NaNoWriMo Chapter 6

Chapter 6

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.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 5

Chapter 5

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.

Chapter 3 of my NaNoWriMo…

 

Chapter 3

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.