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Sometimes still when I close my eyes I can see it. A purple black sky infested with frothy dark clouds hunching over the city like a muscle builder, flames rising up from the sky line. The entire landscape bathed in the near constant torrent of lighting flashes. Fires had already sprung up in most of the taller buildings. And, oh god, the sound. Like a million angry bees piloting a thousand enraged freight trains. The strange thing was that there was no one running, no one fleeing in panic. The entire world had gone crazy just for us.
This was the second time this city had encountered this new force. Much of lower Manhattan was a mangled mess of glass and bent steel girders. Every testament to man’s ingenuity brought low by the power of nature. The few buildings left standing were quickly succumbing to the torrent of lighting and hail. Glass rained down like deadly crystalline manna from heaven.
Ophelia was coming, and unless we hurried, she was going to be the last thing we ever experienced on this planet.
“Go Rain, Go!” I was forced to shout to be heard over the sound of the wind.
She didn’t need my urging, with a slight nod in my direction she mounted her bicycle, put her head down, and we were gone. We made our way as best we could with the wind ripping at us pushing us all over the cluttered road. In retrospect it was an absolute miracle we didn’t flat out in the first 50 feet. Our wheels crunched over dunes of broken safety glass.
We reached Central Park, exhausted from pushing against the wind the entire time. My calves burned and it had started raining, hard. Both Rain and I were soaked to the bone. The park was a tangled mess of broken trees. Some fluke in the wind patterns had tossed every ripped up road sign, abandoned shopping cart and bit of trash in the city into the park. It was as if someone had thrown a forest and a garbage dump into a food processor and hit the button for apocalypse.
“Cherry Hill is right in the middle of the park!” I followed her the best I could.
We had no plan, didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, and honestly at this point couldn’t care. You know that tiny black void inside you? The one that says “you are never good enough.” The one that whispers to you in your weakest moments that “no one loves you” and that “you are going to grow old and die alone.” Most days we keep this void pressed deep down, out of sight out of mind. On this particular day the void had escaped and expanded to eat the entire world.
Destruction on this level has a way of leveling you to your foundation. You can’t even picture a world in which something like this could be fixed. The entire city was taking the second beating by Ophelia, one of many to come, if such a magnificent object of humanity could be wiped off the planet so easily, what hope did we small delicate fleshy things have. The answer of course was that we didn’t, there was no hope, no hope for any of us.
We were almost to Cherry Hill when a particularly strong gust of wind reached down and plucked me from my bike. Sliding over the ground, propelled by the wind, I remember thinking that broken glass and water make a pretty good lubricant. The impact sounded like a giant had just stepped on a box of rice crispies.
Me, the bike, a generous portion of broken glass, garbage, a road sign, dirt, newspapers, and whatever else had been in the vicinity flew violently into a couple of concrete pylons. I knew right away that something was wrong. Lucky for me the next couple seconds were spent in a pleasant blackness.
“Don’t try to move Q, I am trying to figure out how I am going to get this chunk of rebar out of your arm!” Her voice was mangled by the howl of the wind.
I reached up with my right hand to feel my left bicep, it felt oddly warm. What greeted me was a 3 inch long stump of re-enforced steel that had taken up residence in my arm. Feeling the end caused my stomach to turn over in flips.
Rain hunched over me, blocking out the wind, and some of the ever increasing rain, she screamed over the maelstrom.
“Listen Q! This fucking thing is embedded into that concrete thing back there; it doesn’t look like it went through anything but your arm!”
She pressed her head closely to mine, her wet hair falling onto me. The flaps of her aviatrix helmet creating a small quiet space around both of our faces.
“You skinny little shit, I am surprised there is even enough of you for something to stab through.”
The humor helped keep me focused on her face, and not on what was going to happen next.
“Q, your new piercing looks like it is rejecting, so we are going to have to take it out, unfortunately the little fucker is at a weird sort of angle, so unless you can pick up that huge piece of concrete we are going to have to push you off of it…”
She moved around behind me, wedging herself in between the pylon, and the end of the long piece of rebar stuck into my arm. Her knees pushed up close to her chest, she gently placed one foot on my back and one on my left shoulder.
Now was perhaps the exact wrong time to look over and see the jagged piece of metal sticking through my arm. The rain was causing a red torrent to trickle down my arm and pool under my hand. If I had eaten anything today it surely would have taken this chance to evacuate ship. After a brief pause I got on with it.
Turning my head sharply I gave a feeble nod in Rains direction.
“I ain’t gonna lie Q, this shit is going to hurt!”
The wind was kicking up, throwing dirty water into my eyes. Crying at this point had a certain sort of appropriateness, so I let the tears flow. I prepared myself the best I could.