This story was written for the September 2017 Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month.
“Pack your things!” Deidre called.
“Where’re we going?” Edgar asked.
“Didn’t you hear, doofus?” Tiana said. “It’s a mandatory evacuation.”
“I don’ want to go,” Edgar said.
“Just think of it as a vacation,” said Tiana.
“But it’s not even stormy.”
The sky had turned an eerie gold, and the bay, though calm on the surface, roiled in its depths. Hurricane Kali was expected to make landfall in 38 hours. The forecast track targeted a direct hit on the city.
Shelters had been set up in schools, gyms, and the convention center.
Deidre surveyed the rows of cots.
“No way in Hell we’re staying here,” she swore. “How am I supposed to keep my babies safe sleeping next to strangers?”
They had enough gas to make it across the bridge. Maybe they could refuel in Newcrest or, if their pumps were dry, in Magnolia Promenade.
One look at the lines at the gas stations along Newcrest strip, and Deidre kept driving.
“Mama! I gotta pee!” Edgar said as they reached the turnoff for Magnolia Promenade.
Tiana took her little brother to the restroom while Deidre filled the tank.
Store windows were boarded up.
The family took a stroll along the river path to stretch their legs before getting back in the car.
“All of this will be flooded,” Tiana said. “Think so?”
“Likely,” replied Deidre. Magnolia Promenade sat below sea level.
“And what about these trees?” Tiana asked. “Think they’ll all be blown down?”
“Most likely so,” said Deidre.
“Awesome,” said Tiana. “Like the apocalypse.”
“What’s an Apoca?” asked Edgar.
“The end of the world,” said Tiana.
“Don’t scare your brother,” warned Deidre.
Tiana had to pee when they reached Willow Creek. People had set up tents in the park and were grilling burgers as if it were a Fourth of July Barbecue.
“Can we stay here, Ma?” Tiana asked. “They got free Wi-Fi.”
Deidre glanced over her shoulder towards the creek. When the levee breaks, this will all be underwater, she thought.
“No. We’re moving on.”
“Where we going?” Edgar asked in the car.
“I thought we’d go to the mountains,” Deidre said.
“Great,” replied Tiana. “Where all the forest fires are.”
“Will you look up the air quality?” Deidre asked.
Tiana pulled out her phone.
“Oh. It’s OK. They had a cold front and rain. The air’s good now.”
The wheels hummed over the pavement, clicking now and then as they passed over the cracks in the blacktop. The rhythm carried a sense of calm, in spite of the circumstances.
“Wish I had a Tea Cake,” said Tiana.
“What’s that?” asked Deidre.
“I want tea! I want cake!” yelled Edgar from the back seat.
“Like Janie,” said Tiana. “To ride out the storm with.”
Her sophomore English class was reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Deidre chuckled.
She had her own Tea Cake back when the last big storm crashed into the city, sixteen years ago. Matter of fact, that’s likely when Tiana had been conceived.
“Just as well you don’t,” said Deidre. “There’s plenty of time for all that.”
“It’s gonna be a cat ten,” said Tiana, checking the #HurricaneKali tweets on her phone.
“No such thing,” said Deidre. “Doesn’t go past five.”
“Still. If it did. There’s this boy in my class who’s this major league climate-change-denier. His parents are mega rich. They live right on the bay. All their windows face the water! I hope their house gets smashed.”
“Tiana! That’s a terrible thing to say, and an even worse thing to think!”
“It would serve him right.”
“OK. But still. You gotta admit that’d be some beautiful irony.”
They drove on in silence.
They reached the mountains after nightfall. Edgar slept in the back seat while Deidre and Tiana pitched the tent in the dark. They were too tired to fix a meal, so they snacked on granola bars, bottled water, and Starbursts for supper.
Deidre woke before dawn the next morning to grill a proper breakfast.
They charged their phones at the Visitors’ Center. When they weren’t hiking, fishing, and pretending to be on vacation, Deidre and Tiana followed the tweets about the storm.
Edgar chased butterflies, looked for salamanders under rotting logs, made bows and arrows out of twigs and branches, and hunted for arrowheads in old midden mounds.
Hurricane Kali, aptly named, was the first category five to make landfall in the city. For decades, the city council failed to enact a storm water plan, ignoring the recommendations of experts. Instead, codes were lax and construction boomed. The storm brought widespread flooding, collapsed the sewage system, tore bricks and decks and tiles off of buildings. The entire power grid went down, and it would likely be weeks before it could be restored.
“How bad is it?” Deidre asked her daughter.
“Pretty bad,” Tiana replied.
Deidre called a neighbor who was staying with parents in Oasis Springs.
“That bad, huh?” she said, after she got the report.
“How bad?” asked Tiana.
“Our apartment building was condemned,” said Deidre.
“What are we gonna do?” asked Tiana.
Deidre had next month’s rent already saved up, but there’d be no way they’d get back their deposit. She was sure that skinflint landlord would file for bankruptcy.
“Guess we’ll have to start over,” she said. “How do you feel about the desert?”
For now, they stayed at camp, trying to relax and beat the stress.
“It really is like being on vacation!” said Edgar.
And it was. Except when it was over, they wouldn’t be going home. They’d be starting new.