Rain of Death

The voice crackled over the tv, and Evelyn stared at the fuzzy picture.  "This is the emergency .....urged to take shelter..." The static made it difficult to understand.  
Outside the storm battered and shook everything in its wake, and the pounding on her door was barely heard.  When she answered, Mike O'Sullivan stood drenched on the other side. "Have you heard?" His voiced boomed,"You need to get to your basement now.  Twisters heading this way."  Evelyn simply stood staring at him. "Didn't you hear me? Move, woman!" He grabbed her hand, and began striding for the basement door.  Mike knew the older woman's house by heart. Ever since she had lost her husband some ten years ago, he had taken it upon himself to be her handyman.  As they passed an end table in the living room, she snatched up her reading glasses, and followed him.
Passing through the kitchen, he rudely pulled cords from the outlets, muttering 'no time, no time', as he hurried her down the stairs, shutting the door behind him.
A soft glow came up as Evelyn turned on the Coleman lamps and Mike stopped in his tracks. "You've been busy down here," feeling that was an understatement.
Part of the basement had been rearranged to appear almost like a studio apartment.  A twin bed stretched against one wall, flagged by an end table that held one of the Coleman's. A small table with two chairs sat not too far away, while an ancient armchair sat next to a book case, filled with books.  Her husband's work bench had been cleared and held a small washtub and draining board.  Several pots and pans sat next to a camp stove.   Evelyn clicked on the portable radio. While Mike looked at the shelves that once held all matters of things stacked deep with canned goods.   "You thinking of moving down here?" 
"Not exactly," Evelyn debated on how much to tell him.  Would he understand about the visions, or label her as a crazy old woman?  
Mike sat down on a kitchen chair . "I'm listening." He looked upwards,"Hear that storm? Not going anywhere for awhile."
"You'll think I'm being a silly old woman."
"You an old woman? Never!" He smiled at her, "As far as silly...if it's enough for you to do all this, it isn't silly. Besides if you haven't noticed, I haven't gotten any younger myself."  At thirty Mike considered himself a confirmed bachelor and Evelyn as close to any family he had left. 
"Well...I've been having  visions, I guess you'd call them. About horrible events coming.  And...and this," she swept her hands indicating the living space," seemed like the thing to do to prepare." 
"What kind of visions?" Mike leaned forward. Evelyn was not the hysterical type, he knew her to be well grounded. If she said she was having visions, well he might not get it- but then she was having visions. 
Something toppled above their heads making a loud noise.  Both started, and Evelyn remarked, "We must be getting hit hard."
"No changing the subject. C'mon, tell me. Is this the 'event'? "
"One of them - I think.  I saw a lot of destruction. People rioting - hunger..." her voice shook a bit.  "I think this is just the beginning. It's going to get worse. Much much worse. I don't think it involves just our town or state. "
"You mean like nuclear war?"
"Maybe. It isn't clear.  Nuclear war, some major act of terrorism...or nature rampaging...I'm just not sure... I just wanted us to have a safe place."
"I've been wanting to tell you for some time now," she looked down at her hands , suddenly embarrassed. "Of course, I want you to be safe too."
He smiled at her, touched. "But there's only the twin bed?"
"There's a folding cot beneath it," she laughed gently. "I wasn't sure you'd come."
Even at fifty his innuendo made her blush.
"Well, Evelyn, if you say something bad is heading our way - true or false- then it is best to be prepared.  But we can do better than this.  Any idea how much time we have?"
"They've been getting more frequent and intense, I'm guessing a matter of weeks maybe a month now."
"I see..." Mike looked around, ideas churning in his head. "You know Evelyn, even if you're wrong - a place to ride out storms in style isn't a bad idea." 
"I do hope, I'm wrong, Mike - I really do. Then you will come?"
"Of course. You're my best girl aren't you?"
The storm ended and the cleanup took awhile. Although a large tree had toppled, for the most part, Evelyn's home had been untouched, but other's had lost everything.   Mike divided his time between clearing up debris from the storm and clearing out Evelyn's basement.  His theory, as he put it, was if they were going to do this, then let's do it right.  He researched and drew up plans.  He wasn't a wealthy man, but his parents had left him well provided for.  He bought everything they would need to complete the project in one swoop and stored it all in one end of the basement.  He bought a small generator for them to use sparingly in addition to the Colemans Evelyn already had, and laid in a supply of gasoline.  This was outside the basement in the tool shed.  Evelyn did not like the idea that once things happened, they may have to venture out to refuel, but understood that  storing gas inside was a bad idea. 
While Evelyn based their needs on the basis of her visions, Mike based his on natural disasters, which seemed more likely then nuclear war or chemical warfare. 
Still he made sure to line the basement, even the ceiling with 3 inches of steel to reduce any radiation, before putting up the 2x4 frames and walls, just to give her added security.   Of course these going ons did not go unnoticed by the towns people, who murmured that they were both cracked.
Mike's final touch was to install a chemical toilet inside it's own private area. 
It was thought that they may need to stay at least two weeks inside the shelter, perhaps a month, depending on what the disaster was.  Evelyn was no closer to determining exactly what was coming, but nature was causing upheaval across the land - floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes were a daily event in the news. 
The economic structure was under great duress, rumors of war flew.  
Reports came pouring in that hospitals were being over-run  with casualties of some strange illness that had a high mortality rate.  The contagion was causing entire towns to be quarantined, and folks were being urged to stay home.  
Mike silently brought over a suitcase of his belongings. 
He had built for each of them, a bedroom in the basement. They were not large,but comfy.  Each held a bed and dresser, giving them each some privacy, and he took to sleeping there.  He didn't want to admit it, but things were pointing in the direction of Evelyn's prediction.   He had noticed that she too, without fanfare, had begun to move things into the shelter that were important to her.  Some photo albums, the fire-proof box that held important documents and the like. Here and there curios dotted the shelves.  
In the 'living room' area, he had set up a small entertainment center for their diversion.  Which he suppose, gave more weight to his belief in Evelyn's forecast. 
He hadn't even known portable dvd/tvs existed before now.  But there it sat, along with a small collection of their favorite movies, and many, many batteries.  The portable radio sat on another shelf, along with a collection of cds.  On another shelf sat some board games and a deck of cards.  He had, with the help of a friend carried over his sofa, and recliner. He had told his friend, that Evelyn had some relatives coming over to stay awhile, and wanted it as a rec-room for the teens. 
The lie had felt bitter in his mouth, but better then Bob blabbing to everyone that Mike had gone over the edge. 
Of course, one entire end of the basement still looked, 'basementy', although sealed with steel and walled, it was from floor to ceiling shelves- the storage area or pantry.   In neat, orderly rows, there stood proud cans of fruits, vegetables, soups, and stews.  Bags of chips, nuts, and assorted snacking goods. Cereals, powdered milk and eggs. Row upon row of bottled water, and stacks of toilet paper,more batteries, and enough first aid supplies for a small hospital.  Or so it seemed to Mike, who staring at it wondered about his own sanity, yet still he poured over lists and wondered if they were really prepared for - for what? He reached for an answer, and there was none forth coming.  Disease, famine? Terrorism?  Natural disasters? Ironic little laugh under-rode them all.  Something evil, that's for sure. The news is full of man's evil, Nature's rebellion.   Just a case of which will get you first.

Shaking his head, Mike pulled the light cord, plunging the storage area into darkness.


Overhead the sky appeared to boil, large clouds roiling and fighting for room. A peculiar stench permeated air, that reminded one of rotting fish, as the skies turned a sickly green.  Air raid sirens split the air as lightening split the skies. In the parking lot of the supermarket, someone screamed, and people ran for cover. Children cried.  A burly man barreling past knocked an aged woman to the ground, and never even paused.  Others panicking stepped right over her.  No one noticed when she lay dead beneath their running feet. 
The ground smoked and hissed as the rain hit, pock marking the asphalt and burning flesh.    People cried out in shock and pain as plants withered and died.  
Cars banged into one another in their drivers haste to flee.   Roads became jammed.  Radios, and televisions cackled with announcers begging for folks to stay calm and off the streets.  Hospitals already burdened with the epidemic of the contagion, now had to cope with the influx of burn and accident victims.  One reporter was filmed as his umbrella was eaten away by the acid rain and began to melt his face.  Even while nature's mayhem raged, looting and rioting broke out. 
Lightening caused several fires to erupt.  
The storm lasted four hours, leaving behind a horrific scene, with scientists and meteorologists, and ecologists all spouting theories, while men in hazmat suits loaded bodies onto trucks, and fire departments hosed down all that they could. 
No one was sure of the right course to take, 'acid rain' was usually not this acidic, or rapid in its destruction.  Masses gathered in places of worship.  Martial law was declared.  People were ordered off the streets.  
Inside her home, Evelyn prayed. She had no idea where Mike was.
Oddly enough, Mike had been in the parking lot of Toys R Us, when it hit.  He had gone there on a whim, thinking to pick up some new diversionary items for himself and Evelyn.  Perhaps some puzzles, or Sudoku and crossword books. He didn't really know.  Or perhaps it was the small voice in his head that said all Hell was about to break loose and he would be needed there. 
He was only half way across the lot  when the rain started and the first screams were heard.  As so many others he began loping towards the store. A small child , separated from his mother caught the corner of his eye, and without pausing he scooped the child up, increasing mid-step into a sprint.  He gritted his teeth against searing pain and tucked the child closer to his body, seeking to shelter it with his own as he ran.  Inside the store he bellowed that they turn on the over head sprinklers, and grabbing a bottle of bubbles  hurriedly scrubbed down himself and the child, as he scanned for burns. Others followed suit.   The boy looked with wide eyes into Mike's broad face. "Raining inside and out?"

  "Yeah, yeah, it's raining," Mike replied.

  "Where's Mommy?"  The child was looking about, with a death grip on Mike's hand.

 "We'll find her. What's your name? I'm Mike." 
From somewhere within the din, they could barely hear a shrill woman's voice calling "Tommy? Has anyone seen Tommy?"   Slowly Mike made his way through the throng, "Hey lady!  Is this your Tommy?"  For a second her face lit  then fell.  "No, no that isn't my Tommy. "  By now, Mike had the boy, who's name was Chris, up in his arms to guard against the crush of people.   Over and over he asked if anyone had seen the mother.  

"Mommy!" Chris shrieked and struggled to be put down, but Mike held firm. 

There sitting in a corner, clutching a life sized doll sat a woman, her hair tumbled down over her face, as she crooned to it.  He approached, "Ma'am?" No response, not even to Chris' cries of 'Mommy!".   "Ma'am?" he touched her shoulder, and she looked at him with the glazed eyes of shock.   Half her face was simply gone.   Chris screamed and hid his face against Mike's shoulder crying in fright.  The woman simply returned to crooning to the doll, while Mike struggled against gagging.
When rescuers finally appeared on the scene, he turned the child over, explaining that he believed the woman was the boy's mother.  
He thought he'd never get back to Evelyn's.  He drove slowly, avoiding the main streets. Bodies seemed to be everywhere, and buildings smoldered.  People caught out in the murderous rain, were stumbling around , some crying, begging for help, while the ground hissed and smoked. It all seemed like some chaotic zombie scene to him. 

Mike's large hand dwarfed the cup of tea, Evelyn was insisting he drink.  While he had been in the shower, she had thoughtfully gone to his house and fetched his robe and some other personal items, she thought he could use.  She noticed his hand trembled a bit as he described the chaos he had witnessed.  
"It's good you were there, for the child's sake," she placed a hand on his broad shoulder  and squeezed a bit.   She indicated the small shopping bag on the coffee table, "I brought over your razor, toothbrush and stuff I thought you might want."
"You think this is it, Evelyn?"
From the TV news rose of mass rioting and looting, as well as fires in wake of the rain which appeared to have soaked much of the nation, as well as to avoid the drinking of use of tap water, and speculation of what it meant to crops. It went on to speak about the havoc reining in stores as panicked shoppers rushed for supplies.  
"I think...I think it's the beginning of the end." The TV droned on about martial law and curfews, and where makeshift hospitals could be found for treatment of the burns. Many hospitals were closing their doors as there simply was no more room.   The president addressed the nation asking for folks to remain calm in the face of this double calamity.  "At least we still have power. So many don't now..."
She sat next to Mike and instinctively held his hand.  
Now the television was showing footage of the looters and how some people were taking the law into their own hands. Here was a body with the word 'looter' hung on a placard around his neck.  Police pushing folks back in full riot gear.
"World's gone crazy," Mike murmured.
"The world's scared, Mike.  Burning rain, and a disease we don't understand... they just don't know how to cope."
The rain came again that night and the next day,with no sign of letting up, scarring and destroying everything it touched. Forecasters were hard pressed to predict the end, as it seemed to spring from nowhere.  
Brown outs were staged to give operating rooms and burn units more power. Triage centers set up in tents were quickly evacuated as the tents proved no protection against the rain, and only added more victims.  People were reporting that it even ate through roofs in some areas.  Every facility was filled to capacity, and supplies were running out.   Businesses were closed in face of the rain. Truck lines, and those of public transportation ground to a halt.  Mother Nature was holding man hostage without a ransom. 
It wasn't long before radio and TV stations went off the air except for emergency broadcasts, as they ran on skeleton crews and emergency power now, those whose antennas had not been corroded away. All power was being directed to the hospitals and emergency services, so except for portables nothing worked anyway.
The air reeked of death and dying. 
When the rain had eaten into the interior of the house, they moved into the basement, locking the door behind them.  On the calendar, Evelyn circled two days,
today, and thirty days from then, wondering if that would be long enough for the earth to heal itself, and if it wasn't what would Mike and she emerge to? Between the rain and the disease, what would be left?


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