to the ground in the small hamlet. The sword and helmet roll to the side.

Steve looks up in confusion, “Holy shit Jessica! Why are you here? Why are you dressed like that?”

Jessica shrieks in embarrassment, “Professor, why did you bring him with you?”

She wraps herself into a summer blanket which is sprawled on the rock overlooking the bay. Fruit and flowers go flying. Among the tossed items are the islands ingenious Bird of Paradise flowers, avocados and grapes. A bottle of wine with an assortment of cheese can be seen to her left.

Steve gets to his feet. He can’t help but scan Jessica with amazement and lust. His voice takes on new understanding, “Professor how could you? You’re married and have children.”

Steve’s voice takes on sorrow as he loses respect for his instructor.

Dr. Herbert counters without much conviction, “This isn’t what you think Steve.”

Steve retreats a few steps, “Sure professor. Now I understand why you were trying to lose me on the trail. You leave me no choice but to report you to the department head. What you’re doing is ethically wrong.” Steve picks up the sword and helmet.

Dr. Herbert instantly sees his career and marriage disintegrate if Steve reports him. Thinking fast he counters, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t what you think. How about I give you an A and you forget about this?”

Jessica quips, “Please Steve, don’t do this. We never did anything.”

Steve replies, “Even if you didn’t do anything you were going to do something. The only reason you didn’t is because I am here. How could you do this Jessica?”

Both Jessica and Dr. Herbert look at the ground. They don’t know what to say, it’s really hard to deny her intentions. At this moment the unexpected happens.

The earth under their feet starts shaking with a deep rattle. At first Dr. Herbert isn’t concerned but within seconds the rattle becomes a deafening roar. Dr. Herbert and his two students fall to the ground as the earth pitches forward. Thousands if not millions of birds take flight. A cloud which encompasses the Bay dissipates.  Dr. Herbert is speechless as he watches the upper half of the volcano shoot lava high into the sky. His mind goes numb as he watches the impossible happen; the pitching earth prevents him from getting to his feet as he falls again. Never in his life has he seen the volcanoes shoot lava straight into the sky, it’s often a small trickle when it erupts. The rattle changes and now feels like a train is passing by. The middle of the bay boils as brown mud lifts from the sea floor. It’s obvious a great massive shift is occurring near where the boats are docked.

Steve shouts, “I told you professor! I dreamed about this today! I told you!”

Jessica shrieks in her blanket as she rolls on the ground. It’s apparent she is stuck in the thick cloth. Dr. Herbert doesn’t know what to say. It appears the earthquake started in the Bay!

Ocean water surges towards the capital city of Saint Cruz. Fishing boats ride the wave as the city and its 90,000 inhabitants instantly disappear. All around them steam shoots from the ground. The steam blocks their vision of the volcano. The earth underneath their feet rolls towards the ocean as 500 kilometers of earth rush downwards as the wave reaches for its newest victims. The Western flank of Cumbre Vieja speedily meets the ocean. It feels like they are on a very large slide within an amusement park. Mud from the center of the bay and lava from the volcano shoot into the sky.

Dr. Herbert cries out in disbelief, “NO! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

Steve has to have the last voice which makes Dr. Herbert insanely mad, “I told you professor! The end of the world is at hand just like I dreamed! You and all your scientific data are wrong!”

Dr. Herbert ponders the implication; he knows there isn’t anything he can do. Today is the day he dies. The world isn’t ending with a whimper but with a bang. The first wave is going to be over 1900 hundred feet high. It will travel over 600 mph through the Atlantic. In six to eight hours our nation’s capital will be destroyed! This won’t be the only wave. Many more will follow but they will be around 100 feet high. We should have implanted the warning devices in the volcano much sooner!

Dr. Herbert looks up one last time, it’s a clear day and the sun seems much brighter than normal. The sun looks a little larger than normal.

Chapter 1: The World As We Know It

This is a story about the end of times.  There are multiple threads and stories within each of us.  Each time we use our free will to make a decision, we start a chain of events which is a story.  These events can be fantasized through the imagination which is a stories gateway.  Let us take a journey.

Many people believed the end of the world was coming in 2012 but it never came.  Don't get me wrong, there were earthquakes and life was hard for some.  But for others, life was no different than any other time.  People watched as third world countries such as Haiti and Ghana were destroyed, but it still wasn't in our backyard.  People have a tendency to not care if it is directly not affecting them.  The world paused when Venezuela and its oil fields disappeared in one multiple mudslides, but it didn’t affect much outside of increased gas prices.

The end of the world did not come with a bang.  Instead it came painfully slow as humanity watched cities fall one by one.  Not through war or genocide.  Nor was it biological or chemical.  Those who believed that population growth would deplete our resources were wrong.  Aliens never came from the sky or from the ocean.  Strangely, global warming might have had something to do with it.  You see, in the end what takes out the world is nature.

Many cultures and people since the dawn of time believe the earth gives us what we need.  But what happens when the world decides it no longer needs or wants us?  Or maybe a clearer question would be what happens to us when the world readjusts just as all places eventually do?  Furthermore, how will people react and is it possible for humanity to rebuild?

These questions came and went during 2012.  They were played out through movies, cable television channels and books.  I recall many times going to the local grocery store to hear and see people discuss supplies and resources in either hushed or jokingly voices.  Entire communities in the heartland of America emerged like mini fortresses that held militia ideologies.  Many spiritual extremists took their own lives and the lives of those around them.  Tensions created more tragedies such as school and factory shootings.  The world continued to experience racial and religious turmoil but this did not attribute to the mass floods and solar flares.

Two years before in 2010, the world watched many changes that would prelude the natural disasters to come.  Chile and Peru had earthquakes which knocked out entire cities; Japan and China started to experiences massive volcano activity that disrupted telecommunications. Europe experienced massive blackouts as the ash from Iceland's volcano stopped air travel for weeks and stranded thousands.  But for majority of us, life was no different.  These events did not pertain to us, for our minds could not fathom the depth of the situation unless it was happening to us.  Others took it as signs of revelations and the end.

2011 ushered billions of dollars in lost telecommunications around the world.  With this came more civil unrest.  The world watched as the Middle East was reformed as dictator after dictator was over thrown.  Environmentalists and scientists warned of issues concerning solar flares which we later found out created the big flood.  In the beginning the solar flares were light.  They started as mellow bursts that gave the earth’s atmosphere breathtaking auras but due to depleted resources in our ozone the earth began to experience what some would refer to as nature shifts.  To put it simply, solar flares started a chain of events that led to a change in our polarization.

In America we were having our own problems.  Current issues during 2011 were about New Orleans and the oil spill in the gulf.  Later in the year our seasons were magnified and even our Capital experienced scares with severe storms and minor earthquakes. Media and fanatics kept on talking about the end of the world in 2012 but others were quick to point out that they have been doing this since as early as people could remember and to put it simple, most Americans did not care.  Many remembered the Y2K scare and did not want to repeat it.  Countries in Europe experienced city floods which were uncommon and the euro collapsed. There were enough problems in the real world for most to care.  For most, dogmatic questions are not wanted.  Real issues are how to get to work on time, what’s for dinner, or what should I wear when I go out tonight.  All of this changed by 2014.

2011 saw some events that made the world think the end of days were coming.  February ushered in New Zealand and Australia having earthquakes and floods that literally reshaped their landscapes.  Each time these natural disasters occurred people would band together and communities showed their best.  People worked together and rebuilt what was broken.  The problem came from the fact that the earthquakes and natural disasters did not stop.  Instead, a place would get an earthquake and as soon as the people would rebuild another earthquake would follow.  Scientists said that it was all part of the original earthquake and everything that followed was aftershocks.  These aftershocks assured the destruction of some cities.  As soon as one country would send aid another country would get hit within weeks.  By the end of 2011 the world experienced a dozen countries that lost people and cities.  Many feared that Peninsulas were not safe to live on but most people decided to stay still and be tough.   In the beginning, coastal cities such as San Francisco and islands such as New Zealand and Japan got hit.  These disasters did not make many people fear for they were expected.  Killer Tornadoes in the summer of 2011 were a surprise and reminded many of a Sci-Fi special.

So what does one do if the end of the world doesn't come in 2012?  Mike did NOTHING. In 2013 the inspiring graduate student moved to Washington DC with his wife, April.  They decided to put fears of the end of the world into their proper place and carried on with their lives.  Mike has a Masters degree in Public Administration and his wife is an illustrator.  Naturally, a city like Washington D.C. has much potential for the couple. They have a 17 year old son and come from the great Upper Peninsula in Michigan.  The UP is in the middle of the woods and has a strong Finnish culture.  The people are tough and survive 4-5 months of winter a year.  Mike is a scholar and they are an educated couple.  On the other hand they lack more practical hands on skills and are clueless on how to survive off of the land.  His life centers on the computer and television screen.  Instead of living in the practical world he prefers to live in the abstract world.  His favorite place is not a bar but the library.  Mike prefers to have friends that are gamers then who are jocks.  His parents are professors and dinner conservations pertain to Shakespeare, quantum physics and religion.  His wife also lives in the abstract world.  She prefers to zone out in front of a canvas for the day and she is dualistic with talent.  She knows how to both paint and how to illustrate on the computer.  Every six months they travel around the world for three months. 

At 31 years old Mike graduated and it was time to look for employment.  In 2007 he was an intern at the Library of Congress in D.C.  It made perfect sense to start his career in the Capital of America.  They never knew what was coming.  For that matter, no one knew what was coming.  We all thought that the danger had passed with 2012.

This is the story of a few normal Americans who live and work in Washington DC when the end of the world begins. This is my story.

Chapter 2: Early Bird Catches the Worm

Mike nudges a croissant on his plate while he blinks. He and his wife April listens to the alarm clock beep. His wife smells of lavender and is 5’6; she’s a brunette.

Mike has a step son who is 17 years old.  His name is Sam and he is gay.  Mike believes its each person’s personal decision to be what they want to be but he worries his son isn’t mature enough to make such a decision. It seems such an adult thing. 

He remembers what a political science professor once said and says it to himself for no particular reason as he tries finding a news channel, "CNN is so damn censored it's referred to as Communist News Network by some."

Mike laughs as he settles on CNN World News.  A story of global warming and unrest in Israel and Egypt takes his mind off his wife.  A most interesting segment catches his attention.  A star in the sky is burning out. It’s going to create a few extra days of extra light.  Apparently by burning out, the star is going to create a black hole and no one knows what will happen.  The reporter jokingly concludes that perhaps they are living at the end of times and shows a few clips of millions of people gathering in spiritual places around the world.  The public is informed to expect power shortages and a lack of internet. Flu season is on the rise and people can pick up a new flu shot made from the CDC. The phone rings and April drops whatever mug she’s holding in the kitchen. Mike shuffles into the bathroom and forgets about his croissant.

Light streams in as he opens the curtain and window; the sun feels warmer than usual but isn’t that to be expected with global warming?  Even though he lives in our nation’s capital, he finds himself sometimes missing nature and woods.  Mike wants to feel a clean breeze; instead he’s greeted with a police siren and cars honking.  Balancing with these disturbances is shaky so he shuts the window and feeds his two cats.

Mike lives in a spacious apartment in a tall building in Bethesda, Maryland.  It’s a three bedroom apartment and has a very large living room.  His mind drifts to the project of the day. Usually his wife doesn’t wake with him.  She is an illustrator and painter and works from home. She’s more a noon person.

Today is different though.  His supervisor decided it’s time for him to assist in his first public function.  The Library of Congress is working in junction with the Smithsonian to reward a few people for their endeavors regarding education and peace.  One of the guests of honor is the vice president’s daughter.  Mike needs to be at his destination by 10:30 A.M.  He has one hour to get ready, he jumps into the shower with excitement.

It takes one hour to travel the red line on the metro to get downtown so he has to make sure to not miss the 8:30 train if he wants to eat breakfast.  For the past six months he has been working at the Library of Congress.  Mike is the assistant to the director. He enjoys a very nice office in the Kluge Center within the Jefferson building.  There are three main buildings at the Library of Congress and countless workers that assist in the library’s primary function of helping both the private sector and public with knowledge.  He often considers the Library of Congress a modern day Library of Alexandria, lost so long ago to Roman destruction.  Thomas Jefferson donated his personal library after the British sacked the capital back in the day which started our modern library.  His wife loves the Jefferson building because congress used local artists and craftsman to build the magnificent structure. Mike hears a rustle behind him as his wife plops down in front of the television set. 

She sighs in satisfaction as she sips the Costa Rican coffee, “Mike, what exactly do we have to do today?” 

This is a loaded question for she already knows it’s a special day.

He responds with excitement, “We are to be at the capitol building across from the library at 11:30.  We are going to meet a whole bunch of important people!” 

Mike is excited for the vice president’s daughter is to give an award to a few writers.  He’s worked long hours to make this happen.  This is going to be the first time his work blurs with a public function.

Sleep ebbs from April’s expression as she lovingly comments, “You deserve this today!  Who knows, maybe you will get a promotion or something!” 

She looks at the television set and quietly murmurs, “I’m going to check my e-mail.  How long until we have to leave?  After the thingy we are doing for you we have to be at the airport at 2 P.M. to pick up Sam.” 

She says, “Make sure you take your blood pressure medication.  With events like today you don’t want to find yourself getting a stroke.”

Mike gets up and goes to the bathroom.  He notices he only has one week of medication left.

He dryly comments, “Can you remind me to get my medications refilled at the end of the week?  I’m running low.  I also have to get some pain killers for my back”

Mike takes the blood pressure pill and waits patiently for his wife to finish up.  Sadly he has high blood pressure and has to take pain medications for his deformed spine.  He has degenerative disk disease which makes moving around a little harder then it ought to be.

They still have 30 minutes before they have to go. Mike decides to watch more news.  An interesting segment comes on CNN that is airing about earthquakes in the Pacific and Japan.

His wife storms in the living room, her expression has completely changed. A half a broken coffee mug is in her left hand and coffee is dripping down her shirt and hand.  April often has a glass face which makes it very easy to follow her emotions.

“Sam sent me an e-mail!” She rages, “He’s staying in Michigan for an extra week to be with his boyfriend and did not get on the plane!” 

Her anger turns to ache as she cries.

“Damn, why is he doing this?” Mike instantly fears this is going to affect the day in a bad way. 

Instead of saying the right thing he blurts, “What about the airplane ticket?”  He instantly regrets this as April cries harder.

Mike understands what his wife is feeling and decides to remain quiet.  It's hard to articulate the pain a child inflicts as they move toward leaving the nest. Mike zones out her angry mutterings with some world news. 

After a minute she gathers herself, “I don’t care about the money, anyways he said his boyfriend's dad will cover it.  I guess they have a concert they want to go to in Wisconsin.” prides herself in being stoic, a Finnish trait of being strong and rolling with the punches.  She often jokes that Mike is a whiny German.

April looks at the coffee spill and curses, “I dropped my mug and have to clean it up.  It looks like we won’t have to go to the airport today.  I will be ready in 15 minutes; can we eat breakfast at Burger King?” 

She gets up and kisses her husband on the forehead with a resigned sigh.

Chapter 3: Metro

Washington D.C. has a very pleasant public transportation system called the Metro.  The metro has five train lines which are represented by colors.  Mike and April live on the red line, three stops from the end and have to cross two states to get downtown.  It roughly takes one hour.  They have to change trains once.  The Library of Congress is located on the blue and orange line, on the corner of First and Independence Street.  People can often hear amazing stories from locals before and after work on the train.  There is no reason to take your car unless you want to get stuck in rush hour and pay a lot for a parking spot.

The metro station is only eight minutes away from the apartment complex.  On the way they pass a small store and two ponds with many ducks and a few trees.  If the season is right there are sometimes migrating birds and frogs. A small commotion occurs near where they get tickets. First Responders help a ticket booth employee who is experiencing a heart attack or something. Mike and April walk past without commenting, Mike tries to not look. Medical emergencies are a normal part of life in the city.

They briskly make their way down to the metro and hop on the train.  April buys a newspaper.  There are two basics that have to be mastered if you want to be successful is our nation’s capital.  The first one is obvious; networking is the life blood of any career orientated individual.  And the second, of course, is always stay informed. April chuckles as she flips pages to the cartoon section.

Mike says, “April, I swear you would live your whole life in a drawing if you could.” 

His wife looks more like a professional employee going to an office then an artist who works from home.  She is wearing a blue dress suit and her hair is neatly drawn back. A few sable strands of her hair appear vibrant in the sunlight. The sun is warm on their shoulders as they pass a clearing before going back underground.  The train is making good time.  After 9 AM the crowd thins out because everyone is either at work or at school.  Two grandma’s chatter like chipmunks about their grandchildren a few seats down. 

Near them is a homeless man who smells of piss and alcohol.  Across the aisle two teenagers flaunt matching world of war craft t-shirts. Mike enjoys loosing himself in personal thought as they travel on. Maybe they are going to a nerd convention, or a “nerding” event.

Looking up he sees two advertisements, the first is an air force pilot who is promoting the US military, to the right is second picture of a woman sneezing into her sleeve, followed by her washing her hands for preparation of not getting or spreading the flu.

After a few minutes his wife gives a slight laugh and finishes the comics, “Do you want this?”  He answers no.  One of the geeky teen’s pipes up he loves cartoons so April gives him that section of the newspaper.

April gives a slight gasp when she reads the international news, “Michael, did you know Japan is still in a recession after they lost their nuclear plants?” 

He shakes his head no, she continues to narrate the news article,

“Apparently over 600 people got radiation sickness since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, they finally plan on helping the families that lost people.  Over 20,000 died.”

Mike feels sad for them but at the same time he’s happy natural disasters such as that misses America.  We did have a few disasters in the last few years, but not like other nations. The biggest surprise, which wasn’t a surprise, was when the earthquake hit San Francisco and Los Angeles in July 2012.  Unlike Japan who only had a thirty minute warning, we had ample warning and there were minimum causalities.  We did however lose a third of the city when it gradually started to slide into the sea.  Government forced an evacuation and only the fanatics, the sick, and the old stayed.  There was no tsunami.  Much of California’s population migrated to Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Seattle.

Mike asks his wife, “Anything new happening in the world?”

After a few minutes of reiterating things he already knew she finds something of interest.

“Yes, do you know what happened to China?” 

Mike briefly recalls in 2012 they had a crisis.  An earthquake did some unexpected havoc in the western part of the country. 

April continues, “The disaster relief department of China's Civil Affairs Ministry says they were unprepared for the earthquake that occurred late in 2012!  It’s been one year and they finally released the reports.” 

Mike perks up; information like this could really impress his coworkers if they didn’t read the paper this morning.

April continues, “The Chinese ministry finally admits that city planning happened too quickly.  A few city officials knew they were building in geological unsafe places.”

Mike inserts, “They should not have been greedy to outdo the world economically.  China could have been content when Japan got hit by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor incident in 2011.  Instead they invested billions of dollars to enhance their economy and built entire cities on fault lines.  Caution was discarded.”

November of 2012 saw an end to China’s economic expansion.  At 9:43 AM multiple earthquakes started in the Wenchuan, Sichuan Province.  The land split and streams became rivers and lakes.  Within 6 hours over 75,000 died and millions became refuges.  To make matters worse, aftershocks destroyed many of the countries dams and nuclear plants near Beijing.  Another half a million died due to floods in the eastern China due to aftershocks.

April adds, “The Chinese government shot and executed the top officials who built the region.  They say that the reason the cities were built at those locations had something to do with political corruption.” 

He notices they are nearing their stop at Union Station.

“That’s cool honey, you ready for brunch at Burger King?  Good thing we don’t live in China.  Could you imagine our government shooting our own people because of a natural disaster?” 

She concludes, “Oh look, FEMA camps are being made around America, they say they are for ‘times of need’ and in case an epidemic comes. Why would FEMA be making camps in America Mike?”

Mike doesn’t answer, he isn’t listening. He shakes with excitement as they walk pass the liberty bell at the entrance of the metro station.  There is a homeless person who has a blue plastic beer cup in front of him.  There is a sign on his chest made out of card board. 

He pauses for a second and reads the message, ‘The world ends today’, He tosses a few dollars into the man’s cup and mutters, “Today is just as good as any other day to die.” The rest of the crowd and his wife walk by without noticing.

Chapter 4: Burger King and the Last Supper

Mike whines, “I don’t feel like Burger King.”

There are over half a dozen homeless people sleeping in booths.  Half wrapped sandwiches and overflowing garbage cans give testimony they once ordered food. Many of them cough and look sick.

“I don’t suppose we could eat at McDonald’s, you know, Mac and Donald’s fine supper club?” She rolls her eyes and doesn’t bother to respond. 

Mike shrugs in discomfort and ask her to order him, “I will find a seat. Can you get me two double cheeseburgers without onions and pickles?”

She replies, “Sure.”

The fast food establishment is packed with people.  There are no clean or open seats.  There is however one table that has only one individual eating by himself.  The solo eater is a middle aged white man who wears a blue flannel shirt and stained blue jeans.  A pro bass fishing hat fits loosely on his poorly thin combed hair.

“Pardon me, there isn’t any tables open.  Do you mind if we sit here?” 

The redneck looks up and blinks a few times; it’s obvious he isn’t a morning person.

He waves absently at the open seats.  Not knowing what to say I mutter, “My name is Mike.” He doesn’t seem interested. 

He continues to eat his burger and simply says, “Fred.”

Mike should have been quiet but sometimes he doesn’t know when to stop talking.  He looks down at his fancy wrist watch and notices he only has 15 minutes to eat.  The capital building is 5 blocks away and will take them roughly 8 minutes to walk.

“What do you do Fred?” Mike sits down.

April comes to the table and gives me two cheeseburgers.  She doesn’t acknowledge Fred outside of a nod and makes a few noises of pleasure as she chows down her chicken sandwich.  Mike sighs in defeat and tosses the food back on the tray.

He whines, “The cheeseburgers have onions on it.”

He tries picking off the onions with a plastic fork.  There is a long line at the cashier which makes it pointless to try to fix the problem.

Fred rolls his eyes as he watches Mike pick off a few onions, “I’m a machinist for Crown Cork and Seal.” 

He doesn’t say anything more.

After a few seconds Mike asks, “Sorry, I don’t know who they are?”

It is obvious he doesn’t like conversing and Mike regrets picking the table, he answers,“Does it matter?” 

Fred pauses, after eating a few fries he continues, “Sorry, I’m having a bad week.  I work for Coca Cola in Minnesota.  I fix machines at a factory.  If you don’t mind I have to be leaving because I have to help set up a stage.  I’m supposed to be on vacation but my son volunteered me to help with some big event.  I’m going to be late.” 

He gets up and leaves, half his food is still on the tray, homeless people are on it within seconds.

Mike looks at his wife and dryly comments, “I don’t think he liked me.” 

She happily continues to eat and shrugs.

Looking down at his two cheeseburgers, he feels queasy and anxious. His stomach starts to turn and he can’t finish eating.  A homeless guy picks the scraps off of Fred’s tray while putting his back to his companions. The homeless men act like vultures and make Mike uneasy.  The staff at Burger King doesn’t care.  Instead of feeling disgusted Mike gives a different homeless person, who is a Vietnam vet, his second cheeseburger that is loaded with onions. A homeless looking a little like a Frenchman glares from near the trashcan. He wasn’t fast enough to get any food scraps. Mike is aghast as he watches the man shrug and hand a few pills from within his raggedy jacket in exchange for the food scraps. He doesn’t cough like the rest of the poor people. Mike briefly worries about getting the flu and wonders if they should get the flu shot.

April quizzically mentions, “You are going to get hungry before lunch!  Sorry they didn’t get the order right.”

Looking over his shoulder Mike whines and half jokingly answers, “Maybe I will eat at Mc Donald’s when we are done; they are cleaner and know how to make a burger!”

The homeless war vet thanks Mike as they leave.  The one armed man immediately eats the sandwich in three bites. Mike briefly wonders if karma will ever pay him back for helping people like that.

Chapter 5: The Players of DC

It’s not far to their destination.   After Union station they walk five blocks.  All they have to do is stay on First Street.  Along the way is Senate State Park where if you’re lucky you can sometimes see a congressman or senator eating lunch.  Corridors of majestic buildings come and go us as we make our way to the Capital building.  Each Marble and granite block gives testament to America’s power and prestige. 

Pedestrians span from workers in business suits to groups of Asians who are obviously on vacation.  Mike tries to pass one Asian group of teenagers but find him-self walking behind them.  There are roughly twenty teenagers dressed identically in blue uniforms and they are taking a lot of pictures. They don’t say much but seem to be on the same page.  The group maneuvers the street like a snake slithering smoothly through jungle.  They have little white masks on to keep germs out.  On their backs are three foot rods with red flags at the end.  

Mike comments as he watches the Asian students, “Now there’s something you seldom see around this town. They have a group consciousness. Did you know Americans are way too independent for something like that? I bet you they don’t get sick wearing those masks.”

They pass The Hart Senate Office Building and the Russell Senate House Building.  The next street is Constitution Avenue NE.    There are road barriers built on every street.  Heavy metal machines lift up from the ground, painted with streaks of red and white.  On each corner are guard posts but Mike rarely see them manned.  During high level political functions it is common to see military snipers on the buildings and special cops units with super dogs.

This doesn’t stop the poor from smoking marijuana in the open, nor does it hamper vacationers with cameras.  Today is not a high risk day so there are no snipers.  There are a lot of cops but this is America and that is to be expected.  Currently, States are becoming pro medical cannabis friendly and many activists come to DC to make a statement.  Over a half a dozen states made it legal for the sick and needy to use marijuana as a medication in the last few years.  Mike’s attention drifts to a few Vietnam vets wandering and begging.

As they pass the Supreme Court Building Mike get excited and quicken his pace.  A couple of his coworkers sip coffee on the front steps of the Supreme Court.  Nearby are a few reporters, they have a hawkish air to them as they patiently wait for the next big story.

Mike yells, “Mark!  Are we ready, and is anyone at the Capital building?” 

Mark and Irina look up as they approach.  Irina blushes as Mark leans over and whispers something in her ear.  Mark is the treasurer of our office; he is a medium black fellow with dark close cropped hair and a proud D.C. native.  Always dressed impeccably, Mark’s perfectionist tendencies extend far beyond financial expertise.

Mark sounds brisk, “Hello Mike and April, nice to see you show. Where were you?  You missed the drill. Director Maxwell is unhappy with you.” 

His companion adds, “I don’t think it matters. If your function goes without hitch we will get national coverage and all will be well.” 

She’s dressed nice.  Irina is a graduate student from Russia; she spends most of her time researching in the obscure tombs of the library like most fellowship recipients.  

They look good together; it’s no surprise Mark is courting her.

Mike asks, “Did I miss anything important?” 

The Asian teenagers snake their way to the Supreme Court Building.

“No.” Mark adds, “Veronica signed your name to the check in sheet.  Homeland Security thinks you were there.  She’s annoyed at you though.” 

Ever since 9-11 Homeland Security makes everyone partake in mandatory drills and exercises every month to be ready in case terrorists or nature attacks.  Even after America righteously eliminated Bin Laden in 2011 many Americans continued to live in fear and national security protocols never wavered.

Mike is embarrassed as he replies, “Shit, sorry.” 

Veronica is their secretary.  She might have seemed annoyed to Mark, but Mike knows she probably isn’t.  She has a lot of sympathy for his back disability and usually is a good sport about covering for people for a good reason.  Their job is not hard, but rather there are hundreds of small tasks that make up the day and we are expected to do them with perfection. Everyone at the library seems to have a doctorate and is a specialist in some fashion.  They the cream of the crop and really don’t need every second of the work day to do their jobs well. 

“Well, let us not keep the public waiting.” 

With a grand flourish Mark directs their attention towards the capital building. 

He concludes, “This is a great day to be on television.  Who wants to bet the vice president’s daughter will be ten minutes late?  There is side game going down in the office, odds will be in your favor if you put your money that she will be 8 minutes fashionably late.”

As a group they continue their journey to the capital building. A lot of people seem to have the flu. The streets are emptier than normal but no one things twice of it. It is flu season after all.
Chapter 6: Fred

Most people would say Fred Smith is a good man and like all good men, deserves a break in life.  The way things have been going for the past few years though have shown Fred the things we deserve often aren’t the things we get.

The dark blue Geo Prism rumbles as he roughly switches gears.  He was supposed to meet his son in Rockville but got lost in Gaithersburg.  Two days on the road has made him tired and plagued with a permanent headache.  He didn’t care much for the East Coast or its people who look like monkeys in suits. 

There were a lot of military vehicles on the highway.His son was supposed to have worked in the factory like him, but no, his Kyle believes he is too good for that. 

Kyle had to be different which began to came out in high school when he was always seen wearing a tie.  Too much ambition complicates things and Fred, like his father before him, preferred to keep things simple.  While Kyle’s brothers and sisters were playing with dolls and footballs, you could find Kyle at the museum.  Fred didn’t understand how someone could prefer the History and Discovery Channel over ESPN.

Fred snorts which sounds like a laugh and pushes those thoughts aside.

But all the same he wasn’t impressed with a son who dragged him out of his comfortable life a week ago.  If it was up to him he would be have back in Minnesota, at his favorite fishing spot at White Bear Lake.  Life was good when he was fishing and had a twelve pack of beer. Instead he received a call from his son and just like that he was exactly where he didn’t want to be. 

“Damn,” Fred curses. 

He tries slowing down at the exit sign for Emory Grove, knowing from frustrated study of the atlas sitting on the front seat he over shot his turn.

Fred believes there is only one thing worse than city slickers and that is politicians.  Both his grandpa and dad believed firmly in the fact that politics was a lying occupation and he had never seen anything to prove otherwise.  All you have to do is turn on the news and you will see how politicians in Washington DC never keep their word.

To Fred the answers to life are simple. How else can one explain current budget issues and American soldiers dying overseas?  It’s the fault of the people who are in charge.  People in suits don’t relate to the working class.

One week ago, during his lunch break, he received an upset call from his son.  Kyle’s wife decided she had enough of married life and motherhood, leaving a heartbroken and unprepared Kyle to deal with their two month old son.  She died from complications of the child birth, and other reasons Kyle did not understand.  The boyish panic in his son’s voice made it feel only natural to jump in his car and make the two day trek across country.  His boss was not happy he walked out without finishing his shift.

His stomach grumbles as he heads back up I-270 to catch his missed exit and he briefly pondered if he should eat something for breakfast.  For some reason many of the radio stations do not work. The news reports it has something to do with a solar flair.

During a normal work week he would often eat breakfast at Burger King in Northfield, Minnesota.  Always good with his hands and tools, Fred works at Coca Cola as a floor man.  Filled with friendly camaraderie and an honest day’s work, Fred loves working at the Crown Cork and Seal plant.  He loves his job so much he decided to be loyal and swore off all Pepsi products.  His family thought he was crazy but he looked at it differently.  Why would anyone buy a product from the competition who is trying to put your employees out of business?  If everyone bought Pepsi then he would be out of a job.  During poker games he boasts his plant produces over two million aluminum cans every shift and back in 2003 he was voted machinist of the year.  Coco Cola even put his picture up in the break room where the union leaders play cribbage while everyone else works.  Occasionally he dreams that someday he would become a prominent union person who champions democratic principles but these thoughts seldom lasted long.  He left higher inspirations, and all the troubles that come with them, for people like his son.

Kyle surprised everyone and went to college after high school. After college Kyle got a job with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and disappeared for a few years.  He did not call or visit on the holidays.  That was another problem with politicians and the people who work with them; they become disconnected with their family and community.  On the rare visit home, Kyle acted like he was better than everyone else. But even though Kyle had thought he had moved on to bigger and better things, he got a worthless woman knocked up and ended up married to her, just like the redneck boys back home.  Of course his family was not invited to the sudden wedding because Kyle viewed them as ignorant red necks. 

It wasn’t worth holding a grudge.  His son and grandson need his help and a good Christian always forgives and forgets.  It had been two days of intense driving and his back hurt.  He wanted to sleep but Kyle asked one last thing of him last night after getting in.  His son didn’t care that he was tired and hungry, instead when he got into town his son had the tenacity to ask him to help set up a stage down town before he agreed to let him have his grandson. On the phone before he left, Kyle had agreed to Fred taking his grandson back to Minnesota, to Kyle’s stepmother, Sara. The child needed a proper family.  Since when did work come before family?  Fred grips the steering wheel tighter as he pondered how to drive some common sense and decency into his son.  He didn’t notice his foot press down on the pedal or his speed steadily increasing toward 90 mph. 

Sirens shattered his thoughts as red lights instantly engulfed his reality.  Fred’s head started to pound harder as he pulled over to a complete stop.  Ironically Burger King is advertised a few exits ahead.  At least he will have a full stomach before seeing his son.    

Fred sighs as two cops started walking up to his car with a barking police dog.

Chapter 7: Larry and the K9

The day goes slow.  A lot of people are missing, half the office called in sick with the flu. Larry Anderson sits in the passenger seat of the police cruiser and fantasizes what it would be like to die a hero.  His partner’s voice means nothing and the CB is turned low, mostly static with a periodic voice coming from central dispatch breaks the silence.  In his fantasy he’s a six foot dark haired cop who is meant to take down bad guys.  Getting the damsel in distress would be nice but it wasn’t important for he has something much more important.  As long as she’s hot and easy, he didn’t ask for much. 

In the real world Larry is 5’7 and is built like an ox.  He has not found true love but is convinced someday the right girl will see him for the stud he is, or so he tells himself every morning as he shakes off the alcohol from the night before.  He frequently visits the gym but gym girls act snotty and usually have boyfriends.  The females at the police force didn’t like him but he has not figured out why not.  His mom tells him to go to church or maybe find a nurse but he tells her he would rather focus on his career and dogs.  He has too much pride to admit he is afraid of women.  He has a badge and gun, most of the time it was enough.  10 years ago he was given the opportunity to raise police dogs in California. With the destruction of San Francisco and Los Angeles, canine training shifted to the East Coast.  He was originally a native from California but with all the end of world issues his mom made him move to Maryland/Virginia.  She was lucky and found an old miser to shack up with.  Larry didn’t like being here though and wanted to go back out West.  He ended up becoming a slight alcoholic and was always on edge.

It’s his job to train and work with K9’s to search for narcotics, explosives, and to teach them how to do regular patrols.  He had lost count of how many dogs he trained; they all had started seeming the same.  He keeps many at his house.  He refers to them as his dogs.  There are perks with being a police officer.

His partner’s voice rudely cuts into his reverie, “Larry, is Pixel ready?”

Pixel is the ridicules name of the current German Sheppard he’s training.  Larry looks back at the dog in the back seat of the police cruiser.

Absently he answers, “Affirmative.”

Larry swishes his cheap coffee in an even cheaper coffee mug.  His partner didn’t know he mixes his coffee with Jack Daniels.  Larry did his best to keep the mug away from him.  He didn’t add much, not enough to smell alcohol on his breath, just enough to take the edge off.

The current dog was a nightmare from the start.  It marked low on all its testing but the police force did not want to take a complete loss.  The dog wasn’t ready and he hated having to bring her out.  They are on Interstate 270.   It was just as good as place as any to look for bad guys and Pixel needs real world experience.  Some geek in computer crimes had given the dog the ridiculous name in passing, remarking on how the ticked color of the dog’s fur reminded him of pixilation.

“Shit, we got one!” 

His partner excitedly flicks on the lights and siren as a Geo Prism speeds past them.  The radar gun clocks the car going 92 mph.

Larry beams, “Show time!” 

Pixel instantly becomes alert in reaction to the police officer’s excitement.  To her the officers instantly turned from being quiet and docile to sharp predators who are going in for the kill.  She couldn’t help but bark and think its play time.

Chapter 8: Alex the Technician

“You would think with the entire money airports make they would invest in comfortable seating along with free WiFi that works!” 

Alex shifts his weight on the uncomfortable chair and wished he was home in DC in his soft recliner.   The Chattanooga airport bustles with people.  He looked over to his wife, Jessica, and fondly recalled the last three days.  It wasn’t worth staying online when he couldn’t even get a page to download properly so he shifted his attention.

Jessica deftly disentangles the sticky hand of their two year old toddler, Becky, from her short dark blond hair.  Nearby, his nine year old son, Matt, pokes at his five year old sister, Elizabeth, with one hand as the other held a dripping fast food sandwich.  Alex watches as a gooey dollop of ketchup and mayonnaise drip down the boy’s favorite Metallica shirt.  Matt waves the drippy sandwich around her head.

Alex says with a loving sigh, “Matt, stop getting sauce on your sister and clean up.”

His son puts the sandwich down and leaves for the bathroom without complaint.  Elizabeth quickly picks up the sandwich and proceeds to systemically look for tomatoes.  She loves tomatoes.

Alex looks back down at his computer and grumbles at the single bar of a weak wireless connection and a new pop up window demanding another six dollars to continue service.

“How much longer do you think we have until we leave this place?” He asks his wife. “It’s been six hours since our plane was supposed to be here.”

Jennifer, bouncing the toddler on her left knee, says softly responds, “I don’t know.”

Alex impatiently looks at his computers clock showing quarter past the hour.  He loved his computer but didn’t want to pay more money to stay online.  He closed the laptop and briefly thought about the day he was going to miss.

“I love the family trip but I think my boss is going to chew me out for not showing.  I was supposed to help set a stage for the office.” 

His wife doesn’t hear him though, her attention caught by some cute but annoying noise Becky is making.  Other passengers comment how cute their toddler is while a teenage boy a few seats down roll his eyes.  Most of the passengers that had no patience for kids found new seats hours ago.

Matt comes bouncing back and flicks water at Elizabeth.  His sister pretends to not have touched his sandwich and starts to play with a toy train and doesn’t fall for his old trick of water being urine.

Alex worked mostly in the IT department of the Smithsonian but also helped out with setting up for presentations.  His family was supposed to be back in DC hours ago.  He was needed to help set up microphones and lightening for today’s guest presentations outside of the Capital building.  The staff needed his expertise but they were not going to get it today.  Instead he was stuck waiting endlessly at an airport in Tennessee.  

He was fortunate though, and found himself not minding missing work.  His director was an ass and he was happy to be with his family. They had spent the last three days enjoying Chattanooga and it was a splendid family vacation! The only thing he didn’t like about Tennessee was all the gentlemen clubs and the adult toy stores. They had to change hotels their first night. Their first hotel was a Days Inn off of I-40. The hotel was not really a hotel but was more like a seedy motel which somehow passed as a hotel. An adult superstore and a strip club was part of their accommodations. Their second hotel was much better. Another thing unnerving was all the signs asking for a missing girl named Holly. Every single business had signs showing her face and billboards offered money rewards for her discovery. Needless to say he kept his children close.

They spent the weekend at Best Western and loved the local aquarium.  His son had bought a hat from the aquariums hands on exhibit where kids are able to touch sea critters.  Later that day they were able to see the IMAX.  Chattanooga is known for trains, Ruby Falls and its Rock City.  It was a wonderful family experience and he hoped to repeat it next year.

Alex asked his wife to watch his computer and patted his daughter on the head affectionately as he rose.  Heading towards the window overlooking his terminal he starts to do a few stretches.   He couldn’t help but hear one of the flight attendants whisper to another flight attendant, “They are having issues with the radio tower.  Apparently a solar flare is disrupting telecommunications which isn’t abnormal.   The plane is finally making ready to land.”

Alex instantly remembers his college course on power grids and connecting cable lines.  According to his professor new technology had to be created that will reflect solar flares from disrupting communications if nations did not want to lose their energy grids in the future.  The problem comes from X-ray and UV radiation which fries much of the current technology being used.  This answered the question why he wasn’t able to get online; at least the airport wasn’t scamming him on that service.  He also remembered solar flares generally only affect radios, phones and the internet.  He wonders if it’s going to affect his family’s flight home.

Once again he was struck with anxiety for missing work.  Maybe he should call his director and tell him he was going to miss the entire day.

Feeling a sick knot build in his stomach he calls his director.  On the third ring he hears the voice he learned to hate.

“Kyle, can you hear me?” 

The connection is weak but after some rusting he hears his boss tell someone to give him a minute, he hears his boss say the name Seth a few times. Alex reminds himself it is normal for any boss to be jerk and that Kyle was going through a rough time.  He tries his best to keep his contempt for his boss hidden.  It had been a little difficult lately because Kyle took to sleeping at the office.  No one has the heart to tell him to get his life fixed. He thinks Kyle is on drugs but doesn’t want to get involved.

Kyle angrily comments, “You are not coming to work today are you?”

“No sorry, I’m still at the airport.  Our plane is finally coming to the terminal.  I can come later if you want?” 

Deep down he hopes Kyle would say no.  It would be nice to have another night with his family.  Maybe he could talk them into eating dinner at the Olive Garden when they get home.

Without much professionalism Kyle answers, “You are not important; I don’t care what you want.”

Feeling righteously annoyed Alex is about to respond when Kyle follows it up with, “Sorry, not you.  I’m talking to someone else.  Do whatever you want.  I will see you in the office tomorrow.” 

He hears Kyle argue with someone. He’s about to hang up when he sees his plane making its way to the terminal turn sharply.  The two flight attendants behind the counter get excited and one quickly picks up the phone when it rings.  They don’t notice the plane and how it has turned.

The female attendant looks up and loudly tells the other, “Something is wrong.  I was just told to have everyone leave the terminal.” 

Color left her face as her voice takes on a higher pitch.

The flight attendant continues, “They said an earthquake just hit and the east coast is being evacuated because a tsunami threat.” 

A couple of seconds later a few security guards show up.  A subtle wave of anxious energy goes through the crowd of passengers. Some start whispering to each other as others ask questions.  Like them, Alex felt a distinct unease.

The male flight attendant looks up and says, “This is ridiculous.  I don’t feel anything.  He must be high or drunk and is joking.” 

Some laugh uneasily but start to pack up their belongings as security proceed to clear the terminal.  Alex forgets about the plane and goes back to his wife. Beck is crying and his wife looks close to tears as well.

“Sorry honey, but it looks like we have to leave the terminal.” 

He takes another step forward and finds his foot slipping.

He mutters, “What the hell…”

He feels as if he is drunk suddenly and reaches out for something to grip.  There is nothing.  People around him shake like puppets and chairs slide on the floor.

Luggage is being tossed around.   His knees buckle and he lands on them with all his weight.  His left hand is still holding the cell phone.  He tries to keep it from hitting the ground like it’s made of glass.  He quickly registers it wasn’t the people shaking but rather the ground is moving left to right.  It feels like they are on a rough sea. Screams echoed through the terminal.  He can’t see his wife or his kids.

Alex’s vision blurs and his eyes instantly water. Something sharp lands on his head. He reaches up with his right hand and it comes away with something sticky and metallic smelling.  What is that?  Is that his blood?  His eyes clear and he somehow turns around.  He is facing the terminals window.  The plane his family was supposed to board is still coming.  A crack opens up on the runway. The ground simply splits, opening up into an earthen maw directly in the path of the jet. For a split second Alex remembers hearing about the New Madrid fault but then feels someone near him.

It’s his wife.  She cries quietly.  Her eyes are wide and glossy with shock.  His kids are all there.  They are quiet, even the toddler.  Their stunned eyes focus out the terminal window.  He looks back to see what they are looking at.

The United Airway jet has finally reached its destination.  It came to collect its passengers on their last journey. He’s reminded of the ferry from Greek mythology that takes the dead to their new resting place.

Alex knows he’s going to die. 

He drops his phone as he grabs his wife and kids, “I love you all.”  

The plane’s front wheel buckles where the earth split open.  In one smooth motion the tail section goes skyward only to tumble forward to crash into the terminal windows in a shower of glass and twisted metal a moment later.  The last thing Alex sees before the tail crashes through the terminal is the terror stricken passengers looking back at him through the plane’s windows. They appear to be scared of something in the plane.

Chapter 9: The Paladin

Juliet sighs in exasperation.  She is close to leveling.  She needs it, she wants it.  Her pixilated elf icon showers a skeleton double its size into multiple colors as her sword hacks away the monster’s hit points.  She is one level away from gaining the Holy Radiance power for her level 82 elf. 

Her phone rings out a snippet of Lord of the Rings soundtrack which breaks her concentration.  In a blink, Jasmine, her elf paladin perishes; its disembodied spirit reappears in the grave yard near the starting point.  In World of Warcraft you get as many lives as you want.  Juliet ignores her cell phone and focuses on applying buffs to her character.  She’d be damned if she’s going to let work get in the way of leveling.  Her party reappears and they run back to the instance.

Her phone rings again and begrudgingly she disconnects from the game server.  She didn’t want to listen to her friends chew her out. It’s bad to stop in the middle of a dungeon raid and without her in the group they will have a hard time beating the dungeon.  She is their healer.  She knew it was her boss at the downtown Burger King.

Juliet takes a five second look in the bathroom mirror and carelessly throws her long dark greasy hair into a pony tail.  Small and slender as a reed, the baggy boy’s clothes she preferred in her off hours made her seem almost genderless.  Under it all was a beautiful young African American woman, but sexuality scared her. Being a woman scared her. She wasn’t gay or bi.  But all the same, despite the romantic name given by her hopeful mother, at age twenty-two she had still never even kissed a boy.  With her only perfume being the grease from Burger King and her androgynous looks, it wasn’t a surprise people initially thought Juliet was a boy.

She didn’t expect much out of life.  She has a small apartment in D.C. where tourists seldom visit; it’s off of the Anacostia Metro, or the green line.  She spent the weekend at her friend’s apartment in Maryland.  They had a LAN gaming party. Most of her friends play until they pass out; so it didn’t matter she had continued playing the game with other people online.  Her friends didn’t do drugs and only indulged in alcohol occasionally. They mostly live on sugar and caffeine.

She’s about to quietly leave when there is a knock at the door.  She is startled to see Matt's obese frame when she opens the door.

Without hesitation she whispers, “You are late by a few days.  Everyone crashed; want to keep me company as I go to work?” 

She shrugs her backpack onto one shoulder.  Bringing along her work uniform for the weekend gave her more time with her friends.

Matt agrees, a slight pink brightening his cheeks.  It had been obvious to everyone he likes her but he wouldn’t act on it.  She was grateful for that. She didn’t want to deal with dating and though shy, still knew a chubby guy wasn’t what she wants.  She believed someday she would find her companion when the world was ready for it to happen.

After they were a block away and half way to the Metro she found herself evaluating her Paladin’s performance the night before, “Matt, it’s too bad your hunter wasn’t in the group, we could have used him.”

“Sorry about that.  My mom and brother needed some help at the church.  Since I still live with them, I got to help.” 

He then goes on a rant on how his stats need to be improved for his dwarf hunter character if the gaming guild they were both apart of was ever going to take him serious.  Juliet half listens as they walk, enjoying the warmth of the sun shining down from the pristine blue sky.

Matt’s rant continues as they board the Metro. Tired of it, she puts him on the spot and asks him about his relationship status.  She wasn’t interested in him but it would stop his ranting.  He just didn’t know how to play the game right in her opinion. Instead of playing strategically with the group, he played more like a mad man on a suicidal hack and slash mission.

“I don’t have anybody.”  He continues, “So the other day, I was trying to fight a mob after farming and this other player came and kept on killing me over and over!”

As he goes on, Juliet watches a nicely dressed couple board the train.  It's obviously to Juliet they are heading somewhere important.  The woman has a newspaper.  After a few minutes she looks up and asks the passengers if anyone wants the comics.  Not wanting to listen to Matt anymore, Juliet snags the offered paper and buries her-self in the world of grainy newsprint cartoons. For a brief moment as they pass the Medical Center Metro Station something catches Juliet’s eye which chills her. While admiring the spray painted graffiti in the tunnel she sees movement near one of the utility rooms. A few figures pin a man to a wall. They blur into one image as the train continues on the tracks, she briefly wonders if a few homeless men are mugging a public worker or something. The person pinned to the wall looked like a man, it didn’t look like rape. It almost looked like the group pinning the man were licking or kissing him. He didn’t seem to be enjoying it. It was weird.

At Union Station Juliet says bye to Matt.  She is hungry and craves some McDonald’s.  After eating she changes into her work outfit in their bathroom.  Eight minutes later she arrives at Burger King.  It’s near lunch time and the rush was starting to come in.  She is surprised to see the couple from the metro leave the lobby as she enters.  She tries to nod to them as the guy gives a cheeseburger to a homeless vet, and shrugs as they don't notice her. She was dressed differently.

Saying hi to her coworkers at the cashier counter, she goes to the back and clocks in.  As she straps on an apron, Juliet closes her eyes for a moment and sees herself as her paladin.  She wonders if its possible to ever live in a world of fantasy. 

She wishes she was the paladin in the game.  With a sigh, she picks up a spatula.  This was the real world, the real world of flipping burger patties, not killing monsters or healing her misfit band of friends. There are no heroes in the real world.

Chapter 10: The Vet

The River stinks of things best not thought of.  Driftwood and garbage pile in heaps off of the far shore near a sewage drain.  Cars could be heard on the highway.

“Give me your hand, man!” 

Harry Faust quickly tucks his tattered right sleeve under a pin and then reaches for his friend Tom Verde.  Tom was thrashing in the water, spittle dribbled down his chin as he cussed his ill fortune.  A fishing line was tangled in his left fist and he was trying desperately to catch the fish that broke his rod.

“I can’t believe I slipped.  The ground shifted and it felt like something touched me!”

Tom wasn’t doing a great job keeping his balance and went under water again.

“You’re a poor miserable liar.  Now let me help and take my hand.” 

Harry reaches out with his right hand, his only good hand.  He lost his left arm during the Korean War in the 1960’s.  He is a proud, if hungry and homeless, U.S. veteran.

Shifting his weight to his left side, Harry balances and extends further, “Take my hand if you want a chance in catching that fish!”

Tom resigned himself to the fact that he needed help and grasps Harry’s outstretched hand.  He never understood how a one arm man could be so damn versatile with only one arm.  Tom gasps in pain as the wire from the fishing line dug into his other hand.  Blood appears on his palm.  Deciding it’s not worth losing a hand, he lets go of the line and his fish dinner.  They would have to scavenge in some dumpsters for food.  Not wanting Harry to get to mad for losing dinner, he pulls Harry into the water with him.  Nothing like a good water fight to ease hunger pains.

Ten minutes later they sit on the bank drying off as they go through discarded fast food wrappers.  Garbage is everywhere and large city buildings can be seen in the distance.  The area had been an old factory district, abandoned for a decade. People on the interstate often throw garbage out of their car windows while passing.  It was common to see birds and homeless people scavenge for food.

Harry wears old military fatigues which he bought at the Salvation Army.  He never wanted to let go of who he was.  A person with a fine eye would note he wore an assortment of things that are all sewn and patched together.  His jacket boasted of wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq to name a few.  In the real world he was a Special Forces officer who was stationed in the 6-2-5 war or what others would know as the Korean War in 1950’s.

His job was to deliver sensitive data to the allied forces before they bombed a bridge on the Han River.  He succeeded but a crazy ROK Korean officer blew his left hand off.  He was now a 70 year vet who had medals and honors, one hand, no money, no home, and no food.  Where was the justice in life?  He did however have his health.  He was lean, hard and faster than most twenty year olds. Having one arm did not hamper him in the slightest.  It just embarrasses him.

Tom wraps a rag around his wounded palm and asked Harry, “Want to look at McDonald’s for some dinner?” 

Tom was once a banker but lost his family and careers to the bottle. Sam is busy looking at a cut on his ankle. Harry decides it would be best to find dinner on his own. 

His friend sounds confusing as he adds, “It looks like something bit me but it’s not deep! Are there alligators in this river?”

Harry replies, “I think Burger King is training new people in.  They won’t be paying attention to the lobby and I can get some grub when people leave their trays. I think you cut yourself on some garbage or glass.” 

He didn’t want to dig through garbage if he could have food served on a tray.

Tom looks up from his hand and mutters, “Maybe I will meet you there after I do my thing.  You want to meet at DuPont Circle and play some chess at 1p.m.?” 

Homeless people play chess there to scam people who think they know how to play.  It was common for a person to lose ten dollars a game.  Of course if they won they would get their money back plus another ten dollars, but those people who wandered in thinking they could easily beat the grubby homeless guy never won.   How could someone beat a homeless person who has been playing for 40-50 years?  Harry smiles as he ponders what he could do if he made a few dollars.  Maybe he could rent a cheap motel room for a few hours and get a hot shower.

He gathers his stuff and heads towards Burger King.

Chapter 11: Presidential Limo

You never know what kind of turnout will occur during a public presentation.  There are roughly seventy people at the eastern end of the National Mall who are taking their seats.  Visitors and delegates often meet at the East Front of the Capital Building.  It is only natural to have our guest speakers situate themselves comfortably in such a fashion that would allow for easy transaction of speakers. 

The public was not allowed inside the Capital Building outside of designated tours, a few guards smartly stand at attention at the front doors.  When the President or foreign delegates are visiting it is customary to screen guests and have armed body guards keeping an eye on everyone.  Washington DC has a policy regarding people not entering the general proximity of world leaders, if you enter their bubble and are not invited their body guards and military personnel will simply shoot you.  No one important was supposed to show today.

The Capital Building is amazing.  American Neoclassicism architect spans the magnificent building that started in 1793.  It was not finished until 1819.  Modern architect have been combined with traditional craftsman skills to create the marvel that easily matched any building built in ancient Rome or Greece.  Known for its "Grandeur, Simplicity, and Beauty", it is prized for its wedding cake cast iron dome.  Fantastic artwork and statues such as the colossal statue Freedom greet visitors.  A recent addition to the building boasts of the Capital Visitor Center.

Mike introduces April to a few scholars.  Shaking his head in amazement he feels every particle in his body respond like it’s positively charged.  Mike always feels both power and humbled in the National Mall in DC.  She instantly connects to a writer from England who is a visiting fellow.  April and her new friend, Mary Scarlet, instantly hits it off after he tells April that Mary is doing research on contemporary romanticism.  Mary has a PhD from Cambridge and could talk for hours.  She’s working on a new fictional book that has a dark character she likes to talk about.  The story is about a modern day kid who is misunderstood by his community.  He becomes the next biggest artist even though he is a loner throughout his life.  Deep down Mike wonders if she’s the character in her book.

Mike sheepishly tells his wife, “We’ve been here for six months and I never have been in the Capital Building.  Is that bad?”

April looks at me and answers, “Yes, let’s go in after this.  I would like to get some more coffee.”

Mike wistfully says, “Enjoy the show.  I will be back when it’s over.”

At the far end of the lawn there is a private table with refreshments under a beige tent.  Everyone important has gathered and there seems to be two groups surrounding one table.  The first groups make up the staff and visiting scholars from Congress.  The second group had two staff workers from the Smithsonian.

Mike was expecting a few more people.  He makes his way past the podium with the microphone to their table.  Behind the microphone is a flat screen that the stage setters put up, right before the steps.  It is normal to have a lecturer give visual images with whatever they are discussing.  There are a few people he doesn’t recognize but his pace quickens as he sees a famous CNN journalist.

Mark jokes with the CNN Journalist and the Russian visiting scholar Irina, “…And that’s why the French lost the bid on the original architect design for the capital building.” 

Mark loves discussing DC’s history and you can see the passion pour from his eyes as he loses himself I his story.

“Michael, I would like you to meet some friends of mine, this is Susan Bishop.”  He introduces Mike to the CNN journalist.  For the second time today Mike finds himself not knowing what to say outside of hi.

Susan Bishop is a striking woman.  She managed to get the image down of being a progressive independent female.  She is 5’6 and has a stylish short dark hair.  She knows how to get her way and her presence draws stories out of people and places.  To put it simply, Susan has an Amazon presence that demands respect from all classes and people around the world. Her crystal blue eyes instantly scan the crowd and settle on Mike. 

He squirms and tries giving a charming smile but it comes out more as a grimace.

“Hello, I’m Michael.” 

He fidgets and looks for Mark for support.  Mark rolls his eyes and nudges Marvin, another coworker from the adjacent office in the Jefferson building.

Susan smiles, her demure changes. She looks like the woman who reports the news every night. Everyone quiets down to hear what she says.

She says, “It’s nice to be here.  I only have thirty minutes.  There’s a conference occurring at John Hopkins University in a few hours, a panel will be discussing the current solar flare phenomena and its consequences on the global market.”

Mike instantly looks to see if the vice president’s daughter has shown up, she hasn’t.  Everything seems to be in ready and the seats are quickly filling up.

Susan continues to captivate her us, “Did you guys know that there will be two suns tomorrow?”

We all say no and she continues, “The University will be addressing this through a panel discussion in which astrophysicists will give a full description of what’s going to likely happen.  To make it short, the star Betelgeuse is losing its mass.”

Mark gasps and blurts, “Isn’t that the ninth brightest star?  What are the implications of the gravitational collapse and earth?”  

Susan Bishop looks at him in slight surprise and jests, “I guess you congressman and staff workers are smart after all!  There isn’t supposed to be anything drastic.  There will be two suns for a few days, no darkness or night.  Maybe there will be a higher flux of solar flares and we will be able to see some pleasant atmosphere auras.  Some say it could disrupt telecommunications for awhile but it won’t be a big deal.” 

Getting a chuckle out of her audience she concludes, “Seriously, can you believe some people?  There a few who take events like this and profit of the fear it can generate?  It is not like the end of the world is coming.”

She bedazzles us with her inside knowledge, “America’s Most Wanted contacted me the other day. You won’t believe this. A low beat from the CDC stole some designer drugs and is selling it in DC.”

Susan excuses herself and heads to her camera man when he points to her phone with urgency.   Media reporters and government staff set up the cameras and microphones in a spot in the shade near a granite wall.   There was only one large tent and the stage.  The audience was sitting on the lawn and it was sunny.  There was no breeze.  Two cops walk a young police dog near the back.  The Asians from the Supreme Court Building have reappeared.  As a group they snake into the Capital Building.  It’s too bad they don’t stay to see the presentation.   Mike looks down at his cell phone and notes the event will start in five minutes.

Mark leaves the little group at the tent and goes to where the visitors sit.  He comes back with two people.  To my amazement one of them is the redneck I met at Burger King, I think his name is Fred?  Fred is arguing with a younger man who wears a disheveled business suit.

Mark looks a little bothered as he introduces the two individuals, “Michael, this is Kyle.  Kyle works for the Smithsonian.” 

Kyle ignores Mark and rudely walks to his coworkers.  The redneck says something thing Mike can’t understand.  Kyle responds by talking over Fred.

This isn’t cool.  Mike doesn’t mind rednecks but this isn’ the time or place for someone with a non professional attitude. Mike wonders why someone doesn’t tell the man to sit.

The man in blue jeans and a flannel blurts, “For Christ sake Kyle!  Let me have my grandson and I will leave you alone!”

Mike looks up in bewilderment.  Mark comes back and rolls his eyes, “This isn’t the time for family drama.  I would have expected more from the Smithsonian.”

Kyle’s phone rings and he answers as his father continues to belittle him in front of his peers.  Kyle angrily tells his dad, “You are not important; I don’t care what you want.”

Kyle gets his desired results as his father spurts a few curses.  Mark takes advantage of the moment and steps in.

“You folks obviously have some issues to resolve but this isn’t the place.  We are about to have national coverage and the vice president’s daughter is coming anytime.”  Mark reaches for the rednecks elbow and directs him to where the audience sits.

Kyle apologizes profusely to whoever is on the phone and the people around him.  He is very embarrassed.  His attention keeps on going back to his cell phone and back to Fred. 

Susan Bishop walks back to our table with her camera man.  She obviously missed everything and gives the redneck a peculiar look. 

We hear the crowd murmur and look to First Street.  Mark stops directing Fred and walks to the stage and microphone.

“It’s the vice president’s daughter.  It is show time!”

Mark introduces the event while bringing people’s attention to the limo.  Everyone at the table takes their designated places.  Kyle still looks at his phone and begins to shake. 

The dark blue limousine is about to come to a stop.  Mike tries getting his first glimpse of the vice president’s daughter but the car window is to dark to see through. The limousine does not stop.  Instead it picks up speed and turns around.  Within seconds it’s gone.

Mark loses his professionalism. He blurts into the microphone, “What the hell?” 

Mike is confused and takes a few steps forward. 

The guest speakers are asking why the limousine kept on driving; Mike doesn’t know who to focus on first.  The guards at the entrance of the building have gone inside but no one notices.

Marks phone rings.  His voice cuts through the confusion.

Mike focuses on his words, “Michael!  Director Maxwell wants us back at the office.  It sounds urgent!” 

Mark looks down at his phone and curses a second time, “Shit, I can’t hear you Maxwell, there’s too much static on my phone!  If you can hear me we will be back there in five minutes.” 

A second emergency announcement rings on thousands of phones in DC. Mike looks at his cell phone.

Alert DC Alert DC Tsunami threat. Precede Evacuation. Alert DC Alert DC

Mark looks at Mike in confusion and with much doubt.  The audience stands and many point to the roof tops of the surrounding government buildings.  Military snipers appear on top of the buildings but do not act menacing.  Mike feels a sick ball in his stomach. He feels dread.  The metal police barricades built in the road activate as they rise to attention.  It’s not going to be possible for anyone to drive on the streets.

Mike blurts, “Are terrorists attacking?”  He feels stupid as soon as he says it.  People around him instantly go frigid.

Mark replies, “I don’t know.  This isn’t how Washington DC acted when 9-11 happened.” 

Everyone loses phone service. On the other hand Kyle did not lose his phone connection and is drawing attention. Kyle sounds frantic.  Mike can’t help it, he begins to eavesdrop.   

Kyle screams into this cell phone, “Seth I will be there in a few hours, please wait for me!”

Mike wants to ask what’s happening but as soon as he opens his mouth he’s interrupted.

The natural disaster siren for DC can be heard and felt everywhere as it fills the city.  It sounds like a low pitch whine, almost as if an old world war two bomber flies over head.  An electronic loop is built into the siren; it becomes louder than the people in the audience.  Mike feels scared.  There is much confusion. April is at Mike’s side.  She too is scared.  That’s when it starts to happen.

Mark swaggers on the steps.  A second later he falls.  Mike doesn’t understand what he’s seeing.  Mike is about to ask Mark if he alright and if he could bring his wife to the office when he sees the stairs underneath him bubble up.  The stairs behind them bulge like they are part of an escalator. The steps move upwards a few inches and just as fast moves downwards. The stage and microphone fall forward with Mark. 

Mike feels a lack of space under his feet and falls. The ground feels like a cushion under the cement.  He reaches out but can’t grasp anything as everything begins to rattle and shake.  The tent encompasses majority of the audience as the poles holding the canvas collapse. People begin to scream as the city siren continues to send its message of doom.

Chapter 12: Lights out at Burger King

Juliet puts a smiley face on the cheeseburger she prepares.  A couple of deft hand movements later and the cheeseburgers are done.  If she was roll playing in Dungeon and Dragons she would have passed her dexterity roll perfectly!  A yellow smiley face is imprinted on the burger, she puts pickles were the eyes are supposed to be.  She made two burgers like this and puts special allergy stickers on them warning against onions.  With any luck she could eat them for lunch if no one orders them.  Worst case scenario, some stranger who doesn’t like onions will find themselves with a couple of smiley burgers.

The lunch shift just started.  Her two bosses are out smoking a cigarette and will be back inside in a few minutes.  They told her to watch the newbie’s.  Only eight employees worked the undermanned shift and four of them were on their first week.  There were not many people in the lobby.  A few people on lunch break, a few college students, and a whole bunch of homeless people.  Most people arrived after twelve and it was still quarter to noon.

One of the homeless people freaks her out.  She sometimes wished they would leave.  There’s a bunch near the entrance that eyeball people’s trays.  She tells two of the newbie’s to work the lobby and to keep things in order.  They keep on slacking and were not in the lobby. A nicer looking French man sells drugs to the poor and some middle class professionals in the far corner. She makes a note of him to tell her manager when they come back from wherever they are.

Two other newbie’s are helping her prepare food.  One coughs a lot and shouldn’t be put on food detail. Preparing sandwiches is not hard.  Everything being cooked has timers and bells.  The tricky part is to make sure sandwiches are made the same and that food was made fresh.  The two new employees are Sara and Dawn.  They are on a work study program from high school that allows them to work at Burger King for half the day.

Behind the cash register is Tim.  Tim is a long term employee.  The other gentleman is Roger who is a retired professional who likes to work mornings.  She does not understand why someone would want to work at a place like this if they didn’t need money.  They had things under control.  She wasn’t sure where the other worker was.

Juliet tries to have a conversation with Sara, “Do you roll play?”

Sara is startled, she can’t figure out how to put the lettuce on the chicken, “What’s that?”

Juliet instantly knows the conservation will not go anywhere and despairingly mutters, “It doesn’t matter.” 

It’s obvious these teens prefer cooler activities. She decides to ask something else.  She deftly wraps five burgers within ten seconds.  Dawn can’t wrap one burger in a minute.

“Dawn, can you salt the fries?”  She wonders why Burger King hires teens that don’t care about doing a good job.

She’s about to start working on another chicken sandwich when she notices the ketchup miss the burger patty.  She tries again and watches as it misses a second time.  The burger slides down the metal rail and falls to the floor. 

Dawn screams and she looks up.  Her vision tilts as she feels her whole body pitch to the left.  Sara falls into Dawn whose hands reach out to grasp for leverage.  Dawn’s hands miss the sides of the grease pit and fully emerge into the hot oil.  The fries are boiling in the pit and the timer rings as the metal crate holding the fries lift up.  Dawn screams louder.

Juliet feels her toes grip the hard tiles through her tennis shoes but it isn’t enough.  She falls where Sara stood moments before.  She feels food from the plastic containers fall on her as freshly made hamburger patties hit her in the face. Cell phones start a electronic chorus.

Over head lights flicker off and on.  She hears something that sounds like a crash coming from the entrance followed by a boom.  Windows instantly shatter as beams crash down around the entrance.  She tries to squint through the patties as briefly sees the light dissipate around two homeless people near the entrance as her vision completely goes dark.  One man has only one arm and the other has a card board sign saying the end of the world was coming. 

She briefly wonders if she is hearing a siren in the background or maybe the ringing is coming from her own ears.  She loses grip of her awareness as darkness comes crashing down.

A few minutes later

Juliet found herself somewhere else.  She is not Juliet, she is Jasmine.  She is a blood elf and was in the process of buffering her party.  They were on a quest.  There was a dragon up ahead.  Her hunter has a keen eye for traps while looking for treasure and was also a thief.  She needs some manna to cast a healing spell. 

She heard a rustle and felt something hot shoot by her.  The hunter is screaming and is on fire. The dragon wasn’t supposed to attack them at their camp!

Jasmine frantically scours her memory for a spell that could protect against fire. Wait, where was the priest?  Where was the tank? 

The rest of the party runs.  The dragon eats the hunter.  Fire is everywhere.  She hears a feint noise that sounds like a siren. The smell of fresh blood hits her senses.

The dragon turns its eyes towards her.  She looks deep into its amber pupils.  She could piss herself but doesn’t.  Teeth glimmer with blood while its tongue flickers in the air.  Its eyes won’t leave her.  She knows she has to strike or die.  Finding strength she doesn’t know she posses she passes her fortitude check and leaps at the dragon.  There’s no going back.

Right before her blade meets the dragon’s eye she hears a loud siren.  She isn’t Jasmine.  She wants to be Jasmine.

Something oily is on her face.  She sneezes as she breathes in pepper from the beef patty.  She can’t see.

Her ears are ringing but she hears the siren.  Her name is Juliet.  She hears sobbing.  She flings food off of her face and sits up.  She’s surrounded by something that smells like food.  She still can’t see but she can hear voices.

Is that Sara? She calls out, “Sara, are you there?”

She hears Sara’s young high school voice break the sirens repetitive loop.

“I’m alright,” and then more frantically, “What happened!  I can’t see!  I’m blind and I can’t see!” 

Sara’s screams are met by other yelling.  Suddenly over a dozen voices all try to talk at once. She can hear others cry.  Juliet cannot pinpoint who or where they are.  She tries to get up but ends up falling again.  The ground hasn’t stopped rolling. 

Unlike the beginning the tremors become slighter.  The ground moves one way a few inches before it moves the opposite.  As the ground shifts she hears cooking utensils slide on and clatter to the ground.

The ground stops moving a few minutes later.  It’s very dark and she still couldn’t see.  Others had cell phones which shed very little light in the darkness.

“Dawn, are you there?”  Nothing but silence answers her question. 

A minute later she hears Sara shriek, “Oh my God, I think I found her.  She isn’t moving.  Do you think she is dead?”

Juliet couldn’t help herself and answers, “If she isn’t answering she’s probably dead.”  Sara didn’t try to be quiet as tears pour freely.

“Juliet, what do we do?”

Juliet did not know what to do.  She screams out for her boss but he does not answer.

After a few minutes of intense crying something good finally occurs as one of the homeless people takes out a flashlight from of his pockets.

The light instantly becomes a symbol of hope.  It came from the homeless vet who has one arm. 

He calls out to everyone, “People, we have an emergency.  We need to keep calm and get our wits together.”

A shrill female who yells, “My phone says a tsunami is coming!” Many people murmur.

Someone replies over the commotion, “Get a clue that was an earthquake!”

Others counter their phones say the same. No one can agree on what’s happening.

Juliet calls out to him; she stands near the cash register.  There are a few Burger King Toys that have flashlights made in the plastic.  The toys come from a new Disney cartoon.  There were also matches and batteries near the toys.

The vet makes his way to her as he introduces himself, “I’m Harry, sorry to meet you under these circumstances.  How can I serve you?”  It’s obvious that Harry was once respected.  She instantly feels herself trusting him.

Juliet doesn’t want to be scared.  She decides the best course of action is to try to make things as best as it could possibly be.  She does not look in the direction of Dawn.  She knows the girl is dead but doesn’t know how to feel. The best thing is to keep busy and think of it later.  

The cashiers are not behind the register.  She doesn’t have time to find them.  She calls out their names and is relieved when Rodger answers.  He somehow made it the middle of the lobby. 

 “Rodger, help us find more flashlights.”  He agrees and slowly makes his way back to them throughout the rubble.

Harry interrupts, “If you don’t mind, I have a plan after you hand out the lights.  By the looks of things we are blocked in and there was an earthquake.” 

He turns the flashlight to the entrance.  Everyone around Juliet and Harry gasps as they see the carnage. The front entrance caved in.  Unlike most Burger Kings the building was built in an old strip mall complex.  There were no windows outside the ones at the entrance.  The earthquake knocked out the supporting beams and completely blocked the entrance.  Light is not coming into the cracks and they cannot see outside.

Harry reminds Juliet of a natural leader.  She agrees to let him take initiative and is relieved that she doesn’t have to make decisions.  She quickly shrugs off any responsibility of Burger King as she reminds herself she’s just an employee who makes minimum wage.

“The first thing we have to do is take inventory.”  Rodger and Sara are near them and agree to help.  The other homeless people and scared college students wait to be told what to do. 

Harry continues his insights, “We need to determine who is healthy and who got hurt.  How many people do we have and what are our resources?”

Juliet responds, “What do you mean by resources?”  She has a bruise on her right arm.  Within seconds over half a dozen small light beams are turned on and people make noises of comfort and happiness as Rodger finishes handing them out.  People have stopped screaming but many are still crying.  For some reason people have a phone connection but can’t dial out.

Juliet shines her light at Sara and Rodger and asks them to help figure out the damage.  Three of the homeless people know Harry and volunteer to help.  The college students gather in a group and huddle away from the others as they urgently try to get their phones to work. 

She makes sure to give them some extra flashlights and they thank her.  They however are using the lights from their phones and many of them pocket the toys for future use.

Juliet looks around her surroundings more closely.  She sees something that looks like a shoe.  She shutters as she realizes it’s attached to a leg that isn’t moving. 

She is about to walk forward when she feels something buzz in her pocket. She forgets she has her phone. Juliet jumps and almost hits her head on a pipe from the ceiling that is hanging haphazardness.

Light beams from the cheap toys show only a few feet in front of the people using them.  She hears random gasps as people start to yell when their phones started began to function. 

Her heart settles and she pretends the dead body isn’t near her.   She puts Harry on hold as she frantically tries to call her mother. The number does not connect.

At least her phone was showing a few bars! 

She only cares about her family and Burger King doesn’t exist.  She tries calling a second time when a message pops on her screen.


People are sharing what they are seeing on their phones with people who do not have cell phones.  Gathering supplies did not seem important if she could contact the outside world.  Something new was entering her screen.


The message repeats itself.  Juliet could feel her heart falter when she couldn’t connect online.  After a few minutes the college girls start to cry.  It is dark and cold in Burger King.  Dust can be seen through her light beam making it hard to see details past two feet.

The ground stops rolling and things settle.  The ground under her feet is slightly tilted.  Before the earthquake the floor was flat.  The Burger King building is within Union Station.  Subway and an Asian fast food restaurant hug Burger King to its right and left.  The entrance faces outside towards the parking lot.

As if things weren’t bad enough something starts to hiss like a snake to her left.  It sounds soothing but wrong.  Everyone goes quiet.  The college students stop pawing at their cell phones.

It took her a second until she realized it sounded like compressed air.  She is about to ask somebody for their opinion when she hears Harry yell.

“The gas is going to blow!  Turn off the gas!”

Of course nobody moved.  How could they? Juliet did not want to be here and closed her eyes.  Maybe if she closed them tight enough things would get better.  Maybe she could wake up. 

Nothing happens. Harry moves forward.  He shines his light at the grills and turns off all the gas valves.  Juliet knew the noise is coming from the gas valve near the fries.  There is a dead body near the fries.  She looks down and notices the shoe.  It’s Dawn’s shoe. 

Juliet starts to cry again.  She forces her arm out and shines the light at the fryer.  The valve is to the right.  She sees Dawn slumped on her stomach; she can’t see her arms or face.  She doesn’t want to.  She tells herself to be tough like her paladin.

She reaches past the body and flicks off the switch.  The hissing instantly stops and people relax a little. Harry is at her side and doesn’t seem to be bothered with the dead body.

“Good job.”  He briefly looks at what Juliet is looking at, “There is nothing you can do.  Don’t look.”

Everyone quiets down while he talks.  He looks at Juliet.

“Snap out of it.  We need to take inventory.  It might take first responders up to three days to rescue us.”

Juliet feels strength in his voice and stops the tears.  She didn’t know if her parents were safe.  It would be stupid for her to assume that they were hurt. Harry notes with a little satisfaction that the crowd in listening. 

He continues, “We need to make a pile of everything we need.  You girl, what is your name?”  He shines the light into Juliet's face.

For some reason she freezes and then responds, “My name is Jasmine.” 

She hears a snort from Rodger but he doesn’t refute her.  Harry doesn’t look at her name tag and is now pointing his light beam at the others.  Sara isn’t around at the moment.

She didn’t want to be Juliet anymore.  Juliet is weak and isn’t special.  On the other hand the moment she said she was Jasmine she felt strength.   Her paladin from World of War craft could handle any situation. 

Her right hand slips over her name tag as she puts it in her pocket.

She feels surer of herself as she continues to turn off the rest of the gas lines.  She doesn’t remember who the other people are.  They are faces within the shadows.  They have no meaning. 

Harry directs people with his light beam as he barks orders.  He has the college students, Juliet who was now known as Jasmine, and a few homeless people gather resources.

Within minutes they were able to admire their handy work.  9 small toy flash lights, 3 cases of bottled water, 9 small water bottles, 4 match books, 13 triple AAA batteries, 1 heavy duty flashlight, and some random assortment of things that people thought would be important.

“Harry, what do we need to take inventory on besides this?”  She hands a water bottle to each person.

The homeless man with the sign pipes, “The local emergency station WTOP 1500 am could help if we had a radio.”

Juliet has an idea, “Maybe there is something like a short wave radio in the manager’s office.”

Harry directs his light towards the way, “Lead.  We need more things.  Hey you, what’s your name?” 

He points his flash light at one of the male college students who was trying to cajole one of the females.  A few homeless people disappear from the lingering crowd but nobody notices.

“I’m Jack, what’s up?”  He doesn’t seem to care about Harry.

“I need you to gather all the wounded and by the time we come back let me know who has what injury.  I want three groups.  The groups are to be regarding burns, cuts, and breaks.  Can you do that for me?”

Jack agrees.  Juliet directs them towards the hall and the back.  There is a lot of rubble, much of the food that was waiting to be put in wrappers are scattered in plastic containers all over the floor.  She almost trips and has a hard time seeing through the dust.

There is another body near the hallway.  Part of the ceiling fell onto someone who she couldn’t recognize. 

She tightly shuts her eyes and tells herself that a paladin would march right down the hallway and get the quest done. 

Harry asks, “Jasmine, please slow down.”

After a second she realizes he is talking to her, “Oh sorry, I can’t believe this happened.  How did this happen?”

They are at the end of the hallway and are passing the time clock she uses when she starts her shift.  She is terrified of the dark and can’t stop shaking.

She hears muffled voices up ahead, “Which one do you have?  I have chicken.  Oh this is so good.”  The voice is full of satisfaction.

Someone else answers who sounds French, “I have a hamburger; I will give you two hamburgers for your chicken sandwich.” 

The second voice is shrill.  She recognizes it as the homeless person who had the message on his chest.  Deep down she falters and doesn’t want to deal with them. 

Harry passes her without hesitation as he enters the room.

“Hey you guys, what are you doing?”  Harry sounds neutral as he points his light into the smaller man’s face.

The man squints and turns around as he shovels as much of the sandwich as he can into his mouth.The other homeless man smiles and tells Harry, “This is a great day!  Look at the free food!  Do you want a hamburger?” 

He flourishes a bag filled with sandwiches from the timed out counter. She sees the French man give the fist full of drugs to the homeless man.

Juliet feels rage as she softly accuses him without thought, “Those burgers are for the people who ordered take out!  Put it back!”

The two homeless men start laughing hysterically and do not put the food down, “Girl, wake up and smell the coffee!  The end of the world came and they are all dead!”

The French man sounds like a pervert; he’s the same one who looked like a drug dealer in the lobby.

His voice is sultry as he looks her up and down, “Hey, why don’t you sit on my lap little girl?”

She looks at the homeless person with the sign and with much contempt says, “You’re a looter and don’t deserve that food!” 

She feels what her paladin must feel when slaying a monster.  Deep down she didn’t deserve to be here and she certainly didn’t deserve to watch this evil man laugh at other people’s misery.

Without thinking of the consequences she tears the hamburger out of his hands, “Get out of this office!  Get back to the lobby and stop smiling!”

The homeless man with the sign on his chest shrieks, “Who do you think you are bitch!” 

He lunges towards her.  Juliet instantly freezes as she feels his hands squeeze around her neck. Her knees buckle and she can’t respond.  Her vision starts to swim.  She drops her flashlight and desperately claws at his hands.  She feels him grip harder.

Harry simply says, “Enough of this nonsense.” 

As fast as lightening he reaches out with his left arm to the man who is choking Juliet.  His arm quickly darts underneath the bigger mans elbow and snaps the bone in one hit. Juliet feels the pressure ease from half her throat and is able to break free of the other hand by twisting towards her left. 

Harry continues to execute the combination he learned in Korea.  Stepping onto the homeless person’s right foot he kicks at the muscle above the knee cap.  Next he strikes at the inside of the leg.  The bigger man grunts in surprise as Harry finishes the combo by smashing his elbow into the guy’s temple.  The second homeless person drops his sandwich and instantly backs up.  The first man falls into a heap and starts to cry while holding his arm.

Harry steps back from the fallen homeless person, “I don’t ever want to see you attack a woman again.  Now get your ass into the lobby and do not cause any more trouble.”

The French man makes no gesture to help his fallen comrade, but silently watches. After a moment they head back towards the lobby.  Half way back they hear a shrill voice menacingly threaten, “This isn’t over, and you better watch your back.”

Harry laughs.  He starts to go through the manager’s office with Juliet.

It’s not a big office. The office has one desk for the manager, a black board for scheduling, ten lockers and a bench.  There wasn’t a place to smoke a cigarette or a fridge.  She quickly goes to her locker and takes out her bag.  She doesn’t want to wear her Burger King shirt anymore.  It’s too dark for Harry to see her nude so she quickly puts her casual shirt on.  She throws her name tag into the shadows.  She tells herself it’s not time for Juliet.

Harry draws in his breath as he makes a happy noise, “This is what I’m talking about.  I found a short wave radio.” 

He switches them on but all they hear is static. 

“Shit, well at least we have one.” 

After looking around the desks Harry finds a few more things of interest.

There’s a small fire extinguisher, a first aid kid and some shipping plastic and tape.

Juliet is confused about the plastic and tape, “Why those things?”

She points her flashlight at them to make it clear what she’s referring to.

Harry patiently explains, “We don’t know what happened.  If its biological or radiation we will need to put as much plastic up as we can.”

Juliet snorts and tries to make a joke, “Past that rubble?  I couldn’t even see the sunlight.” 

She reminds herself to be like her Paladin. 

Harry looks at her back pack and tells her to come to him.  He unzips her pack while explaining, “I’m going to need you to carry the first aid kit and some other things.  You’re the official bag carrier and medic.  Can you handle the job?”

It’s not exactly how she viewed herself as a Paladin but she shrugs, “However I can help.”

On the way out of the office she comes up with another idea, “Should we gather the remaining food and hand it out when it’s needed?  I would hate a few people to eat all the food in one day.”

He looks at Jasmine with a little respect, “That’s a good idea.  Let’s see what the physical damage is.”

She remembers there is another health kit in the employee bathroom, “I will meet you in the lobby.  I know where another medical kit is.” 

She isn’t afraid of the dark anymore and gets the kit.  She briefly looks into her back pack.  She has two health kits, her purse, pepper spray, and some extra clothes.  She remembered being attacked by the homeless man and decided to put a butcher knife, used to cut lettuce, in her pack.  She remembered seeing a bottle of whiskey in the manager’s office that Harry and the other homeless people over looked.  She goes back and puts it her pack.  She didn’t want to get drunk but if she was going to be carrying medical supplies she might as well have a disinfectant.

Juliet heads back to the lobby.  Harry is a natural leader; he seems to have shrugged off the image of being homeless even though he is still wearing the same clothes.  Everyone outside the one homeless person whose arm he broke seems to be appreciating his guidance.  He had the short wave radio on the floor but it wasn’t working.  Harry was confused and started to curse as he turned the box over and over.

One of the college females interrupted him, “I heard there was a lot of solar flare activity this week.  Last year China lost millions of dollars in telecommunications due to solar flares, maybe it won’t work because of that?” 

Harry mutters, “Maybe.” 

He tells Juliet to help the injured.  There are only sixteen people in the lobby.  A whole bunch of lights face the center where everyone congregated.  They managed to drag a few tables together.  Three people had broken arms and ribs, eight people were cut on the face, chest, and arms, and one person could not remember his name.  She is worried about the person who couldn’t remember anything.  The man had a cut on his forehead and one eye is sealed shut.  He kept on shaking like he was cold.

People were talking in hushed tones when things went bad to worse.  She was cleaning someone’s cuts when they heard a large boom.  A deep boom rattled the broken building. 

Harry says, “That sounds like it might have been a gas line in Subway.” 

No one knows what to do so nobody does anything.  After doing as much as she could for the injured she feels a little hungry and enlists the help of Rodger to scavenge for edible food.

Twenty minutes later they have a pile of food that wasn’t ordered for lunch.  56 cheeseburgers, 29 hamburgers, 14 chicken sandwiches, 29 salads, at least a hundred chicken nuggets, and 16 fish sandwiches.  They decided to not gather the fries from the fryer.  She even found her two onion free burgers but decided to put them in her bag for later. 

There are seven dead bodies.  Harry is the only one who will touch them so he piles them away from the others.  He would have preferred putting the bodies in the cooler but they couldn’t reach it.  The ceiling caved in around it.  Hopefully they wouldn’t be in here that long.

Chapter 13: Anti Hero

The leash becomes taunt.  The leather’s course edge digs further as it lubricates his hand with his blood.

His vision starts to focus as his peripheral vision registers what is happening.  He is downtown.  An hour earlier dispatch told them to take Pixel to the National Mall.  The canine did a splendid job in her highway patrol tests; of course they found no bad guys.  His partner was impressed by his ability in having Pixel behave properly during the searching procedures. 

They were having Pixel sniff out possible explosives and chemical agent’s downtown for her next assignment.  The office decided to have an agent with some fake explosives meet somewhere on their route.  The fake explosives had a slight mix of Ammonium Nitrate to trigger Pixels senses.  On the route they were more than likely find a crack dealer and no real explosives, but that’s just the way it is in the city.  They couldn’t afford to wait for a terrorist to attack so it was better to make a controlled environment to see how she works under pressure.  Of course they didn’t tell him or his partner where it was going to happen and she was long past the training grounds at the K9 police facility.

Officers and canines have a few tricks up their sleeves when fighting criminals.  Larry could direct Pixel by making the Tisk sound with his throat.  Other commands in his arsenal range from directing her to pursue and apprehend, release and guard, defend and the list goes and on.

But what's happening right now isn’t part of Pixels training.  He couldn’t believe what he sees. He wonders if it’s real.

A moment ago he told his partner he was going to wait outside of the Capital Building as the man needed to use the bathroom.  They are on the West Front Terrace and were outside.  Moments before they wrapped up a preliminary round by having Pixel sniff the crowd in front.  He didn’t know or care why everyone was here.  He just wants to do his job.

He didn’t lose his balance but instead watches in disbelief as everyone began to roll like they were on a boat in the middle of a lake.  Pixel goes hysterical and won’t stop barking.  His mind is having a hard time registering what's happening. 

He can’t find his voice.  Pixel continues to try to break free as a siren begins its endless wail.  He couldn’t focus on his walkie-talkie and it seemed like it wasn't working.

He didn’t care about his hand or the blood congregating in his palm.  What he sees is something out of a cheesy post apocalyptic movie. 

The capital building sways.  Chunks of marble and granite fall on people dressed in suits.  He couldn’t help but watch as the cast iron dome shifts to the right and then the left.  The sun shines brightly behind it and there are no clouds in the sky.

Larry needs to watch, deep down he knows this is ground breaking.  History is in the making.  His attention goes to the steps.  Granite heaves and splits.  People run towards the entrance.

Larry wants to scream ‘Don’t go inside!  The dome is going to collapse! ‘

His partner is near the entrance.  They make eye contact.  There's a fierce determination in his partner’s eyes. 

He mutters, “Shit, NO!”  

Larry knew what his partner wants.  It’s something Larry couldn’t be.  His partner is a hero.  He feels a slight urge deep down to run into the burning building but then his mind screams at him not to.

His partner sees him stall.   His eyes go flat as he watches his partner sneer back at him in contempt. He doesn’t want to die today.

His partner flicks him off and disappears in the building.  Fifteen or twenty people follow. He hears many freaks out about a tsunami coming but he thinks they must be mistaken. It’s clear an earthquake just occurred.

Pixel wants to go in the building.  She is fighting with him.  He doesn’t let go but instead keeps looking at what’s happening around them. It’s been about thirty seconds.  Larry finds his strength as tremors slow.  He reaches for his walkie-talkie but only hears static.  He reaches for his cell phone and notes it’s turned on silent.  It doesn’t work but there is an emergency message.

People are crying.  Dust lifts from the ground.  Many walls are destroyed.  It gets harder to see what happening eyes level due to debris and dust. He sees his partner reemerge with something big and bulky.

Pixel wouldn’t hear it as she continues to move forward.  This is her day.  Larry knew Pixel wasn’t ready but it does not stop her.  He finally finds his voice but it didn’t matter.  The K9 leaps up the slowly rolling stairs and he is her puppet.  His life is wrapped up in these dogs and he wasn’t going to lose her to this.  They are at the entrance.  His partner drags out something small.  They didn’t need to say anything.  His partner drops the half conscious body and looks him in the eyes for a third time.

“It’s better to be late than never show I suppose.”  Larry didn’t need to explain himself to his partner.  He didn’t care what he thought of him.  Larry was scared and did not want to be here.

Pixel barks and he notices a few security officers helping people to their feet.  It’s apparent much of the building is intact but the ground underneath them still hasn’t stopped moving.

His partner says, “I saw people run to the Rotunda.  We need to get them out.”

Pixel darts forward.  Larry will not go.  He tries giving her a few commands but she wouldn’t listen.

They pass the entrance to the crypt.  He knew he was going to die if he went forward so for the first time he pulls at the leash with all his force.  Pixel instantly flies backwards and his partner curses.

Larry aggressively announces.  “The dome is going to collapse.  I’m not going inside there.”

His partner turns on him in righteous fury, “Shut up and do your duty.  This is what we are here to do.  To serve and protect.”

Larry is frustrated and wants his partner to see his point of view, “There’s no difference of helping people here or in there.  Here has no roof about to collapse.”

They stop in the Brumidi corridors, the pillars did not look safe to be under.

His partner sneers, “Larry, you are a coward.  Let me have Pixel then.  The congressman and politicians are going to be in there, or on the second floor.  They aren’t going to be in the crypt or in the old chambers.  Come with me and be a good cop.”

Larry never liked his partner, “No.  You can come with us and help others but we are not going in there.  Ordinary people are just as important as world leaders.”

His partner snorts.  A few military personal quickly pass and tell them to follow.  A few security officers come out of the center room helping a congressman from Ohio.  His partner doesn’t waste any time and runs into the chamber.  Civilians from the outside are being stopped at the entrance and are being told they couldn’t enter.

A few highly armed groups escort senators and congressman out.  One tourist who wears a flowery tourist shirt and khaki’s really wants to get in the chambers. The security personal allows his partner in but not the civilian. The man in the flowery shirt doesn't hear the guard. 

He looks for his family, “Sharon where are you?  Timmy, Amanda?” 

He shrugs off the security guard while another guard dressed in a suit moves to his right.  The other civilians stop as the guard upholsters his side arm. 

Countless people are trying to ask government workers questions.  Its evident security equipment and telecommunication gear is down.  Security personal keeps pawing at their microphones in their ears.  Larry could not see what's happening in the chamber and takes a few steps backwards.  It took all his might to stop Pixel from running in the chamber after his partner.

The man with the flowery shirt continues to push past the security personal. 

His voice gets more desperate as he yells over the security guards, “Amanda is in there!  You need to let me in.  My family was touring in the chamber when this started!” 

He keeps pushing past the guards and didn’t take no for an answer.


The shot could be heard over the siren and echoes in the chaos.  Everyone stops.

The man in the flowery tourist shirt puts his hand to his chest and looks down in disbelief after twirling from the impact.  The civilians and Larry receive a clear picture as they see a red dot appear on his shirt. The man falls to his knees and the civilians quiet down.  Within seconds the civilians move as one mass and rush past Larry to the entrance. Other civilians enter the hall not knowing what just occurred.

Larry did not want to be here.  A sign points to the crypt.  He wants nothing more to have a drink.  He was still a cop and did not want anyone to see his weakness.  After having a drink he will try to help as best as he can.  The crypt is to the left of the dome and has a side hallway not open to the public which goes underground.  Security personal did not care if he goes down there because he is a cop.  He did not look twice for his partner.

Larry directs Pixel to the crypt and pauses only a moment as he looks around at his surroundings.

Murals from Constantino Brumidi are destroyed.  Cracks appear everywhere in the building but the ceiling is still intact.  Two pillars have already collapsed; which really scared Larry, in the adjacent hall way called the Hall of Columns, or so he heard a few guards mutter.   He briefly felt sad knowing the Italian’s work depicting the elements would be never more.

He didn’t think twice in going down the steps to the crypt.  Anything that would put him away from security personal shooting Americans would be nice.  He makes it to the bottom of the steps and fishes the small alcohol bottle deep in his jacket.

Larry ignores both the blood on his hand and Pixel as he quickly opens the bottle and drinks the contents. For a moment he drifts against the wall and tries to not listen to the screaming coming from the floor above.

Larry did not think that anyone knew what to do and it was pure chaos. Pixel brings his attention back to the moment as she starts to whine.  Shrugging, Larry decides it was fine by him to not go back upstairs for a few more minutes. Larry lets Pixel direct him.  He is a little worried about Pixel’s search and rescue skills. Pixel briskly leads Larry down the corridor and starts to bark at the rubble.

Larry recalls seeing a group of Asian students dressed in blue.  He felt a sick knot build in his stomach.  A large part of the wall has fallen on the crushed group. Pixel darts forward and paws at the rubble. 

Larry takes out his light and shines it through the settling dust.  Sunlight streams from a few cracks in the wall.  He pauses as the ground under his feet settles with the latest aftershock.  The siren still cycles and gives Larry a migraine.  He hears someone sob as he briefly looks at the ceiling.

Entire chunks of the ceiling fall around him.  It’s only a matter of time before the building collapses.  Larry hears a boyish grunt.

“OK, stay where you are, help is coming.” 

Larry felt stupid as soon as he says this.  Of course the Asian was going to stay still.

Larry didn’t need his flash light and lets go of Pixels collar.  Pixel instantly goes to the rubble and digs as best as she can. Larry tells her to stay still and picks up a few blocks.  It didn’t take long for him to find an Asian kid dressed in blue.  Blood caked the kids frame. Outside of the blood and torn clothes he looks like a healthy nerd. The Asian teen starts to talk in gibberish and his words don’t come out right.

“Do you speak English?  I don’t understand you.”

After wiping blood from the kid’s eyes from a cut brow, Larry realizes he doesn’t speak English. He reaches down and picks up the kid.  There doesn’t appear to be any broken bones.  The Asian looks back and howls when he sees his classmates buried in the rubble.

“Shit kid, don’t look.”  He shoulders the kid who then reaches down and grabs a back pack in the rubble.  Pixel isn’t looking anymore. 

Larry sighs as he walks back up the steps.  Everyone is still in the chambers.  Larry tries to drop the kid but the Asian boy clings to him. 

“I don’t have time for this.  Get lost and be safe.” 

He tries to unravel the Asian from around his neck.  His hand really hurts and wouldn’t stop bleeding.  He didn’t notice when the pain came.

Suddenly the ground pitches to the right as a new aftershock rocks Washington DC.  Larry knows this isn't a safe place and wants to get out of the building. Most of the politicians have evacuated the premises. Maybe they made it the underground railway.  Funny those politicians are allowed a private rail way the public can’t use.  Many of them must have fled underground.

He couldn’t get the Asian off of him and sighs.  He forgot to pick up Pixel’s leash but she obediently follows.

Minutes later Larry finds himself at the entrance.  A whole bunch of first responders finally arrived and were pushing past both civilians and government workers.  The entrance to the Capital Building looks like its bent sideways.  Larry uncontrollably shakes as he thinks to himself he should be outside.

Apparently others feel the same way and the first responders start to evacuate the building.  Larry has to pause a few minutes for the crowd to thin out.  Larry knew from his disaster training seminars with FEMA that buildings get displaced from its shape, size, and stiffness.  He already knew the roof was teetering and that wasn’t a good sign.  According to his courses at FEMA, the grounds underneath the buildings are becoming liquefaction.  In other words, the Pontiac River and Atlantic Ocean must have changed the properties in the soil and now the ground is unstable!  Larry shakes his head in disbelief as he continues this thought.

But this is impossible.  Places that are prone to earthquakes are likely to have this occur.  Just like what happened in California and in Oregon a year before.  Maybe these aftershocks are from the Madrid Fault?  No, that was definitely an earthquake in DC. 

Larry did not believe it’s a terrorist attack.  It was time to leave the lobby. He wonders if the Cascadia Subduction Zone got affected through the North America plate and the Juan de Fuca plate.  It would explain the connection between his home in California and what’s happening in British Columbia but it was a long shot.

Larry was glad his mother pushed him into getting A’s in the FEMA natural disaster courses for the police academy.  He briefly looks up at the twisted door frame before leaving.  He knew you were supposed to stay inside or get underneath something solid during a earthquake but he couldn’t wait to get out of the building.

Moments later he is on the broken steps leading to the front entrance.  He blinks a few times and coughs.  Smoke is everywhere.  When he went inside it was dusty.  Now various buildings are in rubble but it appears every three buildings are left untouched.  Fire comes from many.  A large boom could be felt from the distance.  A new smoke plume appears a couple blocks down.

A black gentleman in a torn business suit comments, “That must have been a gas line.  There’s going to a lot of that.”  Larry sees the man has a name tag, his name is Mark.  A white man appears near Mark with two women.  The new man’s name tag reads Mike. 

“Mark we need to get out of here.  Let’s go and get to the office.” 
Suddenly there is a dark hair woman who he recognizes as an anchor woman for CNN and her camera man. She’s instantly is in his face asking questions and making statements, “Get the camera on this officer.  He is a hero!  Look!  He carried a child out of the building!  Do you know what’s happening?” Larry can’t believe this. 

He manages to mutter, “I think we need to get of the stairs and on solid ground.  I don’t know what’s happening.”

As a group they pass the chaotically ruined stairs.  The CNN journalist instantly starts filming the carnage around them. 

Mark ushers the group and Larry doesn’t know what else to do but follow.  He finally gets the Asian kid to let go who proceeds to follow behind everyone.  Larry laughs when he sees the redneck he pulled over earlier.  The redneck from Minnesota refuses to make eye contact.  Other staff people and civilians are around but Larry doesn’t look to close.  He doesn’t even know where they are going but anything is better than where he currently is.  Pixel is quiet and his hand burns sharply and will not stop bleeding.  He didn’t want to clean it at the moment.  He just wants to have another drink.  He didn’t feel like a hero and wishes the CNN journalist would shut up.

They pause on the lawn and as a group look up.  Metal on metal could be heard as the Statue Freedom sways in the warm wind. It couldn’t handle the aftershocks.  9 million pounds of cast iron collapse in one final metal groan.  The statue did not break, but rather the whole iron foundation and statue simply collapse. Everyone is quiet.  Mark starts to cry.   The CNN journalist busily films. He knew his partner and everyone in there was now dead or wished they were.

Chapter 14:  Looking into Nothingness

Harry didn’t want to open his eyes for another second, in the darkness a second felt like ten minutes.  He washes down the last of his cheeseburger with some water from a water plastic bottle. His mind takes inventory after the initial shock wore off.

The best thing to do in an emergency such as this is to keep a cool mind.  The college girls were not calming down. The four students keeping to the light but are not communicating well with the others.  Harry ponders the situation further.

Harry looks to where the dude sits who received the broken elbow.  Deep down he knows he has to be cautious.  He didn’t want to break the man’s arm but he had no right choking a woman.  Harry is conservative and believes in tradition and respect.  If this was the war he would have broken the guy’s neck. He wasn’t sure what to think of Samantha.  He didn’t understand why she lied about her name. 

If Harry didn’t know better he would have thought she was a spy, but he wasn’t paranoid. 

He tells himself it’s his imagination.  How many times did a buddy of his escape reality through lies or projecting themselves in a fantasy?  Many times, especially when they get shot or experience trauma.  She must be in denial.  What’s up with her hair being so short?  She seems brash but has a good character.  She is the closest thing to authority here.  I need her as an ally.

“Samantha, we need to do a second run and stock further.  The things we got are good but we need more supplies.  Jack, Rodger can you guys help?” 

By directly talking to her he hoped to have the rest follow her as their leader.  Rodger and the other Burger King employee agree. 

He wasn’t expecting the college student’s answer when he asks Jack’s group.

Jack flippantly replies, “Why should I?  The girls need me.  Help is coming and we will be out of here within an hour.” 

The college girl with Jack does not stop crying and proceeds to dramatically run into the bathroom.  Jack and her friends follow like simple sheep. 

Before Jack goes into the bathroom he looks back at Harry and politely demands, “Please leave us alone.”

Harry shrugs while muttering, “Figures.  They are spoiled.  They will come around in a few hours after they are done crying.”

Harry walks towards the homeless group.  The man with broken arm is sitting away from the others.  His back is away from the light.  His friend isn’t around but that didn’t worry Harry.  A few homeless people scavenge the floor for unwrapped food.  They are obviously still hungry. Many of them cough profusely.

Looking over at the three homeless men near the center group he says, “Can you guys bring some tables together?  We need to create a canopy of tables to prevent ourselves from getting hurt from falling debris.  There doesn’t seem to be any stable support beams.” 

Aftershocks could be felt every other minute.  They shook everything for fifteen to thirty seconds.

One looks to him and says, “I think we can get a few.”
One of the old people who frequent Burger King despairingly mutters words that chill Harry.  The old gentleman is dressed nice and obviously is someone important, “We are going to die.”

Rodger quickly responds, “Mathew, don’t say that.  We will be fine.  Think of your wife and grandchildren.  They are waiting for us as soon as we get out of here.”

Mathew’s voice takes a hint of scorn, “How do you know?  I need to get out of here!”  Mathew bursts from the small circle of misshaped lights and runs to the entrance.   He trips once but quickly gets back up. 

“Don’t you see?  Everyone in here is going to die!  We need to get out of here!”

People try to tell him to calm down.  Mathew claws at the rubble at the entrance and after a few minutes give up. Harry clinches his right hand.  He saw a soldier once freak out like this.  He couldn’t help but remember.

It was 1949.  A few years before, the Korean Peninsula was ruled by the Japanese.  Since 1945 the allied powers divided the Korean Peninsula at the 38th parallel but the Forgotten War did not officially start until 1950.  The northern territory had soviet troops; he was stationed in the South.  It wasn’t like the movies. Both nations attacked each other like pirates; they called it ‘skirmishes’.

His unit was ordered to sabotage free elections by undermining local insurgents but in reality they hid in a hole for a few years.  Someone in Washington DC thought free elections were not possible as long as communists fed ideology to rural villages and the only way to stop them was through cloak and dagger espionage.  The public wasn’t ready for the war so they had to keep the mission quiet.  His unit had a twofold objective.  First, insert false documentations at specific locations to undermine soviet authority; second, patiently lay in ambush for any high level official near the Yalu River that may be carrying important military documents.  It wasn’t about the Chinese, Koreans, or the Japanese in the beginning.  It was about curtailing Soviet expansion.

Harry spent Christmas Eve in a poppy field his first year.  His Christmas meal consisted of cold soup in his sweaty helmet.  He was lucky and had a Hershey chocolate bar for dessert.  His days were spent sleeping in a hole in the ground, always waiting.  Intense training with the United Stated Military Academy didn’t prepare him for the armed conflict he was going to experience.  His prayer was the Cadit Maxem:

Risk more than others think is safe.

Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

Christmas Day sucked big time.  A Korean child near a small fishing village shot the captain.  His captain thought it would be safe to break protocol and wanted to get something special for the holidays.  He didn’t even make it to town.  While trying to be in the holiday spirit he got shot by a child who mistook his as an evil spirit.  Many Koreans didn’t know who the enemy was, many did not understand what was happening.  Everyone had to be considered hostile while contact with locals was supposed to be zilch.  He had to drag his Captain back to the hole in the ground and watched in horror as his Captain got an infection and died by New Years.

Back then he had two hands.  Harry reentered the moment as he watches the old gentleman bloody his hands on the rubble.  No matter how hard he tried he wasn’t going make progress.  His captain and war buddy couldn’t fix what happened either.  They had no way to treat the old man’s hands if he got an infection.

He lost his hand when his unit blundered two years later.  He was hiding in a hole and he saw very little action outside of what happened to his Captain.  Periodically they would go on patrol and dig up land mines.   They were not allowed to have alcohol or prostitutes.  They were not allowed to go into the villages.  Most of the time they saw carnage after it happened or knew something was happening when they saw smoke in the distance.  Other times they would get shot at and would rarely see who was shooting at them.  They did a lot of shooting back but only hit trees. 

The Allied forces were tipped a convoy was entering their district and politicians in Washington DC wanted the convoys military documents.  They had a very short window to assassinate the convoy and retrieve the data.   The mission didn’t go as planned even though they succeeded in the mission’s objective.  His unit was eliminated and he lost his left arm.  He watched in horror as his war buddy tried to replace his guts in his stomach.  His intestines poured onto the road.  He never forgot the way his friend clawed at the air before he died.  He was rescued by a Buddhist monk who mended his arm.  The price to pay for freedom and democracy sometimes outweighs human life.  Needless to say the documents he gave Washington helped start the cold war.  Life is full of ironies.

“You need to stop.  Maybe we can get a team of diggers to work on that.  Please stop, you’re hurting yourself.”  Harry looks towards the ceiling as the latest aftershock shakes the broken structure. 

“As I was saying, we need to get some tables together to protect our heads.  We need to make sure everything is turned off, and we need to stay calm.” Juliet and the others agree.

“We also need to do something with the bodies more then what we did.  We can’t risk infection and rampant bacteria and viruses.  Let’s go back to the Managers office and check it one more time.  If someone can help me we can then put the bodies in there seeing as how we don’t have a freezer.  Samantha, come with me please.”

Juliet has a hard time remembering to answer to the new name.  She’s beginning to think twice about her decision but doesn’t know how to fix the lie.

Juliet stumbles through the rubble and cleans the hands of the gentleman who freaked out moments before.  There was a lot of blood but it didn’t bother her, she felt disconnected to what was happening around her. 

“Give me a moment to clean his wounds.”

Harry directs the remaining homeless and old people to gather the tables.  He then has them remove rubble from the entrance.  It was better to keep people doing things.
A few minutes later he was back in the Managers office with Juliet.

“I need you to go through all the lockers and everyone’s pockets.  We need anything we can use.”  Harry goes to the desk and looks at it more critically.

He didn’t care about the papers or the notebooks.  Budget reports and utility bills no longer matter.

He mutters to Juliet, “If we weren’t locked inside here we could have shut off the main valves to the building.  Sadly they are often located outside.”

He finds another set of heavy duty batteries and a small sewing kit that must have been used to mend employee uniforms.

“Did you find anything of use?”  He’s ponders how to ask her about her name discrepancy.

“I found a bottle of Aspirin and a nice leather jacket that belonged to Dawn.” 

Juliet puts on the jacket.  It’s cold in the building and Harry thinks it’s more than likely going to get colder the later it gets. The jacket is going to become a high end commodity.

“Good, keep looking.  Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”  Harry spies a Swiss army pocket knife at the bottom of the shelf of the desk.

Juliet feels dread and wonders if Harry is going to get perverted.  She likes him though and instantly relaxes when she comes to the conclusion he was like a big brother, “Go ahead.”

Harry pauses for a second; he is done looking in here but doesn’t want Juliet to know.  He paws through the desk looking like he’s searching for something.

“I know this is a terrible experience but why lie about your name?  I saw the employee of the month picture with you in it, Juliet.”  He tries saying this in the most innocent non threatening voice he can muster, “Juliet is a nice name.  What’s up with you being Samantha?”

Juliet felt uneasy being put on the spot and blurts the first thing that comes to her mind, “It’s my middle name.  I like it more.  You can call me Juliet if you want.” 

Its good Harry doesn’t see her face.  She blushes from embarrassment. 

“Om my God, you won’t believe what I just found!” 

Juliet takes out a bat and a mitt, “Someone liked playing baseball.”

Harry smiles, “Nothing like some old fashioned baseball.  Sadly I don’t think we need those things.”

Juliet shrugs and tosses the equipment back in the locker.  She puts the baseball in her pack, “I always like baseball balls.”  She didn’t know what she could use it for in the future but it didn’t matter. They hear someone yell in the lobby.

Harry instantly thinks the homeless man whose arm he broke must be up to mischief.   Jacks voice could be heard.  He is screaming at someone.  It sounds like a fight.  Harry reaches past Juliet and grabs the bat.  They quickly make their way back to Burger King’s lobby.

It’s not the homeless man who attacked Juliet earlier.

Jack is furiously pummeling the French homeless man.  The girls are behind him and his male friends cower in the shadows.

“How dare you touch her?  Who do you think you are?”  His fists continued to rise and fall as he takes out his frustration on the man huddled in a heap in front of him.

Harry rushes forward and slams the bat on one of the tables that was moved to the center of the lobby.

When they were gone the people in the lobby were able to put five tables four feet above the ground by using other tables to brace them in a western log cabin fashion.  By crisscrossing the tables they were able to be stacked, they were heavy enough to not move with the aftershocks. 

“Stop,” Jack stops after hitting the homeless person one more time.

“This dirt bag tried touching my girl friend in the bathroom.”  Jack is about to kick the man huddled in front of him but Harry stops him.

Harry shines his flash light into the French man’s face, “Is this true?”

After a moment the man leaps up and runs across the lobby into the shadows while hollering, “No its not!  She has extra sweaters and I’m cold!  I hate you.” 

It’s obvious he’s screaming at Jack and his friends, “You college students think you rule the world.  I hate
you and everything you stand for!  How dare you hit me!  I was cold!” 

The crowd in the lobby mutters. Harry isn’t sure what to do.

Rodger curses from near the entrance as he shines his cheap Disney flashlight towards the center of the room where the supplies were, “What happened to the food?”

Harry spins towards where the supplies and sees that half of its gone!

Juliet yells not to happily, “Who took the food?  We need the food!”

The homeless man with the broken arm laughs hysterically.  Harry turns towards him but the homeless man does not have a light on and seems to be part of the shadows.

His shrill voice permeates the silence, “We took it.  Come and get it if you want it.”

Harry is startled when he sees four homeless men band together where the shrill voice is coming from.  The bad homeless man continues, “Harry we are disappointed in you.  You are one of us.  Stop this child like game and join us.  It’s us against them.  It’s always been that way.  This is about survival of the fittest.”  The four homeless men pick up random pipes and sharp instruments, their persona turned menacing.

Harry didn’t think twice before responding, “Oh, I see how it’s going to be.  These people need me.  It doesn’t need to be like this.  Give us the food and we can talk about it.  We are all Americans.”

The man with the broken arm shrilly responds, “It needs to be like this.  We took half the supplies.  Leave us alone and we will all get along.”

Harry looks at them with contempt, “I was never like you.  Stay on your side then and don’t come asking me for help.” 

The man who got beat up by Jack joins the armed group.  Now they are six. The two other homeless men did not join them.  He had the majority. 

Harry asks, “Can you guys at least try to dig us out?”

The homeless man with the shrill voice answers, “Of course.  We want to get out of here just like you.  Just like you said, we are all Americans.  We are not giving back the resources and if you try to take them we will kill you.”

With resolution Harry and Juliet say at the same time, “Fine.”

Rodger and Sara retrieve half of the supplies that are still in the pile.  The college students decide to keep to themselves and want to go back into the bathroom.  The older gentlemen gather bodies in hushed tones.   Harry knew the bodies wouldn’t get contagious with bacteria for a few days but the psychological impact of corpses is going to be too much for the people in the lobby within half of a day.   Within minutes the lobby is clear.  Harry puts the rest of the food in a very large potato sack he finds near the fryer.  He doesn’t want the other homeless people to take it.

He didn’t feel comfortable holding the bat so he gives it to Rodger and tells him to guard the supplies. He only has one hand and needs it for other tasks. Not knowing what else to do he goes back to the short wave radio he found and turns the knobs.  Of course there is no response outside of static.

He spies the time by looking at Rodgers cheap imitation Rolex.  It’s quarter after one.

Harry shuts his eyes and prays help comes.  He doesn’t think Juliet and the others will last more than three days under the present circumstances.   Water is going to be a big issue. His mind wanders back to the war, back to nothingness.  What else does one do when waiting for rescuers?

There was one last thing Harry learned in the war.  Victims from natural disasters often get hurt from outlier incidents such as being injured, drowning, or by fire.   However the real threat was not going to come from the dead corpses or the rubble, but rather from fowl play regarding his fellow human beings.  The only threat the dead will be giving stems from possible chronic blood infections as they decompose.  A few days from now it will become dangerous.   In a few days if left untouched they could have methane and other gases build around the decomposing flesh.  Harry keeps one eye open while watching the homeless men who are armed.

Chapter 15: Journey to the Smithsonian

As far as Fred is concerned he’s in hell.  The earth won’t stop shaking and pillars of fire rise to the heavens.  Buildings crumble as many become either killed or seriously hurt.  His subconscious keeps dredging up the song Highway to Hell from AC/DC but the siren stops his mind from going too far.  He recalls his life on the walk and wants to make his past mistakes better.  His catholic priest’s voice permeates his awareness, reminding him of why he is a good Christian. Fred ponders the significance of the event as he tries calling his wife for the hundredth time.

Fred believes in God and went to church almost every Sunday.  That is, all long as he wasn’t working or fishing.  Dead people couldn’t feel what he feels.  He decides he isn’t dead or having a nightmare. Broken buildings, death, fire, the only thing missing was Jesus and angels coming down to earth. He wonders if this is the end of times and he’s having a bad dream.

Fred asks out loud, “Oh sweet Jesus, please save me.”

Fred looks over to his son and flinches.  He doesn’t like the way the situation unfolded.  Kyle manipulated him into coming down town to see him shine.  Kyle never believed in Jesus.

He didn’t like his son, but he still loves him.  He didn’t know what to feel or how to make things right.  He decides it’s best to get his grandson and take Kyle back home. He wonders if Jesus will save Kyle. His mind fears for his wife and other children. He asks God if he will ever be able to fish.  Did Minnesota get hit?

Fred digs out his crucifix which is on a gold chain.  His wife gave it to him many years ago when they first met.  He never would have known about Jesus if it wasn’t for her.  He met her at church on Easter when he was 19 years old. 

He no longer cares about Kyle’s manipulations; Fred figures all people who work in government treat their parents like crap.

“Kyle, I know we have our differences, but we need to get the baby and go home.” 

Fred fidgets, deep down he prays Kyle won’t disagree. Kyle looks at him tiredly and with much distrust. 

With very little acceptance he replies, “Sure.  I didn’t know this was going to happen.  Sorry.  The baby is at the hospital.  I have a nanny who is looking after her.  They were supposed to be home around 6 pm.”

The military finally arrives, or at least a very small section of it. The group is about to pass the lawn off of the capital building when a most disturbing vintage catches Fred’s eye.  He points it out to the rest of the group.

First Street at the juncture of Independence Avenue is no longer a complete road.  The street splits in the middle.  A large gap spanning roughly nine feet divided the street as a broken water line spews tons of water down a deep hole. As they watch a deep crack spreads further down the street. Cracks and crevices appear on the lawn as water bubbles from deep underground. The crack in the street grows as the earth separates the once intact asphalt. A few vehicles disappear into the depths.

Mark stops crying about the dome collapsing and now laughs while pointing to the street, “What are the odds of this happening?  Why is this happening?  How are we getting past this?” 

He kicks at the loose earth near the side of the road.  One of the visiting professors from England tries cajoling him.  The visiting Russian professor steps in and wraps her arms around him. Mark doesn’t want to listen as he continues to step closer to the edge of the hole.  Pixel starts to bark until she gets Mark’s attention.  Mark walks away from the edge and pats her on the head as he stops crying and laughing.  Larry doesn’t seem to notice or care.

Military vehicles stop across the street near the Jefferson building at the Library of Congress.  They stall when they see metal barriers and the large hole in the road.  Within moments the soldiers have a makeshift metal bridge spanning the gap and are running towards the capital building.  The makeshift bridge is part of a heavy machine looking like its part of a larger vehicle.  They don’t care the building just collapsed; it’s obvious they are on a mission.  None of the soldiers glance at the group.

Over head new noises encompasses Washington DC.  It’s the sound of military engines in helicopters.  A dozen choppers appear in between the pillars of smoke and fire.  Within seconds they land on the opposite side of the very large lawn.  Military jets could be heard overhead but he couldn’t see them.  The military snipers were no longer on the roofs or in the crowd.  

Larry could have accurately told them what unit and division the rescuers were part of but he wasn’t saying anything.  His face is pale and his eyes keep focusing beyond the group as he clinches and unclenched his left hand.  

Both military groups merge and stop. Fred looks in amazement as he hears one soldier yell to another, “Who has jurisdiction here?” 

The other soldier yells back he doesn’t know. A group of firefighters emerge from the rubble; both military groups quickly put together separate command centers.  They are quick but aren’t communicating well.  The firemen direct both units to the deflated building while they disappear back inside.

Susan Bishop breaks from the group and tries to intercept one of the soldiers but quickly gets told to leave the premises.  No one wants a journalist in the way.  She comes back looking a little depressed.  Larry snaps out of his reverie and attempts to explain what’s happening.  Fred doesn’t understand much of what he is saying outside of a few basic things.

Larry tells Susan and the news camera the chaos of the rescuers is part of the National Response Framework.  The NRF is a new system of domestic policies geared towards fixing the communication gaps between state and federal agencies.   Hurricane Katrina and the fall of New Orleans gave witness to the fact that government needs to fix the way she responds in natural disasters.  The program is still being developed and apparently no one really has a clue where to start if things go majorly wrong.  Most rescue organizations are told to only focus on one block, building, or public official.  This makes it harder for first responders to get to everyone who needs them.  This disaster is too large in scope, just as Katrina and New Orleans was too much.  Larry rambles on about how FEMA training taught him America was not always prepared for disaster mitigation, especially when politicians and leaders only worry about being elected for short terms which means they don’t really care about what’s happening in the big picture.  Government needs to put long term goals in place and too much time and resources are spent on spinning public images which are not real.  Domestic disaster policies declare each State and City has to deplete local resources before the Federal government gets involved. Complete anarchy will often come about as some cities and states will respond positively and others will regress and act like their primitive ancestors.  In other words, when it comes to natural disasters, States and local communities will be the back bone of America and it’s up to proper city managers and administrators to work with service workers and the community to put things back in order.

Of course there are some exceptions.  Larry concludes with his personal opinion that there is too much friction and miscommunication between national agencies.

He concludes with, “What happens if the chain of command is destroyed at the top?  Who is going to give proper clearance and direction?  Current Domestic policies include nonprofit organizations banding together for the community when a natural disaster occurs but it does little for first responders.  In other words, the policy was good but it lacks real world practicality in that it did not prepare State and Local agencies for any epic natural disaster such as this.  In my opinion they are doing the best they can and they are all heroes, but may God bless and help us all.  I don’t think anyone is going to come and rescue us outside of what we are seeing.  We need to evacuate Washington DC.”

Watching various military units, fire men and police officers not coordinate rescue efforts was giving credit to everything Larry declared for national television.  Susan and her camera man are very happy someone with a uniform was telling them their opinion.  Most of the time public employees such as cops remain quiet and don’t believe in whistle blowing.  He was going to get in trouble for his thoughts and possibly fired but someone needed to tell the truth!

Fred looks down at his wrist watch and asks Kyle to explain what Larry just said.  Kyle doesn’t want to be bothered as he busily talks to a few of his co workers.  They are trying to get Kyle to go back to the Smithsonian because they were hoping it would be safer there.

Fred understands why they want to go somewhere familiar as he thinks to himself; people often go back where they are comfortable.  During most natural disasters people will go back and live with their families and friends.

New public workers arrive.  It’s been twenty minutes since the earthquake hit.

He didn’t know how the EMS ambulance made it to the lawn but paramedics are running towards the capital building. With them are a few CDC workers dressed in their white space suits.

Two soldiers break from the chaotic ordeal and pin point Larry as the group’s informal leader, “We need you to get these civilians out of here.  Take them to the nearest evacuation center or come and help us.  Get that camera off!” 

One of the soldiers gestures towards the camera and Susan.  The soldier doesn’t have much patience and keeps looking back over his shoulder to see what’s happening with his unit.  For reasons Fred does not understand their telecommunication equipment was not working.  A lot of people are barking orders and not much was happening.

Larry tells the group to follow him and Pixel.  The soldiers tell them to hurry it up and proceed to tell others a similar message.  They itch to get back to their unit and look wild eyed as another building a block away crumbles into a heap after a significant boom is heard and felt by everyone.

Fred follows the group thirty feet down the broken street before they find themselves not being able to move forward.

Fred watches as a bunch of people exit a building that has the homeland security emblem still intact near the front door across from First Street.  The building looks like a solid grey block which isn’t too solid anymore.  Cracked windows give testimony to many darkly tinged windows which were intact earlier that day.  Fire comes from the left wing towards the section overlooking the Capital Metro Station.  They couldn’t reach the Library of Congress due to the gaping hole in Independent Avenue and hoped to cross somewhere on First Street.   The fountain at the entrance was not working.  The military personal didn’t leave the makeshift bridge they used when they crossed the gap and the military vehicles rambled to another location.  The street sign is still standing but it’s bent near the base.  The gravel in the sidewalk rejects various metal pipes as the earth slowly shifts with more aftershocks.  The aftershocks are becoming less severe.  The ground making up the sides of the rift look unstable, almost as if water was destroying the soils composition.  Pavement continues to crack at an alarming rate and not many trees are left standing.  He sees a few phone lines snaking onto the road in the distance; they look like they may still be active.  A few fires start where the wires touch the ground and buildings.

Kyle and his coworkers become excited when they start to head towards the direction of the Smithsonian. 

Fred would have preferred to have dropped everything to find his grandson.  He had to take comfort in the fact that his God would protect him and his family.  It didn’t seem anyone else was spiritual in the group.

His heart stops when something cold and wet touches his hand.  Looking down he sees the dog that searched his car earlier and feels instant relief.  Dogs have a calming effect on him. He fondly scratches her behind her ears. There’s a smaller hole in the middle of First Street.  Across the street must be thirty to forty people.

Kyle is getting excited and tells his father, “If we make it across the street we can follow the metro line at Union station to the hospital.  My office is the other way.  We need to stop by office for a second for I can get my keys.” 

Fred agrees to whatever he wants.

The people across the street have a large concentration of police officers and firefighters that are coordinating people and the injured into groups.  Another thirty to forty people from surrounding buildings are congregating at the intersection.  A few are trying to get the Capital Building but are getting redirected by soldiers.  Fred notes no one has a clear plan of action.

He looks back and briefly sees the Washington Monument still stands. People often flock to places of symbolic importance when things go wrong.

One police officer carries a ladder to the hole in First Street.  Another public worker who has a building engineer logo on his jacket carries a plank which he places over the ladder over the hole.

They quickly bridge the gap and cross over.  A dozen more cross to their side.

Mark tries telling them the soldiers told them to leave but no one listens.  It takes ten minutes as another dozen crosses over.  Half way people start to rush and a few people in suits fall into the hole.  People gasp but no one tries to help. 

A few minutes later they cross the plank and reach the other street.  Kyle and the other Smithsonian staff workers don’t acknowledge the other survivors as they quicken their pace and head of a separate direction.  Fred pauses and thinks it would be better to stay with the police officer and dog but disregards the thought as soon as Kyle beckons him to follow.  He says bye to the people who are going to go the Library of Congress.

They pass a few buildings that Kyle refers to as the National Mall. 

Many public workers rush in between buildings.  Small areas are cleared out which appear to be stable.  Every block has its own ambulances, firemen, police officers, and public servants.  Public workers and solders are telling everyone to follow marked road signs that direct the people to safe zones.  Fred quickly gets the impression that safe zones and buildings are located in designated public high schools.

The group doesn’t listen to the evacuation plans as they continue to move towards the Smithsonian.  Half the group decides to try to find their families and abruptly leave. 

A few minutes later

For the first time in Fred’s life he was going to walk into a museum.  He really wished he could have experienced the National Museum of Natural History in better circumstances.  

Kyle was acting peculiar and for the first time in Fred’s life he wonders if Kyle is on drugs. 

They pause at the base of the steps as Kyle tells him, “I can’t believe you never came to visit.  This museum is great for we have over 500 million specimens of various natural and cultural artifacts.  Dad, you are going to love the people I work with!  Or at least you are crazy if you don’t for we get over seven million visitors a year who love the place!”

The two Smithsonian workers stop as the larger black man bursts out, “Are you nuts?  Don’t you see what’s happening?”

The other staff worker intakes his breath as he tries quieting his friend, “This isn’t the time John.

Fred can’t tell if he is American or a one of those visiting professors seeming to be everywhere.

Fred looks closely at his son for the first time since seeing him in a few years.  He has been too wrapped up in driving for the last week to clearly see how his son shaped.  He didn’t like what he saw.  Kyle was always skinny but now he looks like a skeleton.

Sometimes a parent innately knows what’s wrong with their children.

John huffs while looking straight into Kyle's eyes “Get out of your hippy haze and wake up.”

Kyle doesn’t seem to hear him as he blurts out, “What happened to the iron ore rock?  I always thought it was a large pebble for a sling shot.  There used to be a rock from the mines in Upper Michigan on the front steps.”

The fourth staff worker tries telling John not to continue and they had better things to worry about but John doesn’t want to stop, "Kyle, you’re a junky and I hate working with you.  After the presentation you were going to get drug tested.  I only wish they did it sooner.” 

Its obvious John wanted to say this for a long time.   Fred could almost swear he feels rage emanating from John towards his son. He wonders when his son started drugs.

Kyle continues to point to where the iron ore stone once stood and says, “Look Dad, someone laid siege to the Museum when we were gone.  We need to get my keys.”

More sobering he continues, “No John.  I’m not nuts.  What do you want me to say?  Screw you for getting in my affairs.  I will have your job eliminated within a week once this is all done and you can kiss my ass.”  

John replies “Whatever."

He storms off in another direction.  The other worker quickly follows him. Fred looks towards where Kyle is pointing and decides to think of this new information about his son later.  He couldn’t handle all this.  His mission was to save his family and get back to Minnesota.  

Fred’s left hand grips his crucifix as he sees a massive hole in the front entrance.

Kyle doesn’t say anything about John as he repeats himself, “Dad, there was an iron ore stone from the Upper Peninsula here earlier.  It came from Michigan.”

Fred was afraid to look into the gaping hole at the front entrance.  He pauses as he watches his son nimbly enter the museum.  Kyle did not appear to be functioning right but Fred is at a loss on how to fix it.  

Fred lights his cigarette with his Bick, as he takes his first puff he sees a sign standing to his right.  It shows a cigarette with a circle and an X through it.  Fred laughs uncontrollably as he thinks of the irony of the sign.  

He doesn’t feel anarchic but he can’t control himself as he blows smoke at the sign.  Kyle bounces back through the door. 

Kyle stops in front of him, “Dad, why haven’t you thrown out those cancer sticks yet?  You know mom doesn’t want to live alone if you die from those.” 

Kyle always believed in saying no to drugs. 

He couldn’t ask for real, at least not until nightfall and after he gets his grandson.  Fred sighs in resignation as he flicks the cigarette butt.  No one was going to ticket him at the present time.

Kyle reaches for his left hand and he flinches as he feels his son’s hand feel clammy and cold.

“Dad, come on.  You need to see where I work.  It’s just splendid and the people absolutely love me.”   

As if it was more possible, Fred’s gut clinches as Kyle continues his madness, “After I will get my keys and we can meet my wife for dinner.  You haven’t met her, she’s amazing.”

Instead of shaking Kyle’s’ hand off, Fred grips it hard.  He isn’t going to let go of his son no matter what. He decides he will take Kyle to a detoxification program when this is all over.

He smiles and prays to Jesus yet again.  He never prayed so much in his life.  With as much strength and love he can muster he says, “Yes son, please show me your office and then your family.”

He didn’t want to go into the museum but reminds himself that life was never fair and he has no choice.  

Fred looks back one last time, he didn’t know if he was going to survive this excursion and wants to feel the sunlight one last time.

The first thing he sees is that they are still on Madison Drive.  There’s a color code near the name of the street which directs people to rescue centers.  People in small groups are stumbling towards the National Monument which is still standing proudly.  There seems to be hundreds of people and if he didn’t know better a lot of national guards are running around.  It was nice to see them be on the ball!  Fred feels pride towards the National Guard and secretly wishes Kyle would have taken that direction.  On the way they walked past two buildings to their left left called East and West buildings.  To the right was Third and Fourth Street.  

The Air and Space Museum caught his attention which was across the street and to the left.   Half a space shuttle was jutting out of a section of the building he assumed would have been a cafeteria.  Various staff workers and civilians were being rescued by more national guards.  The National Guard unit has ropes going down one of the holes created by the shuttle.  They were bringing up children.  He then felt dread as he continues to look past the rescue operation.  

The Smithsonian Castle looks like rubble.  The building reminds Fred of a smashed aluminum can he sometimes finds stuck in the machines at the Coca Cola factory.  No one was milling around the building as it smolders.  The windows are broken and the walls appear to have caved inwards.  Fire leaps into the sky, enshrouding his vision in smoke making it impossible to see anything past the raging fire. 

A metro station is eerily quiet down the block; it’s the Federal Triangle Station.  Fred is surprised to see no one leave or enter it.  The side walk is torn up and the road in nothing better than rubble.  Fred didn’t understand why the roads had holes in them but after crossing the one he did he didn’t want to know how far down it goes.  In the near distance another building burns out of control.  He briefly remembers his son told him it was the National Archives building when they were trekking to the Smithsonian.  

The three blocks they crossed earlier told him it did not look good for Washington DC.  There are a lot of fires and many people are hurt.  There wasn’t any sense of order but there are a lot of people trying to help others who are stuck inside buildings.  As long as they didn’t get in the way of anyone no one bothered them.  Unlike the movies there were no riots or people hurting people on the streets.  Fred was impressed by the way the people of DC carried themselves and wishes this was all a bad dream.   A dozen people who look like tourists argue what they should do in the sculpted garden.  Near the National Castle the Arts and Industries and Hirshhorn Museum are still untouched.

He turns around and follows his son into the crumbling building as he taps into his reserves.  His son whistles the Snow White song the dwarfs sing as they go to work in the mines. 

Fred thinks he sees some broken pipes jet from underneath where the ore stood but shrugs it off.

Chapter 16: Library of Congress

Mike doesn’t have a clean plan of action. His wife is by his side. Mike looks her over; his chest clinches as his blood pressure easily becomes 180/140. This is the problem with blood pressure.  When the body goes through any kind of stress it can go up.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good stress or bad.

There are two primary entrances used at the Library of Congress.  Most visitors use the front entrance on First Street SE.  The front entrance has a fountain and thirty three ethnological head sculptures on top of the first story windows facing the street.  Each head represents a different ethic race.  Mark flinches as one of the statue heads crumble as they walk up the stairs.  The second story usually has nine busts on a portico but they are destroyed.  Near our feet is the broken bust of Benjamin Franklin.

The CNN journalist lags behind as she films what’s left of the Neptune fountain at the base of the stairs.   King Neptune sits with his four sons who are blowing conch shells while brandishing tritons.  Near them is an assortment of turtles, frogs and serpents.  The water stopped working.  No one tells her and the camera man to hurry.  During a situation like this if someone wants to follow they can, if they want to leave then there’s the door. 

They can hear her professional voice follow us, “This is Susan Bishop reporting from the Jefferson Building across from the Capital Building.  It is strangely empty on this side of the street.  What we are looking at is the Neptune Fountain.  This was once King Neptune, the Roman god of the sea and brother of Minerva.  We are about to enter the Library of Congress.” 

She looks over at her camera man and tells him to turn off the camera and tells her camera man to follow her up the stairs.

The group walks to the entrance.  Mark sprints near the end and abruptly stops when he finds out its locked.  He doesn’t want to be outside and starts pounding at the door.  Mike lets go of his wife’s hand and puts his hand on Mark’s shoulder.

Mike says, “We need to find another way in.”

Irina gives her opinion, “Maybe we can go in the side entrance off of Second Street.  There’s the researcher entrance.”

Mark resigns himself to the fact they weren’t going to get into the Library of Congress from this entrance. 

They are about to leave when Mark thinks he sees something in the recess of the shadows near the far wall.

A lone security guard stares up at the Capital Building, or rather what was once the Capital Building.

Mark blurts, “Holy shit, you scared me.” 

It’s a security guard named Berry. 

Mike yells out, “Can you get us in the building?”

Irina adds, “We would really appreciate it if you let us in.” 

She obviously tries using her looks while flattering him, “I am so scared, please be a hero and let us in.”

He snaps out of his daze and looks at our group like we are crazy, “Why would you want to go in there?  It’s not any better in there then it is out here.”

Mark doesn’t care and neither does Irina.  Mark whips out his identification card and says, “You see this ID?  I work here.  Let me in.  Our supervisor wants us inside now.”

The security guard shrugs, “Whatever you want.  I was told to keep the community out, not the staff.”

He opens the front door and steps aside.  Mark and Irina rush in. The first thing we encounter in the Jefferson building is a security check point that screens for things that bad guys have.  Normally we would have to taken out our personal belongs to be checked as we walk through metal detectors and get patted down.  There are often two to four security guards greeting visitors and staff but today there is zero. Larry and Pixel decide to say outside with the security guard.  The group hears a click as the security guard locks the door behind us.

Mark comments, “It’s nice to know our security guards are not abandoning their posts, I would have felt better with the police K9 in our group.”

April retorts, “He probably doesn’t have a family.”

Mark looks at Mike and rolls his eyes, “I don’t know, our security personal has a strong sense of duty. 

During Katrina in New Orleans the biggest issue with cops and firemen wasn’t them abandoning their posts but rather they couldn’t get to work because of the floods took out the roads.”

April doesn’t want to hear it as she responds, “I thought the police in New Orleans got in trouble for taking advantage of the situation.  Didn’t they steal a lot of things like TV’s and cars from car lots?”

Mark sputters, “I don’t know.  You’re always going to have a few bad seeds.  This is the Library of Congress and people don’t do that here.”

Mike squeezes his wife’s hand while wishing she would stop arguing with Mark but she doesn’t. 

She has to have the last say, “My husband told me the Library of Congress has a problem with people taking rare books by ripping off the book covers from the binding and selling them on e-bay when they get home.  Didn’t you say people here don’t act like the people in New Orleans?”

Mark doesn’t want to argue anymore and changes the topic, “Let’s go.  We need to get to our office.” 

The Jefferson building is a big building.  To the groups left is a corridor that leads to the Library shop and Graphic Arts Gallery.  They turn right.

Our destination is a office within the Kluge Center.  The Kluge Center is on the right wing if you’re facing the Capital Building on the second floor.   We have the scholarly office and the copyright office on our wing. 

The Bob Hope exhibit is on the way along with the Whittal Pavilion but we quickly bypass these rooms without looking in.  Near the Bob Hope Gallery we find the path blocked.  The earthquake took out the ceiling and there was no way to get to our offices from this direction due to the stairwell being past the Bob Hope Gallery.

Mark doesn’t want to admit defeat and counters the problem with a new idea, “If we go to the main chamber on the second floor we could use a side hallway to get to our offices.  But we need to get the second floor.

There are no people around.  No visitors, no staff and no security.  No one connects the dots. Staff has been evacuated.

The group is back at the entrance and goes up the steps to the Great Hall.  Statues of the Greek goddess Athena lie scattered on the floor in various broken chunks and fragments.  The Library of Congress had many of these statues but not many of them are left standing.

Mark informs the group, “The path to the left has collapsed on this floor just as it did on the ground floor.  The only way is to go to through the Main Reading Room.”

The Bible’s Galleries are located near the Main Reading Room and are intact.  Ancient bibles are protected in unbreakable cases; one of them is one of four original Gutenberg Bibles.  A few security guards are in the process of taking the national treasures somewhere else.  They don’t bother the group.

One guard tells the group, “Sorry, you can’t go further. The ceiling collapsed and is blocking the way.”

Mark is curious, “Did the staff get out?”

The guards do not know. It’s just their job to remove the national treasures.

Mike and Mark decide they might find an open corridor on the second floor. They go up the stairs.  The Library of Congress has many stairs and balconies.  Corinthian balconies once bedazzled visitors as they entered the chamber.  Large archways and sculptured marble give breathtaking visages that easily match any building found in both Italy and Greece.  The second story is held by two columns that support the roof. 

The columns are still intact.

The roof is torn and broken in many places.  Sunlight streams in the building seeing as all the windows were shattered.  Many pillars are still standing but six have fallen.  The left stair way has collapsed somewhere in the center.  It’s a smooth break, only two steps destroyed.

The group walks up the right side which is still intact. Embedded in the Italian marble of the first floor is an emblem looking like the sun.

Mark acts like a guide, “The marble came from Verona and Sienna.”

A few of the twelve zodiac emblems can be seen.

Mark absently loses himself in a thought as he tells no one in particular, “What’s happening here could be no different than what’s happening in cities that were destroyed in Japan, New Zealand, Haiti, Chili, and even California last year.  Each place that experienced an epic natural disaster still stood and life went on.  Sure, life got hard as countries went into deep recessions.  Resources did indeed become scarce but the fact is life went on.   It was cities that were destroyed, not the countries.”

Mike’s gaze drifts to the American flag which still stands near the entrance.  He feels pride course through his veins as he looks upon the beautiful flag from above. 

Mike says, “I hope the security guards put the other national treasures away.  If looters get their hands on these artifacts then America might lose our national treasures forever.”

April catches up and nudges him out of my ponderings.

Mike looks down upon the chamber room one last time.  Marble figures of Putti crumble under the stress of the newest aftershock.  Italian Renaissance art symbolizing American life and culture in the early 1900’s was coming to an end.  No longer did it represent the different occupations and skills that were once respected in America.  Nor could Mike see its message of literary anymore.  He knows only tragedy. 

Mark tells someone, “This sucks.  All the beauty of the place is being destroyed!  You see that over there?  It represents the different seasons.” 

Mike knows what he's talking about as he peers at the panels above the doorway Seasons, “It was made by Frank Benson.  You see those sayings on the walls and ceilings?  They came from the Librarian of the Library.”

His voice chokes up as he starts to cry again.  I’m amazed he has so many tears as I hear him continue, “My favorite saying is by Sir Philip Sidney, ‘They Are Never Alone That Are Accompanied With Noble Thoughts’.”

Irina responds, “I always liked the ones by Cervantes.  My favorite is Sir Francis Bacon’s quote ‘knowledge is power.’  What are we going to do if we can’t make it to the others?”

No one answers her so Mike decides to say something, “I guess if that happens we will need to go to our families.”

She mumbles barely audibly, “My family is in Russia.  How do I get to them?”

Mark adds after an uncomfortable minute of silence, “We can get you to the Russian Embassy if we can’t find anyone.”

Near the top of the stairs is one of America’s coolest murals. It’s the Minerva Mosaic.  The majestic mosaic depicts a roman goddess of learning and wisdom. 

Mike pleads with his eyes as depression sets in, he hopes Minerva would impart some of her wisdom.  She doesn’t answer.  Instead she holds something that looks like a proclamation or a scroll.  She is the guardian of civilization.

Mark comments as everyone gazes at the mural, “Look at the owl.  It’s perched to the right.  The owl represents wisdom.  That’s why I decided to work here.  I love libraries and what this place stood for.”

Mike relates to what he’s saying.  The CNN journalist stops filming near the balcony and joins us.  She reads the inscription, “Nil invita Minerva, quae monumentum aere perennius exegit.”

Mark has a lot of longing in his voice as he responds, “Yes, it means she is always vigilant against her enemies.  See the Nike figure?  It’s a message about victory and peace.  Minerva is about all the different fields of learning.  I always loved coming here when I was a kid.”

April asks, “Do you think we will be ok?”

Mike tries being positive, “See the sun at the upper left corner?  The darkness is receding and the light is coming in.  We are going to have the same thing happen to us by the time this is all over.”

A piece of the ceiling falls and sunlight streaks in.  The light beam goes straight to the mural and engulfs it in radiance.  Colors shift on the mural and it looks like it’s coming to life, it literary glitters just as a diamond in light.

The group gasps, its kin to experiencing something holy.  Just as fast the light dissipates leaving the group in the dark.

Marks comments, “Let’s continue shall we?  There’s a side hall way that staff can use to get to our offices. 

We have to pass the Visitors Gallery that overlooks the main reading room.”

The main reading chamber looks awful.  The floor to the chamber has imploded inward leaving all the chairs and desks under a ton of rubble.  Nothing is left standing.  Many people scream for help. 

April and Irina gasp.  April begs Mike to do something, “They are suffering! Please do something!” 

Sunlight streams from a broken ceiling.  The frame of the ceiling is still intact but there are many gaps.  The missing ceiling reined a glassy death on people as they read. Eight statues overlooking the chamber remain intact.  Seals representing each state are still firmly imbedded where they are supposed to be.  On the other hand, the statue of Moses still stood but Newton was nowhere to be seen.  Most of the painting were somewhere in the rubble. 

Thankfully the people down below do not see our group.  There isn’t anything we can do for them.  There is at least thirty feet between our balcony and the floor.

We watch in horror as the ground floor shifts back and forth with new aftershocks.  Each time it does this the furniture would roll over the bodies. 

In the center of the room is missing.  A massive hole beckons the surrounding furniture to enter its VIP hell. Dust picks up and blocks the groups view which is their queue to turn around.

Mark says, “Don’t look anymore. There isn’t anything we can do.”

The group proceeds to the private stairway reserved for staff.  He tries using his electronic key card but it doesn’t work.

Mike gives up, “The electricity is shut off.  No one is here.  We have to leave.  I feel safer outside then in here.”

Everyone agrees. 

Irina asks, “How do we get out?”

Mike answers, “Maybe we can get out the way we came in.  These aftershocks scare the hell out of me.”

The group goes back track the way we came.  While at the front entrance Mark doesn’t give up on finding the missing staff.  The front doors are locked and the security guard doesn’t seem to be around, nor is Larry or Pixel. 

Mark doesn’t want to lead, “Does anyone have any ideas? Sorry for bringing us in here.”

April makes a smart ass comment, “It looks like your super police are missing in action.  Maybe he got lost in his car on the way to work.”

Mike and the camera man laugh.  Something sounds like musical instruments coming from the right.

Susan tries taking the lead, “We might as well go where the music is coming from.”

Irina runs ahead about twenty feet and reaches the door before the others.  Her door reads the Graphic Arts Galleries.

Looking a little confused she says, “The door handle is hot!”

The CNN journalist jolts “Don’t open the door!”

She’s too late. Irina attempts to open the door while dismissing Susan’s warning.


Flames reach for Irina.  Mark screams, “Irina!”

She doesn’t have time to turn or answer.

April throws herself at Mike.  Mark cries out as the flames shoot down the hallway towards them.  It’s not the same cry as he gave at the Capital Building but its more heart filled.  His cry sounds like a lover losing his significant other.

The CNN journalist works well under pressure.  She silently directs the group into the Libraries Gift shop.  It’s not a big room.  The room is maybe about twenty to thirty square feet.  Mike shuts the door as he feels the air in the corridor shift with the fire. 

Mark cries out, “Why?”

The grieving Librarian goes for the window but they are sealed.  He grabs handkerchiefs near the cash register.  There are three windows.  Two are small and one is fairly large.  The large one won’t open but the small one’s do.  Mark thrusts his hand out with the white handkerchief.

Mark shouts, “Help! Help!”

Mike feels the door which is getting extremely hot.  Smoke enters the room from the crack at the bottom of the door.  Mike sees some shirts marketing the Library of Congress and grabs a whole bunch of water bottles and puts over the crack.

Mike’s left hand feels like dead weight for a few seconds.  He looks at April and says, “I love you.”

She replies, “I love you too.” She doesn’t know something is wrong.

The CNN journalist says, “We should look around for anything we could use.”

Berry replies, “We were stupid to come into the building. I want to go home!”

She shouts back, “Get a grip. Remember what it means to be a journalist.”

He quiets down.  Mark won’t stop screaming for help.  April walks over to him and gives him a wooden rod that’s part of children’s game set. 

She says, “Put the cloth on this, maybe someone will notice!”

Mark agrees.

There are the basics; cards, journals, stationary.  Various knick knacks were on the ground that once showed the library of congress from different perspectives.  Nothing was broken outside of the glass knick knacks. 

April calls out, “This is all children’s clothes and accessories. It’s pointless to look.”

Susan concurs, “The board games and puzzles can’t be used for anything practical.”

Berry laughs behind the counter, “I found a rare book. What should I do with it?”

He shoves a lot of money into his pockets and tosses the book to April who puts it in a backpack.

April finds some exotic coffee packs and half a dozen butane lighters.  She decides to throw into two mugs after the coffee packs while muttering we were going to need a way to drink our coffee.  Mike puts two umbrellas that show some very cool classical art on the sleeves into the tote bag.

Marks voice is growing hoarse but he doesn’t stop yelling for help.  He yells with a new fervor as Pixel suddenly appears at the window.  A minute later and Larry finds them.  He gestures for Mark to step back as he takes his 9 mm hand gun out of its holster.


The window shatters with the third bullet.  The group scrambles out the window and is greeted by an overzealous K9 barking in happiness.  The Library of Congress burns in an inferno that would have made Dante Alighieri proud.   It reminds Mike of the 14th century’s divine comedy, Inferno.  The nine spheres of suffering found a new reality to play in and the Library of Congress was its playground.  Larry reeks like alcohol and is humming This is The End of the World as We Know It.

Chapter 17:  Smithsonian goes Prehistoric

Fred looks in amazement as he enters the Smithsonian.  A large marble rotunda greets him with a life size elephant on top of a fake brown pedestal shaped like a rock with bushes.  The elephant’s snout reaches for the heavens.

The rotunda is not destroyed but various balconies on the second floor are caving in.   Security check points near the entrance have been abandoned.  A dozen people are milling inside, dazed and confused.  Kyle does not seem to recognize any of them.  There doesn’t appear to be any casualties in the lobby. 

Fred sees an Easter Island Head on the southeast wall among various totem poles and stone disks that are shattered in glass cases.

Kyle excitedly informs his father, “Most people don’t know, but the Smithsonian is a made up of a whole bunch of museums, nineteen to be exact.  We also have a zoo and about a dozen research centers.” 

Fred notes in displeasure that Kyle was still not caring what was happening and was talking like it’s a normal day.

His son continues, “It’s sad that no one back home wants to know what I’m doing.  I was looking forward to seeing you so much.  I work as a Human Resource Specialist or the OHR.”  Without pausing he continues, “We need to go to the West Wing on the first floor, follow me.” 

Fred is relieved they don’t have to go the second floor as he follows his son.  They find the way is blocked with rubble and have to take a side route in a corridor called Early Life.  A whole bunch of broken fossils are scattered on the ground.  A sign says one of them is supposed to be over 35 million years old.  Many rocks simply look like normal rocks with moss on them.  Fred would never have known it was so old for he would have expected nothing less from rocks he sat on while trout fishing.

The next room is dubbed Dinosaur Hall.  A fashionably designed billboard states they are entering a corridor called Blast from the Past.  He stops dead in his tracks when he encounters a 40 foot Tyrannosaurus rex staring down at him.  He almost pisses his pants as an aftershock jolts the dinosaur closer to where he is stands.  For a moment he thinks it’s coming to life and is going to eat him.  His son tells him the dinosaur is called "King of the Tyrant Lizards".  In the middle of this room is a shattered pterosaur.  A plate that is still standing firmly in place says it a Quetzalcoatlus.   Its eggs are broken and scattered among the debris.  Other dinosaur bones are around but he doesn’t know what they are and really doesn’t care. 

A television monitor is still playing something near the back.  Fred can’t feel but chilled as he watches a meteoroid collide into earth on the screen.  It’s digital and reminds Fred of a high tech cartoon.

Kyle interrupts his thoughts, “Dad, can you stay right here for a minute?  I will be right back.”

Before Fred responds Kyle bounces off while repeating himself, “Stay right here or in this wing.  Give me five minutes.  I don’t want security to bother you and I will be right back.”

Kyle is gone and Fred is alone.  He takes out his cigarette and continues to walk down the corridor.   It scared him that Kyle just left.

Fred can’t handle the television monitor telling him the earth was destroyed 65 million years ago when it seems to be happening right now.  He takes a few long drags on his cigarette and tells himself that he needs to get another pack before he runs out

Fred decides to continue walking down the corridor not knowing what else to do.  Hie wishes he had a cold beer. He saw a few gift stores but doubted they would have cigarettes.  He was also very much uncomfortable in stealing so that wasn’t an option.

Dinosaur Hall becomes Fossil Lab.  A lost child stumbles to him while crying for his mommy.  He tries to help but the child screams and runs the other direction towards a section called Ancient Sea’s.  No security guards come to the child’s rescue.  There’s ample light to see and the walls are still intact, Fred goes towards the opposite direction the child ran.  He didn’t want to be accused of molesting a crazy kid when all he wished to do was help.  It’s really hard for his to fathom that this was really happening.  He kept hoping this was some elaborate trick.

A sign directs him to his left, the Fossil Mammals and a small snack shop.

Fred stops dead as he swears he smells something wrong coming from the direction of the cafeteria.  He wonders if it’s wise to be in the building.He is about to double back when he hears someone cry out to his right.  An elderly woman’s voice can be heard coming from the direction of the bathrooms.

“Someone please save us!  The door won’t open and we are scared!  Some help us!  I have my grand children with me!  What’s happening?  Can someone hear me?”

No one is around but Fred.  Fred was never a hero but it didn’t take him long to realize he needs to do something.

Fred runs towards the bathrooms while yelling, “I’m here.  I’m going to rescue you and your family!  Stay calm!” His voice is soon lost as smoke detectors finally catch what he smells. The still air grates the sound of fire alarm sirens as the sprinkler system finally activates.

He passes through an exhibit called Ice Age but doesn’t take the time to see what’s on show.  Human beings are more important to Fred then history and artifacts.

The elderly woman’s voice gratefully responds, “Oh thank you so much.  We are so scared.”  There are two bathrooms side by side.  The women’s bathroom is to the left.

Fred responds, “Hold still, I will have you out in a jip.” 

He first tries to open the door but it’s stuck.  For some reason it doesn’t want to budge. Fred wonders if the earthquake shifted it a few inches.

The door did not look like it had a lock mechanism.  He slams his body into it a few times but it doesn’t budge.  He hears children cry in the bathroom as the woman tries to cajole them in soothing tones.

Fred pauses as he realizes it’s not going to open.  He doesn’t want to break his shoulder but he isn’t about to give up. 

“I will be right back.  I need to find something to break the door down with.  Maybe I can find an axe or something.”  The elderly woman cries but says she understands.  She tells him to hurry back.

Fred looks around but can’t find where they keep the fire extinguisher and axes.  He runs back to the cafeteria while looking for anyone who can help.  He runs into a couple who stumble out of the cafeteria and is about to ask them for help.

The guy interrupts him, “You need to get out here.  A gas leak started a fire in the grill area in the restaurant.  This place is going to burn!” 

They run past him and are out of his sight before he can say something.  He goes into the cafeteria.  He needed to know how bad it was.

A fire is raging near the far side where the food is prepared.  A maintenance worker appears to have gotten hit over the head by falling debris lies on the ground near the entrance.  He sees a utility belt with some really nice looking tools. 

Fred prays, “Please Jesus, let it be alright for me to take these tools to safe the trapped people.”

He reaches down and unbuckles the utility belt.  He tries to not look at the dead body and quickly gets the belt off the still corpse.  It’s a natural fit as he slides it around his waist.  It’s better to have it securely on him for he could have his hands free.  Fred feels comfortable as he fondly rubs a Phillip screwdriver.   He loves his tools. 

He looks down and sees the workers name was ironically Phillip and says, “Thanks Phillip.  You won’t need these anymore.”

He quickly returns to the bathroom.  While scanning the door he tells them he is back and to be patient. 

Fred expertly unscrews the first screw.  He squints as smoke builds around him in a alarming rate.  He was beginning to get a little nervous that he didn’t have the time to get them out of the bathroom.

He doesn’t want them to panic so he asks, “What’s your name?  How many people are with you?”

She sounds old, maybe in her sixties or seventies, “I am Emily and I’m here with my three grandchildren.  Two are here with me.  The third I left with the dinosaurs.  Did you see him?  What’s happening out there?”

Fred started unscrewing the second screw.  He decided to start at the bottom of the door.  Within seconds it was out. 

He hears something that sounds like a snap and boom.  He looks back and sees that the fire has completely engulfed the cafeteria.  Various chemical bottles were exploding.  He looks back at the door and decides to ask about her grandchildren. 

He tried keeping fear out of his voice, “What are your grandchildren names?  I think I might have seen your other grandson earlier.  He is fine but is scared.”

It wasn’t much different then fixing machines that get clogged from aluminum cans during his work shifts.  The factory paid him big bucks to keep things working nicely so he wasn’t a stranger to unscrewing screws.

The older woman starts to talk about why she came to the Smithsonian with her grandchildren.  Kyle pauses and looks over his shoulder.  The fire was now in the fossil exhibit near the cafeteria. 

He was down to three screws.  Sweat pours from his brow and he needs to stop for a second to catch his breath.  While catching his breath he sees a side panel tucked near an exhibit on Africa a few feet away.  In the panel are a fire extinguisher and a water valve and hose.  But more importantly was a blanket that protects people from fire the children could use if he got them out in time. 

Fred focuses on the task on hand and within 30 seconds gets the remaining screws out.

“I need you guys to step away from the door.”  They agree and Fred puts all his weight into slamming into the door with his left shoulder.  It falls backwards without any effort.  The elderly woman and two children burst happily out.  They thank him as they beg him to tell them what happened.  He tells them he doesn’t know.

“We need to get out of here now.  Here take this blanket and drape it over the children’s heads.” 

Kyle takes the fire extinguisher as he gives the blanket to the children.  The water hose does not work.  Kyle knows the earthquakes must have destroyed the water lines.  The sprinklers were not working either.

Minutes later they are back in the rotunda.  He sees Kyle coming down from the second floor as the woman and children thank him.  The elderly woman is on a mission to find the third missing grandson and leaves Kyle and Fred.

Kyle looks very flushed while he keeps looking over to where he came from.

“Dad, who were they?  Where did you get the tool belt from?” 

Kyle didn’t seem to care about his Dad’s answer.  He appeared to be looking towards the second floor. 

“We need to get out of here.  I got what I needed.” 

He doesn’t make eye contact with Fred. A new aftershock rocks the building.  Smoke is coming out from the area Fred just left.  Fred asks Kyle if it’s time to get his baby.

Kyle points to where the iron ore rock from Ishpeming Michigan went.  Fred looks to where Kyle is pointing.  The iron ore rock exited the other side of the building leaving a second entrance.  Fred shrugs as they walk out the opposite direction they entered.  He sees Kyle is carrying a large back pack but doesn’t question what’s inside.

As soon as they walk out of the museum he hears something he never thought he would hear again.  Kyle’s cell phone rings.

Chapter 18:  The Brit and Jack

Larry didn’t think he was going to ever see the Congress folk again. 

It was time for him to be a hypocrite, he knew First Congressional Liquor Store on First Street catered to many Senators and Congressmen and had a wonderful selection of booze. The Asian and the British fellow opted to stay with him. 

The teen freaks him out, he keeps looking at Larry with adoring puppy eyes.  No matter how he tries shoeing the kid away he wasn’t making process.

The British woman is hot.  The security guard went back to watching the Capital Building in the shadows. 

“Hey, you want to get some alcohol with me and have a drink in memory of Congress?”  His joke is met with her blushing and brushing up to his side. 

He smells her sweet flowery shampoo and finds himself wanting to know her a little better.  He doesn’t focus on the fact she is shaking and scared.  Or maybe he doesn’t care.  He reaches for her and feels her respond to his touch positively. 

With a thick British accent she says, “I would love to have a drink.  I can’t believe this is happening.  I just didn’t want to go in there.” 

She continues to flatter his ego, “You look like a fine cop and you are so handsome.  Will you help protect me? Shouldn’t we leave DC if a tsunami is coming?”

Her soft eyes and clear voice reminds him of what he missed in high school. He yanks Pixel’s leash and orders her to follow.  He doesn’t care about the Asian kid. Pixel whines at the door.  It’s obvious she wants to go with the others.  He yanks the leash a second time and she becomes obedient.

“What’s your name? Don’t worry about things that might happen. We have enough to deal with at the moment.”

He tries not showing too much interest but fails miserably.  It doesn’t dawn on him to think it’s wrong to hit on a woman and not to try to find his mother.  He didn’t really like his mother and often blamed her for his own short comings.  He sometimes takes his frustrations out on her when he is drunk.

“Mary, my name is Mary; it’s nice to meet you.”  She feels warm.  Larry can’t believe how his fortune is turning.

“I like Jack Daniels.  What’s your poison?”  She mutters it doesn’t matter as long as gets her drunk.

He smiles and redirects her to the platform the cops and firemen made earlier on First Street.  The liquor store is across from Capital South and it doesn’t take long to get there.  They only have to cross D Street and it’s still intact.  A few homeless people are making a commotion in Subway but he doesn’t care.   Tortilla Coast is on fire but the rest of the block seems stable enough.

He flinches as he watches a homeless man kick a man in the head who is wearing a suit.  Laughing, the homeless man digs through the man’s attire and runs off with his wallet as the man cries.  No one helps him.  Other homeless people appear to be tearing up the fast food restaurant.  They quicken their pace and cross the street.  He lets go of Pixel who obediently follows him while he keeps on hand on his gun.  Pixel doesn’t want to get involved with what happening in Subway.  Another business is in the process of shutting their metal screens as a whole bunch of men who look they could be muscle builders wearily watch the homeless people in Subway.  One of the men brandishes a shotgun.  Larry hears him tell his crew, “If anyone tries to come in we kick their ass and save the building.  This is our families dream and NO ONE will touch it as long as we stand!” 

They are in front of a very small liquor store.  A tree once stood proudly near the front entrance lies sprawled on the road.  Branches from the roots brush upon the building as dirt smears the bricks.  Larry pauses as he sees two body guards near the front entrance.  A couple of dead homeless people lay at their feet.

He calls out, “I’m a cop.  Can we come in?” 

One body guard disappears for a moment.  Larry takes his gun out as a few homeless men in Subway start eyeing Mary. 

One of them lewdly comments, “Hey honey, how about coming in here and I will show you a good time?”

Larry chambers a bullet and menacingly answers, “Come and get it tough guy.”

The homeless man laughs and responds, “Not today but maybe tomorrow.” 

Three others join him.  Thankfully they aren’t armed outside of metal pipes and sticks.

The body guard reappears near his partner as a Deli sign falls to the ground, “Quick, come in.”

All four enter the liqueur store.  The two body guards step back to their stations at the entrance.  The broken tree prevents the metal shutters to properly close.  It didn’t matter anymore because the electricity was not working.

It’s big inside.   Four isles give testimony to a very sweet wine and liquor selection as the walls are full of many racks.  Sadly many of the bottles are broken and Larry can very much smell the sweetness of the sugar in the wine going sour.  Other smells aren’t as bad but Mary comments on how pungent the beer is.  Pixel can’t handle the smell so he lets her take up post near the body guards at the entrance.  A staff employee comes down the stairs holding a flashlight and a bag full of food.  Sunlight streaks in from the entrance but only illuminates the first eight feet of the building.

It takes Larry’s eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark.  The employee of the liquor store is very friendly as he says, “Senator, I have some munchies for you.”  The employee beams with happiness as Senator O’Neil from New York thanks him.

“You’re a good man and I love this fine establishment.  Isn’t that right Steve?  The sandwiches are the best in DC!”

A third body guard comes out of the shadows and grabs a Twinkie and a ham sandwich from the bag.

“Yes sir.  This place is splendid.  We are going to need to leave as soon as you’re able.” 

The body guard thanks the employee and grabs a coca cola from the ground.  Pop bubbles over when he opens the can but he doesn’t seem to mind.

One of the body guards fires a shot without notice at the entrance.  Everyone becomes quiet, after a moment the Senator replies to his body guard, “Have it your way.  The end of the world has come and you still refuse to have a drink.  Lighten up man!”

His body guard sobering answers, “Maybe tomorrow after we get you safely home.”

Senator O’Neil looks at Larry and introduces himself.  He has a fifth of Southern Comfort as he sits on an upside down crate, his left leg juts out looking like its broke.  He shares the bottle with the employee who thanks him.  Mary instantly goes for peach vodka.  It doesn’t take Larry long to spot an intact bottle of Jack Daniels.  His first few gulps has a third of the bottle gone.

The Asian kid pokes around the rubble and finds a few water bottles.  He puts three water bottles and a whole bunch of candy bars into his back pack.  Larry watches as the boy goes behind the front counter and grabs a whole bunch of fish tackle, wire and hooks.  For the first time Larry looks at the boy with a little respect. 

The State Senator is reflecting on his life to the youthful employee, “So when I was your age I took a gamble and went to a community college.  It was the best decision of my life.  I earned I had a knack for politics so I got enrolled at Washington State University.  It didn’t take long to land an internship which introduced me to the Senate.”

The youth is soaking up all the words and replies, “I am finishing high school.  I took my GRE.  My family is on vacation in Hawaii.”

The body guard in the shadows politely interrupts, “Sir, we need to get you to a hospital.  If you start hemorrhaging around the break in your leg you could die.  Can I least make a brace for your leg?”

Senator O’Neil answers, “You’re too good to me.  Go ahead and make the leg brace.  I will be able to leave in a few minutes.  Until then let me enjoy having a drink with my new friends.”

The body guard scavenges the first floor for anything that could make a brace.  The Asian kid who doesn’t speak English seems to understand what he’s doing and comes up with some heavy duty tape behind the counter.  He gives the body guard one and puts the other in his back pack.  He then whistles as he finds some batteries.  Within a half a minute he has a portable game counsel making noises in his palms.  It sounds like Mario Party. 

Senator O’Neil continues his personal reflections, “When I was 21 I met my wife.  She makes me so happy.  We met at a wedding in July…”

Larry feels tipsy and decides he should rinse out his mouth with some water.  He zero’s in on Mary who is silently crying.  Her cell phone isn’t working as she keeps pressing numbers in hopes to connect with someone.

He steps nearer and feels ten feet tall and indivisible as he says, “You’re so hot.  Will you go out with me when this is done?”

She smiles through the silent tears and says she likes her men built strong. Another shot is heard as Pixel barks. 

Larry feels fortunate she doesn’t have family in America.  It greatly increases his chances in being with her.

The liquor store employee tries being part of the Senators conversation, “I met my girl friend at lunchtime at school.  She gave me her brownie when I forgot my lunch money.”

Senator O’Neil responds, “What’s her name?”

The employee whose name Larry did not hear excitedly fishes out a picture from his wallet.  Shining his flashlight on the picture he shows it the Senator, “Her name is Emily Johnson.”

Senator O’Neil gives a warmth heart full laugh and tells the youth his girl friend has a beautiful name and face.  His body guard finds all the necessary materials for a leg brace and proceeds to work on the Senators leg.

Larry is almost finished with his bottle of Jack Daniels and decides to put a second bottle into the kids back pack.

He tells Mary, “You never know when we will need to disinfect cuts.” 

She buys into his excuse. He shoves a few pints of Vodka into his jacket.  His hand isn’t burning as much as it did earlier.  Nearby he spies a glass case all by itself.  In it is a Chateau Lafite 1787.  His heart skips a beat as he instantly recalls the moment he became a cop at the academy.  His friends in California, who all died during the earthquake in 2012, bought him a fake imitation wine that represented Chateau Lafite 1787.   It was the greatest day of his life.  He wants the bottle!

Larry walks through the rubble and marvels the bottle is still intact in the glass case.  As he’s reaching for it a new aftershock rocks the building.  His left hand is in the glass case when he watches in horror as the glass panel cracks.  Things went slow as he watched step by step the glass fell into his left hand which he didn’t pull out of the case.

A dull sensation spreads up his palm.  He is too intoxicated to feel the glass.  Instead he sees three inches of glass firmly imbed in his glove.  He pulls back his hand and curses his luck.  Everyone quiets down as he turns around and shares his new bloody trophy.

The Senator says, “That’s going to hurt.” 

Mary rushes to his side.  Like a bimbo she reaches out and plucks the glass from his hand without thinking of the consequences.  Blood shoots out in an arc, he feels his vision swim and loses awareness. The Senator takes something looking like a pill and nods off after coughing.

A few minutes later

Something pokes into his back.  He’s lying flat on the ground.  Alcohol from broken bottles covers him in its stickiness.  His head swims and he felt as if a hot iron is coursing in his blood.  His mind takes comfort in the taste of Jack Daniels in his mouth.  The State Senator is drunkenly singing this is the End of the World as We Know It.  He attempts to sit up but can’t.  His left hand refuses to support his weight.  Pain shoots up his wrist and hand as his mind registers the moments before he went unconscious.

Larry sees his hand is wrapped in bandages.  The body guard is helping the Senator to his feet.  Mary and the Asian kid are at the front entrance with Pixel and the other two body guards.  The store employee asks the Senator if he can go with him. 

One of the body guards says no.  He looks like he is about to cry.  Mary tells the teen he can go with them.  The teen isn’t interested and answers no and makes mention he should find his grandparents.  He walks out the store.  At the entrance he says he will wait for everyone to leave before he locks up.  He doesn’t see the futile gesture will be in vain for as soon as they leave the homeless people will flood the store for the alcohol and food.

Mary sees Larry is awake and helps him to his feet.  The Senator says bye as his body guards usher him out the building.  One of the body guards helps the senator by letting him lean against his left side.  Within moments they are gone.

Harry tries isolating the pain in his hand.  He tells his group they have to get out of here before the homeless
people get the nerve to come in.  Within a minute they are on the street and the store in being locked up.  Half a dozen people watch in silence.  Larry doesn’t like the greedy look in their eyes.  He forgot to pick up the bottle of wine and mourns his loss of the fabled Chateau Lafite 1787.  He knows better to stay here though.

Pixel barks.  Larry isn’t holding her leash.  Before he can stop her she’s running back towards the library of congress.

He forgets about Mary and the Asian kid as he runs after Pixel.  He doesn’t see as soon as he’s a block away the homeless people began to pummel the windows of the liquor store.   Two to three run after the store clerk hoping to get his keys.  Luckily the kid went running the other direction.

Pixel darts as quickly as a bullet.  She’s over the board bridging First Street and is at a side window in the Jefferson building within moments.  Larry groans as he heads back in that direction.  He doesn’t bother to call out for Pixel.  Someone in the Library of Congress is waving a white cloth out a window. No one helps. 

Larry angrily takes out his gun when he gets back to the Jefferson building.  He waves at someone he can’t see to step away from the window.  He has to look good for Mary who is following him.  If she thinks he is a hero then maybe he can hook up with her later.

His right hand still hurts from when Pixel made her leash taunt but it wasn’t anything compared to the pain in his left hand.  It takes him three bullets to shatter the window.  For some stupid reason the same people he left earlier come out.  The building is obviously on fire but the dome still stands.  He sees the Asian kid is still in the group.

Mark tells Mary that Irina is dead.   They watch in silence as the Library of Congress burns.  Mike says something about it reminding him of the Divine Comedy.  Mike takes control of the group but he doesn’t seem to have much of a back bone with Susan who knows how to get her way.  The camera man says he found a rare book behind the cashier counter and asks if anyone wants it.  April simply tells him to put in the back pack.

Mike says they should try the metro at Union Station.  He adds if things get worse they could always follow the metro tracks until they get out of DC.  His wife wants to get to their house which is in Maryland.  Mark says he will tag along until he can get home.  Apparently he too has family in Maryland but seems torn because his apartment overlooks the bay.  Mary wants to stay with them and he wants to stay with her.  The CNN journalist and her camera man talk about having a van near Union Station.

Chapter 19:  Final Showdown at Burger King

Juliet is at a loss and wants nothing more than to be home in front of her computer monitor.   She draws imaginary designs at her feet with her cheap source of light which was meant for kiddo meals.  Even though she isn’t cold, she can’t stop feeling chill.  The air is staler as more hours pass; she never fathomed ventilation systems played such an important role in clean air.  Rodger keeps coughing.  At first she thinks he's suffering from allergies but then she too starts to get a little hoarse in the throat.  An hour ago Harry came up with an idea of wrapping a strip of clean cloth around his mouth.  She chose to listen but many did not.  Her throat is getting slightly better.

No matter what they did or said, people were drinking and eating the food at an alarming rate.  She became alarmed with this development 45 minutes prior when the college girls kept on using full water bottles to clean up in the bathroom.   Some of the people in the lobby are very understanding of their plight but yet others are complete dicks or bitches.   The college girls acted like bitches.  

The preppy girl had two sweaters on for some reason.  One she was wearing and the other was wrapped around her shoulders, something to do with a sorority.

Deep down she wishes she could have a figure like of one of those girls but it wasn’t in her cards.  Instead she gets teens, old people, a one armed homeless man, and her unfeminine body. 

Not understanding her morbid fascination with death she briefly shines her light where Dawn died.  She freezes when the light illuminates feet with no shoes.  

“What the hell happened to Dawn’s shoes?” 

She shines her light towards Harry and Rodger and gets their attention.  

Harry sputters, “Who took her shoes?”

The Frenchman admits to taking the shoes.  His rationalizations she didn’t need it anymore and he did.   Juliet couldn’t argue due to the fact she is wearing the dead teens jacket.  At the same time she hated the way the homeless men talked and how they justified their actions.  Deep down she knew they would hurt her if they could.  She reaches for the knife in her backpack but thinks twice about taking it out.

Her gut clinches as she feels fear radiate deep inside.  

Trying to keep her mind of her current problem she tries small talk with Harry.  Not knowing where to start she remembers the speed in which he broke the other homeless mans arm.  

“How did you learn to fight?  I can’t believe you broke that mans arm.  Thanks for saving me earlier.”

She could tell his mind was somewhere else as he answers, “In Korea.”

She doesn’t know what to say outside of, “That’s neat.  Is that near Vietnam?”

Harry chuckles, “No, it’s near China and Japan.  I was a soldier back in the 50’s.”

Juliet does the math, “That makes you near 70 or 80?”

Harry replies, “Something like that.”

Juliet needs to see something outside of a destroyed Burger King in her mind’s eye so she asks, “What was it like?” 

She’s only been accustomed to Iraqi and Vietnam vets.  Even though she lives in a poor district she never had a reason to mesh with these types of people.  She had a cousin who is in the National Guard but he’s currently stationed in Maryland.  She never got along with him because he always wanted her to act more feminine.  

Harry obliges her curiosity, “I did a lot of hiding and sitting on my ass.” 

He didn’t want to talk about his primary objectives during the war, but he had no problem in sharing the basics.  He continues, “We had a barrack made out of mud and bamboo when we weren’t searching for the enemy.”

Juliet gives a small noise of approval and deftly eats some very cold chicken nuggets.  Rodger found a twenty piece and split it with everyone.

Harry continues, “It wasn’t nice.  We had to change our barracks once.   The South Koreans didn’t have plumbing like we do.  Back in the day they had wagons called Honey Wagons which collected people’s shit near the sides of their houses.  It was weird.  The South Koreans used both people and animals to push the carts.  They did this in all the villages.  What sucked is we sometimes had to sit in rice fields surrounded by this because the villagers used it as fertilizer.”

Juliet is disgusted she wants to puke, “Could it be worse then what it smells like in here?”

Harry replies, “Yes.  It wasn’t as bad as smelling dead soldiers that committed suicide though.”

Rodger decides to join the conversation, “What do you mean?”

Harry tells him, “The war was hard on us soldiers.  We lost over 40,000 Americans.   One of my duties was to help collect US soldiers who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge near Seoul.   Within hours the fish and river life would eat their faces off.  It was the worse smell ever.”  Trying to make the subject a little lighter he adds, “When I was on leave I met a nice Asian girl who had a stream in her back yard.  I ended up making a small irrigation system for her by redirecting the houses shit into a stream in the back yard.”

Juliet asks, “Did you ever kill anyone?” 

She was done eating and thinks she should try to use the bathroom soon.   The homeless people were keeping to themselves and the college students disappeared into the female’s bathroom.

She looks at Harry with amazement as she realizes he’s in better shape than her.   She becomes sad as he reminds her of her grandparents.  She looks at her cell phone and sees its 1:34 p.m.

It didn’t seem right.  She would have bet her soul it was more like a day.  She fondly remembers her families scheduled.  

Her dad is a janitor at the hospital and she is very proud of what he does.  She knew her mom was taking care of her younger brother at the apartment complex they lived at.  They all lived near each other.  

Her mind jolts as an aftershock rocks the tables around them.  They had time to secure the tables in place and they no longer poised a threat.  If anything else they took the brunt of the falling debris.  The homeless people gathered 4 tables and were stationed as far away as they could be.  That was fine by Juliet.  No one knew what the college students were doing in the bathroom.  She had a feeling they might have managed to take the bathroom stall doors of the hinges and did something with them. 

That leaves the homeless men and older gentleman who are still trying to dig.  She picks up a few sandwiches and water bottles and brings it to them.  

Rodger asks Harry if he would ever go back to Korea.   Harry tells him only a crazy person would go back and he was happy living in America.

Harry continues, “It was insane at the beginning of the war.  The North Koreans had a whole bunch of Soviet-T-34-85’s which were heavy duty tanks for that day.  They were kicking our ass.  Jerry, who was Gunnery, managed to chip some of the tanks down using bazookas. “

Rodger must be a history buff for he can’t seem to get enough of Harry’s personal account; he interrupts, “Is that how you lost your arm?” 

Harry pauses, “No, that’s for another story.”  He continues without mentioning or moving his hand any further, “I was already Korea a few years before the war broke out.  I actually lied about my age when I enlisted into the military thinking it was my duty.  I was always gifted with speed and good health, I rose through the ranks.”

Juliet tests her medic skills as she cleans out the cuts of the people’s hands that are digging.  She ends up getting frustrated and pours half the alcohol bottle in their cuts in hopes it will kill the germs.  She tries her best in applying ointment and a few Band-Aids but fails miserably.  She decides to not have a drink and to safe it for people who need it.

Harries continues, “The first day of the war really sucked.  I thought I was going to die for sure.  My unit was under quipped and we had to be resourceful when the enemy tanks came.”  

Rodger bustles like a child, “Please tell me.”

“Well, there we were, we had two M24 Chaffee’s;  which are light tanks if you don’t already know, the KPA tanks blew them apart within minutes.  Half the unit was shot to death as the Soviet’s superior tanks mercilessly mowed us down.”

Juliet can’t help herself, “Oh my God, how did you survive?  Was it the bazooka’s you made mention if earlier?”

“We used anti-tank guns.  We had to keep them at bay until the United Nations Command Reinforcement came.  It was classic.  I felt like the Texas Alamo but instead of ruins we had rice Pattie fields, the jungle and dirty villages everywhere.  I will never forget the bazookas.  I had to draw the attention away from enemy tanks as I hit their side armor.    It was up to others to execute the final blow at the end of the day.”

Rodger and Juliet are entranced in the historical narration.  Juliet loses attention for a brief moment, her current predicament drifts into nothingness as Harry paints a Korean landscape in the 1950’s.  She isn’t paying attention to the homeless people.

Harry continues, “To be honest with you, I liked working behind the scenes.  I never liked what I did but it had to be done.  The North Koreans were assassinating all the educated people in South Korea.  It was scary.  Entire cities were losing their religious, political and educated people because the Communists wanted to win.” 

His voice becomes very husky and hushed, “I had to kill people who were going to destroy American principles of democracy.  These people often created illusions of being good South Koreans but in the real world they were spies and ruthlessly killed the good guys.”

Juliet pipes in, “Sounds like a lot of cloak and dagger stuff, I will be back in a second.  I have to use the bathroom, or at least what’s left of it.” 

She gathers her light but forgets to bring her backpack which she leaves with Harry and Rodger.  Sara is digging with the other men and they seem to be making little progress.

She can Harry drone on with his war experience, “But that was a year before the war started, where was I …”

She briskly makes it past a few skewed tables that couldn’t be unscrewed from the ground.  The aftershocks loosened many tables which made collecting them easy.

She hears the college students talking in hushed tones in the female bathroom but ignores them.  There are two stalls, both doors are firmly attached.  The first one doesn’t give; she assumes debris blocks it from opening.  The second stall is free.  I little amount of human feces is smeared on the seat.  She is happy she remembered a water bottle and instantly understands why the college students are using the water.  Trying to not use to much she does her best to clean the shit off of it.

There’s some toilet paper still in the stall.  She doesn’t care if she leaves any of that for anyone.  She hopes there’s still some soap left.  Juliet places her light on top of the toilet paper roll and does her thing.

After a minute she is done but before she finishes a new aftershock rocks the bathroom.  She is sitting and is glad nothing falls on her head.  Her cheap Disney flashlight falls to the floor.

Juliet reaches for the light, while trying to balance on the stall and not get messy from the stuff on the floor.  Her heart freezes as she thinks she sees something move in the other stall. She fears is a rat but after closer inspection sees it’s a shoe. Juliet is confused; it looks like Dawn’s shoes.

Dawn’s shoe moves a small fraction.  Juliet reels with the knowledge that someone is with her in the bathroom.

She finds her voice as she zips her pants, “Is somebody there?”

Nothing but silence greets her question.  The shoe moves another fraction of an inch.

Juliet reached for the handle of the stall and repeats her question, “Is somebody there?  I can see your shoe.”

The Frenchman sounds sultry, “I got some wonderful drugs. Do you want some?”

That’s all she has to hear.  He sounds evil and twisted. Juliet bolts for the entrance and screams for help.  She hears the man curse as he whips his stall door open.  He grabs her sleeve and proceeds to drag her into the stall.  

Juliet didn’t freeze like she did earlier when she was getting choked.  Just as her Paladin would do, she knees the homeless man in the groin with all her might.  He lets go as he screeches in pain.  Juliet runs out of the bathroom.

She hears the college students bar their bathroom door as Jack says, “Don’t let them in!” 

Louder he screams, “Leave us alone!  We aren’t hurting anyone!” 

The girls sob uncontrollably. Juliet stops when she gets into the outer fringe of the lobby. 

She screams, “A homeless guy tried to rape me, he is in the bathroom!”

Rodger and Harry scramble past the tables.

Harry with much determination asks, “Are you sure?”

Juliet starts to cry as the implication of what almost occurred began to set in, “I’m sure.  I hit him in the nuts; it’s the homeless guy who took Dawn’s sneakers!”

The homeless with the broken arm interrupts their communication not to kindly.  His raspy voice chills Juliet more than the man she left crying in the stall.

“Don’t you see what they are doing?  She didn’t almost get raped.  They are trying to take us out one by one to get our supplies.”  

Did you try to rape the college girl Sam?”  Sam answers no.

The man with the sign on his chest continues, “No you didn’t, you were just cold and they beat you up.  They don’t want to share.  They broke my arm when I tried eating a cheeseburger.”

One of the homeless men with a metal pipe asks, “What should we do?  I don’t want to get hurt by them.”

The raspy voice answers, “We take them out first. They are stopping us from surviving.”

Juliet can’t believe what she is seeing.  As a group they move like a small mob, weapons brandished to hurt her and the others.  She freezes and doesn’t know what to do.

Two men swarm Rodger who simply drops his bat and screams for them to stop.  They pummel him with metal pipes.  The third or fourth hit she hears a something break sounding like bones.  Rodger collapses like an inanimate object sinking in a river.  The homeless man who did the killing blow is the man with the sign on his chest.  

Two others try taking on Harry, one of which is Sam.   Like a viper Harry strikes with something small and sharp, a glimmer reflects off what little light there is.  

The knife connects with Sam’s throat.  Blood spurts as a large arc sprays the two other homeless men who just killed Rodger.  The second man doesn’t have time to respond as Harry kicks his knee cap.  Juliet hears the impact make a popping sound.  The second man drops to one knee, before he can mutter a word Harry jams the butcher knife into his chest.  The man falls as he clutches the knife in disbelief.

The other two homeless men in the group did not attack but keep their distance.  Even though they are the bad guys they didn’t want to take it to an extreme.

The homeless men and the older gentleman at the front door stay where they are.  They weren’t part of any of this and were confused on why this is happening.

She could hear Jack in the distance, “They are killing each other out there, try the cell phone’s again!” 

The bathroom smells hits her.  She twirls around and sees someone slide in the darkness but she can’t place who it is.  She runs towards Harry who has two armed homeless men between her and them.  She turns in mid step and runs towards the men and Sara who were digging.  Sara clutches her close; her eyes are wide and scared.  Juliet turns around to see what’s happening.

Two men circle Harry.  The man with the raspy voice has Rodgers bat.  He tells his buddy to attack first.

The homeless man listens and lunges towards Harry with his metal pipe.  Harry blocks the pipe with his forearm which takes the blunt of the damage.  Twisting his arm around the pipe he disarms his enemy by throwing his weight counter to the momentum his opponent.  This results in the homeless man with the pipe crashing into the man with the raspy voice.  Before they could get to their feet Harry takes the pipe he just recently acquired and jams the far end into the face of the tripped man.  A plopping sound can be heard as Harry ruthlessly tears the eye out of its socket with exact precision.

Harry drops the pipe and retreats towards the group at the front door.  The man with the raspy voice scrambles on all fours towards the other two homeless men who are armed.  They finally get their nerve while shouting insults.  Suddenly the Frenchman who wears Dawn’s shoes shows up.  None of them ask where he came from. Many of the poor men are sick. They do not move graciously.

Right when things couldn’t get worse they get better.  The rubble at the front entrance shifts as sunlight streaks into the lobby.  A K9 is barking and someone shouts, “We are here to save you, we are the National Guard! Is the Congressman safe?”

Juliet blinks as her eyes accustom to the light.  For the first time she sees Burger King’s lobby illuminated since the earth quake struck.  It was a disaster.  She falls to her knees and can’t help but laugh and cry.  A police K9 licks her in the face as someone in a military uniform helps her out of the building.  The soldiers keep asking for a congressman but she has no idea what they want.  A CNN journalist asks her for her story and she sees for the first time the earthquake’s magnitude destruction of the surrounding blocks.

The homeless people outside of Harry quickly run down the street, no one stops them.

Chapter 20:  Fall of the Free Worlds Champion 

There are a lot of hurt people near the street as Fred and Kyle leave the Smithsonian; the masses seem to be migrating towards the Presidential Park and the White house.  They follow the crowd, Fred silently muses it’s like being part of a slowly moving blob that lacks dimension and order.  Hundreds of injured adults and a few children cry from various emotional or physical traumas.  The ones who aren’t crying try to help the others but to no avail.  There isn’t any violence but a few individuals scream their frustrations to those who will listen, others redirect their anger to the National Guard and military personnel who don’t really know what to do.  The National Guards in turn tell people to not sit on the lawn and to keep moving.  He sees a lot of visitors and city workers.  Many of the visitors are children who are part of school groups, the children look lost.  The mass is near the front gates of the white house.  

It’s smaller then what Fred thought it would look like.  A black gate meets him.  Cast iron bars show sixteen stars, lamps once adorned the tips of the fences but they shattered in the inside lawn.  A road twines to a large white building, a tree lays in two in the middle of the road.  Police officers are in the process of moving it.  The white house sits in the distance.  The front pillars have collapsed, Fred can’t distinguish where the entrance would have been.  There are dozens of military helicopters in the lawn.

People ask for the President but no one has any answers.  They need their symbolic leader.  Some tourists from Texas say they should knock on the front door but others do not take them serious.  One of the older men in the Texan group shakes as one of his wounds hemorrhage.   His son tries to stop the blood from pouring on the street but the wound is too deep or maybe it hit an artery.  Fred watches as the man gasps his final breaths.

Better to not ask questions if you don’t want the answers.  He tries to stop and help but the crowd pushes him along.

He prays, “There’s nothing I can do.  Please Jesus, be with these people in our greatest time of need.”

There is a large medical tent near the entrance of the Presidential Park.  A child mistakenly brushes shoulders with Kyle which disturbs the backpack on his back.  He twirls around and looks like he is about the hit the child.  Fred wonders what kinds of drugs must be in that bag to make Kyle hold it so tightly.  No one cares about his sons bag, all they want is for the President to open the front gates and safe them.  

Fred knows he has to deal with the subject later but it still wasn’t the time.  His son starts acting more paranoid and beckons his dad to follow him as soldiers with K9’s open the front gates to the White House.  A limousine with Presidential flags roars down the street, many in the crowd murmur it’s the President.  Kyle directs Fred away from the White House which looks more like a mini fortress.   There are many soldiers dressed in battle gear that looks tough who just arrived.  Military choppers are coming and going.  People are saying President Stephen J. Andrews is still inside but things don’t make sense as the limousine drops someone off and just as quickly leaves.  Whoever is in the limo is quickly ushered into a waiting military chopper which takes off, the man or woman has a jacket draped over their head.  It’s not air force one.

They are on a street right in front of the gates overlooking a very large semi empty lawn when a large congregation of staff workers and officials come out a side entrance and head towards Air Force One helicopter.

Guards menacingly threaten civilians not to come close to the gate; many of them are on other side of the fence.  A lone helicopter appears to be dysfunctional as the inhabitants quickly board another.  Technicians are not having a good day as all electricity is cut off.  Fred doesn’t understand why backup generators are not running.

Someone asks why no one is saying anything in the White house but no one has any answers that make any sense.  These guards and security personnel did not want to help the civilians; it was their job to protect the people in the White house.   For the first time Fred wonders if their government is going to do anything to help them.  It doesn’t take much effort from Kyle to get him moving towards the reflection pool.  Hundreds of people push them back to the crowd but close to the medical tent that’s swarmed by civilians.  Fred sees the International Red Cross logo boldly imprinted on the side of the large tent.  

The limousine stalls at the front gates as a new aftershock tears the road apart. Hundreds of people fall but no one is hurt as the street takes on new cracks.  The front gate hinges creak and won’t budge any further as it firmly lodges the limo in place.  People in the luxury car get out of the vehicle and head back towards the white house by exiting through the roof.  None of the civilians are stupid enough to try to get past the guards.  A half a dozen cops take up posts and block civilians from entering the South Lawn. Most of the lawn is submerged in shallow pools of water. The earth has sunk a few feet.

Fred stops following Kyle as he sees something he didn’t want to see.  The president’s daughter runs to the Lawn and throws herself at a body bag which a few military officers are carrying to a waiting Air Force One chopper.   Half a dozen soldiers salute the body bag.  An officer drags her kicking and screaming into the Air Force One’s helicopter.  Someone in the masses screams the president is dead.  None of the soldiers or cops refutes the claim.  Within moments Fred feels a drain as he realizes he’s seeing the President’s body bag.  

Tears threaten to run freely.  People near him howl like mad men.  People start pushing and punching each other without mercy, within a minute it subsides.

A man next to him asks, “Who is going to order an emergency declaration?” 

Other hysterical American’s say America fell and the terrorists won.  Needless to say it appears his son is the only happy person.  Air Force One picks up from the ground and zips into the horizon.  Within minutes half the military personal and cops who were stationed on the South Lawn get into the waiting helicopters and leave.  There are two military units left and a couple of dozen officers.  Enough to make sure no civilians try to get to the white house.  One military unit packs up their guns and proceeds to head towards the second to last chopper.

Kyle takes his hand; Fred is directed towards the Park, his mind refuses to process anymore information but they are stopped as someone screeches, “The president is dead and we are doomed!”  The masses begin a new frenzy based on desperation.

A man takes out a bullhorn and screeches insanely into it, “Repent before it’s too late, the president is dead!  God is coming to reclaim what is rightfully his!  Repent for your sins!”

Someone throws a rock which knocks the doomsayer senseless.  He drops the bullhorn; it doesn’t reach the street before someone else has it and booms, “DING DONG THE EVIL WITCH IS DEAD!” 

The Americans around him turn on him like a pack of wild dogs; he disappears in a storm of punches and kicks.  

Fred and Kyle are near the edge of the crowd as people began to fight for the horn.  A liberal female who must have been in her early 20’s gets a hold of it and yells, “People, stop this insanity, we need order!  It’s all about peace!”

Someone can be heard yelling, “It doesn’t matter, the President is dead!”  

Others scream their heated opinions but Fred can’t tell what they are saying.  It looks as if thousands of people are jammed into one very small space.  The last of the military helicopters take off as a few soldiers gather near the entrance.  One of the soldiers whips out a military bull horn and breaks the civilians banter, “Cease and disperse.  This is an executive order.   

Precede to your nearest evacuation centers and await further information.  I repeat.  Cease and disperse.”

There‘s only a unit of soldiers left and a couple of dozen officers.  The masses are getting braver and feeling abandoned.  Fred finally is free of the congregation but remains in the outskirts.  He understood what his fellow American’s were feeling and wants to be protected.

The civilian who has the bullhorn strikes fear into the masses as he yells, “It was a magnitude 9 earthquake!  What are we going to do if a Tsunami comes?” 

Thousands of people begin to shake and yell uncontrollably, Fred sees a very large group of people react negatively to the suggestion of a possible Tsunami. 

The civilian continues in righteous fury, “Even though we don’t live in a subduction zone we just got hit by magnitude 9!  What’s to stop a tsunami from coming and who is going to safe us now that the president is dead?  Where is the vice president? It’s obvious the land in sinking which will allow the tsunami to destroy everything in its path!”

The military soldier with the bullhorn makes the mistake as he replies, “The vice-president is missing in action and the earthquake wiped out most of the people in command in the white house.  Please cease and disperse immediately.”  

The civilian will not ease up, “No, we have rights and we demand protection!  Do your job and protect us!  We are American citizens!” 

Both groups continue to repeat themselves; Fred decides it’s time for a smoke break.

Even though the sun glares down at him he doesn’t think it’s a good day.  He is very hot as he wipes sweat from his brow.  There is a breeze but it’s very warm. 

He only has three cigarettes left; his hands shake as he horridly drags on the cigarette.  He feels comfort with the weight on hips with the new tools he found at the Smithsonian.

It wasn’t like he would ever get the answer he sought.  Tensions continue to rise between the civilians and the officers; a couple dozen cops exit the White house and join their peers.  They distribute rubber bullets swiftly. Large water tanks rolls up from behind the building.  It is tragically sad when the vehicles falter as the grounds now has fissures in the lawn. 

The officer with the bullhorn commands the civilians, “Disperse now.”

The civilian responds, “You have a responsibility to us, help us!” 

Masses push forward.  Psychologically it was if they sub consciously known they were not going to get hurt when the officers load rubber bullets and the water cannons.

Fred believes he sees a shift in the way the masses behave as they feel the need to express themselves.  As a group they surge forward and rattle the gate between them and lawn.  They are not calling for murder or revenge, but as a whole they plead with their government for security.

Fred forgets his cigarette as he crushes it between his fingers.  There is a charge in the air and it radiates from the masses as it pulls at Fred’s awareness.

His fellow Americans has one heart, one pulse.  He doesn’t care about Kyle for the moment as his feet propel him forward.  He needs to be one with the masses.  His mind becomes irrational in his fervor as the civilian with the bullhorn screams, “Let us on the helicopter!  Take us with you!”

The remaining soldiers and officers have no choice but to rain rubber bullets upon the American people.  Water follows, the velocity rips through large sections of the masses as people hit the rolling earth.  The road buckles from the aftershock but it’s a rubber bullet grazing Fred’s left shoulder that knocks him down.

Sharp pain stabs into his left upper arm leaving him feeling like he just got branded.

His crucifix lifts upon his nose and he fears he is going to lose it.  Nothing else matters as he grasps the cross with his left hand.  Pain continues to radiate down his arm but he chooses to pray instead of becoming its victim.

Fred says out loud, “Jesus, please stop this madness.  I promise if you save us I will go to church every Sunday and weekly readings on Wednesdays instead of fishing.  Please save us and stop this madness.”

He feels something hit his right foot.  Looking down he sees the bullhorn the civilian used.  

It felt as if Jesus answered him.  His crucifix has a passage from the Old Testament on the reverse side.  His mother is Jewish but his dad was raised a Christian.  He was raised Christian and was converted a catholic as a child.  

He reaches for the bullhorn.  He doesn’t know how to use it but it seems simple enough.  He knew the man who had it previously would have not turned it off.

He says the only thing that comes to mind.  It’s what’s on the reverse side of his cross.

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wide man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches.  But let him that glorieth in this, that he understandeth and kwoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgement, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

His son snorts and laughs, Fred feels ridicules. His son pops something looking like a purplish pill.

But nobody else laughs.  The sirens still wail but thousands of people have stopped the violence and the energy in the air has changed.  Fred no longer feels a pull to rush to the fence and realizes it’s stupid to think there are more helicopters on the other side of the lawn.

The officer with the bullhorn orders his people to stop.  He doesn’t have to because they did on their own.

Everyone looks at Fred.

Fred says the next thing coming to his mind, “I’m scared.  Can we please stop fighting?”

It’s eerily quiet outside of the noises of Washington DC being destroyed.  The officer with the bullhorn responds, “We are sorry, we don’t know what to do.  We are on your side.  Shit, let them in.  No one is left and the President is gone.  Let them in.”

He lowers his bullhorn and the solders around him step aside.  Thousands of people remain quiet as hundreds flood the lawn.  The last helicopter does not work.

The officer says one last thing, “We are sorry.  Technically we are supposed to nuke and destroy ourselves before ever giving up the white house or any American soil.”

Fred can’t help but ask, “Why is that?”  

The officer sadly replies, “Because domestic policies under the Clinton Administration declared an executive order that we would destroy our own buildings and kill our own people before giving anything to the enemy.”

Fred doesn’t think of the consequences as he replies, “Well, it’s a good thing that we are all Americans and not the enemy.”

The officer laughs, “True enough.  I give up.  Have free access to the White house and do whatever you want.  We want to go home and be with our families.  God bless.” 

He drops the bullhorn, Fred does likewise. He turns around and sees his Son look at him in bewilderment. 

He grimaces as he takes out his third to last cigarette. 

His hands can’t stop shaking as he asks his son, “Where is the hospital?” 

His son points back in the direction they came.

Kyle grips his back pack tightly as he begins to walk forward.  They don’t make it ten feet before someone picks up the bullhorn Fred dropped.

He urgently informs everyone, “The River is gone and the bay is receding!” 

A new urgency hits the people as people start screaming a tsunami is coming. To make things worse the wailing of the earthquake siren changes its message. 

Kyle’s face goes pale, “That’s the tsunami warning.  I heard it during their yearly testing’s and drills at the Smithsonian.  We need to get out of Washington DC now!”  

Fred looks at him and says, “Not without my grandson.”

At this moment a chorus of cell phones could be heard with a different tone.  Fred’s cell phone isn’t working but then he’s from Minnesota and has a different provider.

Kyle gasps as he reads the message.  He turns the phone around and in bold words Fred reads:


Kyle finally looks scared.  He tells his dad, “The hospital junior is at has over a dozen stories and a helicopter on the roof.  Let’s go.”  Thousands of people disperse in all directions urgently but very peacefully

Chapter 21:  Mark goes Home

Mark really enjoys helping Mike and the others but it was time to go home.  He looks down at his dirty hands; grimacing in discomfort he tries to clean them on his dark blue slacks.  It doesn’t work.  Now he looks like he’s been playing in the sand box.

The girl from Burger king stops laughing and crying.  She looks humble and passive; the leather jacket didn’t fit her to well.  She’s offering everyone Dasani water and cheeseburgers.  He takes water but doesn’t drink it.  He attempts to clean the crud off of his hands but it’s not working.

Mike comes up and pats him on the back, “Thanks for helping.  Are you ok?” 

Mark never told Mike he was his best friend.  Mark was grateful when this Midwesterner came to the office.  At first he didn’t think he was going to like Mike.  People from Michigan have a tendency of being brash, their communication isn’t suave.  Mark’s heart thawed when he watched Mike work hard. Mark couldn’t help but grow fond of Mike and April.  But it was time for their story to end, to close the past chapter.

Mike repeats, “Is everything alright Mark? You look distant.  I know what’s happening sucks but I need you to keep it together.” 

Tears start running freely from Mark.  The water is not cleaning his hands and it frustrates him. He wants to clean up with a shower. He couldn’t talk.  Sounds escape his throat but sounds jumbled, he’s afraid.  

Mark’s dad was a retired police officer.  He lives as a disabled American who relies on crutches and a respirator.  Back in 2001 his dad was one of the first responders who answered when the Trade Center got destroyed.  Rubble and bad air gave him chronic lung disease.  As far as Mark is concerned his dad is a national hero.  

He stops trying to clean his hands.  A police dog comes over and licks them.  He briefly remembers hearing somewhere that dogs have natural antibiotics in their saliva.  He shrugs and lets the dog finish.  He then uses the last of the water to clean his hands.

Looking at Mike he heart fetchingly declares, “I need to go and be with my family.”

Mike doesn’t look to tough as true compassion enters Mike’s persona.  This was going to be harder then he thought.

Fidgeting he continues, “I’m sorry bro.  I don’t want to go but I need to.” 

Not knowing what else to say he adds, “You are from the great woods up North; seriously you don’t need my help.  Keep to the tracks and get out of Washington DC before nightfall comes.”

April is busy talking to the National Guard.  The only one listening is Juliet and the Asian boy.  They don’t matter to Mark.  He looks deeply into Mikes eyes, “You were a good friend.  I enjoyed working with you.” 

Extending his right hand he firmly grasps Mike’s left hand.

Tears appear in Mike’s eyes.  He tightly grips Mark’s hand.  Mark grimaces in the vice like grip.

Mike says, “Thanks for everything Mark.  If you ever find yourself in Michigan you know where to find me. 

We are going to have to go back for our son and family when things settle.”

 Mark understands.  It’s the same reason why he has to part.  

“Do you remember your first day at the office?  You were scared of the politicians.”  Mike nods; he remembers all too well the stresses of starting the new job, “Well, I never told you but I thought you were a massive big Troll on your first week.  But you showed everyone, even when you accidentally spilled coffee on the Congress man from Ohio.  I thought for sure you were in over your head.  But look at you, six months later and you have become a success.  Take care of your wife and be safe.”

Mark can’t help but let the tears run freely.  Without notice Mike steps in gives Mark a gigantic Finnish bear hug.  Mark knew it was a custom from the mysterious people in the UP and let Mike have it his way.  Deep down he’s moved his friend cares.

April excuses herself from the National Guard and the news reporter, “Mike, be careful, your back can go out!”  Her statement reminds Mark why his best friend is lucky.  He instantly remembers the Russian fellow, his lover, burning.  He loved her and feels a new despair build deep within.  He was going to ask her to marry him.

He lets Mike go and quickly turns around.  The air in Union Station smells of burned rubber.  Sweat pours from his brow making him waver from heat exertion.  

Not knowing what else to say he leaves.  April asks him where he is going but he decides to let Mike explain.  He never minded April.  His mind goes to the current task. Half a dozen employees from the Center of Disease Control exit a nearby building, they head a different direction. They appear out of place.

He shrugs, it’s not his problem.

He currently lives with his parents in the South East section of DC, south of I-295 at the Onyx Apartments.  He only has to walk a half mile to get to work; he prides himself of not having to take a car or the metro.  It didn’t only help the environment but it kept him in good shape.  He didn’t need to live with his parents but he preferred to be there for Marvin, his dad.  When he was in his early thirties his dad and mom moved back to Washington DC after living in New York.  Marvin was four years away from retirement when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Dust from ground zero was toxic and his dad breathed too much of it in.

His dad didn’t get a chance to retire and lost most of his pension.  Mark believed his parents gave him a good childhood and put him through college.  It was only right they moved in together.  His dad kept on getting sicker.  They didn’t know what to do for his red blood cells are under constant attack.  Marvin has to go to chemotherapy every few weeks and lost all his hair.  His mom has him on a barrage of nutrients and amino acids but it was a losing battle.  The doctors labeled his dad as having “permanent respiratory disability”. His family wept with joy with the Bin Laden was eliminated by US Navy Seals in 2011.  All terrorists deserve to go to the guillotine and should go to hell.

Mark’s extended family ranges all over the city and in New York.  Some are doing very well and others not so much.  He was doing well at the Library of Congress.  He makes roughly $78,000 after taxes.  His apartment only costs $1500 a month and came with a whole bunch of amenities.  More importantly, even though it was over sixteen stories, it was very handicap friendly.  

He passes the street without looking back.  Sometimes it’s better to not look back.  

He lives on 1100 First St. SE, it’s not far.  He quickly chides himself it might take many hours with all the destruction happening.   His apartment is on the tenth floor.  His dad never had a problem in taking the elevator.  He was afraid his dad wasn’t going to be alive in a few years; he was hoping to introduce them to Irina.

She filled a deep longing, when she was around he felt complete.  He spent thousands of dollars on an engagement ring and now this happens…

Mark decides it might be safer to take 2nd Street NE and bypass the military sniper.  He was glad the dude was on his side but didn’t want to experience that again.  He crosses Massachusetts Avenue to get to the street.

His minds drifts back to Irina.  He remembers the first time they met.  She was scared and looked like a lost exotic bird.   Russian elegance and fine education made her into his goddess.  The first day he helped her get her Identification Card, she was wandering down corridors not knowing where to go.  The library of congress is made up of three buildings and many passages.  His heart went out to her and he showed her the ropes.  First thing he did was bring her down to the Adams building where anyone can get a library card.  Fellows and important visitors get a red star.  Stuff like that makes Mark ponder the significance of mixing Russian political ideology with western democratic symbols.  

He asks himself, “Why do communists and democracies use similar symbols to represent power?  Especially when each country is supposed to represent something different, which in turn is supposed to reflect their different cultures and norms?  Hitler, America, Ancient Romans, Hindus all use the eagle.  Could you imagine something like a turtle or mouse as your countries symbol?”

Even though Mark is African American he’s 110% American.  Patriotism boils deep in his blood.  The only reason he didn’t become a cop like his Dad was because he is frail.  HE makes up for this in his smarts.  He finished his doctorate by the time he was twenty-four.  He always gets sick for the stupidest reasons and his allergies are terrible.  He looks down at his hands and grimaces.

He crosses onto 2nd Street without incident.  No longer does he hear gun fire close by, in the distance he could hear something sounding like firecrackers.  It doesn’t take him long to realize it hand gun fire coming from the rougher districts.

In front of his is Union Pub, which is barred up.  In the middle of the street is a white man wearing a purple Michael Jackson jacket.  He’s directing survivors down the road, there are about a hundred who are shuffling back and forth.  No one is being violent, they simply look lost.  Mark see’s the man who looks like Michel Jackson blow a whistle while pointing for a few people to cross the broken road.  There are no fissures.  In his left hand is a bottle appearing to be Orange Bacardi.  Most of it is gone.  He flashes a smile.  Mark can’t see his eyes due to some very dark shades.  

“Hold on bro, traffic you know?” 

The man does the moon shuffle, flourishing into a bow he continues, “Your turn, the light is green.”

Mark says thanks and crosses the street.

The man looking like Michael Jackson smiles broader; Mark shudders, the man is missing most of his front teeth. The man coughs a lot of spittle and continues to smile.

“You are very much welcome.  Have a nice day!” 

Mark quickens his pace.  He doesn’t feel threatened but the dude seems a little to nuts for his taste.

The buildings on this block are not in bad condition, broken windows and glass crunch under dress shoes. 

Many signs are still intact, clearly marking his location at D Street SE. Mark finds himself thinking it’s amazing there are no loiters.  The Tsunami alert scares the hell out of him.  Deep down he doesn’t think a tsunami is coming, but his expertise wasn’t into the environment.   

The sun beats heavy on his brow.  Mark doesn’t remember it being so hot and for the first time in his life wonders if he’s going to get sun burned.  

He thinks this is a terrible day.  He wishes it was a bad dream.  He wonders why he couldn’t be back in undergraduate school at John Hopkins. Why couldn’t this be an acid flashback or something?

Mark never touched drugs but he did have one experience on liquid acid.  He joined a fraternity at his university but they took the hazing a little too far.  As a pledge he was told to drink a awful tasting beverage.  Later he found out it was laced with acid.  After brief flashes of bright colors and listless voices, his frat dropped him off the hospital.  He spent the next six hours reliving his child hood as the drug sent him on its journey.  

Drugs are not Mark’s cup of tea.  He told the fraternity to get lost and never looked back.   

Today he felt like he was on an acid trip.  He wishes he was on an acid trip.  The ramifications of what is occurring are too much for him to handle. 

He decides to throw caution to the wind when he sees a group of homeless men eye him menacing on Pennsylvania Avenue.  One has a cardboard sign on a string on his chest, he recognized him from earlier.  He doesn’t have anything they want but the second they start moving towards him he bolts like a rabbit.  It doesn’t take long to run three blocks, the homeless men aren’t following.  It doesn’t look good on when he gets to E St NE.  He stops, his sides hurt from the exertion and heat.  Breathing comes difficult, but not in an unhealthy way.  His allergies are not kicking in, even though there is a lot of dust.  Deep down it feels really good to run; now he wishes he kept the water.  He hears car alarms before seeing the cars.  To his right is a block looking not like the other blocks.  Large congregations of poor African Americans are systemically destroying the block.  There must be at least three to four dozen.  Most look young, many have pipes and crowbars.  They appear to be in frenzy as they flip a parked luxury van.  Within seconds they violently crush the windows and tear it apart.  They are not looking for stereos or money, they simply enjoy causing destruction.  

Many cars are destroyed, within minutes the crowd goes to another parked car.  Deep down Mark understands the poor have a need to express themselves but he doesn’t think this is the way.  Looking past them he sees more African Americans exit a building through a broken window.  They are carrying television sets and paintings.  He pauses as he notes large groups of woman exit a gift shop.  They head towards the males who are causing the destruction.  Near the end of the block he sees a large U-Haul with its doors open.  Walking back in forth are some very scary looking black men with guns.  One is particular looks like a fat cat, he directs the men with a cane and a cigar.  The U-haul appears to be filling with merchandise quickly.  A second U-haul is being directed towards the first one.

One of the woman points in his direction, he wonders if they are prostitutes, not knowing where they came from.  He sees a few guys break from beating a parked Rolls-Royce. Mark decides it’s time to do some more running. He wonders where the police and military are.

The side walk is back to being jagged and broken.  There are many fissures.  Mark pretends he is in track at gym as he’s continues to ignore his safety.  It is now an absolute necessity to get home. He hopes his Dad has enough common sense to shoot trespassers.   He is scared for their safety.  He manages to run a few blocks south and refuses to look towards the Library of Congress in the distance.  Military helicopters can be heard overhead.  He doesn’t look to see who they are, at the moment he doesn’t care.

He jumps over a broken Stop sign and is brought to a halt due to a fissure.  His thighs burn, he drops to his knees, tears run freely.  He didn’t know why he is crying.  

He doesn’t wake up.  After minutes of sobbing he calms down.  Metal wires stick out of the middle of the road.  It looks like broken straws; the grey contrast very much shows wicked looking metal pipes.  There’s no color to the road.  Everything looks dark gray.  A capital city utility vehicle lies half in the fissure.  The driver long evacuated the vehicle.  For some reason its front lights shine back at the sun, he can tell due to a feint yellow shining around the edges.  Nearby are some broken trees.  One fell into the fissure and another into a building.  Looking around he sees he’s at the corner of D Street SE and 2nd NE; he crosses over to 1st SE.  This street directly takes him to his apartment.  No more detours.   There are no making shift bridges like earlier.  The block is empty outside of a few people who wander aimlessly.  No one asks him for help.

He sees the fissure isn’t long.  It looks to be about four to five feet in width.  The fissure goes far; he doesn’t want to try another street.   He’s getting afraid of dangerous chaotic encounters. He wonders if he can use the utility van to jump across.

Looking closer he sees he could possibly climb the front hood of the van and make a jump for it.  The van is a good four feet above the broken street.  He didn’t know what was keeping it from falling in the fissure; his love for his parents drives him forward.  The front end of the van burns into his palms as he crawls on the hood.  The van starts to shift.  Looking inside the front window Mark sees a city engineer sprawled on the front street.  Mark’s heart races when he sees a large black power cable dangling near the bumper.  He pauses for a second as a peculiar morbid fascination makes him look at the corpse.

His victory is short won; the van begins to roll into the fissure.   Mark frantically gets to his knees, almost falling off of the van into the waiting abyss.   He’s thinking twice about his decision to jump the fissure but it’s too late to turn back.  The van starts sliding without resistance.  Mark begins to pitch forward, using the last of his strength he jumps.

He could have made it but he makes the mistake and tries to look down.  Two thirds of the way through the jump he loses his momentum.  His right foot connects to the broken pavement but his left foot misses.  The ground on the other side isn’t stable and crumbles under his weight.

Mark screams “Help me!” 

His lower body falls into the fissure, he urgently tries to grab something but everything on the ground is loose.  Using both hands he tries digging his hands into the ground but a metal pipe rudely cuts into his left palm.  Pain explodes up his arm as his hand instantly loses strength.  Any grip is lost.  

He yells, “NO, I don’t want to die!”

He’s slips into the hole.  His right hand finds the other side of the black cable which was touching the utility van.  For some reason his mind didn’t register it being a possible route earlier.  Ignoring the pain in his left hand he grabs the cable and holds on for everything he is worth.  The cable comes lose; Mark finds himself pummeling into Sheol, his Ministers messages of heaven and hell flash forward as he recalls his life in less than a second.  He feels he is lived his life a good person.

His breath is knocked from him as broken earth meets him; solid earth greets his already bruised and abused body.  He didn’t drop more than three to four feet.  His heart rushes and his mind refuse to acknowledge the notion he’s alive, he laughs in grateful relief as a new appreciation for life courses through his being.  

Looking down he sees the fissure is not an abyss.   No demons lurk in the shadows, no claws tear him apart.  Unlike the road earlier this isn’t a massive hole.  Adrenaline continues to rush through him, he can’t stop shaking.  Letting go of the cable he sees he’s on top of a lot of turned over rubble and pavement.  A police cruiser lies mostly submerged near him.  Mark lets go of the cable and feels like a dumb ass.

Looking around he’s instantly relieved when he sees the utility van has a small metal ladder which was once attached to its roof.  Now it lies in front of him, inviting him to become free of this hell.  It doesn’t take him long to get out of the fissure.  He leaves the ladder behind; not thinking it might be prudent to have for future use.  Mark isn’t in the mind set of scavenging; he just wants to get home.

Within minutes he continues his journey.  His left hand is hurt, the pipe dug into his palm, leaving about an inch of skin looking like mesh and loose.  It’s not bleeding but it doesn’t look good.  The flesh is pale white, surrounded by bluish and purple coloring.  Minor blood seeped from the where the pipe dug in but it wasn’t bad.  It hurt more than anything.  The minute he gets to street level he falls to his knees and kisses the ground.  His head swims, his vision is cloudy.  New pain shoots up his hand which makes him howl for a few seconds. 

Mark gives up on wanting to be clean.  Now all he wants is his bed and for everything to go back to the way it was when he woke up.  

His apartment is in Ward 6, in the Navy Yard.  Most people refer to the district as Southeast Washington DC.  It’s on the green line if one was to take the metro.  The district caters mainly to African Americans.  Hit apartment building overlooks the Anacostia River.  He never risked inviting Mike and April to his home.  Sadly their skin color would have got them in trouble.  He never told his girl friend where he lives.

Mark keeps trekking forward but fondly remembers the history of The Navy Yard.  The Navy Yard was originally a ship building complex but reverted to producing ammunition and fished pieces of ships.  Mark has fond memories of touring the facility with his Dad when he was a kid.  Today it’s one of the largest federal facilities in America.  Back in the day Anacostia used to be a great river and had many channels.  Pierre Charles L’Enfant remapped and built a new Washington DC in the 1790’s.  Commercialism was at its boom.

Mark snaps out of his reverie as he sees a sign directing to the Navy Museum if he goes to his left.  He didn’t need to take that direction; he just needs to move forward.  

Walking to work only takes Mark 15 to 20 minutes on a normal day.  The distance is only .40 of a mile.

He’s nears the beginning of the residential neighborhood.  As far as he could see, there are cars and trucks abandoned along I-295.  Some doors are open and others are closed.  Cars and Trucks attempted to head west, not many cars face east.  It’s obvious the police tried enforcing Marshal Law.  The road is empty due to a police barricade, beyond are thousands of cars, many people fled on foot as soon as the Tsunami alert began.  Things didn’t look right, not even for an evacuation.

There are signs of a gun battle.  Dead police men lay scattered around a makeshift barricade.  Multiple strips of metal with sharp looking barbs kept vehicles from moving forward.  Many vehicles have their tires shredded.  The cops fired upon the civilians with real ammunition.

He knew his district was poor but this is ridiculous.  Never in his wildest dreams did he think HIS people would be treated in such a fashion.  He couldn’t fathom any other reason for the barricade.

Six fallen police officers lay in bloody pulps.  The dead bodies have been stripped of their body armor and all their equipment is gone.  He couldn’t recognize them even if he wanted, they looked like bloody pulps.  The heat from the sun bakes the corpses, he wants to puke.  

A rage builds deep, threatening to rip through his awareness.  Mark feels a blood rage as his gaze takes a closer look at the damage the bad cops did.  African American children and women are riddled with bullets.  Countless husbands and boyfriends lay in various death poses, all shot in close range as they tried protecting their loved ones.  Half a dozen cars and trucks are destroyed as drivers forever blankly stare into nothingness.  Many of them still have their eyes open in shock and fear.  A dead child clings to her mom, a rag doll inches from her lifeless fingers.  Blood cakes the windshields, bullet holes can be seen in the cars behind.  Many cars are still idle.  Dozens of people are in the process of unloading their vehicles to move on foot.

The natural disaster siren still blares; he wishes they would turn it off.  A pickup truck exudes its own alarm, the owner is long gone.  Somewhere in the distance he hears Gangsters Paradise but can’t pinpoint its location. His home is less than eight blocks away.

Trying to wipe the sweat from his brow Mark finds his sweat aggravating to the wound on his left hand.  His hand throbs from the wound he received earlier and his temples pound with a raging migraine.  He quickly makes his way past the lineup of stalled vehicles.  Now he is six blocks from his apartment building.

A few teenager girls pass him while looking at him like he’s stupid.  One flippantly treats him like a retard while trying to explain, “A tsunami is coming.  You’re going the wrong way.”

Mark doesn’t bother to explain his motive, he shrugs and says thanks.

One block later and he comes upon I Street SE which crosses his street.  The streets are built on diagonal pattern mirroring the German city Karlsruhe.  When Mark was fourteen years old his dad took him on a bus tour of Washington DC.  He loved the way his guide narrated the history of the city.  

Thomas Jefferson when visiting Europe fell in love with a few palace and city designs in Germany.  He quickly had Charles L’Enfant draw up city plans showing a similar design.  Washington DC was built on the grid system, many diagonally cut streets allow for impressive open spaces for parks and vistas.

The street he currently is on should have been J Street but the city planners didn’t want to create confusion.  Some conspiracy theorists argue it was a deliberate slight to John Jay.  Rows of brown condos greet him in furlong salience.  His stomach grumbles as the smell of burgers and hot dogs engulf his senses.  Around forty to fifty people stand in front of one the condos he is passing.  Everyone is scared but friendly.  It seems the block got together and decided to have a grill out.  Alcohol runs freely and as doe’s food.  Young children run in between groups of adults, they aren’t laughing or giggling like they often do, none the less they are playing tag.  The vestige reminds Mark of the 4th of July.  Large concentrations of African Americans have three grills side by side.  They distribute food and beverages as fast as it cooks.  A young couple comes bearing gifts.  

The man in proper English informs, “Friend, rest for a moment.  We have food and drink!”

Mark steps trekking and inaudibly asks, “Why are you doing this?” 

His companion answers, “Why not?  The end of the World came and all our food is going to go bad.  The fridges don’t work anymore.  The least we can do is sending people off with a full tummy.”

Mark plops on the ground out of exhaustion.  Panting he replies, “Please, I would love some food and beverage.  Do you have some water?”

The man responds, “No water, but we have some coca cola.  Liz, give the man some food!” 

She hands him two hot dogs and apologizes that they just have ketchup.  Mark ignores his hurt hand as he hurriedly inhales the hot dogs.  He eats them so fast he doesn’t get a chance to appreciate the taste.

Liz says, “Would you like some more?” 

He nods.  He’s never been so hungry in his life.  Closer inspection shows the people on the block are Catholics.    

Mark spills coca cola on his chin as he drinks the soda in one large gulp.  The man asks Mark if he knows Jesus.  Mark nods and the man looks a little saddened he won’t be able to go on a tangent.  Seeing new stragglers he beams and leaves Mark. 

Mark feels better with a full stomach.  He waves at no one in particular and continues his journey after the girl gives him another hot dog.  He doesn’t ask for a second soda.  He knows there is some in his fridge when he gets home.

It doesn’t take him long to cross K Street and L Street SE.  Nothing out of the ordinary is happening outside of people packing their cars and abandoning their homes.  No violence or destruction.  A lot of teenagers are aimlessly wandering on drugs, but that’s not really anything new to see.  He is now three blocks away.  One more block and he will be able to see his 12 story apartment building.  He quickens his pace.  

M Street SW appears, a few cars honk their horns as vehicles slowly snake around each other at a snail’s pace.  There are Four M Streets in Washington DC.  City planners drew out streets mimicking the Cartesian-coordinate-based system adopted in Europe.  Mark never understood the reasoning of allowing any east-west street twelve blocks from the capitol to be named in this fashion.  To be honest he understood but it’s a headache to explain, he often tells his friends to take a cab when in Washington DC.  To state it shortly, Washington DC has four quadrants; each M street is designated as NW, NE, SW and SE.

People swear and shout of their windows as frustrations build.  Entire families abandon cars as wives and mothers hysterically wail for the people in front of them to move.  Some don’t move fast enough which makes others panic.  Mark attempts to squeeze past a station wagon and a family minivan.  A woman screams into the ear of the man behind the wheel.   The man behind the wheel of the station wagon guns his car and hits the minivan in front of him.  Somehow the car pushes the mini-van aside, the man behind the wheel angrily drives on the curb, and he passes many.  Mark swears as he dodges the stupid idiot.  Before anyone can fill the spot he runs across the street.  His inner thighs have rubbed raw from all the running.  A man gets out of the minivan swinging a golf club.  Within seconds he is at the station wagon, his golf club sends glass shattering.  Mark doesn’t wait to see what happens next.

Mark sighs in relief when he sees his apartment building is still intact.  The knowledge of his family being close gives him a new bout of energy.  Ignoring his discomfort and pain he sprints the last two blocks.  Cars and trucks blur by as he runs, people are all in grid lock, nothing different then M Street SW.  No one bothers him.  To his right and left are large apartment complexes.  Many look safe in the day time, but it’s not always wise to walk alone at night.  For some reason he was never mugged or bothered.  He always thought it must be his karma and good disposition.  Many others he knew could not brag such a fate.

His feet burn, he can feel his socks have worn out from all the running.  Multiple spots near his heels feel like will be blistering tomorrow.  Something squishy can be felt between his toes in his right shoe. 

A liquor store nearby lies open, its windows smashed by loiters.  Mark gets the feeling there is no more liquor.  Smashed bottles lay on the road.  Nearby he sees an apartment complex completely destroyed by the earthquake.  People grieve near the rubble.  A boy and his dog beg passers to help find his parents.  Mark feels terrible when the child asks him for help.  His heart goes out but he doesn’t let it show.

He pretends he doesn’t hear and continues to run.  He no longer has the endurance to call it running; it’s more a fast trot.  He sees the entrance of his building.

Mark looks to where his Dad’s car is supposed to be parked.  They were given special treatment due to his disability.  They were allowed to park their car near the front entrance.  It wasn’t there.  His apartment is located at the corner of the street.

Leaping over two to three stairs at a time he makes it to the front entrance.  A large slick looking logo greets renters and visitors with Welcome to Onyx on First Apartments!  The front doors are locked.  Mark surprises himself as he curses.  Fumbling for his keys he realized he left them in his office at the Jefferson Building.

Mark forgets about his injured left hand, and pounds on the front door.  He soon shifts to just using his right hand as the pain becomes unbearable.  He sees a shadow down the hall near the reception office.  With new fervor he pounds on the door while screaming, “I live here!  Please let me in!”

The shadow takes on depth.  He sees Steven the day security guard shuffle to the front doors.  He looks nervous as he unlocks them.

“Sorry sir, I thought you might have been a thief.  Most people evacuated half an hour ago.  You look disheveled sir, please step in and stop drawing attention!” 

Mark feels better as he steps in.  His forehead and brow feel relieved to get out of the heat.  His shoulders felt like a furnace.  The security guard offers his a water bottle half full.

Mark sputters thanks and downs the water.  After a moment he burps and tastes the hot dog from earlier.  After catching his breath he urgently asks, “Is my dad here?”

It takes a moment for the security guard to understand what Mark is asking.  He is partially deaf and is easily in his fifties.  

“Why yes he is, I remember your mom went out to find you.  That was hours ago.  No one came back who left.  The power is out.”

Mark runs past the security guard to the elevator.  He presses the button but it doesn’t work.  The security guard shuffles towards him while repeating, “The power doesn’t work.  You’re going to need to take the stairs.  Mark feels his gut wrench.  He didn’t want to take the stairs.  He didn’t know if he had the strength.

Steve tells him to hold on a minute and shuffles off.  He hears Steve tell him he’s going to give him a flashlight but he needs it back when Mark is done with it.  

Mark waits patiently while looking around he sees minimum damage from the earthquake.  Furniture is scattered and everything small is broken.  A book shelf and computer terminals for renters in the lobby lay broken.  Glass from mirrors and doors are shattered.  A couple of computer terminals are in no longer working as they lay on their sides, the corridor leading to the stair way looks very dark.  No one seems to be around which creeps Mark out.

He hears shuffling, Steve is not crunching the broken glass, and Mark meets Steve half way and quickly grabs the flashlight.  It’s a heavy duty mach light.  The black metal polishing feels smooth and cool to the touch.  

Steve asks, “What happened to your key?  It’s going to cost $35 dollars to replace.  Maybe management will be back later.   What’s happening out there?” 

Fear creeps into Steve’s voice.  Mark tells him it was an earthquake and what they are feeling are tremors.  Steve dryly comments that it’s nice of God to ease up on the aftershocks.  Mark is surprised when he realizes it’s been awhile since the earth shook.  He sadly tells Steve a tsunami might be coming.

“Steve, don’t you think you should go home to your family?” 

Mark doesn’t wait to hear a response.  He can’t wait to get to his Dad. 

He does hear Steve reply, “I don’t have any family.  This is it for me.  Remember to bring me back my flashlight.”

Mark enters the stairwell after turning on the flash light.  It works nicely as it illuminates a good five to six feet.  He sees himself in a reflection and shudders.  He looks like a zombie from Night of the Living Dead.  All he needs now is some blood on his chin and to mutter ‘brains, give me your brains’.  He quickly puts the childlike thoughts away and sprints up the steps.  He makes it up three stories.  Going up the fourth story he slips on something slippery but doesn’t get hurt. 

Mark shines his light at whatever made him slip and sees it’s a pool of blood.  Nearby, a man has blown his head off with a shotgun.  

Another four stories pass without incident.  Now there are only three left.  He hears someone shouting.  A man is yelling at a woman.  He’s screaming at her that she is stupid and to shut up and do whatever he says. 

He’s not threatening rape or anything sexual but he doesn’t seem to be kind.  

Mark is reminded of Irinia, which threatens to bring him to tears.  He is able to isolate the emotion and continues past the couple who are walking down.  No one says anything.  As soon as he’s past them he hears the man belittle his companion further.  He continues on to his floor.  Red Exit signs eerily give their own soft glow.  Mark doesn’t understand why the glow doesn’t extend more than a few inches.  It would be nice the light illuminated the hallway.  Neither the steps nor the rails are broke. 

He finally makes it to his floor.  The door to the hallway is not locked but something feels wrong.  His apartment is unit 10C, 10A and 10B lie widely open, briefly looking in Mark sees someone went through his neighbors belongs. 

He can’t help but yell, “Dad, are ok?”  The front door handle is busted and the door swings freely.  Shining his light he sees something looking like a massive boot print.

Chapter 22: Larry’s Psychosis 

Larry’s head will not stop pounding.  He needs to drink; he wants to keep drinking.  It didn’t matter if people see him drink anymore, just as long as it’s not caught on camera.  He thinks everyone is stupid and resents them for needing his help. He looks to his left expecting to see Mary but she isn’t there.

The National Guard keeps their distance from Larry.  One earlier tried cleaning his hands but he told the dude to get lost.   Pixel is being disobedient.  She isn’t like the other dogs in her pack.  The others are in the kennel.  He remade half his house to hold and train his dogs.  Larry refers to all the dogs he trains as his.  Deep down he thinks he connects with their spirit and loves molding to their behavior.  If he could have been a dog in this life he would have been in heaven.

Larry has seven dogs at home.  His mom was supposed to feed them at noon.  Nothing matters more to Larry then his dogs.  He loved them more than his mother; he often gets drunk with them and passes out in their company. 

Looking over he sees Pixel licking the Asian lad. He wonders who the lad is.

Larry’s head pounds as he tries to focus beyond the headache creeping behind his temples.  Crunching through the broken glass he asks the get the kid for his name.  The Asian boy says something while reaching for his back pack.  An African American woman in a leather jacket interrupts them with free burgers.  Larry is famished and takes three.  He forgets about getting the Asians name for the time being.  The white man in a business suit looks crest fallen as his colleague leaves.  Soon after the African American girl tells them her name is Juliet.  Larry watches in disdain as he learns the white man’s name is Mike.  Mike beams with excitement and pleasure when he finds out Juliet has two cheeseburgers without onions. 

Larry tells Pixel to follow him.  She doesn’t.  He curses while wanting to repeatedly hit his fifth of Jack Daniels.  His hand doesn’t hurt as long as he keeps drinking.  The pain is a distant throb.  The National Guard moves on.

He wonders why Mary didn’t like him. His depression spirals as he wonders why no one likes him. All he does is safe people and they act cold back.  He thinks they are all tools used by the system.  He decides he should go with the people for a time. There is safety in numbers. 

Susan, who is not Larry’s version of hot for she is bold and direct, tells the group of a news helicopter three blocks from the hospital.  She says her coworker left it there and it’s less than a mile away, he gave her its keys at the Supreme Court Building and they could use it as a backup plan. 

She adds, “I appreciate you saving us Larry, we can’t pick up any more people but I have enough room for all of us, especially if we do two trips to safety, one group will have to remain patient and wait half an hour.  It doesn’t take long to get to Maryland.  My identity can get us past what most others can’t.  Where do you need to go, I got the general gust people live on the red line?”

Everyone agrees while looking bewildered and grateful.  Juliet and a homeless person break from the group; Juliet says she needs to get home to her family.  She looks confused as she mentions her Dad works at the hospital and that she should go there first.  The homeless man with one arm suggests they stick with a larger group, she agrees.  Larry doesn’t care about them.  They are going to head west towards Washington Hospital Center which is located at 110 Irving ST SW.

Larry forcefully draws Pixel to him while telling the weird group he has to urinate and to hold a moment.  He hears Michael ask how long it takes to walk to the hospital.  The monkey in the suit whines about his dress shoes and blisters.  Susan responds it’s not that far.  Larry doesn’t have to urinate; he just wants to have another drink before the dangerous trek and wants a moment in silence.  The sirens do not ease.  Hundreds of random people quickly pass their group, all look for safety.  Larry wants is to escape this shit hole and misses the West Coast.

Within minutes he is away from everyone, he steps back into Union Station.  Pixel looks at him and whines, he tells her to shut up and be obedient.  The earth has stopped shaking.  He doesn’t know what to think about the possible threat of a tsunami destroying everything.  His hands shake as he spills some of his precious alcohol over his vest as he slurps down the last of the bottle.  Moments later calmness settles over him as he savors the texture and aroma of the last of the Jack Daniels.  

He throws the empty bottle against the ground, cursing his luck on Mary’s death.  He walks towards the hole.  Shining his light he gasps as he sees water.  Water fills the lower level, everything is submerged.  Something glitters, Larry looks closer.  It’s nothing but some unfortunate persons watch glittering in what little light is left.  Water quickly submerges the arm and watch. He tells himself Mary is long gone.

He doesn’t think logically as he unzips.  Urinating over the broken floor he laughs while pretending he is a common thug, Pixel looks at him in confusion and whines.   Not giving a damn about rationing his alcohol he whips out one of the pints of Vodka.  

Looking around he sees a wine store appearing to be empty.  It’s near a barber store.  Darkness radiates as his pupils customize to his surreal puerperal vision.  He zero’s in on his objective.  

Sure enough it doesn’t take him long to find something underneath the rubble.  He manages to stuff three bottles of cheap wine into his jacket.

Moments later he’s back with the group.  His hands aren’t shaking anymore.  He thinks he hears someone whisper his name and immediately whips around.

Pixel is near the Asian lad.  Larry has enough of this non sense and asks the boy for his identification.  He is startled when he finds out the lad is deaf.  Within moments he’s looking down at a Chinese passport, the lads name is Cheung Dingbang.  He is from Beijing.  He tosses the passport back at Cheung who deftly plucks it as it soars near him and places it into his back pack.  He tells everyone the boys name is Cheung.  

They start the journey to the hospital.  He feels calm but his hands and feet tingle.  He keeps thinking he smells fresh fruit and roses.  He puts it away from his mind, rationalizing heat exertion and dehydration mixed with alcohol is causing him to have minor delusions.  The damn siren won’t stop its endless wail.  His vision steadies as he decides it’s best to bring up the rear of the group.  He didn’t have a problem in letting others test unstable ground.

Pixel shakes off some dust from her fur, for the first time in hours he sees her brown fur.  She’s innocent in the eyes and sneezes.  He’s going to have to toughen her up in the next few weeks.  She’s definitely the weakest link in the pack.  He doesn’t want to carry her leash.  He lets her follow hoping she doesn’t run into a dangerous building trying to play hero again.  Larry briefly wonders if his partner is dead.  It doesn’t matter to him, he’s happy to have the man out of his hair.  He’s losing the desire to be discreet with drinking but still doesn’t want Susan to catch him on camera.  She seems to enjoy taking the lead so he doubts it will happen.  

A young couple runs from a building a block ahead.  Larry feels a large boom followed by a wave of heat.  The top half of the building in front of them explodes in all directions, the bottom half collapses as multiple floors fall on top of each other.  Glass and debris knock the escaping couple as everything disappears in a new coat of dust.  His group rushes in to aid the best they can.  He doesn’t want to help but reluctantly follows.   His carries his side arm loosely in its holster.  He feels ten feet tall and invisible. 

A woman wears a purple sweater and blue jeans which fits tightly to her brunette frame.  She wears high heels.  She screams the name Steven as she holds her beloved man’s convulsing head.  He stutters his last breath before the group reaches them.  She screams his name over and over.  She received a few wounds from escaping the falling building.  A small glass shard protrudes from her arm but doesn’t appear to be deep.  Steven wasn’t as lucky.  Glass and random cuts protrude from his chest.  Burns wrap around his face and neck making him look like a burned out candle.

Juliet reaches for the woman and her glass shard as she takes out a small med kit.  The homeless man stops her.  Mike tries asking the woman her name but she looks back with confusion.  She starts talking to Steven like is he still alive.  Her eyes are soft brown, her hair bounces lightly around her shoulders.

Larry finds out the homeless dude is named Harry as Juliet asks him how to heal the woman.  

Harry tells Juliet each wound in different which equates to different treatments.  Harry tells Juliet the woman has an incision wound.  Juliet asks the woman if she will hold still and if they can fix her.  She nods as she holds Stevens limp hand, she stops talking to him as if he is alive.  She doesn’t care what’s happening around her, she only cares for the dead man near her.  Larry notes a wedding ring and feels put off.  He smells lavender and can’t help but feel something stir.  He soon forgets about Mary.

Harry directs Juliet to first take inventory of the situation.  He tells her normally a person shouldn’t mess with other people’s injuries but seeing as how no help is coming they need to improvise.

Larry watches in disbelief as Harry patiently directs Juliet how to the handle the situation.  He tells her to first apply pressure on the puncture after they take the glass shard out of the girls arm.  It is roughly one inch long.  The injury appears to be smaller than his hand wound.   The woman tells them her name is Becky.  Becky and Steven are from New Hampshire.  They are law students. 

Harry shows Juliet how to clean the wound.  Larry is startled when he sees Juliet using a fifth of Vodka to clean off some tweezers.  She proceeds to use clean water from a water bottle to flush the wound.  Luckily there is no glass shard embedded in the arm to dig around for.   Juliet's hand is steady.  Becky talks about how she is supposed to be at a law convention at the Holiday Inn.  Larry wishes he has Juliet's vodka.  He takes out one of his mini vodka pints and drinks some.  No one looks in his direction.  When its empty he tosses it into a garbage can that stills stands upright.  The garbage men did their job correctly as he hears the bottle break when it hits the bottom.  Everyone pauses while looking in his directions.

Harry asks Juliet if she has antibiotic cream.  She says yes while whipping out some Neosporin.  He shows her how to apply it with proper bandaging.  He then tells her some wounds heal better with open air but in Becky’s case she needs to keep the wound protected.  Larry briefly wonders if he made a mistake in not having someone outside of Mary bandage him up.  

Looking down he feels skittish as he sees his bandage and hand caked with dirt and grime.  He decides to make it a priority to get his hand fixed when he gets to the hospital.

April suggests Becky come with them.  Becky doesn’t want to leave her dead husband but it doesn’t take much effort to convince her as she too understands the situation. She takes off his ring, a cross on a chain and his wallet.  April doesn’t need to explain the importance of traveling with them.  Becky doesn’t stop crying.  Before leaving she takes his non working cell phone and thanks Juliet for doing a wonderful job.  

Harry concludes the lesson by telling Juliet if the puncture or wound spurts blood she would have to suture it up in the future.  As a group they move on.

Larry falls in step behind the weird shuffling entourage.  Susan takes the lead, followed by her cameraman and Mike.  April and Chuang try to have a conversation.  April obviously does not understand his hands gestures but remains polite.  Pixel walks near the lad, Larry doesn’t understand why his dog connects with the Chuang and not him.  He feels jealous.  

Larry thinks he hears someone mutter to his left, “Pixel doesn’t like you.  None of them like you.” 

He jumps and yells while brandishing his gun with his right hand.  Everyone stops and looks back at him again.  There isn’t anyone there.  

He tells everyone, “I thought I saw a homeless person.” 

He looks deeply into the shadows and is indeed startled when no one appears.  

Larry laughs at himself and mutters, “Your mind is playing tricks on you big boy.  I have to make sure to drink a lot of water when I get home.  It must be the alcohol and heat.” 

Pixel looks back at him.  He can’t help but remember the voices message. Larry fantasizes what it will be like when he gets to his dogs.  He is going to feed them a lot of treats and spoil them rotten.  His left hand throbs and he briefly wonders why it’s not itching in a good way.  If it itches it means its healing. 

The current block is peaceful.  Dark windows of the buildings are still intact; Larry thinks they look warm and inviting.  Cars line the street as if the owners are busy working.  There are no birds, no people.  

No, the sirens are still going.  The previous block was destroyed.  Looking in the distance he sees plumes of smoke.  Mike brings him back to the moment when he complains about having to piss.  

Larry can’t help but say loudly and with a little rudeness, “Did you ever take the moment to think we all have discomforts.  Toughen up.”

Mike sputters, “Yes I did.  I’m just saying this sucks.  This is America and I have the right to say what I want.”

Larry bites down his almost sarcastic remark, and I have the right to arrest you.

Susan interrupts, “The van is a couple blocks this way.  Let’s see if it’s still there.  Maybe we can take it to the hospital.  These blocks aren’t looking to bad.” 

Juliet agrees while trying to telling her story of Burger King.  Her voice doesn’t sound bad, Larry thinks her image doesn’t fit her character, but as soon as he looks at her closely she loses any appeal.  He wasn’t into the tomboyish image. 

He doesn’t care what street he is on.  It’s a blur, a fast cold blur.  He misses California.  The counselors at the police department felt sorry for him when they found out he lost all his friends and home, they diagnosed him with post stress syndrome and looked the other way when he became an alcoholic. He tells himself he’s the best and no one messes with cops. Who else can drive 90 mph while being drunk?

Larry quickens his pace.  No one is talking to Becky. He wonders how women will fair in a post apocalyptic world.

Larry examines Becky’s rear and comments not to quietly, “Hey gorgeous, you need some protection?”  

It didn’t come out the way he was thinking, it doesn’t sound suave. 

Becky twirls around; her green eyes flash scorn and sorrow “Get away from me pig!” 

Tears run freely, mascara streaks to her chin.  

Larry’s ego is hurt; he doesn’t see her pain.  Not having a good come back he sheepishly responds, “I was just joking.  This group needs some humor.”

April walks to Becky and puts her arms around the slim law student.  Becky proceeds to cry.  Mike looks at Larry quizzically.

Larry looks back at him and without flinching says, “You should watch where you’re going.  All those blisters on your feet can lead to the death of you.” 

He feels like an Alpha as Mike quickly turns around.  Susan and the camera man are out of hearing distance.

Not expecting and more drama he’s surprised when Juliet pipes, “Can’t you see the woman lost her husband?  What’s wrong with you?” 

He tries to gaining her respect by looking menacing.  Harry is instantly by her side.  His gaze drills into Larry.  For the second time today he feels fear creep in.  Harries eye’s seem to scan Larry’s soul.  He can’t break eye contact.  Larry feels dirty and unworthy.  He wants to reach for his gun.

Chuang, darts in between them with Pixel.  The spell is broken and everything takes on real time.  Larry feels relief as he finds himself moving forward.  He reaches for Pixels collar and roughly reins her in.  His left hand still throbs.  His migraine is back full swing and he no longer feels the ambiance of the alcohol.  Not giving a damn what they think he takes out a bottle of wine.  He lets go of Pixels leash.  She happily runs back to Chuang. Larry decides he hates these people. As soon as he gets his hand fixed he’s going to ditch them.

Larry whistles it’s the end of the world as we know it…  Susan excitedly tells them the van in down the block.

They walked many blocks and saw many people in the last thirty minutes.  There wasn’t anyone threatening or shooting at them.  He knows most crime would be occurring near the green line.  The south eastern districts are a little more poor which makes them much more dangerous.  Surprisingly no one requests their help.

It’s the whisper again, “Why don’t you take what you want?  You are the strongest.”  Larry twirls around thinking someone is playing tricks with him.  No one is there.

“Who is there?  Who is talking to me?”  Everyone pauses a third time. 

Juliet answers, “No one is talking to you.  What are you talking about?”  

April rudely follows Juliet’s statement with, “Maybe you should lay off the alcohol.”

Larry huffs and puffs, he refuses to acknowledge their disrespect.  He gulps down the remaining bottle of wine and throws the bottle back down the block they walked.  The glass shatters on something, the echo sounds insanely loud.  Everyone is still looking at him.  Susan and the cameraman share a look; he feels anger as he realizes they think he is being ridiculous. It doesn’t cross his mind to simply walk off.   He wants to go home.

Larry laughs at the irony and takes comfort in the fact he has a badge and a gun.  Larry is Alpha.  Like the voice whispered, I can take what I want when I want.  I just have to make sure order is really gone before I do things my way.

He forgets what street he is on.  He doesn’t recognize any of the buildings.  He’s never been to this part of Washington DC and never had a reason to go to a hospital.  If the tsunami comes while they are in DC they all die.  The van looks like it can only hold up to six.  

Mike reflects his thoughts as he says, “Half of us can take the van and the others are going to have to walk on foot.”

Juliet instantly says she doesn’t need a van and trots off.  Harry says bye and follows her.  Becky wants to go with them and says bye to April.  Larry decides he wants to follow Becky for a time. He thinks she has a nice ass.

Chuang, like a lost puppy, follows Larry.  Larry doesn’t care.  That leaves Mike, April, Susan and the cameraman to try the van. Larry is happy to be done with Mike.  Looking towards Mike he quickens his pace and whispers for no one else to hear.

With as much scorn as he can muster he says, “You’re a sissy.  Toughen up and take care of your wife.” 

Mike’s response reminds Larry of the nerdy kids he picked on in high school. 

He hurriedly catches up with the other group.  He can’t but help check out Becky’s rear.  Harry steps in between them with Chuang and Pixel.  Larry takes out another bottle of wine; thankfully they have loose metal spin caps.  Juliet quickens the groups pace as she excitedly heads towards the hospital.  She tells everyone her Dad works there.

It doesn’t matter what Larry’s conscience says, the alcohol does a wonderful job in dampening his compassion, and he revels in being judgmental and critical.  He is out of patience.  

Julie’s voice cuts into his inner reflections; he doesn’t care what she says but still registers the information.  He picks up the last part of her conversation with Harry.

“My dad is a janitor.  Back in 1958 three specialty hospitals decided to become one big hospital.  My dad works for MedStar Health.  He’s supposed to be working a swing shift; he wants to buy a new car.” 

Larry picks up a tone in her voice.  In front of him looms the city hospital, crowds of thousands of people swarm the front entrance, they easily span a block. 

A group of officers regulate a line leading into the hospital.  Civilian vehicles block the entrance making it impossible to navigate.  Larry sees a few nurse aids evaluating injuries as they direct the more serious to the line.  A few orderly individuals try to get their attention but are ignored.  

The American flag stands near the entrance; it’s not blowing in the wind which annoys Larry.  He thinks it should be a still image of the flag drifting in the wind; he very much enjoys still shots such as that.  When he was in high school he paid extra money on the year book to get his picture taken in front of the American flag.  He really wanted to dress up as a major in the military but the high school said no to that.

Larry decided enough is enough.  The group stalls near the rear of the crowd.  Larry orders Pixel to follow him and proceeds to roughly pass through the idle crowd.

He catches the attention of a nurse aid.  Immediately the aid directs him to the entrance and the crowd parts.  Just like that he passes the masses.  He tells himself it’s time to get his hand fixed and then to go home to be with his mom and dogs. 

Chapter 23: The Path to Baby Smith

Fred agates over the dilemma, not knowing where he is going outside of a hospital is not helping his raging headache.  Somewhere deep down he starts a conservation with something which simply feels right and light.  How would Fred express his faith if someone asks him?  What is faith? 

If he could put his faith to words it would be the following. I’m not alone.  I feel a little light bubble within black chaos and disorder; it grows each time I connect with it.  Within the light bubble is everything right.  There is no gray, no dullness, and no blackness.  All decisions and choices have an individual strand which is part of the greater tapestry.  Destiny and free will coincide.  Without one the other does not exist. There are many variant light colors depicting all people’s faiths and beliefs; I chose to believe in this one.  We are all part of the greater conscience, the greater tapestry.

Fred’s headache subsides.  He reaches for the light vibration.  It doesn’t matter if it’s his imagination or if the vibration is a hallucination from lack of sleep.  He doesn’t care.  When he was at the gates of the white house he felt light energy coursing through his awareness when he prayed out loud into the bull horn.   Fred decides the light vibration and small voice is connected to his God, to Jesus.  The bubble is too rational and complex, he is simple.

Fred prays, “Jesus thanks for being around.  Can you guide us?  I’m not having a good day.”

He doesn’t hear a voice, but feels a vibration.  It tugs at his mind.  Fred’s mind threatens to overwhelm the little voice with its crud.  He closes his eyes and prays harder.  His mind shuts up.  He instantly sees a new landscape in his imagination.  He is a dark ball.  In his limited understanding Fred symbolizes the dark ball as earthly materialism and his selfish desires.  His priest refers to it as sin and temptation.  Telling his mind to again shut up he is able to see the light bubble more clearly.  The closer he gets to it the calmer he feels.

The moment ends as Kyle shatters the illusion, “Dad, we can cut cross through this block which will save us some time.”

Fred’s headache rushes back, his reverie is shot. He really craves some nicotine.

Looking around he catches his bearings and decides to tell his son to hold a minute.  It’s time to smoke his last cigarette. They are on First Street NW.  This knowledge doesn’t mean anything to him.  Fred see’s star bucks.  The doors are open and the walls still stand, it looks intact.  

Fred knows it’s wrong to steal.  He resigns himself to the notion that cigarettes are not going to be around after his last one.  He isn’t going to steal anything; he doesn’t consider the utility belt from the Smithsonian theft.  Fred’s hands shakes as he grips his last cancer stick.  He doesn’t know why he needs them, but they certainly sharpen his focus for a short time.  His son has an enough prudence to keep silent as he thinks of himself appearing regal.  Fred dramatically takes a few drags.  He decides to pray again.  

Fred asks, “Jesus, I can’t do this alone.  Please protect and help those I love.  Give me the strength to go on and save as many as I can.  I know its wrong for to ask, and I know the Priests always says not to smoke, but if it’s alright with you, please don’t let me run out of cigarettes? I promise I will do whatever you want.”

Fred softly swears as he ironically forgets to finish his last cigarette.  It burns as he prays.  The little light ball becomes a little bigger in his imagination.  Opening his eyes he sees Kyle ten to fifteen away.  His son pokes at the broken earth, his left foot kicks at a pay meter.  The meter moves a few inches.  Kyle kicks is a little harder while swearing the durability of the machine is child proof and will keep its quarters to the end of days.

His son uncanny picks up his thought as he mentions, “Do you remember when Cousin Becky flaunted her roman coins back in 1999 after Christmas Dinner?  I bet you the quarters in there will be worth something in the future if America gets destroyed.”  

Fred remembers Christmas of 1999.  His family hosted a large family convention at the Holiday Inn the same year his wife discovered online auctions.  She loved online auctions and thought she was going to get rich off of them. 

Without thinking Fred answers, “Your wrong smart boy.  I might not know much, but gold and silver will never lose its value.  Becky’s father, my brother Daniel, has a lot of gold saved up in case terrorists attack.  For that matter I think he has enough food and water for us to consider going to his home after we get back to our home.”

Someone screeches in the distance.  Fred sees a fairly large order Latino woman grabbing her purse back after a failed purse snatcher falls due to being clumsy.  The street kid poorly blocks the bigger woman as she unrelenting pounds him with her fists. 

The youth is dressed in baggy jeans making him appear to be a gangster.  He rubs his right ankle as the woman grabs her purse back and hits with it.  Again and again the purse hits the target.  She alternately hits him with her left fist. His voice reminds Fred of the character named Screech from Saved by the Bell.

“Lady, please stop your hurting me!”  His begging does not ease the woman’s assault. 

She huffs and puffs, Fred can hear despair in her voice as she screams, “You son of a bitch!  How dare you rob me?”  Kyle walks pass them.  Fred is going to do the same thing when the little voice in him tells him to stop this.

The kid yells louder, “Lady, please stop!  Someone get her off of me!  She’s hurting me!”

Fred stops.  The teen covers his face as the woman escalates her violence.  Normally Fred would have saluted the woman for standing up for herself but he’s getting the impression the teen really is going to get hurt.  Fred closes his eyes.  His imagination reaches out and he sees them as two bubbles.  She appears to be radiant and yellow, her fury is righteousness.  But she’s going too far.  If this happens her bubble will turn a bad color.  Looking deeper Fred sees the teen’s aura is green and black.  

However the little voice tells him to look closer.  Within the chaos beats a small light.

The simple mechanic from Minnesota asks, “Jesus, what do you want me to do?”

Fred gets the impression Jesus might end the violence by saying something profound.  Opening his eyes he sees the woman is about to kick the crying lad.  Fred finds his voice, “Lady, I think he learned his lesson, you can stop.”

She doesn’t listen, immediately comes down her right foot.  Fred reaches for the woman as Kyle tells him to not get involved.  He isn’t God but the little vibration urges him to stop the violence.

The kid screeches, “I am sorry!  God please save me!  I will do anything you want!”

Fred reaches out and says, “Lady, have some mercy.  He’s begging God.  Do you want to hurt him for real?” 

He reaches the ill fated dual as the woman is about to kick him again.  He quickly puts his arms around the bigger woman and whispers, “Too much violence today, please stop.  Jesus, please help these people.”

The woman stops assaulting her would be purse snatcher.  She crumbles into Fred’s arms and proceeds to cry.  She speaks quick Spanish, Fred can’t follow.  The kid cries while shielding his arms around his face. 

The woman is not hurt but she smashed the boy’s nose really good. She gathers herself quickly and says something which sounds like it could have been something about her son or husband and trots off.  Fred hears her curse the lad. 

Fred looks at the lad and doesn’t really know what to say, “It wasn’t me who saved you, it was Jesus. I’m just trying to help people.” 

He tries walking off. 

The teen yells, “Wait, don’t leave me. I don’t want to die! Please let me travel with you.”

Kyle gets them on New York Avenue NW.  Fred grunts in response, he feels someone watch him and soon stops and looks back.  The street kid is following but doesn’t menace. The lad’s screechy voice drifts across the cluttered street as he quickly picks up his pace putting him ten to fifteen feet behind the Smiths. 

The handsome teen yells, “Please let me join you. I can show you dc! Where are you going?”

Kyle yells back, “Leave us the hell alone!”

The lad is less than a dozen feet away; his body is poised with a need to be accepted. 

The homeless kid yells back, “I can help you, where are you going?”

Kyle responds, “You’re a piece of shit, leave us alone or I will call the cops!” 

Fred and the lad look at Kyle in disbelief, Fred rolls his eyes at his sons bluff.  

The lad kicks at some loose earth but doesn’t stop following, “Where are you going?  There is a Tsunami coming and everyone is dying because the ground is shaking!  Can you blame me for trying to make a dollar, I owe you my life, let me help you?” 

Kyle looks as if he wants to get violent. Fred steps in.  

Fred closes his eyes and looks with his imagination.  He is startled when he sees a small light radiate from the lads’ direction grow a little brighter.  On the other hand his son appears to be a sick emerald green twined with dark blue.  This vision shocks him and he opens his eyes.

Fred says, “Shit, I need a cigarette.  Can you two stop arguing?  We are going to the Washington Hospital Center.  Do you have any advice?” 

He doesn’t feel threatened.

Kyle puffs as he responds like a child and not an adult, “I can’t believe you’re talking to someone like that!  I know what I am doing, follow me!”

He looks at his son and rolls his eyes.  “Kyle, listen to your dad.  This stranger is a bad dude but sometimes you have to look at the best in people.”

For a moment Kyle holds his ground, so does Fred.

He is about to let Kyle have the victory but the small voice adds its two sense. The lad represents the poor and needy.  Don’t walk away, he sincerely asked for Gods help.

Not knowing why he mirrors his priest’s voice he says, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

He wins as Kyle flinches and looks away.  He never lost his authority as Dad.  Fred adds, “It’s from the Book of Proverbs 28:27.” 

Kyle bitterly responds, “Why did you have to tell this person my name?  Don’t you have any common sense Fred?”  

Kyle slumps his shoulders forward and continues to walk.  Fred briefly wonders what the back pack has in it but before he can ask the homeless lad steps forward.  “I heard you want a cigarette?  Would you like a Marlboro?” 

The lad takes out a carton from his own beat up back pack.  He tosses it to Fred who completely misses catching it.  

Fred rushes for the carton, it has mud over it but he doesn’t care.  He doesn’t ask where the lad received the booty.  This is a gift and isn’t theft.  The homeless kid chuckles as he wipes the last of the blood trickling from his nose and says his name is Colon.  

Kyle answers, “Whatever.  We need to go dad.” 

He continues to walk East on New York Street NW.  

Colon flippantly cries out loud, “You are going the wrong way.  Military units are a half a mile up the street and they aren’t allowing people in or out.  They stalled all traffic and people are getting frustrated.  To the South I heard a lot of gun fire and traffic isn’t coming out.  It has to be Martial Law, but I don’t really know.”

Without wanting too Kyle hesitantly asks, “What if we cut north from here?  We will only have to go right a few blocks.  Come on Dad.”  

Colon answers, “The tsunami is coming.  Something weird happened to Bryant St. NW.  It’s flooded under water.  You can’t go that way.”

Kyle fluttery replies, “I don’t believe you.  That’s impossible!” 

Fred rips out a pack of cigarettes.  He shoves half the boxes into his trousers and the others in to the utility belt.  Five packs don’t want to stay down.  He asks his son to put them in his back pack.  

Kyle instantly becomes guarded but doesn’t know how to say no.  After a moment of not being able to find a logical excuse he says sure.  He adds he doesn’t want his Dad to go into his private belongings and to ask him to get the cigarettes when he wants them.  Fred decides to put all the cigarettes in the back pack outside of two packs.  He doesn’t want to know what’s in the pack until he has his grandson.

Colon tells them, “You guys are weird.  Thanks for helping me; I will tag along for a time.  I can show you how to get to the hospital.  Follow me.”

Kyle doesn’t want to follow as he replies, “What’s to stop you from robbing or hurting us?  Why are you doing this?”

Colon looks at him in disbelief, “Man, you saved my life.  I asked God to help me and here you guys came.  I owe you a debt.  You have nothing to lose in letting me help and everything to gain.”

Fate gives credit to Colons point as two military choppers speed ahead.  Soldiers can be seen in the distance, they direct people out of their vehicles.  Deep down Fred doesn’t want to be stopped or bothered by police or military when he’s so close to reaching his grandson.  The vibration in his imagination urges him to follow Colon.  He finishes the new cigarette with a few drags and prays.

Fred asks God, “Jesus, please protect us from any ill doers and from any curses.  I pray for you to direct me. Thank you for allowing me to have my smokes.  I will do whatever you want.”

The Smiths enter U.S. Route 29.  The vibration reminds him of a passage from Ecclesiastes 5:18.  Even though he knows it applies to drink and food he thinks it relates to his situation.  He quotes the passage to Colon and his son as he finishes the cigarette, “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him-for this is his lot." 

Laughing he adds, “I think smoking is my reward.  You know what?  I think each time I smoke a cigarette in the future I will pray to Jesus.  Maybe someday he can help me get off of them.”

Kyle replies, “Whatever Dad.  You’re going to get cancer from them if the Tsunami or earthquake doesn’t kill us first.”  

Colon innocently answers, “No man, you have it all wrong.  Aliens are coming and they are going to suck our brains out.”

Kyle sounds like a broken record, “Whatever.  Shut up and leave me alone.  Dad, when did you become so religious?  Why are you talking about Jesus nonstop?”

Fred ponders the significance of the question for a moment and then replies, “Because it feels right.  Your mom has been telling me to go to church more often.  I think Jesus will see us through to the end if I keep praying.”

Kyle tells his dad he doesn’t believe in God and ends the conservation with the all familiar ‘whatever’ when he asks why not.

Colon doesn’t pay attention to Kyle as he tells Fred, “The Francis Scott Key Bridge has been destroyed.  The river surged up and then emptied to God knows where when the earthquake struck.  Hundreds of cars with people inside went into the water and were washed away.  I was walking nearby when it started.

Kyle interrupts, “Is that where you got the Marlboro thief?  Did you rob a different old lady?”

Colon doesn’t fall for the bait, “I watched people drown in their cars.  It sucked.  I found two cartons at the side of the road; I don’t know who owned them.  It’s not wrong to take something like that.”  

Kyle answers while succumbing to a bad coughing fit, “Is that why it’s illegal to pick up a wallet?  Even if you have intentions in giving it back, it’s illegal!  You are a thief.”

After walking a block Colon continues, “Did you guys know I-29 used to be historical?  There used to be a road running through Manassas National Battlefield Park.  It was famous during the civil war.  I love to camp there.”

Kyle responds, “Dude, I don’t want you around, can you please shut up?”

Colon sullenly replies, “Fine, but one more point before I shut up.  I-29 used to be called U.S. Route 170.  I’m done.  Follow me if you can.” 

Colon darts ahead.  Without thinking both Smiths pick up their speed as they crisscross through cars.  The side lanes of the four ways are somewhat clear outside of a few random vehicles.  Many vehicles still have people listening to music.  Everyone ignores them.  Many head towards the military and police.   Some passerby’s tell them whatever gossip they know.  Word of mouth is the strongest link of communication when telecommunications are down. After sprinting many blocks they come to Bryant Street.  Colon kindly slows down when Fred needs a breather.  He manages to not need another cigarette.  

He looks a little closer at Colon.  Colon is skinny, he doesn’t eat enough.  Fred feels a little sad for the lad.  Colon has blondish hair.  Colon could have been handsome if raised under the right circumstances.  His expressions and demur are very boyish.   Fred wonders why the lad doesn’t go to high school.  A block away they see Colon sprint.  Kyle swears and stops but Fred walks faster.  

Kyle says, “Hold on dad, it could be a trap or maybe he is finally ditching us.”

Colon reappears, he waves Fred over.  Colon frantically explains, “Hurry help, I know this person, he needs our help!”

At the juncture of I-29 and Bryant Street is an eight car pileup.  Someone hit their breaks at the wrong moment which resulted in many cars becoming a big metal carnage.  In the midst are many dead and a few wounded.  Fred hurries.  A group of people are near a minivan.  The minivan is crushed between a Chevrolet pickup and a station wagon.  Among the group are teenagers and a catholic priest.  Fred can tell because the priest is still in formal dress.  He is dressed in black with a white stripe collar.  Everyone is mourning.  This small crowd is quiet as the priest draws in his last breaths.  Colon is on his knees, he holds the priests right hand and kisses it.  

“Father, what happened?  I was coming back, I am so sorry for leaving this morning!”

Tears run freely.  Another street kid tells of the accident.  The earthquake destroyed the church.  They were heading off to another parish when the cars in front of them did what they see.  They don’t know how it started. The priest is still alive.  His voice is full of love, but it comes out not strong.  Earlier in the day the priest’s voice would have been full of splendor and a pleasing to hear. 

The voice rasps, “Colon, praise God.  I was thinking and praying about you.  Is Max or Sam here, I’m having a hard time seeing of late, what’s going on?”

The teens dragged his body out of the wrecked van hours before.  They were at a loss of what to do.  They were happy Colon showed when he did.  Colon looks towards Fred for guidance.  Fred is at a loss, he doesn’t even know where they are.  The priest sounds rational as he tells everyone to come closer.  Fred hears him ask, “Colon where is Sister Margaret and or Brother Schaefer?”

Colon looks around, one of the street kid replies, “Father, they didn’t make it.  The earthquake got them.  Colon, what do we do?”

Kyle tells Fred they need to move on.  Kyle doesn’t move, the vibration deep inside him which is full of light tells him to wait.

The priest looks deep within Colons eyes, “Colon my son, you can accept Jesus into your life, you’re not like the rest.  You can be special.” 

Colon won’t let go.  He tells the priest he is not going to die and he accepts Jesus into his life.  The priest tells him to listen to his last words.  His breath comes in quicker and is shallower, every other three breaths he coughs spittle mixed with blood.

The priest rasps while coughing, “Colon, I had a dream.  We don’t have much time.  Listen…” 

His eyes shut, for a moment Fred thinks he passed on. The priest coughs.

His eyes reopen, the priest appears to be somewhere else, and his expression is distant.  “I dreamed of this. I knew I was going to die today.  The Holy Spirit came to me. You will see two suns.  I have a mission for you, for all of you. The dead are going to rise and the second coming is at hand!”

Colon and the others huddle around the priest, they are devoted, and they are of one mind.  Fred closes his eyes and sees with his imagination.  The landscape is like the sky at night; it’s dark and goes on forever.  Within the darkness he sees silver threads connecting various light bubbles which look like islands.  He knows these islands are people, there is a large light surrounded by smaller lights close at hand.  He knows it is the priest.  He follows the thread.  A white light is around the priest, it surrounds the group in a radiant light which instantly humbles Fred.  He opens his eyes; he sees the priest as a holy leader and doesn’t doubt the words he hears.  

The priest holy voice can be both felt and heard, “The era of false hood and misconception is coming to a end.  Our lord Jehovah has commissioned you all with a mission.  Do you accept?” 

No one wants to live in the world that is coming; they all focus on what the man says.  All but Kyle, he doesn’t know where Kyle is at the moment. 

Fred prays, “This is important.  Please Jesus, give me your direction.”

The priest rasps, “I was trying to sleep and was distressed about how the church has been and was asking God to direct me.  Then it happened.  I saw it all in my head in one flash.  I saw all of this.  Colon, God has a reason for you.  Two men are coming.  One is bad and another is good.  The good man is good with tool belt, I am sorry; I don’t know who he is.  There are others with the man with the tools, but I couldn’t see them clearly.” 

Colon leans closer.

The priest continues, “The Seraphim came to me.  They showed me you would come before I died.  I saw a great water flood the land after the earth shook.  The great eagle’s feathers are plucked, and the lion comes again!” 

Colon beseeches the holy leader on what his mission is to be, he swears to follow it.

The priest continues, “Man has been judged ill fitted for God’s grace.  There will be three in half cycles of death and misery.  You will wish to be dead.  But don’t give up, things will get better.  A new beginning will come and your souls will be saved.”

Colon startles and looks up to Fred, pointing he declares, “Father, is this the man you want me to help?”

The priest can’t see past the group, he continues without answering, “The rapture isn’t what people think, you have to be strong.  Real change comes from within.  A little of God is with all of you, it’s your duty to bring a better world.  Help those who will bring in a new beginning.  Your mission is to help the good guys and fight evil. Something much worse is coming. I don’t know what but I know something bad is coming…”

Fred closes his eyes.  He sees a brilliant light ball come to the group.  It’s not the same light as the previous; this light has a different texture.  It is pure.  He wants to weep and sing in joy.  His imagination sees it reach for the priests mellow light.  The priest radiates a mellow orange and happily accepts the larger light.  Just as fast the light shoots off into the distance with the priests mellow light.  Fred opens his eyes.  The priest is dead.  

Fred’s inner voice quietly fills his awareness as the light vibration picks up intensity. 

He says out loud, “Heaven and hell is a state of existence.  I saw angels come for him.  He is saved.  The proverb comes to mind that we don’t just get judged once though.  If we are living at the end of times we all need to be saved according to Hebrews 9:27.  Christ died for our sins, I think his words rings true, but we need to now ask how are we going to give back to the world?” 

Fred never in his life talked like this, the words simply flow.

Colon reaches for the King James Bible in the dead priests hands.  Looking at his friends he says, “Look, the man has a tool belt and he saved my life.  He is the one Father talked about!” 

The street kids murmur and look upon Fred with respect and a purpose.  The little voice deep inside tells him to accept the bible.  Without hesitating Fred takes the bible.  He feels a jolt pass between where his hands and the old book meet.  He feels his headache go away.  Colon hands him the priests cross.  Its heavy.  Fred accepts.  The lifeless object does not look lifeless.  Fred doesn’t need to close his eyes to see a soft glow come from the simple wooden cross.

Kyle pops up screaming at Fred, “Are you crazy?  What are doing now?  You’re not holy in any way!”

Fred looks at his son who appears to not have any light and says, “Oh be quiet!  We need to get to the hospital!”  A new feeling of dread sweeps Fred, not knowing how he knows; he believes he needs to get them to higher ground.  The threat of the tsunami feels too real.  He slips the bible into his belt underneath his shirt.  The leather binding is smooth and feels cool against his skin.  The small light bubble in him is now a raging torrent.  

Colin and the others swear their allegiance to Fred, they all ignore Kyle.  Fred tells them they need to get to the hospital ASAP and it is Jesus they need to swear to.  They all say they have and they will follow him to the end of the world.  Kyle says this is simply ridicules and storms ahead of the group.  Deep down Fred feels comforted knowing God is around.  Whatever God wants he wants.  He feels responsible for the teens that now walk with them.

Fred quickens his pace as he listens to Colon tell them if they stay on the current path they can get to the hospital in ten minutes.  He says something weird happened with the lake ahead and they need to bypass it.  One of the other street kids agrees with him.  No one argues.  Fred has no need to see a lake doing weird things.

Ten minutes pass without incident but it takes thirty more minutes to get to the hospital without incident.  Soon Fred sees a large mass of people at the hospitals entrance; the hospital looms in the distance.  Kyle is excited when he points towards a helicopter that is in the process of landing on the roof.  Many on the street comment on the helicopter. 

Fred is amazed when he sees Larry bulldoze through the crowd.  He tries yelling out to Larry but realizes the cop is too drunk to recognize him.  Fred shrugs, he didn’t like Larry.

Chapter 24: I’m A Reporter! 

Mike doesn’t feeling well; whenever he tries to balance his world spins.  He finishes eating the second double cheeseburger, which of course has no onions, he feels more balanced.  He couldn’t belief his fortune.

The people they rescued from Burger King had cheeseburgers the way he like.  It’s hard for him to not eat the second right after the first.  The second cheeseburger is gone within seconds.  

We are less than a block away.  His feet really hurt.

Mike comments to April, “Did the cop have to make a jibe at my expense?  Isn’t there enough bad shit happening already?”

Mike couldn’t blame the cop for drinking, but it would have been nicer to see Larry fill the image of a national hero. 

The Librarian continues, “There are parallels in history in which cowards became heroes such as Robert Ford and J Bruce Ismay.  I don’t know why Larry reminds me of those guys but he just does.  When the people of the small town of Texas heard there founder was a poor character they changed their name.  You know about the Titanic right?  Everyone knows about the Titanic but not many know the characters names.”

April replies, “Now isn’t the time. Please shut up.”

Mike continues, “I couldn’t handle the way he looked at Mary and Becky.”

Susan adds, “That creep will never find a decent woman as long as he treats them the way he does.

Mike pants and squints. The sun is hot and is very bright.  Sweat pours freely down his face; the heat doesn’t give me a moment of respite.

The tired man mutters, Stop being a sissy.  No one likes a sissy.  We are almost there.”

Susan dryly responds, “Well, at least we know our police force is busy at work protecting the innocent, even if they are drunk.  Look at the bright side; no one could have rescued us.”

Mike concludes, “That officer was rude and should not have been drunk.  People need his focus and to be on the ball.  I am reminded of Robert Ford and Jesse James.  I feel bad for whoever is Larry’s friend.  Why can’t people like that get a clue?  It’s a new century.  People who are nerds, geeks and weirdoes are the ones who rule the world.  We are the ones who become the President of both our country and computer companies!  Cool people like that deserve to go back to the 1950’s and 1960’s!  People like are the ones who make females not have rights!”

His last comment hits a chord with April and Susan, they both chirp about female liberal movements and how woman are just as capable as men. In their opinion females are more capable. 

Susan rushes forward, “It’s over here!  Come on Berry, we have wheels!”

What’s parked in front of us is not a van but the CNN Express Bus.  It’s a large bus painted blue with America and her States clearly stenciled in with red and white.  Stars cover the West Coast.  The camera man swings the side door open, it effortlessly slides on its track.  On top of the van is very large white radar reminding me of a journalist vans from the movies. The rear of the bus is stenciled CNN in bold red, a white back drop covers the exit.

A small recreation/newspaper stand turned upside down which trips Mike.  Magazines, sun glasses and trinkets scatter the road. 

April shouts, “Hot water, look honey it’s the CNN EXPRESS!”

Someone from Mike’s right yells, “Help me!  I can’t move!” 

The small group is on the outskirts of Howard Playground.  A woman in a business suits leads three others who are dressed like her. 

 They ask Susan, “Can we board?”

She replies, “Sure. I need everyone to remove these boxes.”

Many boxes fill the van, they are questionnaires.   From people’s reactions it appears the bus is full of boxes.

Mike tries pinpointing the dude who is in distress, “Where are you?” 

Mike hears a rustle and a muffled yell coming from the upside down newsstand.

“Are you in the newspaper stand?  Can you move and let me know where you are?” 

A Fashion magazine showing the recent super model for Victoria Secret shifts near the center.  Mike concludes the canvas of the newsstand with its low grade two by four timbers used for construction must have pinned the man inside. 

Mike shouts, “I see where you are, please be patient.  How long have you been in there?”  Looking around he tries finding something to lift the canvas.  


He tosses the poll away.  A few drops of blood emerge but it’s nothing serious.  

The man yells out, “Are you still there? I can’t see or feel my legs.  Please someone help me!” 

Mike reassures the man, “I’m not leaving. Be patient.”   

“Sorry, I am scared.  My name is Vincent.” He sounds like he is hyperventilating. 

“Things will be alright, be patient.  Can you see anything?”

Vincent fatalistically answers, “No.  The canvas is holding me down.  I pooped myself.  What’s happening out there?” 

There isn’t much heavy rubble; the best thing to do is pick things up one by one.  

His plan formulates, “Hey Vincent, I’m going to remove objects one by one, it might take me a few minutes.”

“Cool.”  Vincent sounds grateful. 

He sounds like he is from California.  Mike steps in the middle of the mess and start throwing things off.  His back hurts but he refuses to listen to the pains. Three wooden posts bend unevenly towards the middle.  Individually they are not tough obstacles, just annoying. 

“Where are you from, you sound like a beach kid?”

A surfer’s voice answers, “San Diego.”

“Why are you in DC Vincent?”  He makes sure his footing is balanced.

“I’m a peace activist doing some volunteer work with Amnesty USA.  I was getting a newspaper when the earthquake hit.  Everything went dark very quick.  What time is it?”

“…its quarter after three.  I forgot to ask, what’s your full name?”  Vincent sneezes, he sounds like he has the flu.

“Vincent Robinson.  I can’t believe it’s only been three hours, I would thought it’s been a day or something.  Gee bro, I haven’t had a smoke for a time.  I’m doing well, my buddies would be impressed!  I could have smoked the canvas has me tight.  At first I didn’t think I was going to breath but then it just came naturally, do you know what I mean bro?”  

Vincent yells out to Mike, “DUDE, are you still there?  I can’t wait to I get to smoke a fatty!”

“Be patient Vincent, it’s hot up here.” Mike uses one of the smaller wooden polls as leverage to raise the main beam.

Vincent grunts but not from pain.  He too feels the weight shift.  It’s a good sign he can feel his limbs. 

“I’m making a lot of progress getting the rubble off of you, be patient.”  The beam moves more freely.  Mike’s senses are in harmony with the environment. Mike becomes chilled as he remembers Nostradamus…‘the cloud will make two suns appear…’ it was in relation to the end of times.  Mike puts all his weight into lifting the poll and manages to move it clear.  

Vincent asks, “Hey man, what’s the name of the righteous dude who is saving me?”

“It’s Mike.  Hey, can you lift with your legs.  I can see you move but this canvas ceiling is big and I can use some help.”

A few minutes later and Vincent is free. Vincent is a Caucasian and doesn’t have a tan.  His hair is messy.  Vincent wears tan khaki shorts and a solid black t-shirt. 

Vincent whips out a joint and fires it up.  Tears run freely, he notice has crutches.

“Mike, thank you so much, I thought I was going to die.”  Puff puff puff…, “Do you want to hit this man, it’s some fine bud.   I told myself I was going to smoke a joint if I survived this one…”  Puff puff puff…, “My bros back home aren’t going to believe this, I was walking to Starbucks and wanted something to read...”

Puff puff puff…, “Then the earth shook man and all went dark.”  Puff puff cough…, “Holy shit this is some good bud.  It’s a cross between Northern Lights and Train Wreck.”

Cough cough puff cough. “Damn, you sure you don’t want some killer bud?  I need to save the rest for later, oh wait, one last hit.”  

Vincent looks happy in his little high bubble. April and two of the newbie’s come over.  Mike watches his fellow American enjoy a moment while hell is happening all around.

Vincent flinches as he looks around, “My God, what happened after the lights went out?  I was expecting the fire department or the police to come to my rescue.  How much got destroyed and why did the siren change its tone? I’m not from here, I’m volunteering with Amnesty USA.  Can I please come with you?”

Vincent tells April her husband is a hero.  Susan comes over with Berry.  The CNN Express idles in the back ground.

Vincent pleads, “Hey Mike and April, can I please come with?  I am scared.” 

He says he has a rare spine deformity, something similar to multiple sclerosis of the spine but a little different.  Apparently he was born with the condition and has to have crutches his whole life.  

Sarcastically Vincent adds, “I’m lucky because others are constrained to wheelchairs.” 

A few minutes later…

Mike is refreshed after using the bathroom.  He feels like Mario Brother who just hit a mushroom head.  The new groups are bankers from Wells Fargo.  They consist of two men and an older woman.  They are dressed in blue suits with gold trim.  Susan is busy trying to get the satellite feed to work but it kicks back static.  As soon as the new group gets on one of the older females talk about Jesus nonstop.

Mike grows quiet as the new business woman tells the cameraman the end of the world is happening and she’s read all about in 6:12 in Revelations.  She didn’t take Jesus or religion serious but after today she was going to get baptized.  She’s adamant she’s going to baptize all of her family, if they like it or not, “It’s all spoken for in the book of revelations!  When I was at church my pastor told us last Sunday, ‘And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.  God have mercy on our souls…” 

A few minutes of listening to this and Vincent cuts her off, “Lady your killing my buzz!  Live and let live!  We all know the end is here, but why talk about it nonstop? I believe in God but please don’t go overboard.”  She sputters and goes quiet.  Her companions ignore her ranting for they seem to be accustomed to her antics.  They introduce themselves as bankers.

His brashness quiets the woman down.  She isn’t annoyed but we are all scared.  The last thing people need at the moment is to fear God.  When it’s about survival its innate God is part of each and every one of us.  It doesn’t matter your size or skin color.  All that matters is one’s intentions and actions.  The CNN bus smoothly backs up, no vehicles block the way.  The bus squashes the boxes.  A couple of people pass without commenting on foot.  They appear to be dazed and confused.  They remind me of people in Berlin after the Allies bombed the capital when I watched the History Channel and its war documentaries. Many are following the Metro tracks out of Washington DC.   

One of the quiet bankers asks, “Can we get dropped off in Virginia?  Anywhere in Virginia would be fine…?”

Susan is losing her cool but politely replies, “Sorry but we are heading to Maryland.  My son and daughter are at school and I need to get to them.”

The bankers argue with each other and come to the conclusion they made a mistake getting on the bus.  They look very sick; they keep on coughing and sneezing. They thank us for the bathroom privileges and have Susan stop the bus as they politely remove themselves.  Mike waves as they trot off, none wave back.  A pleasant looking homely woman rushes to the bus with a stroller and a baby before we leave, she gets exits a family station wagon that is stalled in the traffic.  Tears run down her face, she urgently taps on the door.  We let her and the baby on.  They immediately disappear in the bathroom.

Vincent takes out a second joint and fires it up.  Susan stops the bus and screams like a witch being burned at the stake, “What are you doing?”  She sounds mad.  Vincent asks if she has a problem against medical cannabis and talks about his medical condition.  She tells Vincent with much venom, “Get of my bus buddy!”  

Before he gets up the camera man says something, its profound for he usually doesn’t say anything, “Susan, I like him.  I smoke medical pot too.  Do you want me to get off the bus?” 

Susan is speechless. She stops the bus and declares, “Fine, but smoke outside.  Never smoke that crap around me.  I won’t let my children do it and I don’t agree with it.  Good thing you’re in America where it’s legal!” 

Vincent and the camera man say fine.  They both get out and finish his joint while the woman and baby strap themselves in a seat near April and Mike.  April laughs at the tediousness of the situation. Within moments Susan also laughs and the stress is released from the bus.  

Susan tries sounding young, “I’m too old for this shit.”

She sighs and continues, “I don’t know what we are going to do if we get out of this.”

Berry and Vincent get back on the bus.  Vincent giggles.  They look passive and happy.

Vincent blurts, “I’m a reporter!” 

Everyone laughs.  They need humor.  Vincent says he needs Scooby snacks and life would be perfect.  We all laugh again.  The baby cries, the woman sits near us and April starts a conversation with her.  We make very slow progress.  The bus slowly inches forward but there is always a new reason to stop, always a new dilemma.  

The slowness frustrates Susan who proceeds to put the pedal to the medal.  She realizes the futility of her gestures in keeping the bus out of harm’s way.  It’s more important to get us to safety then worry about scratches and dings.  In front of us is the juncture leading to U.S. 29, she tells us we need to get on it, but it’s more to her.  Many cars are piled up on top of each other ahead. 

Berry gets an idea, “Go fast and we could nudge the last car and squeeze through.” No one wants to leave the air condition, we agree to his plan.  Susan rubs the engine and launches us forward. Impact isn’t bad, I barely move a few inches.  Metal on metal crunch and we are soon free of the obstacle.  The left side of the bus is left with a few deep scratches.

Various cars and trucks speed from the reverse lane, the drivers and passengers blink their headlights while honking.  There is no traffic going into DC. April presses buttons on her phone but nothing works. 

There are many vehicles coming from V St NW.  The street sign for N Capital Street NW appears.  Low and behold my expectations are crushed.  Thousands of vehicles are stuck in deadlock when we get a clear view.  It looks like rush hour going home after a long Monday.  

Susan curses and pounds the wheel.  The bus manages to go a few feet before we are brought to a stop.  Many people are still in their vehicles but no one is making any scenes.  Many honk their horns.  A hundred people have left their vehicles and move on foot.  The other lanes do not tell the same story.  Going into Washington DC is clear of most traffic.  Drivers wave for us to turn around but none of them stop to tell why.  Thousands of vehicles patiently wait their turn to inch forward.  

Vincent curses, “People who leave their vehicles are going to make it impossible for those who stay in theirs to pass with their cars.  A bus this size will not be able to squeeze through.”

Berry comes from far left field, “I need to get high again.”

Susan jumps his ship with no patience, “Berry, if I hear you talk about getting high again I’m going to report you regardless if you have a medical condition.  Please stop talking about it, it makes me uncomfortable.” 

He sheepishly apologizes and changes the topic.  

After a minute of nothing happening Berry ads, “We should turn around and find another way.” 

He tells Susan if we take W Street NW we could merge with First St NW which would take us to the hospital.  Susan tells him she would rather stay on the highway, adding even if it takes a few extra minutes it’s worth it.  

April dreamily questions to no one in particular, “If the tsunami comes or if another earthquake hits are we safe being in the bus?” 

The bus snails forward a couple hundred feet.  April talks with much optimism to the new girl and Vincent, she tells them the destruction is more than likely isolated to the city. 

“Shit, dude, I think something happened up yonder.  Is that smoke?”  Vincent sounds boyish, his voice sounds as if he is making a statement and asking a question at the same time.  Susan doesn’t care; she is focused on trying to move the bus further ahead.  

Berry alarming says something isn’t right, “Hey look, it’s like Jurassic Park!  My water is moving and it’s not from the bus.” 

The water shimmers. Susan hasn’t moved the bus forward for a minute and stops the engine.  We open the windows and allow the heat to enter, Vincent suggests we use our senses and listen.  In the distance smoke has covers the highway. A few of the windows begin to fog up.

Berry says, “An oil refinery or gas dispensary might have caught flame?” 

Vincent counters, “Maybe it was a gas station or something.  I hear they can hold a lot of gas.” 

April apologizes about sounding religious, “Sorry for sounding all superstitious, but wasn’t there something in the bible about the sky going dark at the end of times?”

Vincent answers, “It’s not like that.  It’s from the Book of Mathew, ‘But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky’…”

He adds, “It’s from 24:29.  I went to biblical school at Moody Biblical Institute in Chicago when I was younger.  Funny story, I found myself wanting to become a spiritual leader before I joined Amnesty USA.  When I was a kid my parents did a lot of missionary work in Asia…”

The bus inches forward a few more feet. The cloud completely covers everything.  It doesn’t look clean.  Susan makes sure the windows are up.  The baby continues to cry, her mother tries humming but it doesn’t do anything.  Susan tries the radio again but it continues to give back static.  She flips on the head lights.  We are able to drive another few feet before we stop.

It’s like this for another twenty minutes.  A warm wind picks up and dissipates the cloud which reminds me of very bad smog.  Berry shrieks at us to look ahead when the darkness recedes to sunlight.  The rumble is louder; in the distance a dark blue gray tide can be seen rushing from our left to our right.  It’s comes from McMillan Reservoir.  A wall of water sweeps vehicles on the highway off the road.  A dark gray blue churning mass of destruction takes everything in its path.  Even with the windows up Mike hears the rumble build into a roar.  Within moments the water engulfs the vehicles a half a mile ahead.

April screams, “No, this isn’t possible!  Isn’t the ocean to the right, not the left?”  She unbuckles her seat belt and runs to the bathroom. 

Vincent whips out a joint and lights it.  Susan doesn’t say anything.  She pounds the steering wheel and starts to cry.  The woman with the baby leans forward; she whispers to it. Berry quickly unbuckles his seat belt and joins Vincent. Vincent tells Berry he never was into Jesus but he does believe in God.  Berry says he understands and to each our own.  Vincent makes sure his seat belt is in place.

The water is dark and doesn’t look blue.  It looks brown and gray.  Many people run out of their vehicles.  A couple gesture for us to run as they point to high story buildings.  The water looks like a wall.  It blocks out my vision from where it’s already hit.  It looks like it’s coming towards the bus on a diagonal from inland.  Susan apologizes as she unbuckles and bolts from the bus.   There is nothing but a dark cloud of dust and crap over the wave, the sky goes dark again.

Cars and trucks are lifted as the ground buckles everything upwards at once with water being the culprit.  Vehicles, people and buildings disappear fast.  Cars and trucks are swept away; light posts and buildings offer little resistance.  The water is a few blocks away.  Mike unbuckles his seat belt and runs to the bathroom.

Without thinking Mike darts into the small enclosed room and slam the door shut.  She’s in the process of turning around while saying, “What the fuck…”  

Mike rushes, “I love you…”

Vincent and Berry scream one last yell in defiance.  They die the way they lived or so Mike assumes.

Chapter 25: 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.  He thinks his mom is going to hate cleaning the mess.

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.

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?”  He’s 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. He wonders where their bodies are. He doesn’t want to give up hope.

H e 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.

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 friend’s 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. Mark is shocked; he’s the only one who eats fried chicken in his family.

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.

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.  

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.  

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.  

“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.

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.  

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. He wants to not listen to his dad. He closes his eyes as he wishes everything would be fine.

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.

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.”

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 civilian’s entry.  They appear to be ushering people back out in an alarming rate. Mark is denial. He doesn’t understand why his dad is talking like this. He sees something build on 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.  

Mark blurts, “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. He sees a large air craft carrier ride a wave. It takes out buildings like a knife going through butter.

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 it’s 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. He decides to listen to his dad and go to the roof.

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.  

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. He wonders how everyone is going to fit in the raft.


Mark twirls around as the door behind him shuts and locks in place.  He doesn’t have his keys. 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. He watches cars with people get swept away.

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. He wonders why the wave hasn’t hit yet.

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. Mark gets mad at his dad for leaving him alone. He wonders where his mom is.

He stares at the door but it doesn’t open.  Mark gets out of the raft after sweating under the sun for another three 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 than 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.

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.  

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. He says farewell to his parents as his raft lurches forward.

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 seventy to eighty feet.  The raft doesn’t lose its upright position.

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.

Chapter 26: The Paladin’s Training

Juliet pauses as she watches Larry toss children and woman aside.  He appears to have forgotten the entourage as he drunkenly shouts to hospital staff workers, “I’m a cop and I demand treatment.” 

An older woman bumps into Larry and falls.  They pass Lot 1 & 7, emergency vehicles camp at Lot 7; Lot 1 is full of people who wait to be seen.  The crowd pushes them forward but not threateningly.  No one gets crushed or hurt but it does feel like they are being herded while on First Street.  The old ladies cane skitters, Juliet helps the old woman.

“Sorry Ma’am, don’t mind the cops rudeness, he is a good guy, and he’s just stressed.”

The masses engulf Larry; she doesn’t see where he goes. The VA Hospital is to the right; a massive fire burns the hospital to the ground. Much of the building lies in ember, and is vastly quiet. It’s evident many firemen and police officers sacrificed their lives when the earthquake struck. A few red fire trucks wait for crews who will never show.

Juliet looks in awe at the transformation of the parking lot in front of the hospital as they pass the now fenced and guarded street. Military personal are in the process of putting fences which divide the street from the hospital and have fenced off the Bus Turn Around. The masses have made their own path cutting through Hospital Center Drive, Juliet turns left as she passes POB North which is a small building before the main entrance. Half a dozen armed guards keep thousands from entering. Near the front entrance loom three medium size tents hugging one gigantic circus looking tent which spans the entire street. Someone dressed with taste blows a whistle while directing the masses into four different lines in front of the beg tent; near the whistle blower are two nursing aids who direct the injured depending their need. They survey the injured and put them into two categories, life threatening and non life threatening. Both the National Guard and the Reserves keep the peace as they help the best they can.  Many tables are set up with people handing out sandwiches and chips in the midst of the Parking Pavilion 1 for Staff and Visitors. Many people are frustrated and grief as they are rejected for not having serious wounds or needs, they head back towards where the tables with refreshments are set up. A closer inspection shows a group of college students manning the tables. A group of battle worn solders finish putting up armed perimeters at every exit; the soldiers look like they could have come from the war fields in Iraqi.  The Hospital Main Entrance is clear but not twenty five feet away people beg and plead to be allowed in.  Larry reappears; he makes dramatic gestures and is allowed into the hospital.

Juliet is squished in the crowd.  She innately reaches for her backpack to make sure the zipper is closed.

People from all walks of life shuffle around, all are sandwiched like sardines.  A lot of street kids dart in the crowd, Juliet doesn’t doubt many will have their wallets missing by the end of the day. A lot of people speak foreign languages such as Spanish and various Asian tongues.  She feels something cold and wet nudge her left hand and smiles, if dogs could smile Pixel would be smiling back. 

 “Hey boy, is it Pixel?” 

The K-9 looks at her with love and her heart thaws. Pixel barks in approval.  People nearby are timid of Pixel, many part. The dog lovers don’t notice but it’s easy to walk pass them.  Chuang is nearby.  Juliet doesn’t know where Becky disappeared to.  Juliet takes advantage of Pixels presence and makes her way to the big tent and the nurses who are surveying. 

Becky reappears near Juliet.  All the people make it hard to figure out what’s what.  She tries gaining the attention of one of the nurse aids as she ignores the line, “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to my dad who works here?” 

The nurse evaluates a family and ignores her request.  A middle aged woman holds an infant while a teenager has homemade bandages wrapped around his head and chest.  His body is on a homemade stretcher. Blood cakes the bandages and many wounds openly seep blood onto the cement.

The nurse patiently explains, “I’m sorry but your son it to injured, we need to treat those who are going to survive. A lot of people are acting strange and sick.”

The teenagers Dad fumes at the nurse, “What do you mean you can’t help my son!  He needs help! I don’t care about other people.”

His son doesn’t seem to be breathing.

The nurse’s nametag reads Michelle.  Michelle patiently tells the angry parent, “We are only accepting breaks, burns and things we can control in this line.  Please step aside and allow us to examine the people behind you. There is nothing we can do for your son, he is dead.”

Michelle puts a black tag on the teenager’s wrist, the mother wails.

The father pleads, “Will you at least look at him?  How much do I have to pay to be heard?” 

The nurse directs National Guard personal to remove the family as she apologizes for not being able to help.  There are five more people waiting ahead of them. 

Juliet tiredly repeats herself, “My dad works here!  Please let me in.”

She steps in line. Many people flock to an EMT worker who screens any in the crowd who could use his support. This ironically made many in line leave their spot. There’s a lot of confusion and very little communication.

The nurse hands out color coded tags, each tag directs the injured towards a different emergency tent. Four lines create a web reminding Juliet of a shattered spider, the big tent is its head. She stalls as she sees a pile of corpses with black tags near one of the smaller tents. A crude sign says T5 with a black back drop. A few soldiers quietly carry bodies into the main building. She’s speechless as the dad carries his son to the pile of corpses; they lament as a male nurse tries cajoling them over their loss.

The next couple in line makes little sense as they urgently explain an injury one experienced, the nurse rolls her eyes and rejects them instantly.  Before the couple exits the line a man behind them rushes in with a heavy country accent, “I need my insulin, I am diabetic.” 

He waves his wrist which has a nifty medical bracelet telling who he is and what his medical issues are.  The nurse smiles and asks him to fill out a white form. Within moments she directs the southerner to a line in front of the small tent labeled T3 which has a green back drop.

Michelle concludes, “You I can help, and you are very much welcome.  Next!” 

A family of four tells the nurse one of them has a broken arm. After filling out a white form the nurse directs them to a tent labeled T2 which has a yellow back drop.

Michelle explains to the family, “You will need to separate and meet after she gets her arm set.  We are overcrowded and cannot allow everyone in.  You can choose one person to accompany her.  Next!”

An elderly gentleman shuffles forward.  He tries being cheerful but sounds scared, “I cut myself on the face and it stings.  Can you do something, I’m worried about infection.”

Michelle looks him over, “Sorry sir, you need to get that looked at but we can’t help you at the moment.  You can try again later.  Make sure you clean the wound and apply Neosporin. Next!” 

The National Guard usher the elderly gentleman away, apparently his injury doesn’t merit attention. The hospital acts strange, they don’t allow anyone who has a fever or cough. In the distance a small group from the Center of Disease Control has a small tent made, no one is allowed near them. They appear to only be dealing with patients who have the flu. Juliet shakes her head in disbelief. She thinks their time management skills suck. She thinks they should be helping the injured, not the sick.

Juliet glances behind her and sees the masses.  She doesn’t understand how she got in front so fast but is grateful. 

She tries looking sweet and innocent, “Hi Michelle.  My dad works here and I really would love to see him. 

My friend Becky has a minor wound but I cleaned it up.”

Michelle sighs, “I’m only used to injuries today, you’re a welcome surprise. You’re a new request.  What’s your name honey? Do you have a fever or are you sick?” 

“Juliet.  Can you help me?  Please?”  She pleads as tears threaten to run freely.  Michelle looks perplexed.

She doesn’t understand why the nurse asked if she is sick.

“Who is your dad Juliet?”  Michelle genuinely wants to know.

“My dad is Riley Johnson. I’m not sick.”  She doesn’t add he is a janitor. 

Michelle whispers to another nurse, “Juliet, we are understaffed and I cannot allow you access to the hospital.  However, if you would care to volunteer your time I might be able to do something at the end of my shift.”

Juliet can’t believe she is bartering to get into the hospital.  Harry steps in, “We would love to be volunteers!  Any way to help fellow Americans is my motto.”

Michelle says wonderful and gives them a white name tag to wear over their shirts. While asking them their names she pauses with Chuang; she shrugs and scratches Choou.  

Michelle explains, “These are your passes.  Keep them near your heart and above your clothes.  If you lose them you will be removed from the premises.  I don’t know when my shift ends but when it does I will allow you to come into the hospital.  Is this acceptable?  We really need help on the bottom level.”

Juliet beams and tries her best to mimic Egor from Frankenstein, “Yes Master, direct and I will obey.” 

Michelle points to the Green Tent after giving Juliet a weird glance.  Juliet sees Larry in the Yellow tent, so does Pixel.  Pixel heads off to Larry who flirts with an attractive nurse who is not interested in his advances. Juliet does not wave or try to gain his attention. Their guided by a young looking Reserve. He has a sad expression as he absently starts conservation.

“I’m Ben.  This is a terrible day.  Thanks for volunteering.  The hospital is an entourage of a whole bunch of hospitals and buildings.  Did you see the Children’s National Medical Center? The earthquake destroyed the ceiling which caved in.  Surprisingly no children were hurt.  I can’t say the same for many adults.  We have emergency tents in the Parking Pavilion I for those who are in dire straits. We had to put the children into the National Rehabilitation Center a couple of hours ago.  It’s like God is protecting the children.  As soon as we evacuated the building the entrance collapsed but no one was hurt. The yellow tent is for patients who have potentially life threatening injuries but who can wait 6-8 hours. We need to treat the most severe but not waste our resources on those who will die.” 

As a child her Dad volunteered her time.  Tears come as she slowly understands the building is now destroyed and those memories will always be memories.

They reach tent T2 which is used for severe injuries.  Hundreds of people stand and sit on various objects such as boxes and gurneys.  College students from a surrounding University carry spare mattresses to the tents.  They set them in a large pile near the big tent; a few men in the Reserves carry the mattresses to the tents.  They put them in aisles, ten beds a line, three beds deep.  The injured gratefully take comfort in the seats; many have been on their feet for half the day.  Each mattress holds two people, depending their size and depth of their injuries. No one is worried about blood this day, the nurses still wear gloves but they stopped trying to change them as they go to patient to patient. Resources are scarce.

A large woman booms, it’s obvious she is in charge, “Mack, I need you to go back inside and bring out antibiotics and other supplies!  We are under staffed and don’t have enough resources to go around!” 

Mack is a male nurse who patiently accepts her orders. Ben introduces Juliet’s group to the large blonde woman who has short cropped hair. 

“Samantha, I would like you to meet your new staff. Juliet, this is Samantha.”

Samantha doesn’t respond but continues to talk to Mack, “Please go inside and get us more supplies.” 

Mack groans, “They won’t give us anything. They say they don’t have it. They are waiting for someone else to come and help. They only are allowing for T1 patients.  I don’t think anyone is coming to rescue us, do you hear the noises in the distance? What is it?”

Samantha booms, “That’s just great!  The state doesn’t care enough to help us, we need to get resourceful.  Take the sheets of the beds; they will have to become bandages.  Look around and see what we can use to secure breaks. Maybe we could cut a wooden pole down and make stents.  The college students could help by scavenging their pharmacy and cafeterias. Get a few solders and secure more resources at the University if you don’t want to go back inside.”

 Samantha walks up to a man who can’t move his left arm.  She gestures the man to hold still as she gets Juliet’s attention. The booming voice asks, “Who are you and what do you want?”

Harry steps up, “I was in the war in Korea, and I was a medic.  I have been showing Juliet how to help the injured. We are volunteers.”

Samantha beams, her booming voice takes on rejoice, “Well that’s good!  We need more people who care.  I can use you and her.  What’s you name girl? I missed it earlier.” 

She’s looks at Juliet. “Juliet.  What can I do to help?”

Juliet fidgets as she tries spying her dad. He isn’t around.

Samantha ponders for a moment, “I want you to come here and help me set this broken bone. Can you do that? This is the Yellow Tent. We fix minor amputations, flesh wounds, fractures and dislocations. I hope you’re not squeamish with blood?”

Juliet timidly looks behind her, for a moment she thinks the nurse is talking to someone else.

Harry smiles, “Juliet, I noticed you have a knack for helping people; give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.”  Chuang gaily takes her hand and leads her forward. 

Samantha explains, “Juliet, who is your friend?” 

Juliet doesn’t remember the lad’s name, Harry answers, “Chuang.  He is from China and doesn’t know English.  I think he might be deaf.”

Samantha grimaces, her current patient cuts them off, “The ceiling in my house fall on me. Can you help me please?” 

A middle age man must be a car salesman. His slick hair is now disheveled. He doesn’t show much emotion, “My wife was crushed.  I can’t believe she is dead.  My dog is dead too.  They were sitting on the sofa when the earthquake hit.”  His façade breaks as he angrily stomps his feet.

Samantha pats him on the knee, “I understand your grief.  I can’t do anything about your wife or your pet but let me help you get your arm correctly set.” 

The man stairs off into empty space, he shifts which allows them access to his arm.  Samantha beckons Juliet and Chuang; in sign language she tells Chuang something. Chuang beams and says something back with his hands.  Juliet thinks Samantha looks tranquil and pretty when she isn’t booming.

Samantha explains, “I know a little sign language.  I want you and Chuang to work together.  I want you to watch how I set this arm.  Then you and Chuang are going to repeat it as many times as necessary throughout the day. Do you understand?”

Harry counters, “Ma’am, I know how to set bones.  How about I show these kids how it’s done and you take care of the serious patients.” 

Samantha gratefully accepts the offer.  She adds before moving on to a new patient, “Alright, I will always be a few beds down if you need anything.  I want you to teach her how to set broken arms and legs.  Get me for anything more serious.  The hospital operates under the Triage system.  Do you know what the Triage is?”

Harry nods affirmative but Juliet responds, “No.” 

Chuang looks on with innocence as his large eyes take in the motions around them.  Juliet wonders about the Asian boys story as she listens to Samantha; she feels relief from being out of the sun and briefly wonders if it’s safe to be under a medical tent. Becky isn’t around again.

Samantha narrates, “World War I ushered in the Triage which comes from the French. During times of war and natural disasters medical personal need to ‘sift’ through victims.  The reason for sifting is due to inefficient resources, not enough staff and too many victims.”

Harry snorts, “I always thought of Triage as a form of selecting who lives and who dies. Sorry, no disrespect attended.”

“Well yes, during medical emergencies doctors and nurses are in low supply while demand for our services is high.  I’m not the one who makes the rules, I just follow them. No disrespect taken.”

Samantha deftly cracks the middle aged mans arm back in place.  He grimaces but does not cry out or mutter a word. 

Samantha nods towards Harry to help her with an arm brace, “You can show them the next patient, speed is essential.”

Samantha continues telling Juliet, “It’s our job to determine the order and priority; luckily we have an aid who is doing a great job as you can see. This tent is for broken bones. There are three types of groups which we focus on. The first are those who will more than likely survive. These people are high priority; this tent is for many of those people.  The second tent, which is the other small one, are for those who have more serious injuries or who are about to die. The National Guard escorts them to a secure building away from the others. We do not want mass panic or have a biological incident on our hands. Normally we would separate the injured for evacuation but no one seems to be coming, we need to improvise. The serious injured are allowed in the hospital.”

Juliet hopes her dad isn’t in the Black or Red tent. She hopes he is safe inside the building. She watches closely as Samantha and Harry put the finishing touches on the middle aged man.  

“The big tent is for the last group which is Red T1. There we treat internal hemorrhages, lesions and major injuries. Maybe if you do a good job we will have you go there later or tomorrow if you’re still around.”  Samantha pats the gentleman on the knee, “You’re done, and have a good day.”

The middle aged man dryly mutters, “How can I have a good day after what happened today?  Thanks for helping.” 

He gets up and shuffles off.  As soon as he is a few feet away the next people in line take his seat on the mattress.  More college students pile mattresses from the dorms, a few now bring random things they think the hospital could use.  Juliet is unsure what University they come from.  The hospital has two nearby.  She thinks its wonderful people are banding together.

Before Samantha becomes engrossed in her next patient Juliet asks, “Do you know my dad? His name is…”

Samantha cuts her off, “Sorry honey, I’m a volunteer too.” 

She greets her next patient who tells their ordeal.  Juliet looks at Harry who says, “Hi,” to a twenty year old looking female who has a broken wrist.  He explains to the lady they are volunteers.

Everyone pauses as a dull roar can be heard in the distance. Many whisper it’s the tsunami but no one can do anything about it. Thousands of people bypass the hospital as they continue their trek out of Washington DC.  Juliet wonders if she is making a mistake staying here but soon forgets this thought as Chuang happily takes her hand. Together they set many bones.

Faces and people become a blur, hours pass.  Anyone who is sick with a cold or flu is rejected without reason or cause. One out of six people are rejected for these reasons. Juliet goes on autopilot and soon discovers she isn’t afraid of the injured. People from all walks of life come in, most men are scared and don’t want to talk. A lot of women hysterically recount their day. The Old canter about children and grandchildren but many don’t know where their families are. A lot of people look like lost souls; they have a haunted expression which will stick with Juliet until the end of her days. Names are not important. What is important is doing a good job and healing as many as she can. She learns she can intuitively feel out broken bones and injuries by tentative touch and by listening to her patients. Most people are in shock and don’t react negative to her or Chuang. Harry does a wonderful job in telling them what to do. The people who are lively and outspoken have nurses and military personal escort them off the premises. Juliet sees one real doctor in the red tent, but he is swamped by patients. The National Guard and Reserves keep the masses out of the tents and hospital but she doesn’t notice them anymore. 

Juliet comes upon her first horror experience. An old woman unlike the previous man who had diabetes is experiencing severe trauma in her foot. She didn’t get to take her medication and her left foot bulges. She can’t walk. Michelle asks Juliet for her assistance, she needs help to amputate a toe which is full of infection. Amputating the toe will release stress on the woman’s foot. Michelle things the blood infection might have come from blood clotting and not circulating correctly.

Juliet shuts her eyes and envisions herself as her Paladin. Her Paladin in World of War Craft is near Shattrath City, something went dramatically wrong in the instance/dungeon. She didn’t get the dragon and it somehow got out of the dungeon. She’s killed dragons before but this one is destroying her home. Sometime’s a paladin needs to put her sword down and heal her people.

Samantha’s cuts into Juliet’s day dream, “This poor woman is going to need her toe removed. We are out of morphine, can you give her something to help her not focus on what I’m about to do?”

The old woman blinks and sputters something about her grandchildren.

The Paladin isn’t in Shattrath but is in a camp in the woods nearby, tents line the horizon, a dragon can be seen in the distance. It breathes fire onto the city. Many characters swarm the flying beast but to no avail. Colorful spells shatter off its thick hide, the giant lizard sweeps doom upon the characters with its own dark spell.

The old woman screams in agony as Michelle prods at the toe. Looking up Juliet sees thousands of injured before her, she doesn’t want to see the toe removed, it’s better to look into the masses. Juliet forgets her character’s name, now she is Juliet in her Paladins body.

“Juliet, I’m going to start soon, can you hand me the blue marker? We need to prep by sterilizing her foot.”

Juliet opens her eyes and sees the injured in the medical tent as the injured in world of war craft.

She prefers to parallel gaming with real life. She’s going to have to look at the procedure which makes her queasy. She thinks she can combine both fantasy and real world together.

Her Paladin would look for something the old woman could use to help with the pain when the cutting starts. The pain is going to be great. She remembers the vodka in her pack. Juliet offers the vodka to the older woman but the granny refuses to drink it. Juliet opts to give her wooden stick nearby to grip; she saw it in a movie. The employees from the Center of Disease Control hand out colorful pills to the staff. They tell them its nutrients and to not give them to the patients. Juliet and Harry take the pills without thinking. She doesn’t pay them any attention as she helps the woman grip the stick. The women appears to be running a fever but doesn’t cough.

“Lady, squeeze the wood when you feel pain. It might help.” Juliet goes back to her imagination as Samantha cuts the toe off.

All the while Juliet keeps her eyes open and registers proper techniques in dealing with the amputation.  She wonders if it’s possible to get healing powers such as her Paladin. She feels something warm and light tug at her conscience, Juliet feels good helping the masses. She reaches out for the old woman’s shoulder; she visualizes positive healing energy flowing into the woman. She opens her eyes and is startled to see the old woman calmly smile back at her and say thanks as she firmly grasps the wooden dolly.

Hours pass…

Juliet’s feet hurt, but the blisters gives her a sense of satisfaction, her knees are rubbed raw from kneeling and applying bandages and fixing fractures and dislocations. She dreams about the cheeseburgers she gave Mike. She’s a little hungry. Every hour or so a volunteer comes around with clean water and vanilla wafers, she drinks a lot. For some reason she hasn’t needed to use the bathroom, or maybe the incident earlier at burger king made her a little bathroom shy.

Rumors go around the President is dead. Some say terrorists attacked from the Middle East, others say the President is hiding in another State and will come to their rescue when things settle. Too many say they were at the Whitehouse and saw the building collapse on him. A simple redneck is rumored to have spiritually quieted down tens of thousands after they saw the President being carried to Air Force One in a coffin, yet others say it’s a ruse to keep our nations enemies off their feet. A few crazies talk about an alien invasions but looking into the sky Juliet sees no space ships. She doesn’t understand why people can’t admit it’s simply just a earthquake. Many point to two suns but she has yet to see for herself and assumes they are hallucinating due to the stress of the day. The real crazy people talk about the dead returning to life. She thinks these people have been doing too many drugs and have been watching to many horror movies.

She appreciates hearing all the opinions; her tranquil bliss is cut short, Juliet thinks she recognizes the general outline of the person in the next bed.  Sure enough there’s Matt’s boyish voice before she sees his face.

“Juliet, Oh my Sweet Jesus, you made it!”

It’s Matty Fatty. Juliet loves giving pet names to people; of course he doesn’t know she calls him that.

Juliet blurts, “You’re alive! Do you know what happened to Sean and Steveo?”

They are two gamers in the group whose apartment she was at earlier. Juliet hopes Matt went back to the apartment but her expectations are dashed.

“Sorry. I tried going back to church. My priest was helping some poor kids in a different parish and I wanted to help them but I missed the bus. My shoulder is broke.” Matt flexes his left shoulder and gasps from pain, his brown eyes plead for

He pauses, “Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be working at Burger King? I feel really sick.”

Juliet directs Chuang; she learned a few new movements with her hands saying Help and Thank You. She also knows a few hand gestures to direct him towards specific injuries pertaining to breaks. She’s been learning broken limbs can be fixed with a little patience. Chaotic mayhem has turned into systematic order. Muscles and bones connect certain ways which need to be directed other ways for they can mend. Breaks come in three to four different styles throughout the day, the outlier breaks get sent to Samantha.

Juliet flips her hair, “It’s a long story. By volunteering I get to see my Dad sometime tonight. I think he’s in the main building.”

She evaluates Matt’s shoulder. Something feels odd, she cannot pin point the break. She tries feeling around for it while having him lift his arm.

Matt yelps, “My arm feels really heavy. I can’t move it.”

Harry comes back from using the bathroom. He looks at Matt quizzically. Matt wheezes and profusely sweats as he shutters.

Harry wants to know, “How did your shoulder or arm break?”

Matt ignores the one arm homeless man, “Juliet, can you and your dad help me get home?”

He tries flexing the arm but grimaces and looks like he’s going to hyperventilate. Juliet begins to wonder if Matt doesn’t have a broken arm but something worse. A little voice in her urges her to get him to the big red tent.

“Sure Matt, as soon as I meet my dad we can go. How did you break your shoulder?”

She continues to feel around but won’t ask him to take off his shirt. She knows he is embarrassed for being obese. Back in high school he was picked on for being fat, many nick named him ‘bullet tits’ and the meaner kids put training bras in his gym locker.

Matt wails as tears roll freely. “Gee, I don’t remember. I hit the ground at the bus station. The people in front of me got killed by glass! A homeless guy was acting crazy and was biting people. I was pushed to the floor as people tried escaping.”

Harry demands, “Can you breathe well?”

Matt continues over Harry, “I’m so glad I ran into you Juliet, can you fix my arm please?”

He briefly looks at Harry, his contemptuous attitude bothers Juliet.

Juliet asks, “Matt, can you breathe?”

She doesn’t want to hear his answer, she worries he is having a heart attack. She understands Harries question.

Matt looks at her, his boyish eyes cloud with concern; he slowly understands why she asks these questions.

He remembers doctors and bullies talking and joking about him getting a heart attacks or stroke.

His face pales, “No. I can’t breathe and my arm feels heavy. Help me Juliet!”

Juliet barks for Samantha, the second time she gets the nurses attention, “I think this guy is having a heart attack! What do we do?”

Juliet is in shock and feels not so competent to deal with Matt’s medical crisis.

“Take him to T1 which is the red tent and ask someone there!” Samantha continues to help her patient; she puts her back to Juliet.

Juliet sighs in exasperation, “Get up Matt. You don’t have a broken arm.”

Harry interrupts, “To the big tent, kid you need to lose some weight.” Matt blinks and becomes aware of Harry.

Matt ignores the rude remark, “Please Juliet, I need help getting up. This mattress is low. How do people with broken legs get up and down? I had to lie about being sick to get in. Please don’t tell them.”

Juliet replies, “They do it very carefully.”

Juliet takes her plastic gloves off; they are smeared with a lot of medical waste. She shutters in disgust as she makes sure to not get anything gross on her. There are two buckets nearby, one is for washing wounds and the other is clean water. A large pile of torn sheets are heaped in a smelly garbage can with many flies buzzing around. Juliet tosses the gloves into the biological nastiness.

Harry stretches out his good hand, “I’m traveling with Juliet, pleased to meet your acquaintance.”

Matt’s eyes go big, Juliet thinks he looks like a deer trapped in head lights late at night.  Juliet sighs, “Harry saved my life; he can tag along as long as he wants.”

Matt grimaces but nods in acceptance, “Hi Harry, I could use your help for real. I thought you were a homeless person who was butting in. It’s cool you saved Juliet. How did it happen?”

Harry smiles, “Lad, how about we get you fixed and then I will buy you a beer when this is all over, it’s a long story.”

“Cool. Juliet, please don’t leave me, I’m scared.” Harry helps Matt up.

“Don’t worry Matt, everything will be fine. Let’s go and see the fat lady sing.” Chuang is quiet but follows. Juliet lost track of Becky hours ago.

Together they head to the big red tent labeled T1. No one stops them, they have proper passes. Many people sit on the road and the sidewalk, in the distance a murmur starts in the masses but she doesn’t know what they are saying. Juliet remains focused on getting Matt looked at. The beds are a mess; it looks like MASH from when she watched FOX as a child. This tent is much larger than the rest, there must be three to four hundred beds touching each other with no apparent order.

Heavy duty emergency equipment blocks the aisles, injured people with acute injuries moan and cry. Unlike her yellow tent this tent reeks of body odor and something that smells sweet and pungent. Juliet gags as she smells stale blood, urine and feces.  A black woman looking like her grandma reaches out a frail hand; her eyes beg Juliet to ease her suffering. A respiratory system sits idle near her, the lack of electricity has cut off her life support.

Rasping for breath the old woman beseeches Juliet, “Heeelp me, I… cannnn’t breath.” Juliet pauses.

Harry pushes her along, “Juliet, you can’t save everyone. Tend to the ones you can save. I’m sorry.”

They pass her bed. Juliet freezes as she sees the doctor telling a soldier what to do with a few patients who look sick. He tells them to put them into quarantine which confuses her.

In a heavy German accent a blond hair middle age foreigner briskly informs a young soldier, “I marked the tags of the most urgent. They are putting the others at risk.”

“Yes sir! We only have one helicopter.” They change topic. Juliet sees its Ben from earlier.

Ben puts on his happy face as he introduces her to the doctor, “Hi Juliet, this is Dr. Schiller from Berlin. He had the misfortune of visiting DC for a conference. He’s the one who is in charge out here; he helped everyone set up the tents. Dr. Schiller, this is volunteer Juliet, Harry and Chuang. I’m sorry; I don’t know who this man is?”

Ben looks at Matt.

Juliet cuts to the point, “Doctor, Matt might be having a heart attack! Can you help him? Michelle from T2 told us to come over.”

Dr. Schiller pauses over his now deceased corpse; he absently marks the black tag with his marker. After a moment of he says, “Ben, kann Sie bewegen diese Leiche und lassen sich Matt hinsetzen?”

Ben stutters, “English doctor.”

The doctor rubs his brow, “Err, sorry about that, I’m tired from flying over the Atlantic. Can you get the corpse of the bed to allow Matt to take a seat?”

Matt and Juliet look at the bed as Ben gets the attention of another soldier to help with the dead weight of the corpse.

Dr. Schiller continues, “We are allowing too many people in we can’t help. I lost count of how many people died from internal hemorrhaging.”

Juliet looks at the dead corpse. She’s never been into dark morbid things. The corpse makes her discomforted. A dead twenty year old looking fit man has a wound in his chest. Blood spills from his open mouth as his eyes blankly stare at the canvas ceiling. His hand clutches a picture of someone who looks like it could be his wife or girl friend.

Matt whines, “Juliet, maybe this isn’t a good idea. I don’t want to sit there.”

Ben and the soldier carry the body to the building. Juliet wonders how many bodies are in there and what they are doing with them.

Juliet doesn’t have much patience for Matt, “Get on the mattress Matt. We need to get you looked at.”

Harry directs Matt to the bed. Matt groans as he accepts his fate.

Matt squirms as he tries to sit on the edge of the mattress, “This is so disgusting Juliet. I can’t wait to I can go home.”

Dr. Schiller looks Matt up and down, “I’m guessing you have high cholesterol and are inactive.”

Matt nods as the doctor continues, “Do you smoke or have high blood pressure?”

“I don’t smoke and I don’t know about my blood pressure.” Matt looks at Juliet as if she could answer the questions for him.

Dr. Schiller doesn’t have any gloves on, “Take off your shirt.”

Matt blushes but obeys. Juliet doesn’t understand why kids in school made fun of Matt.

The doctor asks, “Is there history in your family of heart attack?”

Matt’s eyes become beady, “Yes. My dad had a heart attack.”

Juliet didn’t know.

Dr. Schiller whimsically declares, “Matt, you need to incorporate moderation into your life style. Stop eating fast food. When did you begin to get sick?”

“I started to get sick a few hours ago.” Matt sullenly agrees but hates being told the same thing over and over. Juliet pats him on the knee.

Dr. Schiller mutters, “Fastfood wird der Tod von Ihnen sein.”

More loudly, “You are lucky. Most people during natural disasters who get heart attacks have to wait one to three days before being seen by a doctor, I remember watching CNN show a special on La Plata which talked about it.”

Matt cuts him off, “Am I having a heart attack?”

Dr. Schiller raises an eye brow, “Everything will be answered in good time. Juliet, please get one of the EMS workers to come over for a moment? How long have you been sick?”

The doctor looks uneasy as he glances towards the CDC tent.

Juliet is confused, “Who are they?”

She maneuvers around beds trying to get one’s attention. It doesn’t take long.

Dr. Schiller tells Matt, “I have a few more tests to perform.”

A dozen firefighters pass through the crowd; they carry one of their own to the tent. Dr. Schiller tells the EMT worker to assess Matt as he quickly goes to the firemen. He puts a red tag on Matt’s wrist and tires looking apologetic as he moves on.

Zack is a heavily built middle age Caucasian. Zack isn’t into small talk. Dr. Schiller yells over the commotion,

“He might have had a heart attack. I wasn’t done checking him out.”

Matt vomits all over himself and feints.

Zack mutters, “We don’t have electricity to perform a MRI or an echocardiography. There might be a backup generator inside with something working. I know the National Guard was digging the generator out of the rubble hours ago. Why don’t we bring him into the hospital? I need to put him on an ECG to watch his heart beat if nothing else. None of this matters though, the doctor put the red tag on him.”

Juliet and Harry agree. Zack puts a finger into Matt’s mouth; he deftly makes sure Matt doesn’t swallow his tongue or choke on the vomit.

Harry pipes, “I think the heat and stress of the earthquake jacked his blood pressure which messed with his heart. Zack, can we get him on some oxygen? What does the red tag mean?”

Chuang appears with an oxygen tank. Juliet looks at him with some respect. The man doesn’t answer. He however goes through the motion which appeases Juliet. The day is going too fast and is too confusing to understand why they are doing what they are doing.

Zack cleans the vomit off of Zack and Harry picks up the obese male. Matt has a pulse. Juliet forgets about Chuang as they make their way to the hospital. Becky darts from the yellow tent and joins them. The sky gets dark as the sun blots out, dark clouds fill the sky. The entrance to the hospital yesterday looked over large round sidewalk with many colorful flowers and white park benches. All the flowers have been trampled and a few trees have fallen. One tree is on top of an emergency ambulance.

Juliet pauses at the entrance; two armed guards with machine guns manually open the front entrance. They don’t use the revolving door which has rubble from the ceiling heaped in a pile. Rather they use the door near it. Shutters close off most of the windows. Guards are stationed every forty to fifty feet along the walls. Every ten minutes or so a person makes a mad dash to the hospital; it’s as if they have a need to touch the walls, similar how a moth goes for the light. The guards peacefully and apologetically escort them back to the masses.

Zack declares, “Matt is having not having a heart attack, we need to get him looked at ASAP inside.”

Juliet looks up as she catches her breath. It’s going to take the guards at the entrance a moment to open the door. She knows he’s talking about irregular heartbeats. Her inner awareness is tuned with the injured. They are bringing a lot of people with red tags inside.

Zack tells no one in particular, “The Washington Hospital Center is a private hospital. We cater to Georgetown University School of Medicine. That’s where I go to school. I was doing a class in the ER when the earthquake struck. Many doctors were killed when the cafeteria’s ceiling caved in. Others didn’t come back from lunch who dined out. They must have gone home or something. We only have 926 beds and one of the wings got destroyed. It’s a mess in here.”

Juliet peers towards the clouds which dot out the sun. She knows more than Zack about the hospital her dad works at. Back in 2011 Mayor Vincent Gray declared a budget crisis for the city. Every hospital was slapped with a $500 bed tax. Over 200 employees lost their jobs at Washington Center Hospital. Juliet’s dad was almost one of them but God had mercy on her family, or so that’s what her dad says.

She remembers her dad saying, “The mayor should never have implemented bed taxes. Policies such as this directly affect American families and medical services. Rather, Washington DC could implement other ways of creating revenue. The city could collect recycled materials such as pop and beer cans. Or how about legalizing medical marijuana and charging patients and dispensaries steep taxes to help bolster health care or public education?”

Juliet is glad her dad didn’t lose his job. Pandemonium breaks out down the street. The crowd surges forward as a new hysteria can be heard and felt. The earth shakes with a deep rumble but it’s not a earthquake or tremor. The masses hush. Scores of birds fly overhead, they fly inland.

The front entrance is open. Zack and Harry carry Matt into the receiving area. The guards at the entrance forget what they are doing as they look in the direction Juliet looks. Becky and Chuang are near her. Becky gasps. Many people are sick, some of them aren’t moving.

In the distance a large wall of blue water surges towards them. It looks like one big mass of water with a raging river on top of water wall. It’s big, but not as big as the movies show. The wall of water looks to be about 30-40 feet high. Maybe it was higher when it hit land. The wave behaves odd. It appears buildings and the topography of the city is altering the tsunami.

Juliet is scared, she feels Chuang left hand in her right. He feels warm which comforts her. Juliet fatalistically says, “It’s a tidal wave.”

Becky corrects her, “No it’s a tsunami. Tidal waves look different. But I did notice there are two suns which confuse me. Tidal waves react off the sun and moon. The waves are going to come in for many hours, maybe a few days. We need to get inside now!”

Chuang moves forward while holding Juliet’s hand. She lets herself be herded into the waiting room. She lets go of his hand and runs for the stairs. She needs to see what’s happening and the roof is the best place. No one stops her. Chuang accompanies Juliet. She bounds up the stairs; two heavy fire doors are open due to debris but the others are securely shut. There doesn’t seem to be any order, she sees Harry help Matt who slowly comes back to conscience.

Juliet runs up the stairs and leaps over an upturned food cart. It’s eerily quiet compared to the rest of the
hospital. Nearby a hallway leads to a waiting room, many of the windows are shattered, sunlight comes and goes quickly. Clouds move fast, even during overcast Juliet’s surroundings are illuminated.

Half the window is intact; no one seems to have been injured on this wing. Juliet looks out, the first wave of the tsunami rushes past the VA Hospital. It’s not high, but it moves steadily forward.  The hospital takes the brunt of the assault and stands, people on the road rush to the buildings. None of the armed forces deny people entry. Everyone abandons their posts; the masses easily overcome the fences. Juliet can hear distance noises as people pound on the windows and doors for entry.

Juliet encourages people as many crash through windows on ground level buildings and disappear inside. It’s not enough, the first wave washes many away. The people on the middle of the street never had a chance. Within moments the wave has become twenty feet, the buildings have reduced much of its velocity. It continues forward without mercy. One large blue and gray cold mass hungrily engulfs the medical tents Juliet was in not five minutes before. Chuang reaches for Juliet’s hand. She feels comforted knowing someone else is near her. She shuts her eyes as thousands of people vanish in the cold blue sea.

Chuang gasps, Juliet opens her eyes. Many bodies float to the surface, a lot of people are still alive. Juliet watches as various wooden objects life, the wave is now across the parking lot and is continuing west. A fire still rages in the VA Medical Building. Support beams break under fire and water pressure, the building collapses with a final boom.

To her left Juliet sees the Cancer Institute. The building is half submerged under water but holds, a dozen people escape to the roof. Two of them appear to be doctors. POB North building is on the other side of the Cancer Institute. Juliet watches as a group of people break a window on the third floor and toss out wooden tables and doors to the ocean. People in the water swim to the wooden platforms and hold on for their lives. The hospital wing creaks under the brutal assault of the ocean. Juliet hears many windows break, the roar of the ocean is deafening.

She looks back to the medical tents where she set many broken arms. The tent cannot be seen, not many bodies appear on the surface. Juliet knows the people instantly in the tents had a quick death. She is glad she wasn’t one of them. Looking up Juliet clearly sees two suns. One is normal and the other is half its size. It appears to be shining brighter than the normal sun. Juliet doesn’t know what it means.

Juliet sighs in bitter defeat; she heads back downstairs to Matt. She grasps Chuang’s hand, she is grateful he is around. She doesn’t make it the top of stairs. Military personal rush up, each soldier holds as much medical supplies as they can, behind them doctors and nurses shoulder patients, hundreds of people flood the stairs.  Juliet has no choice but to step aside. Ocean water floods the lobby, critically injured patients don’t have time to get of their beds. Within seconds ocean laps half way up the stairs but abruptly stops, water recedes for a moment and then picks back up. Young adults and a few fire men scramble over each other on the wet stairs, as soon as one person makes it to safety everyone would watch as the ones behind them struggle to survive.

Tears build as Juliet scans the people as they enter the second story waiting room. She hopes her dad, Harry and Matt materialize soon. Ocean water covers many, it looks cold, and Juliet is dry so she wouldn’t know. Harry boldly carries Matt who is cries like a lost cat. He shrugs off the watery assault as Matt clings to his neck. His left arm holds onto the left railing banister. Young men use Harry as leverage as they scramble to safety but Harry doesn’t let go. Half his body is submerged in water.

“Harry, Matt! Over here!”

Harry looks up, he squints as new water hits him hard, a staff stool slams into his back and he almost loses his grip. The water rises two to three inches, another man rudely yanks Harries jacket as he tries to survive.

Harry fumes, “I can’t hold on, sorry!”

Harry kicks the man off while Matt reminds Juliet of a Banshee from Dungeons and Dragons. The man falls into the water, half a dozen others fall like dominos into the cold depth. Chuang isn’t holding her hand, he found a water hose. Juliet is stunned as Chuang expertly untwines the water hose from the emergency latch; the Asian lad wraps the heavy duty hose around his waist.

Juliet screeches, “Hold on Harry, Chuang is coming!”

Harry fights for his live, he slips to his knees. The ocean water covers his chest and almost all of Matt. Juliet looks around for the firemen and doctors but they are across the room and are exiting to higher ground. Most people are running to higher ground as soon as they get to their feet. Juliet pauses as the building groans from the assault outside.

Chuang briefly touches her shoulder, Juliet spins around. Chuang looks handsome; he smiles and gives her the thumbs up.

“Hurry Chuang, they need your help!”

Chuang leaps over a few people who gasp for air, within seconds he is at Harries side. Matt reaches for Chuang who isn’t as strong as Harry. Matt’s weight makes contact with Chuang, but the Asian lad goes under water.

Juliet wants Chuang to survive, “Harry, don’t let Chuang drown! Matt, get your fat ass up here this instant!”

Matt freezes, his eyes bulge. Juliet sees everything in slow motion. Matt steps forward but his heart gives under the pressure of the day. He looks at Juliet with love and remorse; his eyes lose contact as they go dull.

The obese boy crashes back into Harry and Chuang. The two men feel and see something isn’t right with Mat’s posture. Neither grasp out for Matt as the current wave lays claim to its newest victim. It doesn’t take long for Harry and Chuang to get to safe ground. The water levels increase a couple more inches. Harry doesn’t take a breather.

Harry peels off his leather jacket from the Salvation Army, “Thanks. The jacket takes on too much water. We need to get to higher ground ASAP.”

Harry wears a solid black short sleeve shirt. Juliet is speechless as she follows. Chuang grabs his backpack, Juliet can’t read his emotions outside of him being sad he didn’t save Mat.

Chapter 27: The Unscrupulous Man

Andrew enjoys feeling the pain in his elbow, he finds himself flexing his broken arm with pleasure. Each time a bolt of pain enters his awareness he receives new pleasure which sharpens his thought.

Andrew doesn’t give a damn about anything outside of himself, he just survived an earthquake, and he’s going to be the big boy on the block. Seth has been talking about his family from France. Andrew doesn’t understand much of what the small man says. He likes the dude’s drugs. He just met the man a few days ago. It was weird; Seth met him at the soup kitchen and gave him a fist full of pills. He wanted Andrew to sell his product. They quickly became good friends.

Seth continues with his odd French accent, “I love these shoes; I can’t help but love female shoes.”

Andrew doesn’t care, “If it works for you then just be happy.”

The sun beats down, he feels more comfortable at night. He doesn’t understand Seth and his unhealthy love for hurting woman but he doesn’t care. Andrew loves anarchy; he hates order and everyone who acts like mature responsible adults. He hates those who can make a living while he struggles and goes hungry day to day. His life has been nothing but misery from day one. His mother died during child birth, he wishes he didn’t know his dad. He could have lived without molestation and beatings.

Until today he was a petty criminal who never had much luck in life. His most respected job was being a busboy downtown; his worse was cleaning horse stables at the race tracks. All he knows is shit. Everyone hurt him; no one cares about the poor, about him. Andrew wears a sign saying the end of the world is coming because he likes generating fear. Many give him money thinking he’s a retard or for whatever other reason he can’t understand.

There are two other poor men with them, they are his sheep. It’s not that all poor people are bad, just their poor people. They are a block away from Burger King. Andrew doesn’t worry about repercussions from murdering Rodger. He wasn’t the one who did the killing shot and it looks like the end of the world just came.

Andrew wants security, “We need to find weapons. Why are we walking around with sticks when we can have guns? What’s the name of the one armed man who attacked us?”

Seth replies, “Harry. I was taking a piss when things went down. Did they seriously attack you for our food? They are greedy Americans who think they deserve everything.”

Andrew slyly looks at the other two homeless men. One seems hesitant to follow his orders, “Hey, what’s your name mate?”

Andrew has lung issues; his voice comes out raspy and shrill.

“Mack. I think I might do my own thing.” Mack steps away from the small group.

Andrew stops, “No.”

An uncomfortable second passes, “What…”

Mack looks frightened in his rags. He realizes he joined the wrong side. Seth whistles as he laughs, the destruction happening around him is magnificent. He still carries the metal pipe which drips with blood.

Andrew doesn’t want to lose any of his sheep, “Stay with us, you will get everything you ever want. We have all the drugs you could ever want!”

Mack stalls as he uneasily looks around, “I don’t know, maybe I should go home and see my parents.”

Andrew rasps, “You helped us kill a man. You are one of us now. Things only get better from here. Please stay with us.”

Mack reconsiders, “If I stay what happens?”

Andrew thinks for a moment but it’s Seth who suggests, “Why don’t we get rich? Anyone ever rob a bank? Look. Also, Seth here has some marvelous mystery drugs he would love to share with you. It’s mixed with cocaine. It makes it ten times better, you know, no side effects like with crack.”

A small Wells Fargo sits across the street, no one seems to be around and the shutters are not down. A window stands eerily still, it beckons Andrew to experience what secrets lie inside.

Seth bounces to the bank and takes a swing at the window with Old school wagons and horses sketched in the glass after he gives Mack a few purple pills and some Hydro Codone. Glass shatters, he laughs and hits it again. Andrew likes money. He makes his way into the bank. Using his good arm Andrew swings at the window and laughs with Seth. Within moments the other two poor people join them and it doesn’t take long for the window to shatter.

Andrew steps into the bank, tinted windows keep the sun from blaring in.

A guard points his gun at the group, “Freeze and put your hands up!”

A security guard and a lone banker are the only ones left and his voice is unsure. The male banker has his pants down.

Andrew and Mack laugh as they drop their weapons. Andrew rasps, “Shouldn’t you guys be renting a hotel room?” He wasn’t expecting to see two gay guys.

Seth whines, “Males? So distasteful, I was hoping for something more.”

The security guard is afraid; he doesn’t hold his gun steady. They are in the lobby but the banker is moving deeper inside.

Andrew realizes if he keeps the guards attention Seth might get the upper hand. He rasps, “There is enough money to share. How about we all get rich today?”

The banker blushes as he tries moving deeper into the shadows, he is embarrassed for being caught in his hedonistic act. Seth moves to the left.

The banker tries acting tough as he dashes to his office, “Keep your gun on these pieces of trash!”

Andrew thinks fast, “How about giving us half then? We will leave and not create any problems if you give us half.”

It’s not working; the man with the gun points it towards his direction.

The banker yells from another room, “Please get out of here! We weren’t bothering anyone.”

Seth is within striking distance.

Andrew smiles, “I changed my mind. I want everything. LOOK!”

Andrew acts like he sees something to the guard’s right. Seth lunges from the left. The guard moves his gun a quarter of an inch as he tries seeing what Andrew shouts at.


Seth laughs. The guards trigger finger pulls, the gun fires.  The bullet falls short of its target, it grazes
 Andrews’s arm. The guard manages a woof as Seth continues to bash him to death. Without missing a beat Andrew rushes towards the banker’s office after picking up the pipe.

The middle aged banker manages a surprised, “What the…”

Andrew cuts him off as he hits the banker over the head. He doesn’t have to hit the man twice; he still hears Seth hit the dead guard in the other room. No one is going to stop either of them. Mack and the other man happily yell they are going to be rich.

Seth yells, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”

The man must have deep seated issues. Seth smiles as he looks down at the banker who isn’t dead. He can’t help but show his contempt to those who think they are better. He unzips and urinates on the man who reminds him of his father who sexually abused him. His dad was a banker.

Looking around he finds the master keys, Andrew doesn’t think about the safes being mechanically timed.

Mack happily cries out, “Shit, you killed him. Oh my lord, let’s get the money and get out of here!” Andrew tosses Mack the keys. Mack hands the gun to Andrew who puts it in his waist band.

Andrew is not ready to leave the room, “Get something to put the money in. I will be with you in a moment.”

He walks back into the banker’s office.

The desk it locked. The middle aged man barely is conscience as blood masks most of his face, he isn’t dead yet. Andrew shoots the lock on the desk with his newly acquired hand gun.

He yells after Mack, “Thanks Mack, go and collect your retirement.”

The man leaves for their treasure. They laugh and tell each other how they will retire. Andrew kneels in front of the banker who is trying to say something. Andrew forcefully cleans the blood out of one of the eyes of the dying man. He sees the banker as his dad.

With much scorn he whispers, “Father, I have something special for you.”

He gets up and walks to the desk, all bankers are the same. A fifth of Scotch is half empty. Andrew doesn’t care about drinking; rather he empties the bottle’s contents all over the office. He doesn’t offer any to the banker.

“I know you’re not my dad. His same is Sam.”

He makes sure to not let the man lose conscience as he continues, “My dad used to molest me, but I’m not like that. He did it when he was drunk.”

Andrew looks around; sure enough there are cigars and butane gold lighter. Andrews’ childhood wasn’t pleasant. He tried his best to connect to people but it never worked. He had to find weak people to get ahead. It’s always been like that. He dropped out high school and never learned to read. He prides himself for being street smart and feels resentful to those who have a better life. He waits ten minutes as he watches the dying man make futile gestures.

Andrew lights the butane. He laughs as the banker screams. Within moments the fire rages and he is forced to leave the room. Pretending he didn’t start the fire he shouts, Andrew screams while pretending freight, “There is a fire, we need to get out! Take what money you have and meet me on the street!”

Andrew doesn’t give a damn about having money himself, he revels in his new freedom. The bankers final screams is music to his ears. Within moments he is back on the street with Seth and Mack. They carry sacks full of money which make them move more slowly.

Andrew dreamily asks, “What happened to the other guy?”

Fire engulfs the little Wells Fargo Bank; he knows the other man is dead. No one replies, “Did anyone know his name?”

He laughs.

Seth and Mack, “No.”

Seth chirps, I think we easily got a couple hundred of thousands of dollars.”

Mack is smack happy, “So fucking cool. How about we get some drugs and booze?”

Andrew smiles as he forgets about the fourth man, they are simply his sheep and sheep are expendable.

A dog barks across the street, it tries to direct them to maybe its owner who needs help. Andrew takes out the handgun, aims and fires.


The bullet misses the dog; the dog doesn’t catch a clue as it barks louder.

Seth urges, “Use both hands and take a deep breath.”

Andrew feels his elbow but isolates the pain as he lifts the hand gun with a steady hand.


The dog flops without a whine. Seth pats him on the back, Andrew laughs.

“How about a pharmacy for drugs, isn’t there a Walgreens or something nearby? We need more guns.”

Seth takes a few steps forward, “There is a pharmacy at 400 Massachusetts Ave NW, near the corner of 4th ST NW.”

Mack doesn’t care where they go as long as it’s a pharmacy.

He quickens his pace, “I love oxy cottons. I want a couple of Morphine and Viagra. I know where to find dirty ho’s who will party with us if we bring drugs.”

Andrew visualizes mixing Xanax or Valium with rum.

Andrew doesn’t know where much is downtown, “Isn’t that pharmacy in China town?”

He really doesn’t give a damn, maybe some prostitutes will be around. They cross K St. NW; he sees 4th Street is in ruins. A man in a purple Michael Jackson jacket directs a few people who are lost. The man in front of them is drunk and misses his front teeth, Andrew recognizes him from the soup kitchen, and it’s not the real Michael Jackson.

Andrew walks up to the man as Seth asks, “Hey, you want to join our group?” Seth is very enthusiastic. The man nods no.

The impersonator answers, “I’m on duty. I need to help direct the traffic.”

Andrew looks around. There are only three to four people, no one important.

Andrew lies without hesitation, “Why don’t you join us? I can make you a rock star.”

The man flourishes into the Moon shuffle but abruptly stops.

The man in the purple jacket looks doubtful, “How are you going to do that? How did you know my name?”

The Michael Jackson impersonator is shy but curious about the proposal.

Andrew continues to lie, “We are going to be many. I need a singer to tell of our amazing deeds as we travel. DC is a wash, join me and I will make you famous. There will be many bars and people who will want to hear you sing. It’s a waste to let your talents die here. Do you like drugs? I have some you can have for just joining.”

Mack flings a wad of money at the man dressed in the purple jacket. Andrew can’t read the dude behind the big black sun glasses.

“What do you say Mike? Are you in or out?”

The Michael Jackson wannabe tosses his empty rum bottle which shatters on the broken street.

Michael responds, “How about you get me some alcohol and I will follow you to hell itself. Better yet, make it drugs! You can call me Michael II.”

The man in purple falls in line. Money wasn’t hard to come by anymore.

Seth tells Andrew, “We need more drugs and guns, and then if we can get booze all will be good. I have more drugs at my place. I used to work the Center of Disease Control as a lab tech.”

Andrew is happy. He’s never had so many friends.

They make it to down a block on 4th Street NW. The buildings are in ruins, the earthquake hit the block hard. They see a group of firemen remove rubble from a small grocery store. They quicken their pace as a few officers leave a building carrying someone. The firemen are not having a good day. They can’t maneuver their vehicles on the street and there water has been used up hours before. One officer goes back inside. The mob becomes agitated on the new drugs. Many of the people in the masses took two to three right away.

They reach Massachusetts Avenue NW while passing acting peaceful. Vehicles are locked in place on the main street but most are abandoned. A dozen or so homeless men and woman scavenge with large backpacks, carts and hand bags.

Andrew shouts, “Friends, gather around, I can solve all of your problems.”

No one pays attention. This frustrates Andrew. He takes out his pistol and shoots a round into the sky. Four men and two women pause as they do their best to get expensive radios and merchandise out of two stranded vehicles. The rest continue scavenging without pausing. A gang of thugs peacefully coordinate ripping off some of the luxury vehicles.

Thinking fast he shouts, “I have free drugs! Whoever follows me will get money and drugs!”

Andrew whips out a handful of hundred dollar bills and tosses it to them. Warm wind picks most of it up but the meaning is clear. All the scavengers stop what they are doing. One runs after the crisp Franklins.

An older man in rags asks, “What can you do for us?”

Andrew responds, “I will give you the earth and all its wealth. Follow me and I will make sure we all retire in luxury within the end of the month. Don’t you deserve something better then rags?”

A few murmur approval, Andrew continues, “To long have we been spit at and ignored. Now is our time.
 Come with me if you want to get fat and live like kings.”

More scavengers and beggars show approval. With them are gang bangers and thugs.

Andrew feels confidence, “Follow me and I will raise you to the heavens. We have been forsaken, now is our time, who will stop us?”

The man and his companions want to be in his group after Seth gives them handfuls of drugs. Among the drugs is his purple pills and a enough variety to make any junky happy. Their numbers swell.

The unscrupulous man continues, “Our government has failed! It’s time to revolt and make a new world in our image! No more will we be forced to beg while the rich get fat from our labors. No more will we be rejected for our appearance! It’s the old ways fault this happened! The greed of the rich must be stopped! I give you money, drugs and power! Follow me and have whatever you want!”

Andrew fidgets with the card board sign around his neck. He tosses it aside as he focuses on the pain in his shoulder which fuels his rage. Seth continues to hand out money taken from the bank. Many swear their allegiance.

Andrew continues, “I will give all of you a $1,000 every Monday. I will feed you and take care of you. All I want in return is for you to follow my orders. I will give you drugs every day!”

Andrew beams. He tells Mack to go to the pharmacy and take everything he can. He directs three others to accompany him. Many more stop to listen. Many in the masses look lost and want to be directed and protected. Many will do anything for drugs.

The raspy voice can be heard half a block away, “We must take what we want! The people of yesterday have no power over us today! Pick up your guns and bats, now is the time to fight and take what’s rightfully ours.”

Someone counters from the back of the crowd.

A frail priest leaves the shadows of a gas station, he shrilly responds, “Stop this nonsense. Look what you’re doing! It’s not right.”

A few people agree with the old priest. Andrew feels rage course through his awareness. A few nicer looking people quickly flee down the street. He has a flash back; he sees Juliet ripping the sandwich out of his hands and distinctly remembers Harry breaking his elbow. He really wants to take a few more of Seth’s pills. The craving becomes insatiable.

The pain in his elbow fuels his disdain as he answers, “This is one of the people who takes what’s rightfully ours! It’s his God that caused this destruction! Kill him!”

No one does a thing. People look wild eyed at each other but many of them still think help is coming and the natural disaster is isolated.

Seth lurks near the frail priest. Andrew watches as Seth swings his metal pipe. The priest collapses in a heap, the crowd murmurs.

Seth fanatically screams, “I am with you!”

Andrew beams; he doesn’t want the masses to think for themselves, “I give you drugs!”

A few younger homeless men instantly agree. An older Spanish woman shrieks from 4th Street. Others look scared and confused but it’s obvious they are greedy for his guidance.

In Spanish she cries, “Eres un monstruo barbao!” No one knows what she says, she switches to English.

Her language is smooth and fast, “You are a barbaric monster! You’re a social path, you just killed a priest and you’re going to go to hell!”

Andrew can’t believe the people speaking against him are old priests and grannies.

He screams to his new followers, “Whoever gives me her head gets $10,000 and a fist full of pills!”

At first no one moves but the older woman doesn’t take any chances. She bolts back down 4th Street. The small congregation of followers mill around in confusion, then one young male gives chase. A flood gate of negative emotions and blackness spill from his sheep.

They grow teeth as a dozens more follow, they look like madmen. Andrew smiles and revels in his new status. He feels blood lust rise from deep within. His inner voice demands blood of the innocent. He follows his killer sheep.

Screaming he continues his rant of hate, “The firemen work for the old government! We must remove all threats. Kill them all, it’s their fault this happened!”

Firemen tiredly drop what they are doing. There are only three. They don’t understand why twenty to thirty homeless people are running to them. They do however see the murderous intent in their eyes and they understand the Spanish woman is running away from someone or something. Andrew points his gun and shoots one of the firemen from a distance. The other two flee to the cops in a burning building, the masses take out their frustration and pain out on the good guys as they try to chase them inside. The people around Andrew no longer look sane. The Spanish woman manages to escape but Andrew feels great in striking out at the people who made sure he never had a chance in life.

His sheep want more destruction. Two officers start shooting from the building they were in as their bullets meet the masses. Four of his sheep are mowed down. The Earth tremors, the building groans and collapses on the officers and firemen. Andrew blinks, his adrenaline rushes fast. The threat is removed.

Pointing at the service workers in the destroyed building he rasps, “They would have us be poor and starve! Kill them all!”

Mass hysteria picks up another notch. Numerous normal people who watched from surrounding buildings all run back inside their buildings on the street. Half the masses split as many people give chase to whoever they see. Seth’s mystery drugs create a new high for the masses. Its sweeter then the purest cocaine.

Gun shots can be heard in the distance. Andrew shrugs it off; he doesn’t care about his sheep, just as long as they have numbers things will be fine. There will be more, many more. He knows how to get people to follow him. He turns around and walks back to Massachusetts Avenue.

He doesn’t want to lose Seth or Mack. Getting drugs will make this much easier for him, Seth is at his side. He orders a few men to take as much food as they can carry in a nearby Deli. He tells them to put the food in a few carts and to be prompt. One of the men whines, Andrew shoots him down. The others fall in line.

Andrew asks Seth, “How do we best hold on to our new status and resources?”

Sighing he realizes this is going to take a lot of thought and preparation. Nearly ten of his sheep stand near him; no one made a move for the money.

“Seth, we need to get organized. Do you have any ideas? You people, your job is to guard the money and drugs.”

They happily agree.

Seth nods in approval, “I do, let’s get a chain of command going. Then we can get armed and make a lot of rules.”

Berry and three others come back from the pharmacy. They are loaded with drugs. Mack and another found a few guns.

Andrew announces, “How about we get some more guns and recruit more sheep?”

Seth and Berry laugh at the parody.

Seth replies, “Why don’t we take guns from police cruisers and fallen officers? Or maybe we can raid an armory or something.”

Mack excitedly interrupts, “Maybe we can ambush a group of Reserves or National Guard and take their guns?”

Andrew doesn’t like that idea yet. He doesn’t want a direct confrontation.

Andrew continues, “How about we wait to we get more people before we take on Big Brother? Let’s make ourselves rich first. Everything will come within time.”

A dozen people come back to his group; many happily take painkillers from Mack.

Andrew continues, “Let’s rob a few more banks shall we? How about we break into groups, I would hate to let others scavenge before us.”

Mack declares as he repeats, “We need alcohol and more drugs.”

Andrew smiles as he leads his group further into China Town. Today is his day.

Looking at Mack he decides, “I want you to take a dozen sheep with you and get the booze and more guns.

Meet us at the Verizon Center within twenty minutes. Can you do that?”

Mack is having fun; he gets a dozen people and branches off.

Andrew hungrily asks Seth, “Did Mack get some Xanax?”

After a moment his dreams come true, a bottle materializes in his hands. He pops three without water or beverage. Andrew is amazed how fast word gets around. Scores of loiters and beggars join their criminal band. It’s hard to focus while on the pills, a mellow rage builds deep in his heart.

After a moment of letting the drugs settle in his system, Andrew tells Seth, “I want you to take half a dozen armed men and rob a few more banks while we can; also, can you get more of those drugs of yours. What are they?”

Seth counters, “How about we go into the People’s Gallery and make it to the roof? I can get the drugs without a problem. I have a lot at my house, but I don’t know if the place is still standing.”

Andrew ponders the alternative, “You’re an idea man, and we need masterminds. Let’s do it your way for a time. Don’t forget who is in charge. How would you like to be my general?”

Seth cackles, “Sure. All good leaders have guns.”

Andrew likes Seth. All of his people need to have guns.

Looking around Andrew spies Michael II doing nothing useful, “Mike, where can we get guns without much resistance in this neighborhood?”

M2 laughs, “This is the murder capital in America. We can get guns anywhere. I decided my stage name should be M2, it sounds new and hip. What kind of guns do you want? We need crack man. I know where to get crack and guns, you already have the money.”

Andrew is doubtful anyone is going to be around, “M2 it is, you weird man. Your people wouldn’t have bailed?”

M2 chirps, “Nah, where would we go? This is all we know.”

M2 has a conversation with himself that makes little to no sense. Andrew feels a little uneasy with the new sirens and distant roars, he wants to get this done as fast as possible, perhaps if they get to a high level building he can see what’s happening to the rest of DC. Looking around he sees three robust young men, they drink from fifths and laugh at the destruction. They have an old school hard rock image. Andrew gets their attention, he has everyone’s attention.

He urgently tells the small group of hard rockers “Go with M2 and get the guns! Tell everyone and anyone that if they join I will pay with drugs.” There are a good thirty to forty sheep, the rest have low attention spans and wander around vehicles for something to scavenge. He knows they will come back; they will more than likely bring friends as the word passes along. Andrew continues giving orders as his vision of himself being in charge takes root.

He directs another group, “I need you three to take a few others and become my eyes. I want you to do in groups of two and situate yourselves at the head and rear of our group. If any cops or solders are around I want you to tell us for we don’t get cornered.”

He’s happy as they cheerfully obey his commands. Within minutes he hears them argue how to best coordinate his order. He doesn’t care how they do it just as long as they do it. M2 impatiently beckons the rockers to follow. Andrew now has a small hostile group of scavengers, bums, and beggars to lead. M2 takes advantage of the opportunity by taking on the voice of Willie Nelson. Andrew can’t help but laugh as he hears M2 sing:

On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way and our way

M2’s eyes light up as the masses join the song; the street reverberates as dozens sing the country song again and again. Within minutes M2 is gone. The crew from the Deli comes back with a lot of food. He tells them to go find water and to meet him on the roof of People’s Gallery. He tells them the doors will be open. There are only twenty people left and the front doors are sealed shut. The windows are all sealed; whoever was in charge did a great job in securing the building.

His sheep look at him; they expect him to pull off a miracle. The roar in the distance gets closer, but the sun blinds him in its heat. He looks up thinking it would be great to have a cold glass of water. The drugs kick in; Andrew feels a calmness engulf his body in its warm fuzziness. His vision takes on tracers, the buildings around him look like caves. He feels blood rage but keeps it down.

He remembers crusaders and the holy war; he always loved castles and knights. Looking across the steps he sees the doors are massive, they remind him of a castle’s gate. Andrew looks back at the street, he wishes Seth was around, the man has good ideas. His sheep are getting restless. The earthquake knocked down the phone lines; he sees a large wooden post. He has an idea.

Andrew rasps, “There are enough people to make a battering ram. Pick up that telephone poll and smash this door down!”

His sheep don’t argue. It only takes half the scavengers to lift his new ram. The other ten are old people and look weak.

Andrew is happy. He tells them, “Ram with all your might!”

They run forward, the first hit sends them flying and swearing. The door doesn’t budge.

He orders, “Ram it again.”

His sheep pick up the post and set themselves back up.

Andrew screams, “Now!”

They run and hit the door. His sheep bounce off and scatter. One of the men crushes his right foot as the wooden post lands on his foot. Andrew screams in rage and fires his hand gun at the door. The bullet ricottas and hits the man who crushed his foot. The man no longer screams in agony as body goes limp. The bullet hit him in the head. Andrew looks at the dead man in confusion; he doesn’t know how to get the door open. 

Relief pours into Andrew as Seth comes back from his latest mission, “Chief, you need my help?”

The roar in the distance has subsided, but something still doesn’t sound right. A few military helicopters fly over head, Andrew sighs in relief they fly off into the distance. Andrew sees a few large sacks beaming with drugs. Seth briskly canters to Andrew with a new backpack slung over his shoulder.

Seth says, “I found something special.”

Andrew looks with amazement as Seth takes out a few canisters which look like explosives. Seth wears a pink females sweater that he didn’t have on before, “Here boss, I came across a few fallen National Guards, err, they were fallen when I was done with them. These fine boxes have timers and go boom.”

Seth steps over the dead man with a crushed foot and gingerly brushes up with the wooden post. Seth places one of the explosives on the front door and pushes a button.

Jumping backwards he tells Andrew, “Perhaps we should take cover?”

Andrew shrugs and walks back to the street. He smiles and doesn’t bother to take cover as the doors explode within moments. Seth and the others howl in triumph.

The men he sent out for water return, they were victorious in their search. His numbers are back up to 40. His scouts return, he tells his sheep to make their way to the roof but waits for their status report. He can’t think clearly, he gazes at the broken doors; everyone’s voices become distant and have little meaning as the Xanax takes complete control.

Andrew mutters, “Seth, take control. I need a breather.”

Seth masterfully coordinates his army’s efforts. Andrew doesn’t see the painting or portraits in the gallery. His guns never showed up, he briefly wonders what happened to M2. A distant roaring becomes magnificently louder, the building moves abruptly, they are somewhere on the second or third floor. It’s all irrelevant to Andrew. They are in a hallway which is dark, they can’t see outside. The roaring can be felt in the walls; Andrew is reminded of a semi truck passing on a highway. He loses his footing as does the rest of the group. Nothing bad happens to the building.

Andrew mutters as he closes his eyes, “We wait here. Is that the tsunami?”

He sits up and puts his back against the wall. He prefers to shut his eyes when on Xanax.

The men he sent out for water return, they were victorious in their search. Andrew forgets why the two new men in the group don’t fit with the rest but they are weird. His numbers are back up to 40. His scouts return, he tells his sheep to make their way to the roof but waits for their status report. He can’t think clearly, he gazes at the broken doors; everyone’s voices become distant and have little meaning as the Xanax does its thing. The two men speak a European tongue, Andrew decides it’s best to appreciate have new body guards and to not look into to it to deeply but he can’t help but think about it.

Andrew mutters, “Seth, your loyal right?”

Andrew mutters as he takes a purple pill and coughs hard. He closes his eyes, “We wait here. Is that the tsunami?”

He sits up and puts his back against the dark wall. He prefers to shut his eyes when on Xanax, it doesn’t matter because all is dark.

Seth answers, “Yes. We might be in here for a few days.”

Chapter 28: Kyle, Enough

Fred didn’t make it one block before the water from the reservoir alters their path. Hundreds of people rushed pass them a couple of blocks previous.  Many yelled to them to turn around because the reservoir is flooding the streets but Kyle kept going. Now they are in a mess. A large wave a couple of stories high took out the block which separated their group a few minutes before. Kyle is currently across the street. Two thirds of the street kids are with him and Fred can’t tell where they are. Colon and two others are with him. Between them in a roaring river full of death and despair, they had to temporary entered an unsafe building to escape the initial wave. It’s as if the earth surged up and sent the tidal wave one way but nothing more. It wasn’t the Tsunami he and everyone else fears.

Colon excitedly points out the obvious, “We should go up another level or two.” He sounds very boyish; Fred thinks the kid must have broken a few hearts in his day.

One of the lads retorts, “I want to see out a window! What’s happening out there?”

“John hold up, let’s ask Fred.”

Fred is brought into their conversation; he doesn’t even know where they are. Looking around he sees it’s an apartment complex, light streams into the hallway down the hall. Fred is startled in a couple of feet as he tries thinking of a solution. The buildings second half doesn’t exist; it’s just empty space with a river moving fast.  They walk to the edge of the first story hallway which abruptly ends. The sun disappears behind clouds; the water looks cold as ice. Many of the street kids are sick.

The fourth kid stutters, “That question is answered, now what?”

Colon replies, “Sean, I don’t know. It seems the water has already carved out a path. What’s the point in going up another level?”

Fred lights a cigarette, “There isn’t any. Let’s go back the way we came and see what it looks like out front.”

He pauses as he watches a person drift on the very fast current which is less than ten feet away. Someone holds onto a wooden door as they shriek for help. Within moments they are out of eye sight. A few bodies bang lifelessly near the building. A woman is stuck in a car Volkswagen twenty to thirty feet away. She’s still alive and shouts for whoever will listen.

She sounds youngish and innocent, “Help me, my baby and I am stuck in the car! Someone help us!”

Her vehicle is stuck between a tree and a small section of a collapsed wall. Makeup smears her face as she winds down her window as far is could go. Her car is on a tilt, the river isn’t flooding her vehicle yet. Fred hears a child howl and cry. His heart goes out, so does Colons.

Colon screams at Fred, “We must safe her and the child!”

Fred agrees. Looking around he sees roughly six feet distancing them from the trapped woman. A heavy duty cable for telecommunication cable goes from the side of the building to deep in the water. It looks secure.

Fred finishes the cigarette, “I have an idea.”

He has to outstretch his arm but is happy to find the cable taunt. The black cable crosses the car.

He tries lifting himself up but isn’t tall enough. Sean goes back inside looking for something to use. John is no help, he keeps on repeating to himself the end of the world came and there’s no way out. It’s as if the kid is putting himself into a deep isolated bubble.

Colon puts his hand on Fred’s shoulder, “I understand what you’re trying to do. Let me do it. I’m half your size and much taller.” The woman shrieks as her some water goes into her car from the open window, the baby stops crying for a moment and then continues much stronger. Fred gets the feeling the baby just got splashed by water.

Fred tries comforting the woman, “Help is here! Hold tight!”

The woman shouts she is grateful and pops her head out the window. The water is inches away from flooding her interior. She is a brunette and looks not more than 20 years old.

She flashes a smile but doesn’t stop begging them for help, “My baby and I are stuck, and water is coming in. Please help us, I will do anything!”

Colon demands John’s belt. It’s made from leather. “Fred, can you please bless me?”

Fred stalls a moment; he then feels the warm bubble from early respond as tranquility washes over him. He reaches for the bible in his own belt as Colon wraps his belt around the cable line. The woman in the car puts her window back up.

He hears her shriek, “Please hurry, I’m scared.”

No new water rushes past the old. The water looks not much different than a stream in Minnesota.

Fred opens the bible and reads the first passage he sees. He isn’t good at this type of thing; he feels a little shy at first but is too tired to pay that insecurity any attention.

It’s Psalms 91:15, “When he calls to me… I will answer him. God Jehovah, please walk and protect Colon. We are all trying and we glorify you lord in all your magnificence. Please bless us and always protect us from evil and harm.”

Colon gratefully concludes, “Amen.” He wraps the belt around the cable and launches himself forward. He painstakingly has to inch forward. No new tremors or tides change anything.

The mechanic prays, “God, please don’t let something bad happen to Colon or Kyle.”

Fred looks around and is in awe the building is still intact. A picture of a meadow hangs on a wall. It’s off by an inch. Fred reaches out and puts it back in place.

He yells to the woman, “We are almost there! Don’t do anything but be ready!”

The carpet underfoot is brown and looks not inviting. Sean comes back with nothing useful. He’s drinking some pop and offers one to Fred. He looks at Colon who is half way to the car and his mouth drops.

Sean blurts, “Oh my God, why is colon doing that? I think I saw some rope but it was too heavy.”

Fred wonders why Sean didn’t get him sooner. It doesn’t matter. Colon is over the car, he hits the wind shield with one hand as he wraps his feet around the cable. He doesn’t let go with the other. The woman unwinds her window, she thrusts her baby out.

She cries, “Please safe my baby!”

Colon can’t grab onto the baby without losing grip of the cable.

He pleads with her, “You need to come up here. I can’t reach.”

Despair enters his voice.

The woman with the baby responds, “I can’t do that! I’m sorry, please safe my baby.

Fred looks at Sean, “Take me to the rope.”

John stutters for them to not leave but Fred tells him and Colon his plan. Colon wraps his body around the cable as water hits him but not with force.

Moments later Fred finds himself in a room looking like a janitor’s closet. A plague outside the door calls it the Maintenance Room. The room itself isn’t that big, it’s hard to look around. Light from the hallway shows a fairly large industrial rope on the floor near a mop. It takes both of them a few minutes to drag the rope back down the hallway. Everyone is where they left them. Fred hears Kyle shout his name from the distance.

Fred tells John his plan while tying the rope into his tool belt buckle, “Find my son and the others and bring them here. I’m going on the cable.” In theory his idea would have the tool belt take majority of the stress from his weight which should give him leverage to help get the woman and the baby. “Sean, I need you to anchor the rope and keep it secure. He gently places the bible and cross on the ground.

Sean stutters, “I can do that.”

Sean takes the other half of the rope and ties it to a side railing. Fred doesn’t worry about failing as he grabs Sean’s knapsack.

His belt holds under his weight. Fred pushes up and out. He slides down the cable three feet before coming to a stall. He almost loses the knapsack but doesn’t. He does however lose a few tools as they splash into the river.

Fred is surprised how easily he slides down the cable, within moments he is near Colon. Colon hangs on the cable, his legs and arms shake from too much physical stress.

Fred near the car windows, the woman inside shrieks, “Take my baby before it’s too late!”

She opens the window, the Volkswagen wagon looks like a wreck up close, the water ruthlessly pounds into its side. He doesn’t know why it hasn’t been pulled along with the current. Fred thrusts the knapsack into the car.

The woman cries, “Richard, you need to be a big boy and grow up strong.”

She puts the baby in the knapsack and thrusts the crying little person towards Fred. Fred grabs the bag and starts inching his way back.

Colon strains from all the effort, “Lady, I need you to leave the car and climb to the cable.”

She cries back, “I can’t, please take care of my baby.”

Fred annuls his quietness, “Stop this insanity and please do what Colon says.” Kyle and John appear near Sean.

Kyle blurts, “Why in the hell did you let my dad go out there! What’s wrong with you people?”

Sean and Joe try to explain to him what’s happening but he doesn’t care. His son’s voice is beginning to give Fred a migraine; he can’t wait until he can smoke another cigarette. Hand over hand Fred inches his way back to the hallway.

Colon tries a new tactic with the woman, “Come out half way and take my hand. I will help you. It will be fine.”

His voice takes on new urgency; the current in the newly made river takes on a new velocity. Fred reaches the hallway and happily hands the baby to Kyle.

Kyle doesn’t want the baby, “I don’t like these things. Here someone else take it.”

John takes the baby. Fred looks back. The woman has half her body out of the car.

Colon tries reassuring her, “Everything will be fine, take my hand?”

He reaches with one hand. She never makes contact. The woman tries stretching her hand to Colon but the raging water finally moves the Volkswagen.

The ill fated woman cries, “Please take care of my son!”

The vehicle fluidly breaks off from whatever obstacle was holding in place. There is no noise, the vehicle smoothly moves with the current, the woman winds up her window and within moments is out of eye sight. The street kids murmur and in hushed tones say how much that sucks. Fred reaches for his cigarettes; he can’t stop shaking from the adrenaline rush.

Kyle tiredly attempts to redirect the group, “It’s weird out front. Half the street was missed by the wave, look!”

Kyle points to their right. Fred is surprised to see the water that looks like a raging river starts near something looking like it was a river in the back yard.

He continues his observation, “The water is surging from sewages and from ponds and rivers? Is it possible?”

Fred and the others watch as millions of gallons of water surge from the sewage drains connecting to the river. He doesn’t know if the river is manmade or natural, he doesn’t care. He does however see the danger in being near water ways with the current earthquake. The water does not ebb, it seems to be picking up speed, the baby cries.

Fred finishes his cigarette and he no longer shakes, “Let’s see what it looks like out front. This building isn’t secure.”

He picks up his bible and cross.

He tells John and another, “Let’s take the rope with us, it might come handy in the future. It might take two to carry it.”

The others congratulate Colon and Fred for their bravery. No one mentions the woman who was swept away; there isn’t anything anyone can do.

Fred takes the moment to give credit where it deserves to go, “It was out Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that saved the baby and who is keeping us safe.”

The street kids approve with many, “Amen’s.”

Kyle is learning to keep his negative thoughts to himself; no one supports his flippant behavior. His son fondly caresses his back pack. Joe and Sean seem to have the baby under control; they gently make baby noises with the boy. Fred feels nostalgia; he wants to be home with his family in Minnesota. He keeps him emotions in check as he leads the group of the building.

The front street is nothing like the back yard. It’s apparent a wave crashed through but it left very little deep water. There’s a lot of destruction and small pools of blackish water here and there. The block across from them is strikingly empty. Nothing is left in place, the terrain looks flat. A few street kids who don’t fear getting hurt trudge through the water which is only a few inches deep. One points at the obviously empty contrast of this block and the next. The wave left nothing in its path for about thirty to forty feet. Fred assumed wrong in thinking the water was following the Street and had any order.

The only things standing across the street are lamp posts, it’s like the buildings and block were simply erased. A dozen vehicles are in various poses of metal carnage, someone yells from an upturned truck near the opposite end of the street. The yelling isn’t sharp, it sounds as if the person is injured. Fred shuffles forward towards the turned truck, he’s in a daze and everything appears to be fuzzy and surreal. Misery and death lay all around them. Kyle looks like he has the flu. His has been sneezing a lot.

Fred can’t handle it as he tells God, “The old and young don’t deserve to die. Everyone was minding their own business when the day first started. No one deserves to die in natural disasters. Why God?”

Fred is near the vehicle, peering in he sees a thin man strapped firmly in the driver’s side. The man’s body is crunched forward; his head and neck appear to be bent unnaturally. The front glass shield isn’t anywhere to be seen. A metal pipe pins a female passenger to the seat. She is dead.

Fred jumps when the man turns his head just fine.

The man groans, “Help…”

Colon comes up and pokes and prods at the front door, it doesn’t budge. Fred feels it’s futile to try to help and is about to walk towards the block that no longer exists when he hears the baby cry. The little light voice comes back, he feels tranquility, and he sees the world a little different.

The light vibration confirms his question; he feels a pull to look back in the vehicle.

A muffled cry comes from the back seat. Colon yells, “There is a baby back here! What’s happening, are babies raining from the sky?”

His boyish voice takes on wonder, followed by urgency. Fred looks around, he sees he might be able to break the window and get the baby.

Kyle huffs and puffs which remind Fred of a grumpy evil dragon from a Disney cartoon, “We don’t have time for this.”

Fred retorts with less patience then earlier, “Shut up.”

He is afraid to break the window; he doesn’t want the glass to injure the baby. It’s not like the baby can cover his or her eyes. The baby is quiet but moves its arms.

The baby is dressed in pink. The sun goes dark as much of the light leaves the street. Fred looks up, he can’t see the sun. The cloud in the sky looks dirty and not right. The light vibration becomes a deeper bubble which appears to be a mix of blue and white. He can see it without closing his eyes. Fred gets the impression he needs to get to higher ground. A roar in the distance can be heard, it sounds massive, it easily blocks out the emergency siren.

Kyle storms, “This is ridicules and we need to get out of here now!”

He pushes past Fred and Colon and with a roar brings a metal down on the window.

Fred and Kyle blurt, “Stop.”

Kyle doesn’t listen to them as he breaks the window. With ease he removes the straps holding the baby in place and takes her out of the car. The man with the broken neck breathes his last breath; Fred thinks he hears the man say thank you before dying.

He gives the baby to Sean and John, everyone including Fred is amazed Kyle rescued the baby girl. Kyle flippantly tells the group, “As I was saying. We don’t have time for this. We need to get to higher ground!

The hospital is a couple blocks north.” Now they have two babies, one male and one female.

A half a dozen stragglers wander close. Fred hears them talking of gangs and poor shooting each other a few blocks away. Fred hears gun fire in the distance. It doesn’t bother him for they are heading north while the gun noise comes from the South. It sounds like fire crackers, but here and there Fred can distinguish rifles from pistols.

The block intersects with 1st NW, the pass the destruction. Ahead Fred sees a large blue bus on its side. Kyle mutters, “Look, it’s the CNN bus. I saw it once in New York during the presidential campaign. A man with crutches crawls out a side window.

He sees them, “Oh God, thank you for letting me survive that.”

The man talks like a surfer, “Hey you guys, there are a few people that need rescuing on the bus. Come help us dudes!”

Kyle sighs in defeat, “Oh look, more people to rescue, I’m not going to bother to try to stop you dad. Go play hero.”

Fred blushes; he doesn’t understand why Kyle is so rude. Colon and a few others run forward, they reach the bus within moments. Fred wants to tell Kyle to shut up. Colon helps the man with crutches out of the bus. The fat surfer falls and scrapes his elbow near the end. No harm done.

The obese male gratefully chit chats nonstop, “Oh man, the wave was big! Berry didn’t make it nor the woman or her baby. But there are two in the bathroom that might still be alive. Oh man, sorry if I smell, I will change as fast as I can. I have had a very miserable day and I can’t seem to find my lighter…”

Fred rolls his eyes, “What’s your name? If you move we can get the other two.”

The man stops his rant for a moment, “Vince. Mike and April are in the bathroom, I don’t know where Susan went.”

Kyle pipes, “Susan Bishop the CNN reporter? Was she here?”

Vincent looks confused, “I think she got out of the bus when the wave came. Do you have a lighter?” Fred goes inside the bus which is on its side.

Fred yells, “Mike, April, anyone alive in here?” A woman swears from somewhere which must be the bathroom.

Fred answers without knowing what she is saying, “Help is coming, hold on a moment.”

Fred makes his way; he grimaces when he sees a man and a woman have dead. The woman was strapped in but the man wasn’t. They have glass and other things best not thought about sticking out of them. While passing the woman he hears a soft gurgle sounding like a childish meow.

Fred startles when he sees two little feet dangling from the dead woman’s lap. Fred gingerly unwraps her arms and is surprised when a new toddler blinks back at him. The baby is unharmed.

Fred calls out to Colon, “We have another child in here. I need some help.” Colon comes into the bus.

It takes Colon a minute to navigate the broken seats, “Hey, how can I help boss?”

Fred dryly responds, “Look, another baby. There are two others in the bathroom, I will get them.”

Colon warmly looks at the toddler but avoids the dead woman, “Aren’t you cute. Is it a boy or girl?”

Fred doesn’t know what sex the child is, he simply shrugs.

Fred yells, “Anyone in the bathroom?”

There is a muffled noise which sounds like girlish. The bathroom is on its side; Fred has to crawl on his knees a couple of feet.

A woman miserably cries, “I can’t see, I don’t want to die…”

Fred tries opening the door but it’s not budging. She continues, “I don’t know if my husband is alright, please get us out.”

She sounds terribly distraught. Fred doesn’t have time to smoke a cigarette but he does have time to pray, he shuts his eyes for a moment.

Fred prays, “Lord Jesus, there has been a lot of death, please let me save these trapped city folk.”

Fred feels the familiar tranquility answer his prayer. He is balanced and opens his eyes. There is a crack in the door, a seat somehow got loose of its screws and is securing the door shut. It’s one of those doors that bend at the middle on a swivel, its colored blue with CNN etched it red, the door itself is course with many small bumps molded into the plastic.

Fred tries comforting the woman, “It was just one wave. It wasn’t the tsunami. Hold tight.”

He tries lifting the seat but it doesn’t move.

He asks, “Jesus, I need your help. What do I do?”

A slight tremor moves the bus as Colon exits; Fred uses the opportunity to push the seat with all his strength. It moves a little. He switches position and puts his back to a secure seat; Fred pushes out with both legs.

The seat rolls of the entrance.

On Colons way out he shrills as he finds the news camera, “Hey look a camera, I have to come back in for that in a moment.”

Fred grunts and tells the woman who is stuck inside, “Almost done, try opening the door.”

April cries, “My husband is blocking the way. I don’t know if he’s dead! Please help, I think I feel a pulse.”

Fred tries opening the door but its bend, he sees a small crack. Fred takes his wrench and shoves it in the crack, a few tight pushes and after many curses he gets the door open. Light streaks in the mini bathroom. Two disheveled adults are cramped inside. Fred reaches for and drags the man out. Half way through the man wakes up screaming. Fred has to let go as April explains to him what happened. Fred takes the moment to smoke a cigarette. He remembers them from earlier. They don’t recognize him yet.

Kyle screams from the street without patience, “What the hell is going on in there, the tsunami is coming and we need to get out of here.”

No one answers him. Colon gets back on the bus and gets the camera; one of his friends hopefully took the new child.

Fred tells April and Mike, “That’s my son Kyle; you might remember him from the Smithsonian?”

Mike stutters, “Hot damn, I remember you now.”

Mike reaches for his wife and they both weep in joy for a moment. Fred finishes his cigarette.

Fred’s knees hurt but he doesn’t pay attention, the light bubble in him gets complete satisfaction in helping fellow human beings in time of need. He tells the couple, “We need to go.”

They agree, together they make it off the bus.

As soon as they get off the bus Fred hears Vincent tell Kyle, “So there I was dude, the canvas covered me and I thought I was going to die…Hey Mike, this is the righteousness bro who recognized me earlier. Glad you guys made it.” 

Vincent is smoking weed while altering his crutches from his right hand to left. A couple street kids surround him and partake in his medical drug. Fred is grateful when he sees John and Joe happily take care of the two infants from earlier. The new one is being held by a new street whose name Fred doesn’t know.

Fred interrupts Kyle’s and Vincent’s conversation, “We need to get to my grandson, let’s go.”

Everyone agrees and as a group they head north. It’s hard for Fred to pass many vehicles with people who need help. His inner voice tells him it’s time to get to higher ground, the buildings around the highway don’t look safe. The hospital is supposed to be a few blocks ahead according to the street kids. Many street signs are no longer in place; each block begins to look the same.

Many rivers appeared which did not exist earlier in the day. Storm drains and sewers overfill as water gush out many of them. A lot of side streets are destroyed, many blocks simply aren’t standing. Other blocks are still intact, they are lucky as none of the new bodies of water block their path. The tidal wave looks like it mowed the buildings in uneven lines; Fred gets a brief flash of mowing his lawn on weekends when he was a teen in MN. He laughs at himself as he envisions a bird’s eye view in a third person perspective of Washington DC with water mowing the city. A blond woman runs to them from one of the side streets. Fred recognizes her from earlier.

Susan runs fast for a small girl, “Mike, April! Is Berry alright?”

She sounds concerned for her camera man and doesn’t give her bus a second glance.

April cries, “I’m so sorry, he’s dead.”

Susan breaks down on the street.

She slams her fist into a ruined black sedan, “No, this can’t be. We made it through the Iraq and the middle east together!”

The owner’s body shifts from his slumped position on the steering wheel, the weight presses down on the horn which makes its noise. Susan swears and hits the sedan again, “Shit, I’m sorry I ran, I didn’t want to die when I saw the wave coming. I’m so sorry Berry.”

She cries, Fred walks to her and puts his arms around her. She gratefully accepts his compassion as she repeats her pain.

Colon walks up to Fred and Susan, “Mrs. I have something I think is yours.” He offers Berry’s camera. Susan cries harder.

Fred tells Colon, “You ever use something like that? Maybe the reporter could use some help? We need to move forward.”

The distance roar is gets closer; everyone looks at each other uncomfortably as thousands of birds pass by. A few military jets speed over the birds. A few news helicopters can be seen in the way distance. Everyone is heading north.

Colon in awe, “I want to be a reporter! Err; I want to be a cameraman for a reporter! Can I hold your camera Mrs. Susan is it?”

His voice pleads and his eyes take on a lost puppy expression.

Susan stops crying, “Whatever, here I will show you how to use it.”

Fred directs his group forward. The newly acquired children cry for their lost mothers, he can’t afford to think of their pain at the moment. He sees the forerunner of the hospital buildings in the distance. Fred panics as he sees thousands of people on the street ahead of them.

A dark cloud covers the strange two suns. Deep down Fred thinks the two suns have a role in what’s happening, he does however expect to see Jesus come from the heavens and is saddened it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t change his belief or make him doubt his faith. The masses ahead of them are hysteric, they rush the fences the National Guard and Reserves put up. The soldiers don’t fire on the civilians; rather they abandoned their posts for higher ground, or maybe they were ordered to retreat. The hastily erected fences don’t stand under the weight of thousands of people who want to get inside the hospital buildings. The distant roar feels close, his group stalls at the rear of the masses, Fred see’s a burning building in front of him. The light voice from deep inside tells him to run into the burning building.

Fred yells back, “I know this is stupid but God is telling me we have to get inside that building!”

Its only four stories tall, half the building is on flame. None of the masses touch that specific infrastructure, the sirens abruptly go off. The street kids follow without question.

Kyle swears but doesn’t stop. In defiance he counters, “The building is burning dad! We are so close to Junior, let’s not do this! You’re insane.”

No one listens to Kyle, he eventually sputters off into silence. Fred prays as he walks into a hole in the wall. The entrance to the Children Hospital has been destroyed but a new entrance gaps near the original entrance as the fire reshaped the building.

Stairs near the entrance lead to a higher levels. Fire has eaten much of the color inside, no one is around. The roar becomes a giant boom and Fred feels his body pitch towards the floor. They are inside and have access to no windows as all becomes dark. Street kids and April yell the tsunami finally came. Fred gets up; there are many more stairs in front of them. Fred is terrified as he reaches for his bible; he puts one foot in front of the other.

He tries directing his group as he screams, “Go up!”

He can’t see clearly but he doesn’t stop. The building sways but remains intact.

Chapter 29: The Shattered Spider

Mike’s pulse beats fast, his nose started to bleed when he was unconscious in the bus. April helps wipe fresh blood from his face on her sleeve. Having a constant flow of adrenaline jacks the senses and helps isolate the pain. His hearing outside of the constant roaring in his ears becomes sharp, the roaring comes and goes. It’s hard for him to hear over the slight ringing,

His shoulders scream in agony, when the bus flipped his upper body rolled. As long as he puts one foot in front of the other maybe they can outrun the tsunami that is coming any minute. They make it up three stories; it’s hard to tell in the dark. Many people bump into them, a lot of the street kids are praying for Gods help. His legs burn, he wants to stop but I can’t. A few people are behind them, the building rocks as the wave rushes past it. We hear a tumultuous thunder as the ocean rushes into the lower levels of the building. Mass panic erupts as people fear the ocean sweeping up the stairs. The sirens no longer wail over Washington DC.

April cries, “I never wanted to leave the Upper Peninsula! I could be home with my Sam and my cats! I want to paint; I don’t want to be here…” On and on she vents.

Mike’s awareness goes full circle. He temporally loses touch of the moment and slips. His head spins form his heightened blood pressure. He tastes new blood. It has a sweet and metallic texture and odor.

Mark whines, “Why me?”

He jumps as Vincent answers, “Why not dude? The law of probability says it has to be someone, why not you?”

Mike wonders how the medically handicap smoker is doing and how he managed to climb the stairs.

Mike asks, “How are doing?”

He shuffles one foot in front of the other. His muscles and knee caps don’t want to continue. They make it four or five four stories up.

Fred stops the group. He didn’t seem like a leader type earlier but he’s doing a good job now. Mike is grateful to have someone take responsibility. Colon figures out how to turn on a light on the camera and many people sigh in relief.

April and the others use their cell phone lights to illuminate a few feet in front of them. Mike lost his phone.

Fred’s sounds drawn-out as he pants, “I think I heard someone, the floors go up but someone might need my help. How many made it? Go on ahead of me people.”

Mike has an idea, “How about we count. Each person should count in order out loud.”

Fred starts; there are nineteen of us left. Down a corridor of the cancer institute we hear children yell is distress. Little light illuminates the corridor as the group makes their way to the source of the noise.

April comments, “It’s a children hospital, it only makes sense children need help.”

Just like clockwork a child steps into the hallway. She’s donned in a hospital gown and holds a teddy bear.

Two more children are behind her, they have blankets wrapped around their fragile frames.

The young girl frightfully asks, “Are you here to rescue us? What’s happening and where did everyone go?”

One of the other two children walks into the small light. They look dirty and hungry.

Fred doesn’t hesitate, “The building is burning, why are you kids still here?”

He stops in front of them, the three children run for his embrace. Susan remembers she is a reporter, she shows Colon how to film.

The girl cries softly, “They all went downstairs and told us they were coming back. They never came back.”

A new wave hits the building; April reaches for one of the children. She tries cleaning the boys face with her blouse. All she manages to do it smear more grime, sometimes it’s the gesture that matters.

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

The little girl stalls, “Wait, there are more of us.”

Mike whispers, “Shit.”

Vincent replies, “Shit indeed. Did you know shit floats in water? If we were pieces of shit we could float out of here.”

Fred answers, “Let’s get your friends little one.”

The three children turn around and enter a closed room. The room is a large medical waiting room with a large television set and a small playground. Two dozen beds line the room; two dozen children look back at us. The jerk from the Smithsonian is pissed.

Fred doesn’t hesitate a moment, “Alright, I need you all to get your belongings as fast as you can, we need to get to the roof. Please don’t panic.”

Vincent is near a window. The window is small, roughly three feet by one foot. It’s enough to appreciate outside but not enough to let a breeze in.

Outside is covered in ocean; waves continue to rush into Washington DC. The VA hospital crumbles into the ocean. Water easily laps the first two stories of the surrounding buildings. The entire street is gone; vehicles are ride the waves, most booming noises are coming from large objects hitting buildings. The suns are out, the cloud passed on sometime when we were on the stairs.

Fred says, “Alright, everyone ready?”

A few of the children need help; the more sturdy street kids offer their services. April grabs a girl who looks frail. Kyle is the only one with deep seated issues. Thankfully he’s keeping much of his opinions to himself. He seems to be fond of his backpack. I’m beginning to be reminded of Golem from Lord of the Rings. The only thing missing is him saying, “My precious.”

The children have a few flashlights which they hand to the adults. The whole time Susan and Colon film the rescue operation. She tells him to be selective with what he films; the battery only has so much life.

A new wave hits the building, Mike stumbles as the floor cracks in many new places, the room they just left caves in. The floor begins to sag down.

Fred musters his voice, “We need to get out of this building!”

A child walks close to the edge; a wall crumbles which reveals Washington DC. Susan tells Colon to film, ocean water covers all of Washington DC; there isn’t a square inch that doesn’t look like it’s under water. The waves are not violent even though they bring death and destruction in their wake, rather each wave is a little a higher than the last. A blue condominium drifts into the cancer institute. The right front side speedily hits the first story, two people scramble on the roof.  They don’t know whether to go back inside or stay where they are, they try to get our attention by flapping their arms and shouting to be rescued.

Susan shrieks, “We can’t stay in this building, we won’t make it the roof!”

The stairway going up to the roof collapses after its support beam groans under the pressure. The building lurches another few inches. Mike tries bracing with his toes but still pitches forward. A new wave brings a brown house which crashes into the condominium. The two houses lock in place.

Vincent gets back to his feet with the help of his crutch, “Oh man, we should have stayed in the bus. Dudes, lets bum a ride on of the houses, if we go down a level we can jump on the roof!”

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

Fred prays, “Lord Jehovah, please deliver us from this plight, we are your servants and need your protection!” He reaches for his cross and bible, it’s evident he really believes in his God.

The two houses remain where they are but move upwards while the wave moves inland. The cancer institute lurches forward and deposits everyone onto the roof of the brown house.

Mike blinks in confusion. The house breaks loose from the condo and drifts back towards the Atlantic.

April cries, “Shit, shit, shit…”

The condo crashes into the VA hospital. Both buildings sink into the Ocean. Children and adults are confused. Many begin to cheer Fred and urge him to continue to pray.

Colon looks in awe at Fred, “Your prayer saved us! God is with us, thanks for being here!”

Other street kids don’t argue, they flock around Fred while asking him to bless them.

Fred blushes as his son retorts, “Come on people, we are heading opposite from the hospital, stop acting this way to my dad!”

Fred meekly responds, “It’s all about Jesus Christ, please don’t praise me like this.” The children from the hospital hurdle together.

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

Fred looks towards Vincent who replies, “I think he can. Why don’t we all pray with him?”

April doesn’t fight; she crawls on all fours to the small group huddled at the center of the floating house. None of us want to be near the edge of the roof.

A man pops out of the chimney like a puppet in a box. A few children point and giggle, some cry and others look off into the distance with no emotions.

The man is dirty with grime and suit from the old chimney, he startles and shouts at us, “Help, my family is stuck in the living room.”

He writhes out of the chimney while wheezing, “Danny is in the chimney, get Danny!”

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

Fred points at Mike.

Mike looks at his wife apologetically, “Isn’t it my duty to help those in need?”

Colon reassures the man, “We will safe Danny. Is there anyone else inside?”

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

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

Fred finds his voice as he remembers Psalms 23:

LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; 

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Colon hands the CNN camera to another. Fred asks Jesus through prayer, “God Jehovah, these kids want a helicopter, can you please bring a ride and keep us protected?”

The children huddle around Fred, Kyle sits in the distance but not far away.

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

One replies while another nods in approval, “Sure Colon, whatever you want.”

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

Mike rolls his eyes while not disagreeing with the point, “Thank God we are not in Japan, hope fully we will be out of this in a couple of hours.” He continues by asking Fred, “I think I believe in God completely today, can you ask the man or woman in the sky to watch my back?”

Fred nods, “Sure thing pal. Sorry I didn’t chat at Burger King, you’re a good man.”

Mike responds, “No problem, I now have to go be Santa Clause, be back in two wags of a dog’s tail or something.”

A third street kid decides to join us, his name is Vinnie. Colon peeks in the hole and jumps back a foot, “Someone is near the top! Help me get him up Mike.”

Colon and Mike drag a new person to the roof. The dad pats his son, “Danny, your safe. Where is your sister Megan?”

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

Danny replies sullenly, “She went back to her room to get her teddy bear. I tried stopping her.”

Colon asks, “Where is Megan?”

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

Mike grabs the rope and swings both legs into the deep black hole. Before he can reconsider the house lurches on a new wave. Down Mike goes a few feet. By bracing his legs and feet along the chimney he’s able to direct himself safely down. It doesn’t take long to get to the bottom. The metal grate has been discarded to the other side of the living room. It’s a big 1900 two story Victorian house, with all the ruined trimmings. Their color scheme is beige and white but most things are broken. None of the furniture is in place, nothing is on the walls. The house rocks back and forth.

Colon hits the ground hard; he didn’t use his legs as a brace. He gets up and yells, “Megan!”

The living room is a mess. A long wooden table is on its side from the kitchen, chairs are all bunched at one side of the house. The moment the wave eases the furniture rolls half way to the center of the living room. Back and forth the furniture moves.

Colon yells, “Megan!”

A girl responds, “I’m here!”

She bounces out of her bedroom holding a teddy bear. She’s frightened, “Where is my dad?”

Colon softly tells her, “Everyone is on the roof, let’s go.”

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

Mike yells, “Get into the bedroom!”

Colon takes the girl back the way she came. Floor boards give under their weight as they run out of the living room. Mike slams the bedroom door. The girl’s room is decked out in soft pink and blue colors, many stuffed animals and dolls look blankly at us. She has a princess set up; her television and computer are broken on the floor. She wears no shoes.

The girl stalls, “Watch out for my tarantulas!”

Mike doesn’t understand what she’s referring to, the boards shift as more floor boards give to ocean.

Colon jumps onto the girl’s bed as he points and shouts, “Spiders, near the shattered glass!”

Three tarantulas mill around their broken glass holding case.

One speedily heads towards us as the water seeps in., my eyes open wide.

Mike tries stomping on it but the little girl gets in the way.

She shouts, “Don’t hurt Peppy!”

Mike is mesmerized as he watches the floor boards buckle underneath the spiders. Within moments two of the spiders disappear.

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

The little girl howls, “My spiders are dying! Someone save them!”

The remaining courageous tarantula darts under the bed. The hinges pop out of the bedroom door and the door swings free. The hallway but water, Mike shudders as he watches Vinnie’s limp body float off.

The ocean water in the bedroom lays claim to the other side of the room, like a jig saw puzzle lines appear on the wooden floor. It smells like rotten fish.

Colon yells, “Down here, I need the rope!”

The water reaches under the bed. The bed drops a few feet into the water. The girl screams but luckily no one falls off. A large thump announces a heavy rope coming to the rescue.

Fred yells down, “Hold on, we are securing the rope!”

Colon urgently tells the girl, “I need you to climb the rope! It’s like gym class; you climbed ropes in gym right?”

She mutters, “Yes, I can climb a rope.”

Colon picks her up and brings her to the rope. He tells her, “Climb girl! Climb like you never climbed before!”

More of the bed is absorbed into the sea. Mike see’s a chopper in the distance.

Colon suddenly jerks. His eyes roll in his head as he collapses into the middle of the bed. A small dark black tarantula crawls from near his out stretched hand. The girl is gone. Mike kicks the spider into the ocean.

A military helicopter hovers over the roof, its hovering above the roof.

Mike tells the unconscious lad, “Hold tight, I will be back in a moment.”

Reaching for the rope he dangles his legs out of the broken window. The ocean hungrily laps for him; it’s a few feet underneath the window sill. The water looks cold and empty.

Mike swings out while holding onto the rope with his dear life. Mike realizes if he jumps out a few feet with his feet he can gain a foot at a time. His shoes give good traction.

April appears near the edge, “Mike!”

He tiredly replies, “I’m at the second story window, can you please have the guys pull me. Colon needs help!”

A platform is being lowered from the helicopter. An emergency rescue worker jumps on the roof and helps people the best he can.

April flings herself Mike as he tells everyone, “You guys need to rescue the kid Colon! He was bit by a tarantula on the hand in the girl’s bedroom.”

Within minutes everyone is happily aboard the helicopter but they don’t go far. One of the soldiers hands the group mystery pills before people get comfortable. The soldier informs the group it’s for their health.

Chapter 30: Larry the Hound

Larry quickens his pace up the left flight of stairs near the receiving lounge; a lot of people mingle in the crowd. Many of them are injured with acute injuries; Larry thinks many of them aren’t worth saving. He decided to head up the stairs as soon as his hand was properly bandaged. He used his badge to get into the hospital; he doesn’t feel sorry for the staff or volunteers who request him to do something. He nods and pretends like he’s going to help but only wanders off. There are not many hot people or booze in the hospital. He vaguely remembers Juliet has a fifth of Vodka, Larry assumes she got washed up with the first few waves.

Somehow Becky ended up with him; she took advantage of his badge and went into the hospital earlier. The staff outside asked him to get supplies from inside, he was more than happy to get one step closer to the helicopter. Becky manipulated the staff outside it letting her join him, this gives him high hopes she might be the one.

There are massive fire doors near the entrance of the stairs. Larry doesn’t think twice as he kicks the obstacle holding it propped open.

He mutters to either Pixel or Becky, “The injured can’t take this way, its way to dangerous.”

The steps have a few cracks but the stairway is in amazingly good condition. He passes a red exit sign which illuminates a foot radius in a soft red light. Larry never was able to read anything to clearly with that type of illumination, a sign says Floor 2, Entrance D. They continue up. Larry doesn’t bother to shut that door, he just doesn’t want anyone rushing the stairs if the Tsunami hit. 

Larry continues his justification, “The people downstairs need to use the stairs closest to them. You have a pretty face Becky.”

Becky stops, her green eyes become fiery, “Listen buddy, I don’t know why your drinking so much right now you need to understand one thing. I’m not interested! You seem to have a plan and I want to get out of here alive. I’m assuming your heading to the roof where the helicopters are?”

Larry becomes crestfallen. He is hurt that all women use him.

For some reason tears come to his eyes, he shakes as he takes out his vodka, he feels ashamed of himself and wants nothing more than to be accepted.

Becky continues with disdain, “You’re a cop?” 

She rattles on, “Don’t you see what’s happening around you? Why don’t you do your job?”

His tears stop. Rage builds from deep within as he listens to the bimbo dish out her opinions. He turns around and walks up another flight of stairs.

Becky’s contempt and frustration pours freely, “I’m only here because I recognize what you’re doing. Together we can go far, alone you will fail Larry.”

Larry thinks Becky found her true passion, her words manipulate new stirrings which are not sexual, she is a out for herself. Larry recognizes her type.

He walks a little quicker as he tries to tell his heart to shut up, “You’re really not interested in me?”

He’s getting pissed but doesn’t show it. She sounds like his mom.

Larry can’t believe the hot girl as she continues, “You’re a pig. Why don’t you go to church or someplace to find a nice girl? Everyone is dying and all you want is to get laid.”

Pixel whines as she senses Larry’s mood change.

He twirls around, “You’re a bitch who thinks she deserves everything! You deserve nothing princess!”

Larry can’t help but smile as he sees her pretty face bunch with rage, she slaps him hard.

He doesn’t think as he pushes her back. He forgets through his drunken haze that he’s on the stairs in the hospital. All he feels is blackness from always being rejected. Her eyes grow big as she loses her footing.

She falls backwards, Pixel barks. Larry tries reaching for her hand but misses. Larry hears a sickening crunch as she lands on her head, Becky manages a defeated sigh. 

Pixel briskly darts to Becky’s limp form and barks again. The K9 puts her nose into Becky’s hair and looks back at Larry with much confusion.

The cop mutters, “Shit, what just happened?”

Larry knows what happened, he pushed Becky down the stairs and now she is dead. It happened too fast. If he could hit the rewind button he would.

One time in California he was indicted for brutally punching a murderer he caught. He was put on leave for a short time and was told to get his anger under control. Larry doesn’t know what to do. His migraine is back full tilt; he pounds the last of the pint and tosses it near Becky. 

Larry orders Pixel, “Come here.”

Pixel looks confused, she nudges Becky and whines.

The drunk raises his voice, “Pixel, here!” 

Pixel looks at him with sadness, Larry breaks eye contact.

He mutters, “Whatever stupid dog.”

He turns his back on Pixel and Becky; he takes a few steps forward. The alcohol sooths his heart beat, he feels calm. Larry fumes at his own stupidity. Larry can’t handle it, he starts blaming himself but doesn’t let go of the booze.

Pixel barks and walks up to Larry. Larry doesn’t notice, he feels something pull at his leg. His fear skyrockets. The floor isn’t caving in; it’s just the booze playing games with his head but he doesn’t know this. Larry kicks out not knowing what’s tugging at his leg; he doesn’t want to fall through the floor. Larry screams as his imagination sees himself dying alone in this building while he sees Becky becoming a zombie reaching for him.

He screams, “No, not me!” 

He kicks at whatever is pulling at him. His foot makes contact with something soft. Pixel yelps in pain. Larry comes to his senses; he realizes it’s the booze which is making him like this. His vision clears but his guilt becomes worse. Pixel slumps backwards and tumbles down the stairs into the darkness while yelping in pain.

Larry realizes what he just did, “Pixel, I’m sorry. Come back up here boy!”

He sees Becky’s still form. Her neck is weirdly tilted; her lifeless eyes cast judgment.

Larry cries out, “Pixel, come back!”

The building shakes and Larry is sent to his knees. He reaches out for the banister and gets back on his feet.

There isn’t anything left to do but go up. Maybe with some luck he will be able to get out of this mess.

Larry’s flashlight dies in between the sixth and seventh story. It’s dark and eerily scary. Now he can’t see if the stairs or intact, or of there is an obstacle. 

Larry knows there are only two more floors, he isn’t tired but the darkness plays tricks with him. He keeps thinking Becky is going to be a zombie or something and reach her him in the dark; he chides himself for his over active imagination. Larry stops and reaches for the second to last alcoholic beverage, his hands shake, the bottle drops on the stairs. The sound of glass makes him jump a few inches, he almost slips.

Within moments his imagination eases, he recalls a few times in his career where he had to deal with corpses fished out of the ocean and rivers. It’s never a pleasant sight or smell. The corpses never rose and did anything. That’s only in zombie and horror movies. Last level, Larry quickens his pace as he takes two steps at a time; he knows the door to the roof is coming soon. His heart freezes when the door doesn’t open all the way, he sees a flimsy chain secures it in place. He throws his weight and hits the door with his shoulder.

The chain shatters and bright sun light streams into the hallway.

Larry never wants to remember the stairway for the rest of his life. He briefly wonders if Pixel had a swift death. He can’t wait to get back to his other dogs. He doesn’t expect to see what lies in wait. The roof to the hospital is meant for only two medical helicopters, today there are three and one fairly large marine chopper in the air. Two are from the hospital, one news helicopter from FOX and the last is the marines. Not what he was expecting. A dozen soldiers with heavy assault rifles patrol the roof; two instantly raise their rifles in his direction.

One shouts, “It’s a cop! Hey put the gun down, he isn’t the like the others who are trying to steal the birds.”

Larry sees two dozen civilians huddled near the entrance he just exited. Two marines have them under guard. Across the roof has another two guards watching over another dozen civilians who made it the roof.

One of the marines shouts to a group of armed soldiers near one of the medical helicopters, “Crew Chief, we have a cop!” A few solders leave the helicopter as three solders lift off in the hospitals helicopter. The solders look battle seasoned, but they are being polite to the civilians.

A news reporter curses from the huddled group near Larry, “You can’t take our helicopters. This is America and we have rights! The world will know about this by the end of the day.”

Larry doubts the reporter’s threats; the news camera is in pieces near his feet. It looks like the soldiers secured the roof by force.

A soldier who has a cocky steady gate replies, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We didn’t take anything. Private, get your ass over here this instant!”

One of the soldiers briskly ushers Larry past the huddled group. A solder that must be the private stands at attention with his gun slung on his back, “Sir!”

The man in charge rudely and loudly barks, “Is this not a natural disaster and are we not under Martial Law?” 

The Private replies, “Yes sir.”

The Crew Chief continues, “Then why is a civilian talking to me? You can’t cure stupid. I want those choppers in the air before the Tsunami strikes, who is this cop? Get these people to safety and don’t allow others in.”

Larry doesn’t want to be here. He made a mistake in thinking the hospital helicopters are going to safe him. A soldier reseals the door by putting a new padlock up. The Crew Chief orders, “Whatever your name is not important. You just enlisted. Take the cop, use him on Iron horse and go rescue some people.” As if one queues, the marines helicopter lands on the roof, no one gets out.

The Crew Chief moves on to other business, Larry sighs in defeat as he continues to get bossed around. Billy interrupts his thoughts, “We are rescuing people deeper in DC and bringing them to Maryland, we got some FEMA camps being set up outside the city. Reports say the Tsunami just hit. The solders get on the remaining choppers; within moments the roof is clear and three helicopters head north. He sees the remaining solders enter the air craft; he doesn’t know what plan of doing with the Fox’s helicopter.  With much trepidation he enters the Marines gray chopper. Larry doesn’t look back for Pixel. He never lost control like that, it makes him nauseated. 

He doesn’t have time to think, the light leaves the sky as a large cloud covers the horizon. His attention is drawn to a crudely looking blonde bimbo with large boobs. She looks like a cross between a Playboy model and the woman from the World Wars who bunch her right arm while looking tough. There are a dozen notches under her image and Larry doesn’t know what it means. Bin Ladin is etched with a skull and a smiley face over it, a red dot appears in between his eyes.

Larry learns Iron horse is the nickname for the CH-53E which is a Marine helicopter. There are six soldiers on board; they call themselves the 2 nd Marine Aircraft Wing or something. Larry’s migraine is back and it’s hard to focus. One of the solders comments without emotion, “Cop, you smell of booze.” Larry doesn’t say anything. A second image is near the girl with giant boobs. It’s an iron fist clutching something in a yellow circle. There is only one small window near the cockpit where Larry sits. A few more windows line Iron horse every few feet. 

The private from early tells one of his buddies, “Look we got a drunk. I can’t believe we are seeing action like this, didn’t someone get a memo this is an assault chopper, not a damn search and rescue bird for an end of the world scenario.”

For some reason the marine's radios and telecommunication work, Larry remembers he pitched his radio back at the Capital building.

Another soldier retorts, “Man give it a break, you know we are fully equipped for search and rescue.”

The soldier has a crest on his sleeve, he’s with the 82nd. Larry sees various soldiers are from different companies, the one near him has a badge toting the 10th Mountain Division.

Larry finds his voice as he tries acting tough, “I thought you guys were supposed to be from the same unit? What happened?” The soldiers become quiet.

The complaining private mutters, “Our base got hit. Hard. Saving Americans is the only thing that matters at the moment. Entire mobs are out of control outside of DC.”

“You're talking too much private. You’re breaking PERSEC/OPSEC protocol.”

Another soldier snaps.  Larry feels inferior to these men. He doesn’t doubt a moment they have hot girls waiting for them. The soldiers are hard edged and built like bulls. They all have khaki bandannas over their mouths and dark glasses on. It’s hard to tell what they are thinking.

The man continues telling the private, “Remember, it’s not always about physical strength, true power comes from the mind. We need to stay focused on the task at hand.”

“Sorry sir,” the private answers, subdued but seemingly not offended by the reprimand.

There is stillness in the chopper; the men are just as unified as Larry’s best dogs, if not better. He wishes he could have been part of a group like this, he feels like shit for drinking so much. He remembers Becky and Pixel and decides it’s best to get away from these people as soon as possible. He doesn’t feel like he is one of the good guys or that he’s a warrior. He feels like a joke.

The officer concludes while looking out the window, “We have a job to do, let us save some yuppies. We can’t take anyone who is sick. That’s an order.”

The men around him agree and continue on with whatever task they have. One of the soldiers tells him to take a purple pill without telling what it is. He’s too tired to argue. He figures its iodine or something.

Looking out the side the first of four small windows, Larry sees a massive wave has made contact with the buildings near the shore. The chopper speeds towards it but then takes an abrupt right. The wave moves fast, he can’t tell where the ocean once started. Nearby a building have a few doctors and a group of nurses on its roof. There are three patients, the building is burning and looks unstable. The chopper moves turns and attempts to hover above the building. His seat is made from hard plastic which doesn’t mold to his butt cheek well. A lot of colorful buttons blink on and off. Most are red or green. The soldiers take inventory.

Dust covers the sky, Larry watches in horror as the helicopter is engulfed in smoke from a burning building. Nearby one of the two medical helicopters jerks, Larry watches in slow motion as it drops like a rock into the ocean. The Private and two soldiers see the chopper fall from the sky. The other two helicopters fly high with the civilians. Within moments they head to Maryland, Larry wishes he would have ditched his police outfit earlier.

The Private cusses, “Shit, I think Benson and Mackey were on that chopper!”

Their pilot has to fly above the dust cloud; many of the passengers want to save their fellow peers. The pilot redirects Iron Horse towards the ocean and the downed medical helicopter. Bodies do not float to the surface; Larry can’t tell where the chopper went into the water. The waves are coming every 4-6 seconds apart.

The staff workers on the deflated roof beckon for help, before the helicopter gets to the building Larry watches the initial wave slam into it head on. The Cancer Institute sways once, twice, and then crumbles by the third wave. They are too late. The chopper hops to the next building which has a doctor and two patients’ needing help. A few buildings curtail the giant wave, this building remains standing. 

The chopper glides over to the stranded people, the solder from the 10th Mountain Division orders Larry, “I need you to push this button. It will move the metal rope up and down, wait to I gesture and then move it down.” Larry nods. He isn’t stupid. The private nods and Larry pushes the button. Unlike the movies there isn’t a side opening with machine guns. Rather there is a large opening in the middle of the chopper which allows for heavy machinery or vehicles to be lifted. He does see one heavy looking machine gun but it sits idle, it points at the sea as if the massive body of water is its new enemy. 

The chopper comes close to the roof, the Private signals Larry. He pushes the button, down goes the metal rope and with it one sturdy marine. A platform connects to the cable that can hold a few people; Larry doesn’t see what’s happening once the platform lowers. After a minute the Private signals him to press the button again. The metal chord smoothly comes back up; two patients cling to each other and the metal rope.

The Private gets them on board without commenting. Up and down goes the metal rope three times, they rescue 5 people. 

The Doctor and the nurse are grateful, “Thanks so much.”

The others huddle to themselves as everyone looks outside or at the floor. No one says anything but everyone shakes in fear. 

The Private asks no one in particular, “I’m having a hard time with my new boots, my feet keep on blistering. Anyone have any ideas on how I can fix this?”

The chopper heads to the next people in distress. It takes less than one minute to find someone who needs help.

A man who appears to be a Lieutenant answers, “Altama boots work for me.” 

Another Private reply with confidence from near the rear, “I heard if you can get those boots refitted with new soles. Do you make sure to keep your feet dry and your toe nails cut?”

The Private near Larry nods, “Yes, but I’m having issues running long distances, sucks ass.  Do you remember earlier when that group of men covered in blood charged us? My boots were killing me.”

The Lieutenant replies, “Don’t talk about what happened earlier. Another brand is Converse. Your brand has a reputation of puttering out in six months of use.”

The Private near Larry adds, “I hate my boots. They don’t offer protection to my ankles and they take forever to lace up. They could look a little better too; my girl friend isn’t impressed by them.”

Another soldier who hasn’t said anything before pipes, “You’re too damn ugly and crude to have a girl friend. Last time I looked in the shower you have a tiny pecker. Only men with big tools get the girls. Is she your mother?”

The others laugh.

The pilot sees a person floating on a wooden dining room table, he brings the chopper down. The waves appear to be rising every few minutes. Larry wonders if there is going to be anything left of Washington DC. The Private signals Larry to push the button. The rope only goes down once this time. The man is in shock and takes a seat away from the rest when he boards. Iron Horse continues on to the next people who need rescuing.

The Private continues when the man is situated securely, “Another thing I hate about those boots is they have very little traction when it rains. I did however manage to kick whatever that things face in. How come our bullets didn’t stop whatever those things were in Virginia?”

Another soldier mutters, “I think I dropped a few when I hit them in the head.”

The Lieutenant barks, “I won’t repeat myself again. No more talk on what happened earlier. How do you fare in yomping in those boots outside of what happened?”

Larry doesn’t know what they are talking about. The Private says that aspect is good. The pilot sees a couple trying to survive in a pickup truck which is being carried off to sea. The couple escapes the driver and passenger seats by crawling through the back seat window into the flat bed of the truck. There doesn’t seem to be much time to rescue them, the truck is heading to a fairly large investment bank complex which proudly still stands.

The soldiers act in unison.  The quiet Private loop a rope around the metal cable and connects it to a harness in his belt. Without prodding he exits the flying vehicle using the lift which Larry controls. The second Private signals Larry to lower his cable. Now they are using two metal lines, he still can’t see what’s happening. Within moments the two people from the truck are safely aboard. Larry watches their truck hit the building and disappears. The chopper moves on. They have room for another dozen survivors. Three are sick and are refused entrance. The wretched survivors are not given any reason outside of ordered to take a few mystery pills. Larry’s migraine won’t go away; he wishes he could have a drink.

He hears the Pilot yell to the officer, “The Crew Chief made it. Maryland is green but hostiles are hitting our people fast!”

The soldiers murmur and bristle in concern. 

The Pilot continues, “Here’s the bad news. They lost the FOX helicopter and he doesn’t think they can get to us due to some kind of engine failure. He wants us to come get him once we fill with healthy passengers.”

Larry smiles with the new knowledge. The doctor points out the window. The helicopter darts west towards the residential neighborhood. Many people are on roofs and need rescuing. One roof is odd. It appears the survivors are fighting among themselves. The cop watches as three men attack one man and deposit him off the roof. The helicopter bypasses the house.

The Lieutenant tells the pilot, “We need to be selective, safe those who look important or who are physical fit. I hate to make this decision but we can only carry so many. 

The Private timidly suggests, “We should safe the woman and children.”

Everyone agrees. Up and down the recue cable goes. Up comes people from all walks of life, a few men manage to get on board. Most passengers are children and woman. The chopper is two thirds full. 

The lieutenant orders, “Let’s see if there is a giant whirlpool like in Senoia Japan in 2011.Anyone knows why that happened? Private Laramie, aren’t you the brainy or a whiz with science?”

Private Laramie answers, “Sir. I had a few undergraduate courses in environment sciences on my down time, I haven’t graduated.”

The Lieutenant continues, “Well, please don’t be rude, do share Private.”

Private Laramie explains, “The geography of the ocean interacts with the rushing water. The coastlines and sea floors play a role, I have no idea if there will be a whirlpool. I however do know it’s common to get them after a Tsunami.”

The ocean below them is turbulent. A few boats and roofs of houses drift to sea, they see no giant whirlpool. It appears the sea will continue to crash into the shore for awhile. The Pilot signals towards a large house which is drifting to sea. A large group of people are concentrated on the roof around a chimney. Larry doesn’t care; his job is simply push a button.

Larry looks up is surprise after rising and lowering the rescue machine, he thinks he recognizes a distinct voice coming from below. A man whines about his pain and discomfort. Mike and April enter the helicopter.

Mike is surprised to see Larry as his eyes open wide, “Oh shit! Larry, I can’t believe you saved us again? What are doing here? Where are Pixel and the rest of the group? My legs and hands hurt.”

Larry doesn’t know how to answer Mike’s questions, “They didn’t make it. The earthquake got them.”

Mike looks confused, “What do you mean? What happened to everyone, are they dead?”

Larry lies, “Yes. Sorry.”

Down and up the metal cable goes. Up come Fred and Susan. Larry groans in defeat.

Fred pats Larry on the back, “Nice to see you again. You’re the cop from hell aren’t you?”

It’s obvious he’s trying to joke, no one laughs. Up comes Colon who looks comatose. The soldiers make a fuss over his body. A few of them want to throw him off the ship. Kyle lies and says he has allergies, three of the people on the roof were not admitted.

Fred tells the lieutenant, “This kid got bit by a tarantula.”

The officer answers, “Shit, we used up our med kits earlier. Maybe the hospital is still standing; let’s get you guys back there, maybe they can help.”

The chopper is full. Larry groans in utter defeat. He hates the new arrivals.

Larry requests, “Can I fly with you guys to Maryland?”

The officer replies, “Sure. Let’s get going, I don’t see any whirlpools.”

The pilot turns the chopper around and they head back the way they came. No one knows if the hospital still stands, Larry doesn’t want to go back there. 

Larry tries justifying his desire, “Maybe we should head directly to Maryland?”

He crosses his fingers and toes the officer will say yes.

His expectations are dashed, “No, I want to drop off the civilians first. It won’t take long.”

The rest of the passengers agree with the Lieutenant. 

The pilot adds new information, “Sir, the Crew Chief says they got one of the helicopters working. He wants to meet us as the hospital, they are already there.”

Up and down Larry’s emotions are played.

He brashly needs to know, “If he meets us at the hospital can I still get a ride to Maryland?”

The officer thinks for a moment, “You will need to ask the Crew Chief. Sorry.”

They see another large building in the distance with a congregation of people on the roof. They are all woman and children and a few males.

Fred annoys Larry as he says, “Thanks goes to Jesus who saved us.”

There are a dozen street children who soak up every word. Fred holds a bible and smokes a cigarette as he talks about Jesus nonstop.

Larry gets pissed when Fred comments, “Thank the Lord we are going back to the hospital, now we will be able to save my grandson.”

The pilot asks, “Can we pick these people up?”

There seems to about a dozen. There are no more seats in the chopper. The soldiers desperately want to help the civilians, the lieutenant nods in approval while getting everyone’s body weight count. The Private signals for Larry to press the button to the lift, down and up the metal cable go. On the third pull another dozen civilian’s exit the roof, they are all desperate to get on the chopper. Americans begin to pull each others’ hair while punching and kicking each one another. Its pandemonium as the building sways under the assault of the Atlantic Ocean. Iron Horse can’t handle the weight of its passengers, people are packed in tight.

The choppers heavy frame lowers towards the ocean. The children panic, the building they were rescued from dissolves into the ocean. The officer swears, “Quick, toss everything non essential out of the chopper. We took on to much weight!” The bird is almost near the water, everyone on board desperately throw out seats and various machine parts. The chopper still lowers but slower. The pilot directs the giant flying machine towards the hospital. 

The Lieutenant screams, “Remove all the sidings!”

The soldiers use their knives as they start removing metal sidings, civilians kick the last of the seats of the chopper. Still the bird lowers alarmingly to the water. The children and women howl for they don’t want to die. The soldiers continue to strip the bird; one makes a move for Kyle’s backpack. Kyle flings his body over it.

Like a madman he shouts, “If this goes over so do I!”

The Private shrugs and is about to toss Kyle out the chopper when the Lieutenant stops the ordeal.

The officer briskly orders the Private, “Stand down, get that siding out of the chopper!”

Out goes a whole bunch of telecommunication equipment. Someone manages to disconnect the lift which helps a lot. The solders never once throw out their guns or equipment. A large dust cloud covers the chopper; visibility is cut down to almost zero. Soon there isn’t anything left to throw out. The chopper manages to stay ten feet above the ocean, a few waves hit the sides of the metal bird but do no damage. No one gets wet. The hospital building comes up; the roof has a hundred people who need rescuing. The masses don’t hesitate as they rush towards the helicopter. 

The lieutenant swears as the Crew Chief and two others open fire into the sky. The masses stop, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out the Marine’s aren’t here to save them all. The three soldiers make room for Iron Horse to land. The soldiers remove the civilians from the chopper, including Larry. 

The Crew Chief apologizes to the masses, “We can only take 20. Only the woman and children can come. Those who need absolute medical attention but who aren’t dyeing might be considered. Private Laramie, pack the FOX helicopter and escort as many as you can to the green zone. We will try to come back for more. Do your best to stay safe. We are not helping any who are sick or who are act strange.”

Private Laramie responds, “Yes sir.”

The solders don’t take long in picking a few people. One of the doctors help Colon, they decide to take the boy with them.

Larry finds his voice, “I want to come with you. I’m a cop.”

They agree to take Susan, but April chooses to stay with Mike, she retakes her camera from Colon who isn’t conscious. 

The Crew Chief looks at Larry in disgust, “You smell of booze and are a disgrace to all police officers. I know your type. No.”

Larry is dumbfounded speechless. Susana and Mike gasp, April agrees. Larry can’t handle the embarrassment, tears come to his eyes.

The Crew Chief continues, “Do your duty and pick yourself up. These civilians need you, protect and serve your country and lay off the booze.”

The Crew Chief orders both choppers into the air. Within moments they zip off into the horizon.

Fred and Kyle bound to the stairs, following them are Mike and April. Larry swears and shouts, “Hey you guys, not that one, that stairway across the roof is better. The stairs are intact.”

It’s too late; the group is already going down the stairs.  Larry shakes uncontrollably; he fears they will find Becky and Pixel. Half the street kids follow Fred and the other stay with Colon. Larry decides it’s best to wait for another chopper on the roof.

Chapter 31: White Watering in Washington DC

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 foam of white; behind him he sees the ocean is a cold dark gray blue.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mark screams out, “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.

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.

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. They both cough and look like they have the flu.

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. Near his right 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 dumbass. Finally he stutters, “I never used a raft and I don’t know how to swim.” Everyone laughs.

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.

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.

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 nametag shows she’s the manager, her name is Donna.

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 while roughly coughing, “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. 

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.

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 box.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 supposed 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.”

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.”

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.

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 Café 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. 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. He tells himself to not 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.

He tells himself to go on. The children and America need him. He knows that’s what his dad wants.

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.

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.

Chapter 32: 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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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. Mark shrugs off the paranoia. 

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 as he coughs, “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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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 Peterson, 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 Peterson from Texas. 

Senator Peterson has a rich baritone voice, “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 Peterson, 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 Peterson. 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 an 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.

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.” 

She answers, “Aye Aye Captain Mark.”

Chapter 33: American Art and Portraiture

Black and white stripes boldly splash the wall in front of Andrew. He yawns absently as he drifts in space. He doesn’t understand why contemporary art has to be so odd.

Seth nods to his left. The wirily French gentleman looks at the art. If Andrew didn’t know better he would think the man has an inner knowledge about the artist. Andrew feels impatient; it has been a few hours since the initial tsunami hit Washington DC. Andrew wonders why Seth doesn’t look like a homeless person anymore.

Light cascades from the ceiling illuminating the gallery’s content; the skylights still function as they should. The Great Hall bored Andrew. He had to escape into the contemporary art wing but now is equally as bored.

“Seth, I hate this man. We are supposed to be taking control of the city and here we are in a stupid art gallery which reminds me of a museum. When do you think we can go outside? You think the waves will ever stop?”

Seth smiles as he brushes his chin. The man has an old school goatee; Andrew has the impulsion to touch it but his survival sense stops him. Seth ditched the girl’s sweater from earlier but still wears the Burger King’s employee’s shoes. His hair is kept well.

Seth giggles like a school girl, “Patience. I love how the black and white stripes compliment the orange in the middle.”

Andrew doesn’t dig the moment, “This sucks man. I don’t understand why people call this art. Anyone can draw lines straight lines and circles. What’s up with those cans and bottles glued to the floor in the previous room?”

Seth draws in his breath as he patiently tries to explain, “It’s about visual and performing arts and its message through American History. Each person in the gallery represents a specific time in American history. If you look closely you can see a little of everyone from George Washington to Marylyn Monroe.”

Seth’s voice takes on a poison which confuses Andrew.

“Whatever man, I can’t wait until we can get out of here. I wish there was something to do.” Andrew laughs as knocks over the exhibit. Seth doesn’t join in the destruction but looks aghast.

Andrew takes a left and walks into a wing showing art since 1945. He has to climb over rubble but it appears someone made a path already. He doesn’t care, he has a gun. The bathroom is to the left. Most of his sheep are holding up in the Great Hall which is on the other side of the building. His sheep are high on drugs and many are passed out. They wait for the Tsunami to go away but a few wander around the third floor. The Ocean took the first floor and wrecked most of the stairs on the second. He doesn’t know how they are going to get out but it doesn’t really matter.

Andrew laughs as he tells nobody, “It’s going to take a lot more than an earthquake and tsunami to destroy DC.”

He pauses before entering the Men’s bathroom. The pharmaceutical medication coursing through his system has hit its peak. His vision is blurry but he is aware of his environment for he has been taking drugs his whole life. A noise comes from the bathroom sounding like a pitiful whine.

Andrew silently opens the door an inch and peers in. The bathroom first appears to be dark. Heavy duty maintenance lights illuminate the opposite side of the stalls. Andrew’s heart freezes as his vision takes clarity. He sees a few men who arrived with Seth perform medical tests on some people who are gagged and roped. There is a pile of corpses to their left. It’s hard to determine how many people are in it.

Andrew lets the door swing shut. He shakes uncontrollably and walks into the female bathroom.

His heart races fast as true fear grips his conscious. Andrew attempts to use the faucet but nothing comes out. He can’t see too well. The Xanax fights his awareness. Perhaps he took too many. Sweat pours freely as he tries to think straight. He enters a stall and puts down his hand gun. He reaches for a purple pill. He stalls before he takes it. He briefly wonders what’s in it. His addiction overrides his fear. The purple pill puts him somewhere else.

He can’t piss or shit. He’s too terrified. Andrew darts out of the woman’s bathroom. Panic grips his awareness. The unscrupulous man forgets his hand gun as the drug takes full effect. His pulse rises as his awareness becomes heightened. He feels himself lose tough with his body, almost like an out of body experience. Then utopia kicks in. All his thoughts and sight become fuzzy and fast. He can’t hold onto reality as the drug gives him a raging hard on.

Andrew runs back into the contemporary art gallery, he doesn’t care about his safety. Seth is still near the black and white tapestry. Andrew stops a few feet away. He reaches for his gun only to discover it’s not in his belt. Seth doesn’t pick up on his distress. He wanted nothing more than to put a bullet in the mans head.

Seth continues his paradigm from earlier, “You know, this building shows a great attempt at Greek Revival Architecture. I do however think many of the portcullises and vaulted galleries will forever be no more.”

The French man gingerly walks to the next gallery heading back to the Main Hall.

They pause for a moment as part of the ceiling caves in. Rubble is everywhere. The sun glairs through the cracks, humidity builds in the building. Many portraits show heavy signs of damage. A few remain untouched. His sheep have placed many of the treasured icons in newly made fire pit. No one is cold, they just like destroying things.

Andrew looks around for support. He needs allies if he’s to do something with people who like to torture and murder. He doesn’t want to be the next victim. He looks around for a gun but can’t find one.

His sheep don’t look like what he remembered. He thought there were 40 if not more. A quick count shows him only a fifteen to twenty.

Seth adds, “There is something I need you to do with me if you want me to be your general.”

Andrew is dumbfounded when he sees the remaining of his sheep are old and the weak. No longer are there robust males. The females are gone.

Feebly Andrew asks, “Where is everyone? I thought we had more than this?”

Seth laughs as he easily dodges the question, “I think your sheep are sleeping in the surrounding galleries. Don’t worry. They will show back up when the Tsunami ends.”

Seth doesn’t pick up on Andrews’s hesitation. Andrew tells a lie, “Yeah man. The Xanax are giving me a pounding headache. I could really use a nap or something.”

Seth sounds heartbroken as he blurts, “I need your help. There is a portrait I must have. It’s in a temporary gallery in the second floor due to yearly maintenance.  Have you heard of Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne"?

Andrew does his best to hide his fear as he blurts, “Ok Seth, whatever you want.”

Seth continues, “It’s a painting of George Washington. I must not let these heathen destroy all the treasures. Did you know I came to be a scientist? Instead I’m a drug dealer. Weird how fate turns the great wheel in the sky.”

Andrew looks around but he sees no guns. Outside of pipes and random debris from the ruined building, there appears to be no good weapon. Andrew decides it’s best to play along until he can escape. He doesn’t want to try to fight these dudes, he just wants to survive. As far as he’s concerned they can kill as many people as they want as long it’s not him. The American Victorian Renaissance style architecture has lost its splendor.

All of the cultural, scientific and political figure heads of the 20th century lay in ruin. Nature continues to pound the walls as Mother Earth declares war on mankind. No longer will anyone be able to see the rise of social justice or the glory of civil rights. Busts of statutes remain only to trip survivors. Forever lost is their message. Photographs and caricatures remain fairly intact but soon become trampled underfoot.

Andrew follows Seth like an obedient whipped dog. He no longer feels like the ferocious leader from a few hours previous. He coils as Seth’s voice permeates the stillness. A new wave hits the building. His mind goes temporally blank as the purple drug hits a new high. His blood rages and he wishes he could hit something, anything.

Seth’s voice sounds like death itself, “The painting I want is part of the “America’s Presidents Collection. In 2000 America almost lost the painting because the owner wanted to sell it. Some foundation bought it and gave it back to the museum as a gift to the nation. I think it was the Donald Reynolds Foundation.”

Andrew quakes. He feels his broken arm and wishes he has more drugs. The purple pill is making him feel nauseated and disoriented while putting him into a rage. He can’t see Seth clearly. He sees a vague black and red outline.

He asks Seth, “I want more drugs. What’s in them?”

Seth points to a sack near the fire, “Over there, most of its gone. You were passed out for 6 hours and many people took off with what they could hold. Did you know this Hall was the original Patent Office back in the day? Inventors had to make small miniature models before getting patented. It was also the home for the Declaration of Independence for 40 years but don’t let me bore you.”

Seth hands him a bag. Andrew finds a bottle of Oxy Cotton but no purple pills. He munches on three without water.

“I thought you said people were sleeping around in the surrounding galleries?”

Seth doesn’t think twice as he flippantly replies, “Where else would they go? The purple pills were not my masterpiece. My superiors were working on a cure for mad cow disease. They thought if they could isolate the protein sheaths in the cells they could reverse the process. In other words, they thought they were finding the cure of things like Parkinson’s and Dementia by messing with genetics. It didn’t work, but it certainly made a very good drug when mixed with cocaine.”

The people left are in a daze and don’t want to be bothered. Andrew shakes in fear as he follows Seth. The white corridor of the Main Hall fades as the light dims down. A medium size statue looks back at Andrew as he passes. It says P.T. Barnum.

Seth follows Andrew’s gaze, “He’s the man who brought modern entertainment to the 19th century. You really don’t know shit about your own culture do you?”

Andrew drying replies, “No. You know me. I’m all about partying and having a good time. Who has time for this type of thing?”

Seth rolls his eyes, “You’re a sad man Andrew. You really should appreciate the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Within these walls America is defined. There isn’t one country which has not been touched by American pop culture. Your country redefined the world with its sick twist on neocolonialism through the media. I suppose this doesn’t matter anymore under the present circumstances.”

Andrew notes Seth is carrying two side arms like a gunslinger. He doesn’t know if the French man has a concealed weapon. He lacks the nerve to reach out for one of the guns when Seth isn’t looking. He now sees Seth differently. The man is revolting. Even though he’s not patriotic to America he feels rage in the attitude of the person he thought was his friend. He lets the rage boil over.

He mutters, “Freedom fries.”

Seth stops dead in his tracks.

“What did you say?” His voice is void of emotion.

Andrew mutters, “What are you talking about? I didn’t say anything. You’re not American?”

Seth laughs, “No. I’m visiting and have a visa. I was on a work study program with the Center of Disease Control but things didn’t work out. I took some of their drugs and I’m making a killing here in DC.”

The diabolical man continues, “I always loved and hated how Americans felt they can be whoever. Did you know I always wanted to be an artist? My girlfriend got me addicted. It was a mistake really, she thought this drug was cocaine and snorted it. She was in heaven.”

Andrew plays along, “Nope. What kind of art? What do you mean, she was in heaven, did something happen to her?”

Seth navigates the corridor as if he’s been down here already. Andrew’s vision takes on a drunken haze; he can’t retain focus on a single thought. Now the drug feels like the purest cocaine he’s ever had.

Seth enters a side gallery, “Behold, my masterpiece.”

Andrew freezes. His innate sense of fight and flight has been shattered due to the drugs. His whole life he knew he was a bad guy, but today he found a man who is truly evil.

Seth happily explains, “You see, in a year or two people will come back to the gallery. When they do they will find my masterpiece. Only in America could I become an artist.”

Displayed in front of Andrew is a wall covered in blood. Seth took an empty white wall and painted the destruction of Washington DC. Heaped to the left are a dozen dead females and males. A bucket with blood lies spilled near the paintings base.  The mural shows the masses reaching for the living, devouring human flesh.

Seth sounds depressed, “My painting is almost over. I decided to show the final chapter of America. Do you like it?”

Andrew turns and pukes. His spunk is depleted.

Seth tells his story, “You see, it’s not my fault. My great granddad raised us this way in France. I need you to help me finish my painting.”

Andrew looks up in defeat. There is only one thing left to say as he lunges for anything to fight with.

“You’re a sick monster. Fuck you.”

Andrews’s eyes go big as Seth raises one of his guns. Seth eyes are void of life. Andrew looks into the abyss and recalls all the misdeeds in his life. He knows there is a special place in hell waiting for him. He wishes he never would have accepted the French man’s drugs.

Seth is indifferent, “Wrong answer, I no longer want to be your general.”


Andrew buckles and falls. He feels a distant impression hit his gut. It feels warm, as if he urinated himself.

Looking up he sees a missing gap in the mural where he knows his blood will fill.

Seth laughs like a child. He gingerly takes out a doctor’s knife. He’s whistling something European. Andrew screams as Seth cuts deep into his chest.

Chapter 34: Harbor Wave the Bringer of Death

Juliet gasps as she attempts to climb one more flight of stairs. People branch in all directions. Panic and mayhem have taken over. Pedestrians and office workers both become more aggressive the closer to the roof they get. It’s becoming apparent most fear imminent death. The initial blast of the tsunami has died down, the building shakes as new waves pound the structure, but they sound to be less ferocious as the first. Her muscles in her upper thighs burn, she wants to be strong but she has to pause. Deep down she fears something in her might snap if the day doesn’t end. She knows she has to get to the roof.

Her eyes take on a frantic glean, her hands won’t stop shaking. The vibration feels contagious like a virus. Chuang walks behind her, Harry in front. She is scared. Emergency generators illuminate entrance sign after sign. Harry appears to be a locomotive that keeps going. She pauses, her muscles scream in relief. Harry seems to have eyes on the back of his head. The war veteran stops and twirls, his voice sounds kind but urgent. She can’t see his eyes; her mind won’t shut up its message of doom. A few people from above linger on the stairs and tell others what’s happening.

Harries voice is distant; “We can’t stop. You can rest when this is over. We need to get to the roof!”

Harry takes a few steps towards Juliet, “I can’t have you lose it now. You are a trooper. Pull it together Juliet. Chuang needs you; your dad needs you to be strong.”

Juliet slams her fist into the hard wall. Tears flow free. Harry stutters, “Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” A few strangers rudely brush past them.

Juliet bails, she had enough. She doesn’t want to move any further, she only wants to find her dad. Not caring what anyone thinks she hits the wall a second time and drops to her knees.

Harry uncertainly repeats, “We really need to get to higher ground, I’m sorry if I said something bad.”

Chuang is near her side, she feels his small soft hand engulf her tiny hand which stings from being slammed into the wall. She can’t see his eyes either.

Juliet hiccups as the tears ebb, “I’m sorry, it isn’t you. So much has happened.”

After a moment of more crying she adds, “You guys need to go on without me. I need to find my dad.”

Harry startles. Chuang doesn’t say anything. Juliet doesn’t think he can.

“I don’t want to be a bother and I need to do this. My dad is somewhere in here. I’m sorry. You guys were wonderful but please safe yourselves.”

Harry simply answers, “No. I swore a long time ago to help those in need. I never had a family, but please let me help. Let’s find your dad.”

Tears from appreciation freely come and go. Juliet is grateful and doesn’t put up a resistance. Chuang tightens his grip in a loving fashion. She takes comfort from his presence. Harry continues to act like a big brother, she tries coming to terms on the tsunami but can’t. She doesn’t feel any place is safe.

Harry gruffly reminiscences, “When I was stationed in Korea I found myself data collecting. We used enemy Intelligence to locate targets. Do you think we could find a work roster or something?”

Juliet has an idea, “Wouldn’t those things be at the nurses’ station or where people clock in?”

“It’s worth a try. You want to try this floor first? Do you know where in the hospital your dad works? It’s a big place.”

Juliet nods yes and mutters, “No. He’s a janitor. They have him clean whatever needs cleaning.”

Together they leave they leave the stairway and its darkness.  They are on the sixth floor.

Half a dozen civilians dressed sharply stand near the right wall. Saying it’s a wall is an over statement, large sections are missing. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle is half completed. Through the missing jigsaw pieces are sharp and broken rusty looking metal rods. A man points dressed in black with a ear mike makes wild gestures.

The man frantically explains to those around him, “No! The wave train isn’t done; those buildings don’t have a chance. Look how the terrain slopes down, this wasn’t the case earlier today. The earthquake made the terrain lower then sea level which allowed the ocean to flood in the city.”

A male RN startles, “Look, more visitors.”

Juliet feels athwart. She uneasily asks, “Sorry to bother you. I’m looking for my dad.”

The man who looks like an engineer with the funny looking ear phone nods, he looks over to the RN and mutters, “More people are going to show eventually and we don’t even have water.”

Looking closer Juliet sees many of the people are stragglers like her.

The male RN shrugs, “From the look of it we are safer here then most of DC. Look at that!” His voice takes in despair as the small crowd watches more of DC slowly sinks into the ocean.

A heavy set brunette who looks gothic sarcastically interrupts, “Why would I want to look at my home being destroyed?”

She however doesn’t move from her bird’s eye perch. No one moves. Juliet can’t help but move forward. She wants to see what’s happening outside. Chuang follows; there are enough gaps in the wall for all to see.

The male RN with a white tag named Eddie asks, “I don’t suppose anyone knows what’s happening? We are all clueless outside of Louie.”

Louie is the man who was talking when they first entered. He continues his deliberation, “You see, the earthquake started a chain reaction on the fault zone. The sea floor is descending, it’s called sub ducting.”

The gothic chic counters, “Why must you keep on talking, we have eyes!” A very frail old man looking like he should belong in a wheel chair huffs and puffs. He smells of Ben gay and disinfectant, Juliet has the misfortune of standing near him.

The old man screeches, “In my day woman like you weren’t permitted to show so much disrespect. Please shut up and dress in something outside black will you? Some of us want to hear what’s going on. Please continue.”

The obese gothic chick stomps, “Fine, have it your way I hate all of you anyway.”

The heavy set woman storms off a few feet. Juliet glances at Harry who rolls his eyes. No one asks them who they are.

Louie sighs, “Like I was saying. Sub duction zones are meeting and rupturing, its called a submarine landslide. In other words, two tectonic plates are colliding and one goes down while the other plate goes up.”

Harry doesn’t take long to join the conversation, “This is impossible, earthquakes aren’t suppose to happen in DC. Why today?”

Louie replies, “That isn’t entirely true. In recent years we have found cracks along countless miles of the continental shelf. The Virginia-North Carolina coast has been at risk since its conception. Remember the earthquake in October that shook and rattled the Washington DC?”

The small crowd murmurs in discomfort. Juliet feels fear, the man talks plainly and it’s hard to not understand. Looking out the gap in the wall she gasps. She isn’t expecting to see what she sees. A new wall of a wave hits DC; many buildings are crumbling and are swept away. A few smaller houses lift up into the wave.

Juliet attempts a joke to lessen the gloom, “It’s like the houses are in rodeo. They remind me of a cowboy riding a bull.”

No one comments.

Harry asks Louie, “If you don’t mind me asking, we are new to the group, what do you do? You seem knowledgeable.”

The man replies I’m a scientist the studies this type of thing.”

Louis barrage of information continues, “Look at how the land slopes downwards to the east. I think DC lost a good ten to twelve feet. This is why the ocean came in.”

Juliet sees structures from the Trinity College to the East. The wave takes down another building which looks like a dorm. Only three remain, she doesn’t know how many stood originally. The cap of the wave looks white and misty.

She musters, “I need to find my dad. His name is Benson and he’s a janitor. Has anyone seen him?

Everyone replies no. The gothic chick comes back to the group, she is eating potato chips and has a few candy bars tucked in her pockets. She doesn’t offer anyone her treats.

“I need to find my dad. Nice meeting you people. Good luck.” She thinks it’s rude no one wishes her good luck back.

The engineer replies, “It’s not safe to go outside. The big wave has yet to come. It’s not safe for four to six hours. Be careful.”

A few people say bye. Juliet doesn’t want to bother them. She decides it’s best to look a floor below. A couple people say bye. Harry and Chuang follow her down to the next level.

It doesn’t take long to get to the fifth floor. The doors are sealed shut.

Harry bitterly mutters, “Down another one. I don’t think I want to go pass the third floor though.”

The fourth floor is open. There must be hundreds of people in the hallway. A white and brown corridor stifles the cries of the lost and scared. The eastern wall holds intact, the injured do not mingle at the windows as they did a floor above. The injured are those who came from the first and second floor.

Juliet gasps, “Oh my God, why aren’t they going to the roof?”

Harry takes in the situation, “They are to sick and injured to continue up the stairs.”

Juliet sees what he’s saying. She feels a little stupid for not noticing earlier. The exhaustion from the day is taking its toll. She is dazed but not confused.

“Excuse me, have you seen my dad?”

Juliet is losing hope; she doesn’t expect anyone to answer. She’s beginning to think her dad is another victim of the tragic day. A large group of people look back at her, many have haunted expressions. Juliet asks again, “Has anyone seen my dad, he’s a janitor…”

Chuang points to the people closest to them.

Harry announces, “There is a marine chopper taking woman and children inland. We need to get as many of you to the roof as possible.”

Chuang moves a few step forward and picks up some bandages. With large puppy eyes he looks back at Juliet and Harry for support.

Juliet whines, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I need to find my dad.” Her heart feels torn. She’s tired but innately feels drawn to help those in need. Looking closer she’s startled to see the people near her full of burns.

Harry tells Chuang, “How about we continue to move on. We need to remain focused on the objective.”

Chuang understands while lip reading. He shrugs no and points back at the group. There are a dozen, they appear to come from a burn unit. A man dressed like upper management speaks for the group. A blue suit adorns his frame like a pitchers glove. He shuffles forward while apologizing to a person wrapped in bandages.  Juliet feels relief course through her. She tells her self not to give up on her dad.

The man interrupts, “I was visiting my wife who had the misfortune of being a burn victim. When the tsunami threat came we started our journey to the roof but got stalled on this floor. The floor caved in and we lost half our people. Regretfully the people in charge were the ones who first perished.”

Juliet mumbles, “Where is your wife?”

The man looks off into the distance and doesn’t respond. Another injured male replies, “She didn’t make it.”

The dozen injured people stare at nothing. It’s as if they lost their fight to live.

Harry tells Chuang and the group, “How about those of you who can follow Chuang head to the roof? It’s not that far, only a few more floors.”

Eleven of the injured follow Chuang up the stairs. Only is left. It appears they only needed someone to direct them.

Harry tells Juliet, “Let’s wait for Chuang to come back down. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

Harry walks up to the burned patient and shifts his tone, “Sir, how can I help you? If you take my shoulder I can get you to the roof. Juliet, will you stay on this floor and wait for us?”

Juliet isn’t one to fib. “Please hurry. I’m tired. I will wait right here.”

Harry shoulders the patient and heads upwards. Within moments Juliet is left alone. She heads towards the nurses’ station which is illuminated by soft lights. Every third to fourth light flickers. The floors and walls shake as a new wave hits building.

The nursing station is in ruin. She can’t locate the papers or anything of use. She decides to try a few more halls. A sign points to an infant ward. Barking can be heard in the distance. Something pulls at Juliet’s awareness.

Juliet rushes a few more hallways. A windowless large room emerges. Many beds have quiet toddlers and babies sleeping peacefully. Juliet doesn’t have time to stop. If she isn’t mistaken Pixel is up ahead. Pixels tone changes, it becomes more menacing. She wonders where the adults are.

Near the end of the row of beds is Pixel. A woman nurse cowers in the nurses’ station. She waves a brook stick at the raging K-9.

Juliet yells, “Pixel! Down girl, how did you get down here?”

Pixel barks at the woman, her hair is messy. She favors her right shoulder but seems to be bristling with energy.

The nurse howls “Get this filthy beast away from me. Let me finish me job damn you!”

She fends off Pixel with a broken broom. Pixel however does not lunge at the nurse but hovers near a bed. A baby cries softly. The movement is out of place. The rest of the beds have no movement. Pixel barks without pause. She backs up a few feet while shuffling over dropped plastic cups. A large tray lies flipped over near the last bed.

The nurse continues, “I had to choice. Save me from this dog.”

She swings again but quickly retreats as Pixel barks anew.

Juliet feels something is off but shrugs it off, “Woman, we need to get these babies to the roof. A military helicopter is helping people get to safe ground.”

The woman doesn’t seem to hear her. The nurse repeats, “I need to finish my job. The end of the world is occurring and Jesus will come back. I need to make the children ready for his return.”

Juliet enters Pixels personal space. The dog whines and paws the ground. She glares back at the nurse who tries moving forward. The woman has a plastic cup in her hands. Pixel barks furiously. The nurse retreats a few steps.

Juliet pats Pixel on the head, “Pixel, where is Larry? Why are you terrorizing the nurse?” Pixel won’t back down.

The nurse interjects, “Can you please help me. I need you to give this to the baby.”

She extends a tiny blue plastic cup.

She continues, “We need to do the will of Jesus. Please help me take care of the children.”

Juliet looks closely at the baby to her left. Her mind and heart feels something is askew. She asks the nurse, “What do you mean? I don’t understand.” Juliet notes the infants are having their blankets life up and down. She doesn’t hear anything from them. She reaches out to the nearest. The body is still warm but the body mass lies still.

The nurse righteously explains, “No one is coming to rescue us. I am taking care of the children. Jesus is coming. Something needed to be done.”

The body under the blanket is rock hard. The infant stares at the ceiling without expression. All the children are still. One lone child softly cries. The blanket moves up and down.

Juliet ghastly whispers, “What did you do?”

The nurse replies, “I did what had to be done. Will you join us?”

She takes a step forward while lifting her blue cup to Juliet. Her eyes plead with Juliet to help with her cause.

Juliet responds, “You’re a sick twisted monster. How dare you do this?”

Juliet reaches for the infant.

The female nurse shrieks, “No, you don’t understand. I need to prepare the baby for Jesus. Their parents are dead and no one is coming for us.”

Something snaps in Juliet, she screams, “You have no right. You don’t know who Jesus is; this isn’t what Jesus would want! I’m taking the baby.”

Juliet forgets about her dad. She looks in horror; there must be thirty to forty beds with infants. She shakes without control.

The nurse loses her composure and rushes towards them with her blue plastic cup of death.

Without thinking Juliet insanely screams, “Pixel, KILL!”

Pixel launches at the nurse but doesn’t go for her throat. The K-9 doesn’t want to take a person’s life. Instead the police canine bites the woman’s right wrist which holds the plastic cup. The nurse screams in pain and rage but drops the cup. Just as fast the K-9 let’s go and backs up.

The nurse shrieks, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I will have justice. Jesus will smite you! I’m doing my best to keep people dead!”

Juliet retorts, “You’re crazy. Let’s get out of here Pixel.”

Juliet retreats the way she came. She shakes as she passes the infants that don’t move. Pixel barks but obediently follows. The nurse howls in rage but doesn’t follow.

Within minutes she is back at the stairway. Juliet looks down at the infant who has no name. She sighs and decides to head towards the roof. Juliet shuts the emergency door to the floor and is relieved when hears a click. Half way up she runs into Harry and Chuang who are heading down.

On the stairs Harry asks, “Where did the baby come from? I thought I asked you to wait where we left you.”

His tone is kind.

Juliet is full of exasperation, “I found this infant. Can we bring him or her up stairs? There was a crazy nurse who poisoned all the babies except for this one!”

Pixel bounces while licking Harry on the face, Harry and Chuang are happy to see the canine.

Harry pats Pixel, “Wow, slow down. What happened? I think I saw Larry on the roof, he will be happy to be reunited with Pixel.”

Juliet tells them of her ordeal as they head up. She hands Chuang the infant, he happily takes it. She doesn’t know if it’s a male or female.

As a trio it doesn’t take long to get to the roof. The sunlight makes Juliet squint. A firm warm breeze greats their entrance. Many people overcrowd the roof making maneuvering difficult. Chuang steps to the right side but keeps in eye sight of Juliet. His large puppy eyes look off into the distance. Juliet wonders where he came from and if he lost his family.

Nearby are a few staff workers, they no longer attempt to help the injured. One has a mop bucket with plastic identification cards. Ghastly awareness shifts into Juliet’s awareness as she watches one of the staff workers deposit a handful of plastic cards into the pale.

Juliet flings herself forwards while roughly brushing past people waiting for the next helicopter. There are a few hundred people mingling on the roof. Harry is nearby with Pixel in the rear. It doesn’t take her long to interrupt the staff workers conservation.

“What are those plastic cards in the bucket for?”

She already knows the answer. She isn’t stupid.

One of the two hospital workers answers, “We are collecting identification cards of the dead for they can have their loved ones notified when this is all over.”

Juliet doesn’t care about proper etiquette.

“No, is my dad in there?”

She doesn’t give them the opportunity to answer. Juliet roughly tears the bucket out of the man’s hands and drops to her knees.

Harry explains, the workers don’t take offense, “Sorry, her dad works here and we traveled through hell and beyond to get here. We will be done in a minute.”

Identification cards fly freely. If it was Christmas Santa would be proud. But it’s not. Juliet freaks as she quickly finds her dads plastic ID.

“NO! Oh my God, I found his card! Where did you get this? You must be wrong!”

Juliet wails, many turn their heads to watch out of curiosity. Juliet drops all the cards but her dads. She puts
the ID around her neck but doesn’t stand up. Harry reaches for her shoulder and gives it a squeeze.

One of the hospital workers respond, “I don’t know. I have been collecting cards all day. Sorry. All of the people are dead. Again I’m sorry for your loss.”

The workers scoop the discarded cards. Two helicopters arrive. The crowd gets energetic but no one rushes the choppers. Many remember the shots fired earlier. The rescuers pick up a good twenty people and take off within moments. There are still over 80.

Harry helps Juliet to her feet but doesn’t stop her from crying. The head back to Chuang who looks at Juliet with much grief. Juliet blubbers about her recent loss and how it’s not fair. Chuang puts his arms around her. After awhile Harry sees Larry in the distance.

Not knowing what else to do Harry gestures Juliet and Chuang to follow him. Pixel whines and Larry appears to be trying to not be noticed.

Harry mutters, “This is peculiar.” After a few steps he shouts, “Larry! Officer Larry!”

Pixel whines and doesn’t want to move forward.

Larry glances in their direction but does an abrupt turn and moves away. Harry urges everyone forward. Pixel whines harder. Juliet is in a daze as she picks up the dogs leash. It takes a few pulls to move the K-9 forward.

Harry tells Juliet, “Hold on, I don’t understand why he’s moving away.”

Harry darts forward leaving Juliet with a disgruntled and Pixel. Chuang is confused but doesn’t leave Juliet’s side. She feels nothing but pain for recent loss.

Looking at Pixel with a bit of confusion Juliet asks, “What’s wrong girl? Why don’t you want to see Larry?”

The nurse incident is fresh on her mind.

Pixel makes brief eye contact and looks away while whining. Juliet drops the leash and pats the dog on the head. Looking back she sees Harry has reached Larry. They are having a heated exchange of words; Larry appears to be gesturing wildly.

Harry shrugs and says something that makes Larry shake. The officer puts his back to them and moves deeper into the crowd. Juliet shakes as she feels the officers gaze reach her and Pixel. Nothing but hate radiates from his eyes and gestures. Harry spins around in disgust. Pixel stops whining when Larry leaves eyesight. Within moments Harry is back.

Disgustedly the homeless vet remarks, “The officer has issues and doesn’t want his dog back.”

Juliet can’t handle the faulty logic, “Why? I don’t understand.”

She reaches for Pixel who happily licks her hand.

“I don’t know. I think he said Pixel killed Becky by getting under her feet but he wasn’t making much sense. I think he said she fell down the stairs coming up the roof.”

Juliet continues to sob while holding her dads identification card close to her heart, “This sucks! Now Becky is dead? Why is everyone dying? Pixel doesn’t seem to be the type of dog that would do that!”

Chuang embraces Juliet who sobs hard into his chest. He hands the infant to Harry. Pixel remains where she is. Harry is confused and has no answers. He looks perplexed over Larry’s words. After a few moments the crowd on the roof shifts.

In the distance someone yells, “Hey, the waves have stopped! The water is receding!”

A large mass of people move towards the sides of the hospital building. People have lost their patience; two or three are pushed off the building as others behind them push forward.  Many want to see the water go down and not all have the fortitude to stop the masses. Pixel barks a few times which gives the group ample space.

Juliet asks Harry, “I still don’t understand why Larry is acting like this, is it the booze?”

Harry replies, “I don’t know. I think he’s hiding something. We have more important things to look after. Let’s get you and Chuang to safety. Maybe we can get you guys on the next chopper?”

Juliet doesn’t know what to do. She thinks it’s a good idea to off load the baby. Her heart hurts and she doesn’t care what happens. She feels depression sink in. When she thought her dad was safe she had something to hope for.

The small black American blurts, “I don’t know what to do. My family is dead!”

New tears run freely.

Half the crowd on the roof rushes back into the hospital. A new urgency sweeps the masses as many hope to feel solid ground once more. Juliet watches as the ocean recedes fast.

Still sobbing Juliet asks, “Should we leave the hospital? Is it ending?”

Pixel whines.

Harry stalls, “Do you remember what the scientist said downstairs. He said another wave which is the big one might soon come. We should stay on the roof.”

More people leave the roof. Larry goes while flicking them off. Juliet spurts, “What is his problem?”

Harry says, “If we stay on the roof we have a better chance on getting off on a helicopter. Half the people are going downstairs.”

Two thirds of the people have left the roof. They have no idea how long it will take until the next chopper comes. Juliet doesn’t care. She sighs. More of the Atlantic Ocean recedes. She sees the top of a bus stop. Within moments a phone booth appears. Many cars and trucks are upside down, a couple of houses are sideways. A car explodes as its gas tank ruptures on some unseen assailant. A bumper flies upwards and gently drifts downwards in a graceful arc. Many fires can be seen in the distance. Dozens of buildings stand. Hundreds are broken but still remain intact. The tsunami left much in place.

Ten minutes later bears witness to hundreds if not thousands of people pour to the streets as the ocean recedes to less than a few feet. A roar of human defiance and preservation vibrates the stillness. Juliet stops crying as the feeling takes hold.

“Harry, I think you’re wrong. Look, the ocean is going away. Let’s go downstairs and leave!”

Juliet wants nothing more than to feel the ground and leave this cursed building. Pixel barks but doesn’t move. Harry looks perplexed. Chuang is busy with the infant and doesn’t care.

Harry stalls, “Let’s give it thirty minutes. If a chopper comes back I want you on it.”

Juliet nods. Within moments she remembers her loss. Her gaze becomes flat. Pixel paces near the entrance but doesn’t leave their side. There are only twenty to thirty people on the roof.

Down below people drift down the road. Many lost interest in being in the hospital. Juliet has no idea how many people are still inside. She doubts many from the scientists group would leave. A dozen or so come back to the roof. More people from surrounding buildings take to the streets. In the distance a group of firemen can be seen scouring the remains of vehicles.

Juliet shakes as gun shots can be heard. They aren’t a few. She knows people are not celebrating. From their view they can’t see where it’s originating but it sounds like its coming from the National Mall. The Washington Monument still stands but its top is missing. Half the city is submerged. It’s as if half the city sunk into the ocean. Way in the distance past what she assumes would be the Potomac River is solid ground.

 Pointing Juliet declares, “Isn’t that where the choppers rescuing people are going? Look, its solid ground! The tsunami didn’t reach the other side of the river!”

Harry nods affirmatively, “Yes, your right.”

Chuang points towards the entrance. Juliet follows his gesture and gasps.

“Isn’t that the people from Congress and the Smithsonian?”

The group they traveled with leaves the hospital. They appear distant but she can clearly see who they are. There are many people with them; their numbers have swelled since they parted. Juliet feels a tug at the back of her mind. An impulse she doesn’t understand sends a need to be with them. Fred stalls; his son appears to shout something at them and storms ahead.

Half the group remains behind with Fred. The congress people are left in the middle. There seems to be an argument and chaos.

Fred’s son points towards another hospital building, Fred and his group break off and head towards the Children’s hospital. Or what used to be it. Fred’s son stops and screams something back. No echo can be heard. Within moments the group is back together and doesn’t move. They seem to be shouting at each other or something. Pixels ears twitch, Juliet has no doubt the canine can hear them. Pixel whines and barks. Many on the street look up. Fred waves in their direction. Half the people on the street look up as the two helicopters roar towards the roof of the hospital. A few people run back into the hospital but Fred and his group remain in the middle of the street.

Harry touches Juliet’s elbow, “The choppers are coming. Let’s get you and Chuang on them.”

She dulls responds, “Sure.”

Juliet doesn’t care what happens, her depression becomes more solid. She turns around and puts her back to the people on the street. They weren’t her problem. She watches as the marine and news helicopter come closer. Soon she sees in detail the people on board.  The choppers don’t slow but continue to fly past the hospital.

Harry curses, “What the hell are they doing?”

He waves his only arm and shouts, “Down here, where are you going? Come back!”

Within moments the iron birds become distant specks. Chuang gasps and Pixel barks. Juliet twirls around. A new sound can be heard. The ocean water in the harbor swells into one gigantic wave.

Harry loses his composure, “Holy shit, it’s a harbor wave!”

The people who left the buildings don’t know what’s coming. This wave is different than the rest. It’s bigger.

Harry screams, “Get to the center of the roof, NOW!”

Juliet doesn’t move. She is ready to die. The wave is easily a hundred feet higher than the rest. It rushes forward. Not many buildings are left standing to redirect its path. Within moments Washington DC is recovered in ocean. Many on the streets get swallowed as if they never existed.

“It’s not fair! Those people already survived! Why?”

Juliet screams as loudly as she can to Fred while pointing in the distance.

“Get back inside!”

Fred waves back and begins to head back to the hospital. His son doesn’t look happy; the group shuffles for a moment but follows the red neck.

Juliet cries, “They have no idea what’s coming.”

Harry doesn’t know what to do.

There are no waves following this wave. Juliet remembers all the movies in which a wave destroys everything. At this moment she remembers her entire life. The wave doesn’t clear some of the buildings; however it does reach a few more levels then the last. All buildings under five floors don’t have a chance.

Instantly they are gone. Half the buildings what stood the previous waves are now gone.

The giant wave is a few blocks away. It doesn’t appear the people on the streets will survive. They finally realize something is wrong. The sound is deafening as it sends BOOM after BOOM. Building after building vanishes. Only a few remain.

Juliet cries out, “No. God please safe those people!”

The earth shutters. A rift appears a block away.

Harry plumes, “Wow, is that an earthquake?”

The earth shifts, half of DC sinks while meeting the incoming harbor wave.

Strangely the hospital building doesn’t budge. Nor do the buildings to the east. Fred and his people run back in the hospital. The remaining wave hits the building. Juliet sees the top of the wave speed pass. It easily clears the third floor but not higher.

Juliet sighs in relief. Harry laughs and Pixel happily barks. Juliet knees buckle, the emotional strain of the day is too great. She laughs and cries as she shuts her eyes. She hears the engines of the choppers as they sweep back to the roof. Harry doesn’t urge Juliet up, he’s too dumb founded.

Twenty to thirty people sward the choppers, within moment the birds zip off. Juliet doesn’t care. She’s riding her emotions which have become a torrent of sensations. Her mind doesn’t know what to focus on. Her world is full of gloom.

A few minutes later she opens her eyes. No new waves come after the last. The ocean again quickly recedes. Deep down she knows another wave isn’t coming. She doesn’t know how she knows, she just knows.


Back comes the choppers, one dips to the roof. There aren’t many people left. Black depression engulfs Juliet as she’s directed towards the iron bird. They even have room for Harry and Chuang. The hospital is half submerged, much of the structure and is on fire. The surrounding buildings are no more.

While getting on board Juliet draws in her breath as she hears one military soldier say to another, “Chief, we can’t go back. Radiation is being reported in the green zone, the region has been compromised. I think I’m hearing the nuclear power plants had a meltdown!”

Harry remarks, “This day just gets better and better. Now what do we do?”

One of the soldiers commands new directions, “Lieutenant, let’s get these civilians to a more secure building. I think the buildings in section 5C are decently standing. We need to go back to base soon and restock.”

Looking out the window brings a new wave of cold shivers down the new Paladins spine. Fanciful illusions of dragons sweeping down no longer linger in her awareness. Fire looms around the hospital as the giant structure groans under its recent assault. The District of Columbia leans towards the sea, a few dozen structures are upright. The ocean hungrily overlaps with the horizon in the yonder.

Someone with little interest sighs to Juliet’s left, it’s the scientist from earlier, “The harbor wave was DC’s bringer of death.”

Juliet absently replies while touching her dads identification card, “Yes, it most definitely is the bringer of death. When I was younger I was told death meant change. Harry, do you think things will ever get better?”

Harry is drawn into their conservation, “I don’t know. I do know one thing for sure. You always have to remember one thing Juliet.”

She asks, “What’s that Harry?”

Juliet begins to nod off, she is full of exhausted.

Just as a big brother would say, “Always think for yourself for your number 1. You have been a trooper today, I’m sorry for your lost.”

Pixel barks, Juliet is glad the canine got on board. The heat from the beast warms her up. She doesn’t notice his haunted expression or listen to the soldiers talk about current events.


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