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“Now is not the time for this!”
That’s what I kept telling myself over and over. If I said it enough times perhaps it would come true. Now was not the time to freak out, now was the time for action.
“What one do we take” Rain had to raise her voice over the rising pitch of the wind.
Before us sat three black holes. Each with cars clogging their respective entrances. The Lincoln tunnel built in the early 30’s, once considered a marvel of engineering, was now little more than the final resting place for hundreds of abandoned cars, and from the smell, a fair number of their drivers.
Smoke gently billowed from the center tunnel making our choice a bit easier.
“Eeeny meeny… fuck it we go left” And that was that. I followed Rain into the left tunnel.
Now is not the time for this, now is not the time for this, now is not the time for this… My palms began to sweet, my face felt warm.
We threaded our way forward into the blackness, dodging over and around cars the best we could. My brain, in a vain attempt to stay calm, was flinging random ideas at me. If only the authorities had banned cars from the tunnels and used buses instead they could have moved thousands of more people through here to safety. God bless Americans and their attachment to their cars.
After 100 yards the cars started to get closer together, and the road began to go downhill. After 200 yards we were forced to turn our bicycle lights on to see in the ever increasing darkness. After 300 yards we had to start lifting our bikes over the cars and walking on the roofs. It was probably a good thing that we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us, some of the cars looked like they still had occupants, and the smell was becoming foul. After 400 yards I lost it.
My vision narrowed down into tiny black dots, and the familiar feeling of consciousness leaving me struck and I had to sit down. My bike fell against an unmoving car making a loud noise.
“Q What The FUCK is wrong with you!” What was her problem; all I wanted to do was curl up next to my bicycle light and puke my guts out while hyperventilating.
“I am scared of dark enclosed spaces.” It attempted to explain.
Rain placed her bike against the side of a car and walked over to me, finding me in the dark by following the faint outline I made against the flickering bike light. She emerged from the darkness her face a pale white in the faint light.
“Q, get up, come on we have to go”
“I can’t move, my legs wont move Rain, just go on without me, I will stay here you can get me on the way back”
“Fuck that Q, I need you, get up, get up, GET UP!”
She reached down and put her hands on my shoulders; her long hair had spilled free from her helmet and caressed my forehead and ear. I could smell the leather and sweat from our long ride. She put her face close to mine.
“Listen Q, you are ok, this is what we are going to do, you are going to get up, and we are going to walk out of here, and then we are going to find my brother and Marla and we are going to get the fuck out of town before a giant hurricane kills us all”
To punctuate her rally the troop’s speech she kissed me forcefully. Her athletic body pressed against mine, her lips pressing against mine while her fingers ran up my back and entangled themselves in my hair, holding my face hard against her mouth.
The shock was physical, mental and complete.
“Rain, what, what are you doing!” I stood and sputtered at the same time.
“See your legs work, now lets get going.” Did I detect a hint of a smile in the darkness?
I began moving again, slowly at first and then faster. We threw our bikes over our shoulders and began to leap from car to car. They were crammed so close together that we could almost walk on them.
Before long the road began to flatten out, the smell of burning, mold, and human waste combined to form a noxious potion. The sound of running water could be heard and the road surface was clearly filling with water. Was this a break down in some sort of pump, or was the storm surge from Ophelia pushing water into the tunnel? All of these ideas were clearly for someone else to worry about because we had to move.
After what seemed an eternity we began to hear wind again, and the road began to move uphill. I looked forward and could see a faint outline of Rain as she moved towards light.
Her silhouette, bike over one shoulder, was briefly brought into greater contrast as the sky flashed with lighting. The first outer reaches of Ophelia had arrived. If a hurricane could talk the wind and lighting would be her way of saying,
“Tremble all who come before me.”