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.