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.