Banshee – Part 2
New York City
Continued from yesterday …
The cell phones had no signal; the landline was now also dead. No one to call anyway. The thought of a healthy snort of whiskey occurred to him but no, not now. He needed real courage, not the artificial sort that evaporates soon after being called upon. He was indeed afraid. Not for the first time. Keep your wits about you, lad, and carry on. It had been quite some time since he had felt fear, compounded greatly by his responsibility for the welfare of another, a new twist adding to his mounting anxiety. He was not free to move as he pleased, nor as quickly as he might need to. He would never leave her behind and whatever else he would make sure he got her out and into other shelter; breaking in if need be or as the very last resort into a boat moored at the ferry dock. It would depend upon how high the water level might rise. The roof was out of the question given the force of the wind. These were the possibilities which he feared most, that she was not terribly fleet of foot should he somehow become unable to react quickly enough. He knew there was nothing to do about fear but try and ignore it as best one could. The danger was real. But there was nothing more to be done. The storm would do as it damn well pleased.
He found it impossible to sit still. Much like his old man he had always felt more comfortable when in motion, even during the best of times, walking, playing ball, driving—motion. She sat quite still and silent. She had not uttered a word in hours. Such was her faith? He then must be a child of a lesser god. He needed to see what was approaching. He went out again.
The wind was much stronger now but the day was warm. Heavy rains had been forecast but there was as yet no rain except for a light mist of drizzle. These two factors were of immense good fortune since the rain would make the surrounding tress heavier and should it get cold it would become far more difficult to withstand being wet. He had dressed for it in well-insulated layers but was wearing his usual sneakers and his feet were soaked. He ignored it, once again thankful for the mild temperature. The waters had risen and all the surrounding yards were now flooded, flotsam floating everywhere. The skies darkened as night approached. The waters had apparently stopped rising as quickly but had already reached the front of the house, its level just beneath the front wooden platform, normally a small dock upon which to park bikes, a line of demarcation with which to gauge any surge, the neighboring yards and houses flooded.
A small boat which had been resting on the ground between two pines was now afloat and ‘Wit’s End’, with the exception of the higher ground in the front of the house, was now surrounded by waters at least four or five feet deep on all sides. The trick of it would be to know if, and most importantly when, it might become necessary to get the hell out. The wind was now howling, a shrill scream coming from everywhere. The bitch was here.
A large, thick pine tree across the walk started to slowly bend forward; the two slightly thinner pines next to the house had become whirling dervishes, furiously twisting about and slapping the shed like a bullwhip. If they should crack they would surely take down the deck, perhaps the side of the house. It would depend upon if they slowly leaned into the roof or broke apart and crashed down. If the former it might be possible that the structure would support them, if the latter then he needed to be ready to jump in there and pull her out. The tree across the way was bending ever closer under the constant and ever-increasing wind. It was getting ever darker.
The fear was now prancing upon his heart as he realized that any of these trees, if propelled with sufficient force and direction, could well crash into the front bay windows of the house. The two pines would crash directly into the side window behind which she sat, ever still, ever silent. There was absolutely nothing he could do to prevent it. He kept marching up and down along the wooden walk which spanned between bay and Central Walk, gauging the rising waters along it, measuring his footsteps, determining which path would be best and how many steps it might take to reach that Sunbird now floating freely a few dozen yards away. If any of the trees did crash down the only way out would be through the front window given the waters on all sides. That is assuming passage would not be completely obstructed by branches. They were not small trees.
The wind velocity increased and the dense macabre of foliage and brush and branch and thornbush seemed as if some madman’s version of a wildly active ballet of shadows as the massive pine bent ever lower as if acknowledging the applause of an invisible audience of ghosts. All was a great howl, nothing but, its shrillness constantly rising in intensity. The bitch was mad now.
He understood the meaning of “mortality”. For any man to imagine he has control over his life is folly. Vanity. We are, after all, nothing but dust in the wind.
There was nothing more to be done outside. Slightly heavier rain had started to fall and it was quite dark. It was a humble man who came back into the house. Still she sat in silence, on the couch which was directly under the twisting pines. There was one detail about himself he had never mentioned to her since it had never come to mind before: without his glasses, in darkness, he was quite nearly blind. He might manage but he had never tried. All would become blurry shadows. But he had them and thought it best to keep this trifle to himself.
He could not sit still. He kept peering out into the darkness, to and fro between windows, watching the trees, trying to see the water level at the edge of the front deck, never once forgetting the waters in the back of the house and the stilts upon which their fates now rested. He said nothing either but kept marching back and forth. She might well have now thought him mad. He listened intently for the sound of any ‘crack’ which would mean a tree breaking in two but he could not even be sure it would be possible to hear it above the howl.
In the deep darkness outside he could no longer see clearly enough to tell whether the water was rising. It was critical. The wind now lashed violently—all was violence on this night—against the bay windows. Again and again the gusts would crash against the glass. As if on the bridge of some rust bucket, tramp freighter he stood in the stark knowledge there was nothing he could do but hope the glass did not shatter, the trees did not fall, the waters did not surge, his partner would not suffer. Never had he felt himself more naked.
Over and over in his mind he played out the scenario: if the house was breached, by wind or tree, or if the back deck collapsed into the filthy waters, he would need to grab her, pull her out and through the front window with him, the only means of escape. He thought of little else. Hours were spent prepared to pounce, never letting down his guard or attention for a moment. To her credit she never once faltered, never once betrayed any fear although he suspected hers was a stricken and motionless state of terror. Maybe not, maybe hers was a strength he did not comprehend. Her silence continued to be rather eerie. Yemanja’s child held her own.
On the radio, Wagner. The darkest of dirges, nothing if not funebre, music the Marquis de Sade might choose to serenade an enemy on the gallows. No news, no human voice to remind that civilization was out there waiting, just the murky music. He could not help but smile. He could not imagine any worse selection. Or better, perhaps, if one had a decidedly morose bent. Nothing if not deeply disturbing. The DJ should someday hang.
And then, at some point not late in the evening, when all was a deep shade of impenetrable purple, and he was increasingly worried that he could not see well enough judge the rising of the waters, something wonderful happened. The moon came out. Bursting through the blackness created by the dark-grey cloud cover, a full moon suddenly emerged and all outside was bathed in silver light. Never had a full moon looked so very beautiful. Shining brightly, implausibly brilliant the light made all around clearly visible and he could now see the waters had not risen at all over the past hours. And if they had not risen until then, it seemed unlikely they would.
Until the wee small hours of sixpence that silver moon shined upon the island, as the bitch continued to howl.
The following hours were the stuff of nightmares, lasting an eternity, at the mercy of the bitch, the fear ever present but never in command. Outside only the howling, within only silence. The house had shuddered several times as the wind changed direction from north to south and briefly seemed to strike up from below but only briefly, and it remained sturdy. The pines had continued to thrash about and the large one across the way eventually did crash over. But the wind had been so loud, so pervasive, they never even heard it fall.
Only the next morning when they were able to go outside did they see the devastation all along the beach. Better to not have seen it before. What they saw made them realize just how very lucky they had been. The wind had been so loud they had not been able to hear the destruction being wrought all around them. Devastation everywhere. They had been spared. The sun was rising over the horizon, the roiled still but was now off in the distance, the beach reclaimed by the Atlantic. The storm was over.
Never had he been so very grateful just to be alive.
Bio: MC Alves is a free-lance writer, former journalist and contributor to various publications. He is the author of a collection of short fiction and has also written two books on Information Technology. He lives in New York City.