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Faces in the Storm

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Storm

I think I’m going to go insane…

It’s been twenty eight days since the seventeenth of December, and the rain hasn’t faltered for a second since then. It keeps falling in sheets, driving down from the heavens like a waterfall. Outside, you feel like you could drown walking.

When this all started out, I don’t think that anyone thought much of it. I mean, this nightmare was just another winter storm then. It started in kind of an odd place, out in the North Atlantic across from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but I’m not sure that meant anything to people who weren’t meteorologists or oceanographers. The storm started out expanding very rapidly. I’m not sure if it’s still growing or not, since the TV hasn’t come on for more than three weeks, but it sure hasn’t moved at all.

Things started looking more bizarre when the wind failed to move the storm. It just kept hammering New England, growing south along the coastline from Maine all the way down to where I lived in Nassau County, just outside of New York City. The weather forecasts changed every few minutes, as forecasters revised their estimates, going from saying that there would be light flurries, to saying that there would be a few inches of snow, to saying that there would be an absolute blizzard across the city, and that everyone should stay inside.

My wife, Sarah, couldn’t heed that warning, though. She had to go to work, and I had to stay home and take care of our five year old daughter, Tanya. When my wife walked outside that morning, I promised her that I would keep Tanya safe. Watching Sarah pull out of the driveway in her Nissan Altima, I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever see her.

As the day wore on, the weather took a turn for the worse. It looked like the weather forecasters were right, predicting one of the worst storms New York had seen in over a century. It amazed me when the power stayed on late into the night, but I wasn’t complaining. You never know exactly how bad a blackout really is until you go through one with a five year old who’s still terrified of the dark.

Not that I can say I’m not scared of the dark anymore, myself.

The last time we saw the cheerful, smiling forecasters on the Weather Channel, they were saying that the storm had expanded south into New Jersey, and that we could receive two feet of snow during the night. It was at about 6:23 P.M., I think. Less than a minute later, the Weather Channel cut off, and every program on the television changed to a warning, telling everyone to get out of New York City along whatever bridge they could take and avoid Manhattan Island.

I tried to reach the company where Sarah worked on my phone, but the lines were down. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I decided to listen to the reporters on my TV, and get Tanya out of the city. I struggled with the idea that I shouldn’t just desert Sarah, who worked in Manhattan, but when I got outside, I realized that I couldn’t possibly risk going there.

To the south, across the horizon, the dark clouds of night were painted red with flames.

The traffic was horrible, but not as bad you might think. A lot of people were reluctant to leave. They all seemed to be in shock. I drove my Cadillac along the roads through Nassau and Queens, seeing a lot of people standing by the roadside watching the shadow of the flames flickering against the sky, but running into far fewer actually driving along the road. Some of the people were slowly making their way by foot out of the city, and as time went on, the traffic congestion got a bit worse, but amazingly I was able to get myself and Tanya out of New York before it became so bad that I couldn’t drive at all.

I still remember looking across the harbor on the road from Queens to the mainland, and seeing Manhattan Island burning. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget that. Tanya kept staring out the window, speechless, and tired, too, I believe. I don’t know for certain what time it happened to be, but I think it was past eleven.

All night, I drove through the countryside, trying to pick up a radio station that could tell me what was going on. There was nothing anywhere, though, except news of the mandatory evacuation of New York. It seemed odd to me that I had seen very few police officers and no military officials anywhere. Now, looking back, I think they were probably all either elsewhere, or dead.

The next day, things were worse. The weather started getting warmer, and the snow turned to rain. Piles of snow by the roadside were melting, and the blacktop was covered with water and mud. The clouds kept getting darker as the day went on, and we ran into more and more traffic, coming from places all along coastal New England. The radio evacuation order was going out then to everyone from Massachusetts south to New Jersey.

By the time that night fell, it was pretty hard to tell night from day. Tanya started asking me where her mother was, and I had to lie to her, and tell her that Sarah was okay. Really, I was lying to myself, too. I thought that maybe she was somewhere along the highway right now, safely in her silver Altima. I have no doubts now that she was already dead.

We eventually had to pull off of the road and go to sleep in our car. There were some strange sounds in the night around us, and my daughter kept waking up, scared that the monster she believed had been living under her bed in Nassau was there with us, living under the car. I told her that it was all just her imagination, but I couldn’t help hearing the scratching on the undercarriage, or the occasional low purr coming from somewhere further out in the night.

When morning came, everything seemed well again. That is, until I got moving. I wanted to believe that the sounds I had heard the night before, and the ever present sense of something out there in the night had all been figments of my imagination, but what I saw along the roadside shook that pleasant notion from my head. Everywhere, there were cars still sitting on the roadside, their windows broken out, and their doors sometimes torn off of their hinges. In front of some, deep trails led through through the melting snow into the distance.

There was no way that I was going to stay out in the car that night. Instead, I chose to find a house along the road which looked empty, and, well, I broke in. To be more accurate, I knocked on the door, and it creaked open on its own. No one was inside, so I decided that I and Tanya could stay in there for the night. The door locked safely and securely behind us, and we seemed to be safe.

We’ve been in that house ever since.

At first, we stayed in the upper part of the house, but as the nights and the days grew together into one dark, pitch black blur, we decided that the basement was probably safer. Just in time, too. Soon after we went down to the basement, I heard something break down the front door and crash around in the upper part of the building, toppling tables and knocking over the television.

Time passed slowly, eternally dragging on. The temperature kept getting warmer and warmer, until it began to feel more like the middle of summer than the middle of winter. Then, one night (I think, it was impossible to tell), the world around us grew warmer than the inside of an oven.

I can’t say that the temperature was lower than one hundred and fifty degrees. It was almost literally scalding. A little bit of water had started creeping into the basement through windows high up on the walls, and my daughter and I tried to stay out of it, because it was nearly hot enough to boil.

That was the night I saw something I really wish that I could just unsee.

My daughter went to sleep early. She was tired, and, I think, a little sick. For a little while, I let her sleep alone, choosing to look out through one of the closed windows, where no water was pouring in.

At first, I saw nothing but the pitch black of the storm. Then, I noticed something out there in the night. A few darkly glowing patches of luminescent green, coming from something I couldn’t see. I watched them for a while as they bounced through the depthless darkness, moving along at a distance I couldn’t really understand.

Then, there were several bright flashes of lightning, and I realized that what I was watching was much larger than anything I could have possibly imagined.

How tall it was, I’m not totally sure, but I know it had to be bigger than a mountain. It was still just a shadow in the distance, but it had enough form for me to know that it was not normal, even in the twisted alternate version of reality which comes with the storm. I could feel the heat, coming off of it, and coming through the window; like an open fire, less than an inch from my face. In its wake, there were flames, spouting up from the forest of southern New York, and casting black trails of smoke against the black sky.

Soon, the light from the brief outburst of lightning strikes fell away, but the green glow continued. I kept watching for a while before going back to sit with Tanya, those images burned forever into my mind.

When morning came, the world was a bit cooler. As the next day wore on, and the next after it, the temperature went even lower, and so did our stocks of food.

The owners of the house had a few weeks worth of food in the basement. Apparently, they were farmers who had kept old traditions of canning and drying their own produce. It lasted us longer than I thought, but now, we’ve been out for a while I think that Tanya and I are going to head out. If the car works, we’ll take it. If it doesn’t… we’ll figure something out.

There’s water everywhere, and it’s more than foot deep on the flat land here. The ground reached its saturation point weeks ago, and the water hasn’t had time to drain away fully. I don’t know what’s going to happen if it keeps raining; I guess this part of New York is going to join the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m just thinking that maybe we can get to safety somewhere. There has to be some place where this storm hasn’t reached. I’m leaving this note here, just in case someone finds it eventually. I just want there to be some remnant of Tanya, Sarah, and I passing through this world. I don’t want us all to just be three more faces in the storm.

-C.S.B.-

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