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The Storm

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The storm moved west from the Indian Ocean.

From there, it expanded. First, the storm sucked the humidity out of the air as it approached; then, right as water was needed, it would flood the area. If people didn’t die from the drought, they would die from the floods. Europe was now completely submerged, some people said. No one could argue against this, no news came from the areas. At first, rescue teams were made, but the storm kept growing and growing; efforts were futile. Now nothing was being done. People began to move westwards, away from the storm, as fast as they could.

Anton was one of these people. He was heading west to meet his family in California, who had gone before him while he got their affairs in order. Now, he drove across a desert, for no planes operated during the time of the storm, and all roads were shut down and could be used only by the government. His truck carried gallons of gas and water, crates of dried food, boxes of his family’s belongings, and wood. He had his phone and his wallet in his pocket. He had met people he could trade with and talk to, but he hadn’t seen anyone for a while.

He had been driving for hours. The golden expanse was blinding. The sand dragged him down; the fastest he could go on this sand was 40 mph. Time passed as though the sand in the hourglass had turned into sludge.

Finally, night came. He got out of his truck. It was cold and dry; everything stood perfectly still. He saw a small fire in the distance. Someone must have left it there, he thought. He put some wood under his arm and walked towards the fire.

A man still sat in front of it. He was long and thin like a bone, and his fists were like jellyfish. His hair was a thin, blondish-white and combed back. He wore a t-shirt and canvas-cloth shorts.

“Mind if I join you?” Anton said. This was a time when one couldn’t be afraid to talk to strangers, to be shy, because they were automatically bonded as fellow humans in this isolating storm that threatened all.

“Sure,” the man said, eyeing the wood. He had a German accent and his voice quivered.

“Anton,” Anton sat down and held out his hand.

He shook Anton’s hand. He was painfully thin. “Franz. Put those in the fire, will you?”

Anton broke a stick off one of the logs and the rest into the fire. He poked the fire and it flared up.

They began to talk. Anton told Franz that he was a glasscutter from Illinois, but he moved his family to California and now he was going to meet them there. Franz told him he was a professional diver in Germany, and had taken one of his employer’s boats to America when the storm devastated Europe. He managed to find a car in New York, but it broke down a while ago; he only had his diving equipment now. He asked Anton if he wanted to buy it. He hadn’t seen many people, so he couldn’t get much food, he said. Franz told Anton that Germany was completely wiped out, and that when he arrived in New York, he remembered the bottom of his boat was grazing the roof of a house. They were silent. They were now in Texas.

Anton said he was going to go get something to eat. He walked to his car, dragging his feet in the sand. He looked up; the moon was so big, the air so still, everything so dreamlike! He had always thought that if he had been in a situation like this, he would do something crazy, lose all reason or go insane from loneliness; but he was just thinking of how he just couldn’t stomach that dried food anymore.

As he approached the truck, his foot hit something under the sand. He knelt on the sand and dug. He found four snake eggs. He scooped them up and ran to the truck. He opened up one of the boxes full of his family’s things and pulled out a spatula and a pan. He walked back to the fire. He cracked the eggs onto the pan and put it over the fire. Franz asked several times when it would be done. Anton finally scraped some eggs out of the pan. Franz grabbed the eggs and before they could burn his hands, devoured them.

They slept in the truck, Franz in the passenger seat, Anton in the driver’s. Franz coughed during the night.

Franz travelled with Anton, sometimes driving for him. They developed a routine, they would drive all day, eat dried food or eggs, drank water in the evening, and then slept.

After days of doing this, Anton’s family called. They were all settled in, the kids were excited to be moving, running away from something, like orphans!

Another day, Anton got out of the car and found something that looked like a stick. They made a fire and saw it was a dried up snake. They found more; after the dried food, the snakes were like jerky. Franz looked especially pale that day and his cough worsened. They were in New Mexico.

The morning after that call, Anton woke up first. He saw a faint black line on the horizon. Up until then, the storm had just been a vague thing, just a number of people killed. But now, the storm was real, tangible. He was shaken. Anton got into the car and gunned the accelerator. Franz hardly reacted; he barely breathed.

Every day, the clouds came closer. Every day, they were a little thinner. Every day, Anton was closer to his family. They were in Arizona.

They ran out of wood. Franz just slept all day, clinging to his diving equipment, to his old life. The clouds hung over them, no matter how they drove, the army surrounded them, they were just waiting for the bullets to come.

Anton’s wife called him, sobbing. She saw the storm clouds; she saw them! They were at the coast; where would they go? Where, Anton, where? Oh, our children, our children! Anton calmed her down, though it was heartbreaking, he felt the same way as she did.

The rain fell. Anton drove as fast as he could, he was in California; he was there! He drove furiously until the water rose so much the wheels couldn’t touch the road. Water began to pour into the truck. Anton took off his clothes and plugged up all the holes, covered the windows, ripped his socks, and stuffed them into corners. Water still seeped in, but at a very slow rate. He could feel the truck rocking and rocking, and could hear the monotonous sound of rain falling, and soon he fell asleep.

Anton woke up. The water was up to his knees. The sound of the rain was gone, and he could see light pouring through his clothes on the windows stuffed into window cracks. He tapped the window through his shirt gingerly. It made a deep sound, as though something heavy were behind it. Anton looked at Franz. He was no longer human; he was just a body now, gone. He peeled Franz’s arms from the oxygen tank and bodysuit. He put the equipment on and opened the truck door.

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