Tuesday, May 1, 2012

2014: The Way the World Ends (Chapter 20: Flooding of Union Station)

Here is a missing chapter. I found it during a massive editing session. I'm on page 470 and have started the process of looking for a professional editor. The novel will be ready for print and sale this Fall. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the story. The first half is free. Previous posts can catch anyone up.

Copyrighted Greg L. Miller 2011.

Chapter 20: Flooding of Union Station

Mary clings tightly to the cops side.   The police dog looks young and fierce. 

The K9 smells Mike’s palms as they hurry down the street.  Pixel is covered in dust, leaving the dog looking as if it’s a ghost coming deep from the Amazon. The sidewalk is uneven an many pipes spill water onto the earth. Mike’s back hurts each time he lands on a jilted fragment of pavement. Dress shoes give no traction.

The Librarian from the Jefferson buildings whines, “I haven’t made it a block and my back hurts.” 

April and Mark sound apologetic.

Larry snorts, “How can you work in the Capital without being able to walk a block?” 

Mike blushes and quiets down. The sidewalk lies fragmented for about thirty to forty feet and then evens out.

Mark dreamily states, “Did you know much of D.C. is built over water canals? I wonder if the earth is stable underneath us.”

The cop sounds like a jerk, “Why do you keep on talking about history? Who cares?”

April comes to Marks defense, “It’s his way of coping with stress. At least he isn’t drinking his problems away.”

Mike peers at a water pipe that sends thousands of gallons of water into the street a second. The groups shoes get a little water logged but not to much. Sewers do their best in draining the water from the street but many are over filling. Multiple layers of rock and gravel give testimony to once finely engineered city sidewalks as the group struggles forward.  Two people ahead appear to be dead; a cable line dangles into the water.

Mike and Mark give each other a look as the fellow from England swoons on his words. She looks like a bee going for honey.

Mark says, “Let’s simply walk around them. There’s really not much to E Capital Street, now is there?” 

Without incident the group passes the still corpses.  There are no current signs of volts of electricity being active. The US Supreme Court is to the left.

Susan remarks, “I have been to war zones in Iraq and Sudan for CNN and have seen countless corpses, but something about today doesn’t sit well. The dead bodies scare me.”

Her ranting catches short when Berry points to a group of reporters near the Supreme Court Building. They hail Susan over and she says by to the group of survivors. The building is still intact as another dozen public workers mill in the front steps.   The side walk has many cracks but it’s not anything as bad as the block before.  Aftershocks occur less frequent, about twenty to thirty seconds in between five to ten minute intervals.  The earth rolls gently, no longer abrupt shifts tumble buildings and blocks.  Periodically a building groans and buckles due to unstable earth.

The remaining group makes it to Constitution Avenue NW; the street connects the capitals northeast and northwest region.  Hundreds of people stumble with dazed and confused expressions. 

Mark comments, “People should be going to designated evacuation centers. Where are they going?”

April goads him, “The President is probably watching television in a ranch in Texas.”  

The cop mutters as he takes a swig of vodka, “Show some respect to our president.”

Mark sounds agitated and anxious, “Did you guys know this street was originally named North B Street?  Back in 1931 Congress spent 75 million dollars and made it what you see today.  People used to throw garbage into a canal which was the foundation of the street. You know, I’m soon going to have to go see if my dad and mom.”

Mike pauses as he looks both ways before crossing the road. Old habits die hard.

Larry doesn’t seem to want to stop being a jerk, “I think it’s safe to cross the road, if you haven’t noticed there has been an earthquake. You’re a sissy.”  

The group sticks close to 1st Street NE.  Union Station is a couple of more blocks away.

Mark continues, “There is a fallout shelter at Union Station. I bet they know what to do.”

The next block goes by without incident.  Dozens of people ask the group where we are going, or if we know what’s happening. Everyone is confused. Gunshots can be heard which stall conservations, know one comments on the violence that might be occurring a couple of blocks away. A mother attempts to cajole her crying children.

The group makes it to C Street.  Police officers seem to be having an issue at a newly erect police barricade.   Teenagers look like they are in gang’s line up on the street with their hands behind their heads. Half a dozen bolt into all directions with handcuffs on.  Only four officers attempt to give chase which only leaves two watching over a dozen gang members. One police officer desperately tries getting communication with someone from dispatch but only receives static.  The remaining youth become hostile; the small group hurries past them. 

Larry quickens his pace and doesn’t acknowledge the cops.  The group gets hits the corner of D Street NW.  The buildings to the left and right are no longer intact.  Once smooth polished walls are now broken. Debris falls in an alarming rate.  Mike marvels at the cold smooth marble looming over them.

A younger looking gang member stumbles ahead of us, he doesn’t look rational. The kid holds a hand gun but doesn’t seem to know what it is. His milky white eyes are flat of emotion and look like the eyes of a lizard. They look lifeless. The youth points his gun at the group but doesn’t pull the trigger.

Pixel growls and leaps forward.  Within seconds she’s across the street and leaps at the armed man.  He doesn’t make any noise or try to shield himself from the assault. Within moments man and beast hit the ground. Pixel holds the man’s arm with her teeth and grows ferociously.  

Larry drunkenly commands Pixel, “KILL!”

Pixel doesn’t obey as she continues to sound menacing. The man begins convulsing and Pixel lets go. The group looks at the youth in confusion.

Mark comments, “Maybe the guy is overdosing and as is a junky?”

Multiple gun shots can be heard a block away.  The group runs as Larry loads new bullet in his chamber.  The gang members caught earlier on Constitution Avenue have overwhelmed the police officers. Fear courses through the group.  No one thought they were going to be dodging bullets down town DC after an earthquake!   

The sun is extremely warm; the heat in the breeze only makes the group sweat heavier as they walk faster.  The Liberty Bell is a good resting spot at the entrance to Union Station.  Mikes sides hurt from exertion and his inner thighs burn from being overweight.

Mark looks fit and barely broke a sweat.  Larry reprimands Pixel for not killing the armed man and looks to see if anyone followed.  The Freedom Bell is on its side.  A new crack crisscrosses with the old.  A three to four foot marble wall blocks the group from the street.  Bushes are torn and no longer look impressive.  It doesn’t feel safe to be in the open or in a building.  Pieces of the memorial for the Liberty Bell lie to the side. Mike reads, ‘…given by the American Legion…’ the rest is fragmented and broken. The gun shots putter off.

April tries to find some humor in the situation, “At least we haven’t experienced any crazy shooters like in New Orleans during Katrina.”

Mark takes the moment to tell April a little about Union Station, he hands shake hard, “Did you know this station is a national treasure?  In 1981 Congress spent 180 million dollars on it; the task made it the biggest public/private restoration project America ever took.  Let’s get down to the fallout shelter. It’s on one of the lower levels.”

Mike asks, “Is the fallout shelter still functional?”

Larry responds, “It is.  But it only can hold a few hundred for a long time or a few thousand for a very short span.  I know where it is. It’s near the steam room, which used to be used for privileged passengers.”

Mike flinches as he notices a homeless man buried underneath rubble near the entrance twitch. It’s the man he gave a few dollars to. The man’s upper torso sticks out of the rubble, his arm and hand buckle like a dried up fish.

White granite from Vermont makes up Union Station.  Large chunks fall on hapless victims when the earthquake began. The Columbus Memorial Fountain is totally destroyed, granite no longer fits together. Flags from around the world lie in heaps, dust bellow while warm wind creates an impressive visual of mini tornadoes that lack danger. Looming ahead of the group is some very impressive Beaux-Art architecture. No longer can gold leaf be seen.

Knowing a little about Union Station Mike attempts to impress Mark, “Augustus Saint-Gauens was the dude who inspired this place.  See that statue still standing?  It’s about the American Renaissance movement.  Back in the day it was all about fire, electricity, freedom, agriculture and a few other things.” 

No one says anything; my narration isn’t as impressive as Mark’s.

The exterior spans 600 feet and has a waiting room of reaching hundreds of feet.  A very impressive gilded ceiling shows cracks allowing sun light to stream in.  The Grand Concourse parallels the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.  Two children catch our attention near the non functioning escalator.

Two nicely dressed kids cry out, “We need your help!”

They pinpoint the group as their possible saviors.   One of the children runs towards Mark with pleading eyes. 

Before we ask what’s happening her companion shouts, “Please help us!  Our family is stuck in a train on the AMTRAK; or I mean, we were supposed to be on the AMTRAK but they are stuck in the AMC movie theater and can’t get out!  Water is flooding the lower level and they are going to die!  Please help us!” 

Pixel doesn’t growl at them, but immediately runs to help the best she can.  The children cry and look like angels.  The group doesn’t know what to do outside of give a lending hand.

Larry cries out, “It’s not safe to go down there.”

He’s drawn to Mary and lacks conviction.

Mary responds, “They need our help!  What’s the big deal?  You’re a cop, this is what you do.” 

Larry sighs and tells Pixel to follow him but the dog is already half down the escalator.  The cop doesn’t look to happy as he shines his light down below.

Mark says, “They need our help.” 

April replies, “I’m coming.” 

Union Station appears to be withstanding the damage of the earthquake.  Burger King’s entrance has caved in, Mike shakes in fear.

Mike points and says, “We ate their earlier. We could have died in there.”

The entrance is full of rubble.  A small fire rages in Subway to its left. The fire is isolated and isn’t creating an immediate danger. A dozen survivors shuffle in confusion. A group can be heard, they are hopeful the National Guard will soon arrive. Many restaurants and retail shops have metal shutters firmly closed and their employees have long evacuated the premises.  A dozen homeless men peacefully scavenge pizza from Pizzeria Uno and a few businesses that didn’t have the opportunity to close properly.  No one else cares about the children or the small group.

Mike pauses before going down the escalator. He knows it’s a bad idea. The Asian teen breaks from the group as he runs towards the Verizon Wireless.  No one stops him. Nearby another store flaunting barber hair products is empty; no shutters keep the poor away. 

The group decides to use the stairs near the escalator. A few dead bodies dot the dark tunnel.  The police officer takes out a extra flashlight and hands it to Mary. April and Mike use the light from their cell phones.  Two thirds of the way down mark sees a utility cabinet built within a compartment for a fire hose.  It’s locked. 

At the bottom of the stairs the group takes the northwest corridor.  The children talk over each other while thanking us for our help. 

The girl spurts, “Our family came from Boston. We were watching a movie but my brother wanted a shake. It was a boring movie.”

Large segments of the ceiling have caved in near the theatres entrance. The granite is built over a steel frame that has a brick core. 

The group freezes as they see the food court.  A partially collapsed train lies in between two stories and makes half of Union Station unavailable.  Hundreds of people are dead.  There is enough light to illuminate giant size rats that scurry into the shadows.  A few survivors remain on this floor but many have evacuated. The ones who are left do not want to be bothered.  An older woman wale’s as she holds her dead husband.  Metal from the locomotive twists in all directions but the main body is still intact.  Smoke unfolds from the engine. Water gushes and builds in the far corner but it doesn’t look dangerous as it empties into a lower level. The children direct the group towards the Phoenix Theatres. The children run ahead as they scream for their parents and family.

April yells, “It’s not safe to run, please slow down!”

A new aftershock rocks the building as the children disappear inside.  The ceiling above the entrance gives. Thousands of pounds of rubble tumble cover the entrance.  The children don’t have time to yell, they simply disappear.

Mike yells in defeat, “NO!” 

No one knows what to say as the group looks at the entrance of the theatre in confusion. 

Mark yells, “The water is rising, we need to get out of here now!”

Larry swears as new rushing water hits emerges from below levels. The group scrambles to the above level.

The cop and Mary are sharing what looks to be a fifth of alcohol a minute later.  The group is back on the first floor.  The group has a lot of new survivors, there are around thirty. Many look at Larry with curiosity but no one interferes with him drinking.  Water can be heard from the lower levels, it sounds like its closer. There’s too much confusion to make a sound decision. No one is worried about the floor caving in, maybe the survivors should have.

April whispers in horror, “The children are dead. Why is this happening?”

Sadness and depression engulf the group. Mary says something to Larry which makes Larry respond sounding like an ass hole. 

The cops voice carries over, “You don’t need these people.  They are weak and won’t take care of you.  Come home with me.”

Mary answers, “No, these are my friends.  I can’t leave them.  Give me another drink asshole.”

Larry doesn’t know how to communicate with Mary, he responds, “Get your own bottle! Or come with me and have however much you want.” 

He downs the rest of whatever he’s drinking and throws the bottle at a far wall.  The bottle shatters and creates an echo. 

Mary stomps off, “You’re a prick!”

Larry doesn’t take long to rethink his strategy as he changes his tune.

The cop calls out, “Sorry, I have another bottle stashed away. Please come back.”

Mary is near the Pizza Uno restaurant. She twirls around and stomps her foot in defiance, her eyes grows big as the ground under her feet falls apart.  She and a half a dozen poor people disappear as booths and tables fall into the roaring water of the lower level. Larry stops his tirade and looks in disbelief. 

Disbelief quickly becomes drunken rage as he bellows, “NO, we were supposed to have sex!” 

Through his drunken haze it becomes apparent she was only a sexual object.

April gasps, “Dirt bag.”

Larry steps forward, refusing to acknowledge the floor isn’t safe to cross. 

Mark yells, “Stop, it’s not safe.” 

Larry doesn’t listen.  Pixel barks.  Larry gets on his stomach and wriggles to the the hole in the floor.  He shines his light down below but only sees dirty water.

The cop screams, “Mary?” 

Larry gets to his feet and storms out of Union Station.  Most of the people leave with him. The Asian teen reappears, he points towards Burger King.  It crosses Mike’s mind to tell the lad to get lost but something holds his tongue. Pixel looks mentally confused as she looks towards where the Asian boy points and where Larry stormed off.  

Mark and Pixel tiredly follow the Asian boy to the ruined Burger King. Rubble blocks the entrance. Pixel paws at some rubble and barks.

Something snaps in the small group. For a moment they don’t care if they bruise or cut their hands.  Enough people died today.  Not knowing why, the group attempt to heave giant slabs of granite and red bricks.  Mike hears a large rumble coming down the road.

April screams, “Wait, over here!”

April flags down a large group of National Guard personnel who have heavy machinery.  

The artist shouts, “Over here!  People need rescuing over here!”

One of the national guardsmen replies, “Is there any high ranking official needing to be saved?” 

April lies, “Why yes.  There’s a congress man trapped in Burger King.”

The National Guard unit stops, they are more than willing to help politicians.  Susan emerges from the group with her camera man.

Susan excitedly says, “I can’t I ran into you guys again.”

She tells her camera man to start filming.  Unlike other national guards, this unit beams and is happy to be filmed.  Within minutes the National Guard clear an entrance to the Burger King. It doesn’t take the National Guard more than fifteen minutes to rescue the people inside; thankfully they are not too annoyed when they find no politicians.

The National Guard suggests the group head towards the hospital to get proper medical attention.  If things couldn’t get bad to worse a new threat comes as soon as the people in Burger King are rescued.  One of the National Guard reports the basement has been flooded and the fallout shelter can’t be reached.