Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rain in Hell

             It started with a faint whistling sound overhead which then became a rattling of the windows and the China cabinet. A glass fell, and then a plate as the sound grew in proximity and intensity. Maxine held onto the edges of her breakfast table as the building shuddered. Her tea cup rattled off the edge of the breakfast nook table and shattered onto the floor, but Maxine hardly noticed as the world seemed to be coming apart. She could swear a rocket powered freight train was passing directly in front of her apartment building.

            The sound seemed to pause and the windows in Maxine’s apartment exploded inward. Glass shards whizzed through the air, slicing everything its path. The wooden sill was splintered and cracked up along the wall. Maxine only had a second to turn her face away and fall to the ground under the breakfast table. She covered her head with her arms and hands and heard herself praying. The crackling and the shattered glass and the crunching of the brick work filled the new silence.

            Maxine lifted her head up and saw her front room wall was completely gone, replaced by a clear view into the courtyard below. She looked up at the blue sky now visible where her favorite portrait of her grandmother had been hanging on the wall. She stumbled to her feet and noticed she had somehow lost one of her slippers in the blast. She looked around for it but couldn’t make it out among the debris that now littered her cozy apartment. She staggered toward the hole in her wall and looked out at the city skyline.

            She could smell fire and smoke and saw that the three houses next door to her apartment building were now just giant scarred pits in the Earth. Car alarms were blaring, horns were honking, and sirens were wailing all though the neighborhood. It was such a racket that she was barely able to perceive that nightmarish whistling sound again approaching from the sky. It was a little different this time, perhaps a little further away.

            The building two blocks over to the North disappeared behind a giant cloud of smoke. The blast wave knocked Maxine backwards onto her butt and her whole apartment building shook. She heard screams and yelling and more sirens. She heard a dog barking. She thought it was probably the Jefferson’s dog in the building across the street. She worried that the dog was left all alone while Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson were at work. She decided that she had to help the dog if she could.

            Maxine gathered herself and started toward the front door to her apartment. She dazedly noticed the door was still in place but the frame wasn’t really attached to anything. The wall had fallen away from it and plummeted three stories to the lobby area of her building. She wasn’t deterred by this and opened the door. It fell backwards away from Maxine into the hallway. She stepped over it and started to make her way to the stairs. She felt a pain in her bare left foot and remembered that she had lost that slipper somehow. She considered going back for it again, she was sure she could find it, when another explosion shook the building’s foundation and plaster and wood started falling around Maxine. She listened for the dog but couldn’t hear anything but a dull ringing in her ears.

            She wrapped her housecoat around herself a little tighter and continued on her way down the rickety and damaged stairs toward the apartment building lobby. The banister was broken in several places but the hard wooden stairs were still passable. She stepped down them like a three year old might descend stairs. She stopped on the second floor landing to see if Mrs. Grainger was okay.

            She could see into Mrs. Grainger’s apartment. The door had cracked in half and the side with the bolt and lock had fallen inward. Maxine saw Mrs. Grainger’s legs sticking out from under a heavy beam that had fallen from the ceiling. Mrs. Grainger was clearly not okay. Maxine continued down the stairs and felt fairly lucky not to have run into any of the other tenants in the building. She guessed most of them were probably at work or something.

            Another explosion shook the ground and Maxine had to steady herself against the remaining first floor landing walls. Dust fell from above and Maxine brushed it from the curlers in her hair. Maxine almost laughed at herself for thinking that today, of all days, was the one to try and curl her hair. She felt silly for thinking it would impress Mr. Derry at the grocery. They had been flirting at the register for a while now and she thought it was about time to make her move. Now she felt foolish. He’d only been a widower for three months.

            Maxine stepped into the lobby and crossed the threshold outside. The desolation was much worse than she could have imagined. Fires were burning everywhere and the smoke was thickening. She couldn’t hear the Jefferson’s dog any longer. It was swallowed by more distant explosions and fire trucks and ambulances. She looked up at the big blue sky and wondered where all this madness had come from. 

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