I decided to do a blog hop today. If you would come and leave your link on my website, I will check out your blog. It would be nice if you had a look at any others that are there too. A follow makes everyone’s day. 🙂
I decided to do a blog hop today. If you would come and leave your link on my website, I will check out your blog. It would be nice if you had a look at any others that are there too. A follow makes everyone’s day. 🙂
August 3, 2016
Natalie blinked her eyes until they had adjusted to the light pouring in the windows. She felt hot and sweaty, the air humid and thick with moisture. Groaning, she sat up and stretched her painfully stiff muscles from sleeping on the hard table top.
Derek, please save me. Be the Prince Charming I always wanted you to be and save me when I need you the most, she said a million times in her head, pleading and calling out to her best friend with every ounce of feeling and raw emotion that she never knew she possessed. When she felt her chin tremble, she opened her eyes and forced herself to focus on what was before her. Survival.
Feeling sorry for herself, she forced her body out of bed and to get dressed.
On the other side of the door, she thought she heard a shuffling noise. It was very unfamiliar to her, the noise. A mouse? Possibly some other rodent? It seemed heavier…more…human.
Natalie’s heart thundered in her chest and she held her breath listening at the door. Licking her lips did no good as her mouth had run dry. She hoped that whatever it was would find its way back out of the basement.
And then, it occurred to her. Derek was there…just on the other side of that piece of wood. She was going home! Hope filled her to overflowing and tears of relief clouded her eyes. She reached for the knob as it began to turn on its own accord. There was no touching involved on her part.
She snapped her hand back and took a step backward, nearly brushing her bed with her rear. She could hear breathing. Ragged breathing as the door cracked open. It sounded as though the being sniffed and moaned, pushing the door open and revealing himself to her.
A gasp emitted from her mouth, of complete surprise as she made eye contact with what looked like what used to be a man. She saw in those eyes fear, greater than the fear she had known. She saw pain, excruciating pain. And she saw hunger, a primal look of starvation. He was sweating profusely. He had deep open wounds over his face that shocked and disgusted her. So deep in the tissue, his mandible and teeth were visible, his eye was drooping. And the blood…he had it all over his face. It was bright red that transitioned into patches and droplets of deep black.
Natalie cried out, all thoughts of Derek vanished as she backed into the table top, no where to go but down. Scrambling and afraid, she grabbed beneath the blankets for her bag, the emergency pack that had come out of the closet.
The man took two steps forward, limping noticeably as he came, arms stretched out for her. He opened his mouth like he was trying to say something.
“Please, please leave me alone!” Natalie screamed out at him and kicked her legs, her hands searching…searching.
The man grew agitated, he smelled terrible and made grunting noises at her because he could no longer form words with half of a mouth, literally. He touched her. Felt the warmth of her leg against the roughness of his hand. She kicked all the harder, desperately rummaging through the pack until it all spilled over her bedding, packages of food slipping over the blankets and falling to the floor. But, she found it.
His grip was relentless. It was enough to make her fear for her life, he held her leg so tight. She could imagine those hands over her neck, strangling her with hardly an effort on his part.
“Let go of me!” she spat, followed by a blood-curdling howl of pain as he bit down on her tender, healthy flesh. Twisting around, onto her back, she pointed her Glock 9mm and shot. No aiming, just adrenaline coursing through her in the fight or flight reflex programmed into her body.
The creature reared back and made a squealing noise, instinctively grabbing at his shoulder. Natalie could see blood running from the bullet induced wound. She pulled her legs back and put the bed between the man and herself, the gun still pointed at him, her hands shaking and her breathing ragged.
“Get out!” she screamed and shot again. The sound was deafening in the small enclosed room.
The man made another lunge at her, his dirty, torn clothes brushing over her blankets. He sniffed again. She figured he could smell her food. He was hungry enough that a gun was not going to stop him.
A third shot rang out and she hit him in the hand, the hand that held the wounded shoulder. That was enough incentive for him to depart. Appearing panicked, he looked for a way out. Slowly, he shuffled his feet accommodating the limp and left her standing there, shaking and hardly breathing.
With her mind reeling, she stood there processing what had just happened to her with the gun still pointed at the place where the odd man had stood just minutes earlier.
It wasn’t until she watched the creature disappear that she lowered her weapon and realized she was dripping sweat. It was already hot at 11:00 am. That was not a good sign. She had to leave even if Derek was on his way.
Sitting on the edge of the makeshift bed, she allowed her forehead to fall into her hands and she caught her breath. A tickling sensation on her left calf made her take a swipe at it with her hand. It felt like a bug crawling over her skin, but her hand came away with blood streaks over her palm.
Alarms instantly went off in her head.
“Christ!” she swore in a whisper.
Taking a towel and her bottle of water, she cleaned the wound it wasn’t very deep, just traumatized. The beginnings of a bruise began to manifest itself around the edges of the lopsided circle the man had bitten on the skin. Gingerly, she wrapped her leg in gauze and then with an elastic bandage to hold it all in place.
She took a moment to pick up the scattered bits and food items that had scattered over the floor in her struggle. Hastily, she stuffed her pack again, thankful it hadn’t been her money that had blown all over the place. Keeping out one granola bar, she partook and sipped her water. Not feeling full, but better than before, she wiped her face with a blanket and slung a bag over each shoulder. She was getting out of there!
The door she had placed over the opening of the basement was gone, pushed aside. She could see bright skies that were glazed with low white clouds. But when she got to the top of the stairs, she could see a blackness toward the west and the wind was blowing hard enough to make her hair stand on end.
Natalie walked about seven steps away and found she was exhausted.
“I can’t do this,” she said to herself.
So she returned to her hole in the ground, making certain the strange man hadn’t come back with a vengeance. She would try again tomorrow.
There was little to do to occupy her time but listen to the angry sea batter the side of the mountain. She tried to find a channel on the radio again, to no avail. She might as well have been marooned on a desert island, she was that alone. Well, besides the near dead guy that had just tried to eat her leg!
She decided to use the corner of her radio to carve a message for Derek in case he showed up after she had left. But thinking realistically, he would have been there by now if he could.
She scratched and scratched at the paint on the wall until she was happy with the finished product that read, ‘Derek- I’m headed home on foot.’ Surely, it should not have taken that long, but the sheetrock beneath had become soft and the paint was like rubber. She really had to get angry with it for cooperation.
Standing from her project she could not believe how much her leg hurt. It hadn’t bothered her at all until that point. Limping over to the bed, she unwrapped her wound finding it very bruised, hot and still bleeding. He really did a job on her!
Rummaging through her pack, she came across the anti-bacterial ointment, shed the current dressings and slathered the jelly over the bite, wincing when she had to touch her skin to smooth it all out. Then, she applied fresh white gauze and secured it again with the elastic bandage. She wished there was access to some ice, or maybe the salt water would help. She felt so tired that the thought of climbing the stairs did not appeal to her and glancing at the time, daylight was about gone up there. No, she was much better off sleeping, regaining her strength for the start of her journey tomorrow.
The sounds are muffled to me. I hear the ocean, taste its spray, feel its power. I am on my mountain and nothing else is around. No house, no debris, no weather. I turn in circles as though I don’t know where I am, taking it all in. At the foot of the mountain, the westerly side, sits the house I grew up in. Wisconsin was here in Stowe. How can that be? I hear a new noise. My heart races and my ears grow warmer than comfortable. Goose bumps rise on my skin as I turn to see a figure coming to me. His skin hangs from his body in tatters. I can see his bones in the light of the day. His muscles bunch and flex as he moves closer, hardly a scrap of clothing shielded his body from the world. I can reach out and touch him, although I am paralyzed with fear. I have no weapon, no gun, I am his prey. He stands there looking at me and my eyes meet his. I recognize that gaze staring at me. I know him. Derek! I move to speak as he opens his mouth, it opens to an enormous size and comes at my face…
Natalie bolted upright, sweat streaming down her body. She felt strange. Sick.
August 2, 2016
Natalie woke the next morning just after nine. It surprised her to have slept so long and she felt drained of energy and very thirsty. Pulling her bottle of water from her pack, she allowed herself to drink deeply knowing she had rain water and plenty of it.
She broke down and opened one of her rations packets and let it sit a moment. If anyone had told her she would be eating this…this cluster of something…just to keep up her strength, she would have laughed out loud at them. Yet, here she was getting ready to nibble the square of food that would give her something to burn throughout the day.
Feeling brave, she took some time to survey the damage that had been inflicted on her through the night. The water had risen, lapping against the frames of the couches like lake water kissing a dock. It would probably almost reach her knees. That was it. She had to leave.
Once she had finished her breakfast, Natalie shoved her feet back into her wet shoes. She rolled her pants to her knees and stepped down into the standing water. It was colder than she had expected being that it was summer, but it was tolerable. The door felt heavy as she tried to swing it open through the water. More water came rushing in as though the door had been a dam just letting it leak in slowly through the night.
Droplets clung to the edges of the stairs just to fall helplessly into the pool below. However, there was no longer any water rushing in. Perhaps the worst was over. Wading over to the staircase, she pulled herself from the collection of water in the basement to the freedom of the stairs. She knew she couldn’t take on anymore water and stay comfortable at all.
The tarp was gone, that she had figured on throughout the night. Hoping it had gotten caught in something nearby, she headed out of the hole in the ground.
The scene before her was like nothing she had ever witnessed before. She now stood upon beach front property, waves rolling in like the ocean just below the area that had once supported her deck overlooking the town.
The town. There was no town any longer. The only evidence was the occasional chimney poking up high enough to be noticed and the steeple of the quaint little church in town rose up like a pointed sword, a beacon to all that there was still hope. Cars floated like inner tubes on a lake and debris rocked from side to side with the motion of the sea. But she didn’t see anyone. Dead or alive.
Natalie found that she could do nothing but stare, falling to the slab that used to be her garage. It was unbelievable. Something you would see in a movie. Slowly she crept to a place where she could touch the water, dipped her hand in and tasted it for freshness. It was salty and no good.
A thought occurred to her…What if Derek knows I didn’t make it because I got stuck here? What if he is coming for me right now? He wouldn’t find me if I don’t stay put. There isn’t anyone else here, it is just me. Maybe I will give him a couple more days to find me. If he doesn’t make it, I will have to get out of here. Please Derek, please find me!
So with the new coastline being at her back door, quite literally, and hoping Derek would make it to her with his car, she figured she would try to clear out some water. Soon, all the moisture in there would start to cause a problem.
Taking any bowl, bucket or pan she could come up with, she went to the fourth stair from the bottom of the basement and started filling them all with water. Then, she would take them up above and dump it over the edge of the hill and into the new ocean. All day she did this, thinking of every cause for the ocean to make it so far inland. Her chin would tremble every time she thought of the countless lives that had to have been lost down in the valley. She wondered if the whole east coast had suffered as they had. And thoughts of her parents being consumed by lava occupied the blank spaces in her mind. Her head was full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings. Many of which she hadn’t ever really experienced before in such a dramatic capacity.
The wind started to pick up as the sun began to descend in the sky. It whipped at her hair causing it to sting as it hit her skin. The water in the basement was more like a deep puddle but much better than the swimming pool she had woken up to.
Natalie knew she would need something to protect her from anymore rain. The tarp had not helped much at all. She hiked around her old neighborhood looking for a large piece of wood she could carry. Just down the street on the more westerly side of the mountain, she found that the Sorenson’s home was still there, although it was in pieces and rubble scattered over the ground. Finding part of a door, she felt satisfied and maneuvered it upon her back. Walking about six steps, she had to set it down for it made her shoulders scream in pain.
A noise behind her startled her and she almost dropped the door. Quickly she set it down and peeked around it, scanning the mountainside for any sign of life. Seeing nothing, she picked the door back up and continued on.
Although it could have been the wind shifting debris around, she couldn’t help but feel that she wasn’t as alone as she had once thought. Perhaps someone had been watching her these last days and knew what she had…She had more than most. It made her very nervous to say the least. It hadn’t really occurred to her that there might be other people around still because she hadn’t seen any evidence of them.
The sound of the surf pounding the ground grew louder until she could see the opening to her hole. There was no more moisture, just wind. Placing the door over that opening, it almost covered it all the way. It was heavy, well, more heavy than the tarp. She still worried about it being blown around if the wind kept up or became worse. The rocks were still piled around the edge of the empty space as though they were pinning an invisible covering so Natalie took them and weighted the base of the door, afraid to compromise the integrity of the wood. As the last few beams of sunshine lit the blanket of clouds over her head, she slipped down a couple of steps and paused to pull the door over the gap. It took her a moment to adjust her eyes, the tiny windows putting off very little light. Slinking down the steps, the carpet squished beneath her hands, drops dripping to the floor below making a distinct splat.
Finding her way across the spacious room, she found her door more by memory than by touch. She had left the door open in hopes that room would dry some. Natalie didn’t really feel that is was warm enough to evaporate anything but perhaps the wind would help. But before she would close the door, she clicked on the flashlight and looked in every nook and cranny for signs of a stranger.
Satisfied that there were no strange people hanging out in her absence, she shut the door tight and slid the ottoman in front of it…it made her feel better. Then, she just laid down over the pool table and closed her eyes against the disaster. She was exhausted, yet she felt good about what had been accomplished throughout the day.
Some time later, Natalie woke, her body shivering with cold. It was hard to understand how it could be the middle of the summer and be so frigid. Visions of the new ocean, her basement full of water, and scavenging the door from the neighbors’ flooded back. She was so cold because she was still soaked from hauling water out of the basement.
Her brain told her to get up, to change clothes and get warm. Her body said ‘no way! I’m not moving’. A deep sigh escaped her and she fought with herself. Finally, she mustered up the strength to sit upright. The fabric of her clothes felt like sandpaper against her skin. Her hands and legs felt like cement, heavy and stiff.
Sluggishly she changed her clothes in the light of the flashlight, no energy left in her tired muscles. It felt as though time had slowed down and it took twice as long to do the simplest of things. The water from a bottle felt cool going down her throat and she just didn’t feel hungry, so she decided to try sleeping. She was so tired.
It was quiet. No rain, no wind, just the muffled sound of the waves crashing against the rocks outside. That and silence.
It sounded like a Banshee was howling all around her, ready to take her to the afterlife when Natalie was woken from her sleep. It took her a moment to gain her bearings, where she was and why. Laying there in the pitch black she listened to the very eerie sounds of the wind above her. She could hear a sound, muted by the wind, that sounded far away and like a plastic bag being traumatized by the weather. And then there was the rain. It was relentless and was pounding the ground. Briefly, Natalie wondered who else was a victim of the elements as she was. She wondered how many had lost their lives.
Natalie had no idea what time it was. She felt like she had slept a long time. It could be morning or even the next afternoon, she didn’t know. She sat up and clicked on the flashlight to look at the time on her watch. 2:36 am. Wow. It felt like more time had passed than that.
She heard her stomach growl before she felt it. It had been a while since she had eaten, that was true. But with very limited food, she needed to ignore her stomach’s cries and wait until morning came. Once again, she covered her head up with the blankets and fell asleep listening to the dripping water beyond her door.
A narrow beam of light made its way into the small window giving the room a dank and haunted feel. Natalie woke after her very poor night’s sleep feeling spent and groggy. Emotionally, she felt numb and like her brain would not come together and function. It was almost the feeling of waking up after taking strong cold medicine before bed. Her watch claimed it was 10:22 am.
Swinging her legs around, she rested her feet on the very cold floor to find it wet. Quickly, she pulled them back up onto the couch and looked around. There was a skiff of standing water in her room. Not enough to reach the couch, but enough to soak the carpet and have some water sitting on top. Grumbling a few curses under her breath, she craned herself around to figure out how to get to the closet without freezing her feet in the water. She couldn’t do it. However, she did worry about how many of her things were suffering within her bags. There was no way to judge when all the rain penetrated her defenses. Was it all night? Was it in the last couple of hours? Unreal. Just unreal.
She slipped off her socks and rolled up the pants she was wearing. Then, she squished her way 15 steps to the closet and opened it to reveal very little water had made it over the metal rail that had been screwed to the floor. She knew nothing about construction, but was happy that her bags were fairly dry. Natalie drew one bag over her shoulder and tossed the other one onto the couch. Turning back, she hopped through the freezing water and onto the pile of blankets there waiting for her.
It was still warm in the mound of fabric, well warmer than her feet were. So she buried herself back in them and unzipped her emergency bag. Taking out a granola bar and a bottle of water, she ripped open the foil wrapper and had to tell herself to eat slowly. Just small bites…just in case, little sips of water, just enough to sate her thirst. She had a feeling that things were not about to get better soon.
“If I would have left and not messed with the television, I would be warm right now,” she remarked to no one in particular. It was a strange sound to hear her own voice talking in the hollow room, above the sound of the steady pat of rainfall against the small window.
To be in the ground during a flooding storm was not wise. She hadn’t thought this one out. Natalie thought that she could get her shoes on and see if she could find a house that was empty and not destroyed, one that wasn’t filling with water as the hours ticked by.
Pulling a two way radio from the bag, she turned it and prayed that the batteries still worked. It had been a long time since she had changed them. Switching it from the communication capabilities to the radio function, the gadget whizzed to life with screeching and static. Searching and searching for an information station that was still functioning, she swore loud as none were being found.
Finally, she heard a man’s voice. It was broken and full of noise, but she could make out parts of what he was saying.
“If you have…ones on the Eastern Seaboard…Natalie has struck…underwater, whole communities…new type of storm…strength, headed north. She…Canada’s coast, stronger than…Tsunami warnings have…every coastal area…The west is pummeled…eruptions…world.”
Natalie drew her shoes out from under the blanket and slipped into her socks before stuffing them in her light summer running shoes. She covered her bags with her blankets and ventured out of her safe area, sure to close the door behind her.
The rain was coming in despite the makeshift cover that was over the opening at the stairs. Heavy winds had torn the edges from the rocks that held it secure. It was bulging downward through the spaces between the boards she had set beneath the tarp. She was about to get wet.
Gently, she lifted the black plastic away to be pelted by raindrops. She blinked rapidly to clear the drops from her eyes. There would be no dry wood for a fire, no dry anything to make a fire. Her pan was full of water, well, overflowing as it continued to try collecting the rain for her. She grabbed it by the handle and took it inside, setting it on the shelf in the top of the closet in an attempt to keep from getting anything in it or even spilling.
She had to get back to Wisconsin. Even if she walked, she had to make it.
Natalie spent hours scavenging for bits and pieces from her home, things she could use to survive and sentimental artifacts that held meaning for her. She happened upon her college graduation photo with her parents on either side of her.
Rubbing the dirt and water from the glass surface, tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. Where were her mom and dad now? Were they safe? Were they thinking of her? Had they heard the news and turned back in time? She hugged the frame to her chest shed a few tears over her predicament. Then, she resumed her search. In another day or so, she could hopefully start her journey home.
Several hours more passed and Natalie’s belly growled a menacing sound. The light was beginning to fade and she had found little that was not broken or missing parts. The rain had not let up and was beginning to intensify, the wind whipping at her clothes. Standing straight up, she looked beyond her little hill that she was on. The Stowe she knew was taking on water. The streets looked like they had an accumulation down there. The homes on either side of her appeared to be abandoned, yet they were disheveled and not able to use as a refuge. She swore again, under her breath, and then immediately apologized to God. It would be dark soon. It was going to get cold again. She needed to prepare.
Leaving the few buckets and pans she had found outside to catch water, she folded the plastic sheeting over the hole in the ground and placed the rocks on it as she had the night before. That cast the basement in shadow. Only the very weak gray light filtering in through the small windows lit her way.
There was a lot of water down there. Almost over her shoes. The couch was bound to be wet now.
She eyed the pool table lying pathetically in the corner where it had ended up after the tornado. It was like the tornado had tried to suck it right up the stairwell, but lost. Carefully, Natalie lifted the corner that touched the ground, the one with the missing leg. Pushing all of her body weight against it, she found that it moved fairly easily. She scooted it across the watery floor to the doorway of her room. It was too wide.
A loud growl escaped her. Twisting the table more on its side, she kicked at the legs protruding from the top until the remaining three were removed. Satisfied with the amount of frustration she had expelled, she slid the table top on its side into the room. She had to work quickly if she was going to keep the top from getting too wet. That would mean a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.
Sloshing through the water, Natalie moved the ottoman out of the way and pressed the two couches together, seat cushions facing each other. Then, she rested the pool table top on the arms of the couches, using them as a base to keep her relatively dry and off the floor. Flinging the ottoman open, she threw every blanket and pillow in the confines upon the pool table. She would be fine here one more night. Tomorrow, she would find someone out there to help her get out of here.
Climbing atop the table top, Natalie removed her shoes and socks that were soaking wet and tucked the blankets tightly around her feet that were cold from all the water. She turned on the radio hoping to catch some insight to what was going on in the world. Carefully munching on another granola bar, she scanned the channels hearing only static. No one was out there. She was alone.
A moment of panic attacked her. It became hard to breathe as she processed those thoughts for a while. The rain sounded louder, the walls began to shrink on her, the plastic rustled restlessly. Every part of her body felt something as though she had been electrocuted or had suddenly been brought back to life. She even thought she could hear the ocean, for crying out loud!
Thunder boomed somewhere in the distance and what light was left faded leaving her in complete darkness. Absolutely vulnerable. Every few seconds, a violent flash of lightning would strobe through the windows rendering her all the more blind. She figured the only logical thing to do was to sleep through it the best she could. Clicking on the flashlight, she studied her watch. 8:30pm. It was late enough.
The crunching of the tarp being harassed by the wind got her attention. Natalie felt as though she had been asleep all night already. It was still dark, however, so she knew it wasn’t morning yet.
With her heart racing after being pulled from sleep, she laid there listening. She could hear water running, like a waterfall and then the noise of the tarp stopped. Natalie closed her eyes and sighed, knowing she was no longer sheltered at all from the elements. The wind howled through the opening in the ground and water spilled in. She curled up in a ball and pulled the covers over her head. Tears of fear spilled over her lids and streaked her face with sorrow. She whispered a prayer to God that she would be able to make it home.
The teller at the window that Natalie stood at looked back at her like she was crazy. Natalie simply walked up and said she wanted to withdraw all of her funds. She shouldn’t have to explain herself, she shouldn’t have to justify it. They should just hand over her hard earned dollars because she asked!
“Look, I’ve been saving for a long time to take a trip. I leave in just minutes and I need my money. I do not want to use my card. It is my right to hold my money in my hands, is it not?” Natalie asked firmly.
“Uh, yes…yes, it definitely is, ma’am. It will just take a few moments to get this amount together, though,” the woman replied not taking her eyes off of the triple digit number on her screen.
“I just have a few minutes so let’s get this going,” Natalie said hoping the girl did not feel the panic in her voice as it bubbled out of her.
The woman disappeared and Natalie looked out the wall of glass windows at the clouds growing even darker, swirling in the sky. Rain was starting to fall again, she could see the drops rolling off the side of her car and onto the ground.
The woman returned with a paper in hand and asked Natalie to sign it. She handed over her identification and pressed her thumb to a plate of glass that scanned it. Then, she was handed her money in a bag of large bills. She had a feeling it had been difficult for the bank to pay her out without notice.
“I really appreciate this,” Natalie offered a small smile.
“We appreciate your business, Ms. Hunter,” the woman replied and beamed at her.
That, made Natalie feel better.
Walking outside, she looked around for anyone who looked like they would mug her. It was very odd to walk out with a bag of money. She felt like every eye was watching her, rubbing their hands together in anticipation the way a dog salivates over a steak.
She made it safely home, parked in the garage, and hurried about the business of packing her clothes for the trip home. She could hear the wind picking up in speed, the raindrops delicately pelting the window turned to sharp rapping noises. She looked through the blinds to find the hail coming down the size of her fist. She couldn’t see Stowe’s town in the valley anymore, it had become completely fogged in. Or perhaps it was just the clouds descending upon it. Quickly, she flung her bag over her shoulder and raced downstairs where she turned on the television. More news was blaring, catastrophes all over the world were happening along all of the coast lines from the huge earthquake in California. Tsunami waters were invading cities everywhere and more earthquakes were happening around the world. Japan, South America, parts of Africa and extending north and south. Tears welled in Natalie’s eyes as she saw the amount of destruction. And then, footage from Yellowstone showed more volcanic eruptions that had sent magma flowing through the cracks in the earth from further quakes in the Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming areas. Natalie’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle a cry. The ticker along the bottom was warning everyone to prepare for safety. Many tornados and hurricane weather had been reported along the east coast heading north at a fast pace and was growing in intensity.
A loud howl from somewhere outside made Natalie jerk away from the screen. She knew that sound. Her windows began rattling, her doors were being sucked in and then out but stayed secure in the jambs. The lights flickered and then went out and her entire house groaned under the pressure. Natalie ran to her front window but she could see nothing more than hail and mist. She ran to the back door that led onto a deck that faced the city below. That was where she saw it, the giant funnel cloud that was trying to decide whether or not to descend upon the inhabitants of Stowe.
“Oh, no!” she cried aloud and ran to grab her bag hastily making it down into the basement in the dark.
She unlocked her phone’s screen, the images of twisters and volcanic matter filling her mind. There was no signal. “Call Mom,” she spoke to it.
“I cannot complete your call, Natalie,” it replied to her and then a screen blinked at her. “No Signal Available”.
She let her head fall back against the cold wall and exhaled am abnormally huge sigh. “Please God, keep them safe. I may not be the most deserving of your grace, but I beg of you to protect the ones I love,” she whispered.
The ground began to shake and the rumbling above the ground became louder…and louder. It was deafening. She could hear windows breaking, thunder clapping, and the structure of her home was trying to fight back, not wanting to give in to the torment of Mother Nature. Yet, with a spectacular groan in protest and a scuffle within the walls, Natalie then heard the familiar smashing, crashing and wood splintering cries from the house and she could only imagine the extent of the damage. In the distance, she could hear her beautiful car crying for help as the panic alarm went off involuntarily. The door closing her into the room in the basement quivered like in the leaves of an autumn tree.
Natalie clapped her hands over her ears and screamed. It was almost too much to bear, the sounds, the images that had conjured in her head, the rumbling of the ground all around her.
It felt an eternity before the shaking stopped and the deep pounding ceased. Natalie was sweaty and shaking. That was worse than any tornado she had experienced before. She just sat there for some time before managing to climb to her feet and reach for the door knob.
The wind was still whipping outside when Natalie opened that door. She could feel it whistling down the stairwell. Dread filled her and a heaviness weighed in her heart. It was like time has slowed. It was difficult to walk forward, hard to see the pool table in the great room of the basement pushed against the far wall from her, one leg rocking back and forth, the table slumping lazily away from her. The light fixture lay in pieces on the carpeted, concrete floor. There was rain on the stairs and when she looked up the flight and where a door used to hang, there was only the elements exposed to her.
She just couldn’t walk up the steps to see her house gone. She wanted to throw up. Feeling weak and lightheaded, she just sat on the stairs, the water in the carpet soaking her behind. She just sat and cried until she felt sated, wishing she had someone to lean on at that point, a man to kiss and know that they could make it through this together. Instead, she was utterly alone, her parents were likely dead, and no one knew if she had lived or died. She had cut herself off from so many people, focused on making her way, defending people who lied, and obtaining material things that had just vanished beneath the scourge of Mother Nature. Now, she had been left to fend for herself, alone in this destroyed world.
Larger raindrops began to fall on Natalie’s head some time later, her brunette hair hung in wet clumps of disarray. Drops feel from her eyelashes like tears, like the ones she had cried out until she ran dry. Finally, as the light was fading and a chill was rising in the air, she wandered up the stairs and into the full force of the storm. She choked back a sob to see that there was little left behind.
What used to be her lovely, blue collar home was now strewn about as rubble. Bits of wood that used to be her walls lay in pieces as far as she could see through the rain. Shattered glass crunched beneath her feet. Her breathing became heavy as she struggled to keep calm after losing everything. Well, everything but her life. Broken dishes, pillows ripped apart, litter that was not even hers had been dropped there, and her car was upside down on the neighbor’s barely affected home two doors down. There was no going home to Wisconsin now. No way to find her parents. Barely any way for her to survive.
Natalie’s brain finally fired up the synapses in there and she began to think logically about her survival. She gathered up pieces of wood and found a random pan lying in the weather. She set it right side up to catch the moisture that she could use later for drinking. She threw as much of the wood down the stairs as she could before the light had all but vanished. Larger pieces, she drug over to the opening and stacked them over the hole in the ground to protect her from the elements. If the hurricane was still coming, she needed all the protection she could find. A large piece of black plastic sheeting flew by and slapped against a stud that was only halfway whole, ruffling wildly and noisily in the wind. She took it and spread it over the wood, keeping it down with some heavy rocks. The pan of water would be full by morning, she assessed and retreated back into the basement, securing the flap of plastic inside with rocks.
The light was gone, it was black as she felt her way down the stairs and into her room. She closed the door, regretting it not being a locked door. Never, had she thought it would become her front door. Opening the closet, she felt around for her flashlight and found it. Turning it on, it lit the room in a weak yellow light. Quickly, she stripped out of her wet clothes and pulled out her thermals from the pack and clean, dry clothes from the bag she had packed that contained her money. Using a towel, she wrapped her head to dry her hair and keep warm. Tempted by the hand warmer packets in the pack, she closed the door, telling herself it could get a lot worse before it gets any better. She may need them more on future days. Taking two blankets from the ottoman, she turned off the flashlight and flopped down on one of the couches. It had been almost 6:30 in the evening when she started fiddling with the tarp so she knew an hour had probably passed. There was little else to do but sleep and prepare for the next morning, so she snuggled down under the blankets and closed her eyes to the world that had forsaken her.
A very distinct ringing screeched into Natalie’s ear. She pulled her phone out from under her head and hit the snooze. Suddenly, all of the angst and nerves from the night before surfaced and she jumped out of bed.
“Lights,” she commanded.
Her satin nightgown slid against her skin as she padded her way to the window, the coolness in the air made the fabric inflict gooseflesh over her body. She drew up the blinds to find the valley socked in fog, the clouds in the skies moving fast past the glass, still dark and formidable. There was no sunshine, no warmth, just clouds and mist. She ran her hands over her arms in an attempt to warm herself. It looked like winter out there, not the last day of July.
Heading into the bathroom, she turned on the television. The morning news would come on in 20 minutes. She showered as quickly as she could manage and stepped out wrapping her head in a towel. Glancing at the screen, she noticed a ticker had come on at the bottom, an emergency warning was being displayed for the East Coast. Natalie was not sure that meant her area of Vermont, but a feeling of doom and dread filled her.
While applying her make up, the weatherman came on talking about the advances of “Hurricane Natalie”. She let out a snort at how they had named this storm. It was being reported that this cell was moving rapidly and not falling apart as it hit land. She put down her shadow brush and watched, hypnotized by the images of Florida that were being aired. Much of it was under water. They encouraged people anywhere near the coast to prepare for the worst. Natalie expelled the breath she had been holding.
The news broke for a commercial break and Natalie grabbed for her phone, dialing her work. She left a message claiming she woke with a fever and would not be in. She knew there was a court hearing that she had been busting her butt on, yet somehow, it didn’t matter to her at the moment. Hanging up, she sat back in her chair and stared at her reflection in the mirror.
*Breaking News* caught her attention. The news left the air and in its place was footage of wide streams of hot orange magma flowing through streets and neighborhoods. The voice coming from the television explained that an earthquake that measured off the charts hit the San Andreas fault line. The coast of California was a disaster, untold numbers of deaths littered the west coast. Natalie stared in shock at what the shaking cameras were showing her. Buildings had toppled. Bridges were rubble. Bodies scattered. Utility poles were lying on the ground as though they were dominos that had been flicked by God’s finger and a domino effect occurred across the west. Deep gashes in the earth’s skin had swallowed cars, homes and trees. Others were bleeding magma. Clouds of steam rose as the molten rock spilled into the ocean. Clouds of smoke billowed out of buildings only standing at half mast.
Holding her breath, Natalie sunk to the couch cushions and stared at the devastation. Each new image was a whole new nightmare to process. Phone in hand, she absently dialed the number of her closest and dearest friend in the whole world. She needed his comfort and to make sure he was okay.
“Hello?” greeted a man’s voice on the other end of the line hundreds of miles away.
Out came the breath Natalie had been holding in. “Derek?” she answered quietly.
“Nat? Is that you? How are you doing? I haven’t heard from you in ages! Are you all right? Are you watching the tube right now?” Now he sounded panicked.
“Derek, you shouldn’t call it the ‘tube’. There are-“
“No tubes in televisions, I know. You always say that,” he chuckled.
“Are you okay, Derek? I mean, I know you are still over there by mom and dad, but I don’t know what is going on. I see California is a mess! We are due for a hurricane any moment…Are you safe?”
“Calm down, Natalie. We are fine over here. You need to come home and not weather that hurricane. Please. Just get in your car and drive home right now,” Derek said with urgency.
“It hasn’t been any big deal so far, a little wind, some hail and rain, nothing to be concerned about. I’m in the mountains, man. They break up storms. I doubt we will see the same problems as like New York,” she said, silently glad that he still cared about her like a brother.
“I want you to keep an eye on my parents for me. Make sure that if anything bad happens there, that you will all stay together and take care of them. Promise me!” she pressed.
“I can’t promise you. They left just a little bit ago. I saw their motorhome pull away. I think they went to Yellowstone?” he ended as though he were asking a question.
Natalie closed her eyes and sighed as though she were an old woman. “I didn’t think they were leaving for a while,” she said trying to swallow the sick stomach in her throat.
“I guess their plans changed. When did you talk to them last?”
“Last night. She said they were leaving in a few days, not this morning!” She was afraid Derek would be able to tell that she was freaking out. Her heart was thundering and she could feel a pulse in her ears, her hearing felt muted.
“Calm down, they just went for vacation. If anything goes wrong, they will come right back. Do me a favor, go to your bank and pull out your money. Get your emergency supplies together and hit the road west. I will be watching for you,” Derek said sweetly.
She hadn’t even thought to withdraw her funds. “I will. I need to call Mom. They need to come back.”
“They will be fine, Nat. Just worry about yourself.”
“You don’t see what is going on? The earthquakes? Eruptions? Derek, Yellowstone is pretty much one huge volcanic outlet. It could blow big time. Maybe with little warning!” Natalie pointed out. “I’ve got to call Mom.”
“Listen to me. I will call your mom. You get your stuff and get the hell out of there!” He was getting impatient and a little angry.
“See you soon, love you,” she said, feeling like she was about to cry. She never cries.
“Love you, hurry up!”
The line was closed. Natalie just sat there and stared at the same shaky footage on the screen as before. She could hear the wind whistling around the walls of the house on the mountain.
“Move, Natalie. You need to go. Get back home where it is safe. Get your money and just walk away,” she reasoned with herself.
Making a conscious effort, she flicked the button on the remote and was suddenly sitting in the midst of a loud storm crashing outside when the noise of the news had been silenced. She picked herself up off the couch and numbly moved through her house and up the stairs. She shrugged into her clothes and discarded the wet towels. The housekeeper would be there later to do the laundry.
Smoothing her hair quickly, she threw all of her toiletries in an overnight bag. Hurriedly, she brushed and stuffed clean towels in her bag. It felt like her body was moving in fast motion, she half walked and half ran down the stairs, the severity of her situation becoming more real by the second. It wasn’t just a hurricane coming, it was disasters from all corners. The earthquakes would cause tsunamis and that would devastate other areas of the world, who knew when the storm heading her way would let up. It became stronger everyday, barely grazing Cuba and the Caribbean but washing out the entire east coast as it hit land. She was right in the middle of the end of the world!
July 30, 2016
The skies were the grey-black of Satan’s eyes and crying the tears of the Angels. Black threads of clouds descended toward the ground like a Demon’s claws, reaching to claim the inhabitants of Stowe, Vermont.
Natalie Hunter sat at her desk watching the weather with fear in her ice blue gaze. Trouble was lurking, she could feel it. She had seen similar skies when she had attended OklahomaStateUniversity. This is what it looked like just before a tornado would strike. Once she had graduated, Natalie had moved to Stowe to escape the wrath of Mother Nature and she prayed now that it would just blow over. Everyone had told her that this small town was very protected by the mountains so they never saw terrible weather.
She sucked in a chest full of air as she escaped her memories and returned to her life at Cornwall & Associates Law Offices. It really was very silly to be so concerned about it. She glanced at the time on her computer, a little anxious to get home before any bad weather might break loose. 4:23pm. Almost done for the day, although it looked like it was already nightfall outside. Normally it didn’t get dark until nearly ten o’clock, being summer and all.
“Are you all right?” Addie, Natalie’s assistant, asked.
She snapped her eyes to the red head standing beside her. “I’m fine,” she forced a fake smile.
“You look really pale. Are you sick?” she pressed.
“No, I suppose I am a little apprehensive about what’s going on outside,” Natalie replied as nonchalantly as she could muster.
Addie’s smile was warm, her concerned eyes melted into pools of comfort. “Oh Natalie…you really don’t have anything to worry about. We don’t get tornados here like you did in Oklahoma. Snow is about the worst we see,” she said with a chuckle.
Natalie took the papers in Addie’s hands. “I know. It is just hard to forget when there are clouds like these out there.”
Addie patted Natalie on the shoulder. “I think we are going out for drinks later, want to join us this time? It might take your mind off of things.”
“No, I think I will just go home and curl up with a good movie,” she laughed. “But thank you for the invite.”
“Maybe next time…”
Natalie cracked a smile. “Maybe.”
By nature, Natalie was a homebody. She wasn’t a college partier, she didn’t make it a point to have a boyfriend, much less a husband. She had come here and made a life for herself in Stowe, as her parents missed her dearly in Wisconsin. She had been able to build herself a home upon the hills surrounding the little town. She owned a nice car for the first time in her life. And it was all hers, no one to take control of her or her things.
She clicked open a new tab on her screen and activated the local weather app on her server. It showed a 100% chance of a rain and hail mixture with a high wind advisory for their area and thunder and lightning. Her chin fell into her palm as she scrolled down the page reading the storm warnings for the central Vermont area. It was about to be an ugly night.
At five minutes to five, Natalie logged off of her system and grabbed her satchel that contained her laptop and some files to go over before court in the morning. It was beginning to sprinkle when she made a dash for her sleek, and freshly washed, red little Mitsubishi in the parking lot. She inserted the skeleton key into the ignition and pressed the button to start the engine. Her seat adjusted to her body perfectly and she spoke the word “warmer”. As she pulled out of the lot, she could feel her seat warming and soothing the chill out of her bones.
Through town she sped until she hit the road that would take her up the side of the hill to W. Ridge Rd. Hail began to fall as she neared her home that overlooked the town, tapping a sharp staccato against the glass. Wipers didn’t help clear the windshield and a build up of ice gathered at the bottom of the windshield. This was the sort of weather they normally saw in November!
Natalie pressed the light on the console that was programmed with her garage door and sat patiently as the door slid up and made room for her to glide within the protection of the oversized haven for her precious car. Once safely inside, the door closed itself and the light turned on to show her the way into the house.
As she opened the connecting door, she hit the lock button on her fob. All the lights on the car flashed and she heard the locking mechanism click, a brief beep was the evidence that it had accomplished that which she required.
Right inside the door, she touched a panel on the wall and all the lights came on in the house. She made her way through the laundry area that sported a fresh fragrance and set her bag on the dining room table as she continued through, heading for the stairs to her bedroom.
The only room on the second floor was her suite, a spacious master bedroom with an attached luxury bath. She shrugged out of her skirt and blouse and started a hot shower to further erase her chill. The hot water stung her skin, turning it bright red where the streams of the water concentrated on her. Wetting her fair, blonde hair, she decided to wash all the hairspray out of her tresses. Passing her hand below the dispenser, it released the right amount of shampoo that she lathered richly over her scalp. Smoothing the soap drenched pouf over her aching body felt amazing. And after scrubbing her face, she touched the lit up “off” icon on the wall and the water ceased. She reached for her towel, yanking it from the warmed towel bar and deftly dried herself. Then, she wrapped her hair in it and slipped into her flannel pajamas just as the rain picked up and beat a tattoo over the roof.
In the drawer of her bedside table, she drew out her diary and stepped into her slippers. Down the elegant spiral staircase she went.
The lights flickered and she gasped.
Reaching within her satchel, she retrieved her cell phone and ear attachment. Slipping the device within her ear, the slim silver wire curved around the side of her face.
“Call Mom,” Natalie ordered sitting on the couch.
The lights flickered again. She swore as the phone rang and she went in search of any candles she could round up.
“Hello, Nat, how are you?” her mother’s voice answered.
Natalie swallowed against the fear and answered, “I’m good, Mom. How’s the weather over there? Still summer?” She tried to laugh, but sounded hollow.
“I can see from the television that you don’t have very good weather there. You okay?”
“I told you, I’m fine. No need to worry. I just wanted to make sure you were safe,” Natalie lied. In truth, she wanted to hear the familiarity in her mother’s voice. It could still calm her when she was afraid.
“How is work going?” Mom asked.
“I’m getting more cases now. That makes it a little more fun for me. I have been working on this one case that is defending a man who lives on government land. He says he should have every right to it because the world is about to end,” she snorted. “He says that in just weeks, there will be nothing left to worry about. Just one of those Doomsdayers looking for his day. There is no way to win it and I tried to tell him to save his money because his chances of winning are slim, but he would have none of it.”
“You can’t fault people for what they believe, dear,” Mom replied.
“No, but they make it really hard to defend them when they make themselves at home on government owned forest land. He needs to find another place legitimately. Pay for it like the rest of us do,” Natalie replied as she lit all her candles.
“Well, I know you will do great. You always do.”
Natalie could hear her mother smile on the other end of the call, pride fueling the feel of her words. It made her confidence rise.
“Thanks, Mom. So what are you and Dad doing this summer?”
“Well, we are taking a trip Wyoming in a few days. We’ve always wanted to see YellowstonePark.”
“That is great! Are you both going to be okay going? I mean, I know there have been a lot of wildlife reports and I would hate to see either of you get hurt…” she said trying to hide her worry.
“Natalie Ann, stop trying to be a mother hen. We are just fine and are going in an RV. It is like a hotel on wheels! We will be plenty safe, child.”
“If you say so. How long will you be gone?” she asked flipping on the television and quickly muting the noise.
“About two weeks…unless we are having a really great time and don’t want to come home yet,” she answered.
“Nice! That will be fun for you guys. Just promise me you will be extra careful for me.”
“Of course, but only if you promise me that you will get all of your survival equipment together. They were talking about a hurricane that is headed your way. I know you are really far north, but they say it is very strong and covering more in land areas than they have ever seen.”
Chills spread over Natalie’s body. She had known something was not right.
“I promise, Mom. I have my pack in my bedroom so don’t worry about me either,” Natalie replied. She glanced at the pictures flashing over the television to see the animated graphics of the storms on the screen.
The lights flickered again, causing the television to hiccup.
“I’m going to go, Mom. I think my power is going to cut out so I want to save as much of my battery as I can, just in case.”
“That sounds like a really good idea. I love you, Nat,” Mom said with a slight edge to her voice.
“I love you too, Mom. Have a great time with Dad.”
Once the line had cleared, she un-muted the news.
“Keep on the lookout for heavy rains as the maturing “Hurricane Natalie” gains strength and comes all the closer to the Florida coastline. Winds will pick up, especially outside of the valley, so bring your summer furniture indoors as a precaution. Currently, we are measuring about two inches of heavy rainfall in the Vermont area, compared to just over four inches average for the entire month of July.
In the Midwest, tornados are rampaging states from the gulf all the way to Canada in Tornado Alley. We could be seeing some of those weather patterns that have moved into our area. Severe flooding is happening along the Mississippi River and is leaving many with no power and ruined homes. The Red Cross has been deployed from around the country.
In the West, the coast of California felt an earthquake that measured only a 4.0 on the Richter scale. It was enough to scare everyone a little, but nothing major has hit the area,” said the soft spoken anchorman.
Natalie’s heart rate sped up at the amount of devastation happening all over the U.S. Hearing enough, she clicked off the television before they even dared to talk about the rest of the world. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, as if realizing that she was one insignificant piece of the universe and was susceptible to the wrath of the elements.
A quiet voice inside her began screaming. So she ventured upstairs again and dug out her pack that was filled with emergency gear. When she was living in Oklahoma, her mother begged her to put one together with three days of food, toiletries and some water. She added a couple of changes of clothes and her handgun. The way it was going, Natalie knew she needed to add some candles and have matches in a baggie. She slung the bag over her shoulder and descended the stairs. Stopping in the kitchen, she dug out every candle she could find that she hadn’t been burning and zipped them within the plastic of a sandwich bag. Once safely secured, Natalie continued through the kitchen and around the corner where the doorway to the basement was located.
Down the stairs she went flipping the light on as she went. Ignoring the giant pool table, she went right for the walled off section that was the “lounge” area. It was cold in there when she opened the door and turned on the light. Two couches, the ones she had used in college, had been placed facing each other. They were hideaways. The ottoman contained blankets and bedding. Being a chillier basement, space heaters and pillows filled the closet. It was there that she placed her bag. She stood there a moment and looked at it. Chewing on her lower lip nervously, she tried to convince herself that she was overreacting.
It finally hit nine o’clock, Natalie’s usual time to crawl into bed. She slipped between the cool sheets and fell down on her fluffy pillow. She checked her phone, having plugged it into the wall to charge and made sure her alarm was set to wake her up in the morning. Then, she slipped it under her pillow. She listened to the wind blow around her outside, the raindrops pelting the windows and she pulled the other pillow on her queen sized bed over her head to drown out the noise.