The gray walls of the classroom contrasted starkly with the bright orange poster on the back of the door reminding kids to wash their hands. If you were to look down on the classroom from a bird’s eye view, all you would see would be a disheveled class with an unconscious girl lying in the middle of it.
Jamie woke up with a start. She noticed right away that she was cold and that her wet cold clothes stuck tightly to her skin. She wasn’t able to move for the first few seconds. She stared at the dirt under her fingernails, trying to place how her hands had gotten so dirty. Jamie slowly gathered herself up. She saw a glimpse of her reflection in one of the windows. A hollow, hungry girl stared blankly back at her. Her legs were aching so she crawled to the nearest table and hoisted herself up with her upper arm strength.
I need water, Jamie thought as she breathed heavily from the exertion and slowly turned her head to look around the classroom. She noticed the tacky posters exhorting kids to read and the golden star chart. The thirst burned away all of her other thoughts as she tried hard to focus on her surroundings. She had never felt so withered and dried out in her life. Still no matter how long she looked around the room, she couldn’t find a faucet.
Maybe I should look through one of those little kid’s bags, she thought, the thirst clawing up her throat as she shifted herself up and slowly clambered to the cubby areas.
Last night’s horror came rushing back into her mind as she recalled all the terrible events that had occurred. The panicked students at her high school rushing out the doors even as the sirens sounded and her history teacher trying to corral everyone into the back corner of the classroom away from the windows. Wendy, her best friend, had tried to pull Jamie with her into the stairwell.
“Jamie! Get in here! It’s safer in here!” she’d screamed. Jamie had wrenched her arm out of Wendy’s frantic grasp.
“I have to find my sister! You stay here. I’ll come back if I can!” With Wendy’s shrieking cries turning into distant background music, Jamie tore down the stairs and burst out the school doors onto 69th Street. Her hair whipped around in the wind and she braced herself as the currents tried to tear her off her feet. The sidewalks were full of people racing in different directions. A car alarm shrieked steadily from across the street and Jamie did a double take realizing that the car was overturned. Disoriented businessmen in suits and women in designer clothes raced across the streets paying no attention to cars. Cars were honking and women took off their heels to run faster.
“It’s another 911! I told you all this was coming!” a homeless man shouted, his disheveled clothes flapping wildly in the wind. A smile creeping gleefully onto his face, “I told you all!”
“Don’t be stupid,” another man yelled back, “it’s a tornado!”
Jamie rushed past them, trying to figure out which way her sister’s school was. “Broadway. Where’s Broadway?” she mumbled aloud.
“Hey you have to get inside!” a policeman yelled at her. “This is getting bad!” Jamie ignored him and looked up to find the street sign at the corner.
“Broadway!” she yelled running down the street.
She had just reached the school when she felt a slight tremor in the ground.
“Alice!” she screamed racing up the stars and then running down the empty hall. Jamie glanced at the disarrayed classrooms. Papers were strewn across classroom floors and in one room, Jamie saw the door held open by a desk. “Alice,” she screamed again, her voice echoing down the hall. Her feet flew faster and faster as she raced toward her sister’s second grade classroom at the end of the hall. Just as she pulled open the door and entered the room, a thunderous explosion rocked the entire building and Jamie felt herself being tossed into the air and her head slamming into the floor. Everything went dark.
Awake now and finally starting to regain awareness, Jamie sat up, desperation flooding her entire body. “I have to get back to Alice, and Mom, and Dad!” She thought while scrambling off of the ground forgetting all about water.
Jamie knew that she had to find a way to get the the ground floor, and though the hallways were pitch black and the elevators were not working, she decided to start off. So, she got her backpack and left the destroyed room. Just as she had predicted, the hallways were pitch black and Jamie could almost hear the swinging of the overhead lights.
For the first couple of steps, she thought that it would be all okay. Though there was no light, she thought that it couldn’t be that different from trying to navigate to the bathroom from her bedroom. Even as she kept on repeating that thought to herself, Jamie knew that was a lie. This was a totally different situation than just trying to sneak back in her room late at night. She could almost feel it again, even now as the world seemed like it was drawing to an end, the tremors of the earthquake. Lockers and tables lay on their sides across the floors like a crazy obstacle course.
“I have to get back to Alice,” she said out loud just so she could hear a human voice. The halls were actually quite easy to navigate, being an elementary school. The layout of the building was quite logical. As she passed the bathroom, however, she wrinkled her nose in disgust at the rancid smell. The toilet stalls had been toppled over and Jamie could see sewage leaking from the toilet. She made it to the bottom floor, holding her nose the whole way, and she was so close to getting to the door, when she suddenly felt the odd feeling of someone watching her. It was just a small shiver starting at the back of her spine, but she knew that somebody was close.
Quickly, Jamie pushed open the heavy, gray metal door. It squeaked open and she found herself on the sidewalk in front of the school. The sky was grey with the sun nowhere in sight. She pulled her fleece sweatshirt closer to her body as the sharp, cold wind seemed to bite at the back of her neck.
“Kids,” her father’s voice echoed in her memory. “If we ever get lost or split up, I want you do something.” He was kneeling in front of Jamie and her sister. “Promise me,” he said. “New York City can be a dangerous place sometimes and we need to make sure we know where to meet.”
“OK, Dad!” the girls had said in unison. “I love our apartment, you know that, but sometimes it’s not the safest or easiest place to get to. You girls are both relatively close to FAO Schwartz, it will be easier for all of us to meet there. Understood?” They both nodded and smiled as he refilled their cups with hot chocolate.
Jamie whimpered as she hazily stared off at an upturned car mangled and destructed so much so that it looked like a huge chunk of metal rather than a car. Manhattan was not only a city to Jamie, it was her home. Every street she walked down, all of those childhood memories, seemed to be destroyed as she saw the rubble. The ice cream shop where her father used to take her every single Sunday, gone, her Roman Catholic Church, that her grandmother made her go to every Easter and Christmas, where the donuts dried out your mouth. It hurt to see all of these ruined places. Places that had shaped her childhood to what it was today. The sudden urge to cry overwhelmed her. Everything seemed so different, so alien. Jamie collapsed next to the mangled car and started to cry. All she could hear were her own deep sobs as she rubbed away her tears and looked at the destructed car. And there he was, a figure of a man, standing in the reflection of that once green Toyota car door.
Was she dreaming? Jamie wondered. Her face broke into a relieved smile. “Dad!” she screamed running towards him. It was only when she was a few feet away that she realized that this man was too tall to be her father, too young, too hateful. He was so near that she could hear his ragged, struggling breaths. He gave her a creepy grin, “Daddy’s here,” he rasped.
Clumsily she backed away from him and tripped as she fell to the ground. He closed in on her, limping. Too frightened to scream, Jamie got up and started sprinting away from him. Jamie had always been a fast runner. She was the co captain of her school’s varsity cross country team. She ran past broken vintage stores, ice cream shops, hospitals and homes until she couldn’t breathe anymore. She ran until she felt safe, pausing across the street from FAO Schwartz and realized that there was nobody there. She realized that she had had her last moment with her family. The pounding of heavy footsteps got closer, Jamie turned around.
There he was. Standing in front of her. His grotesque face was beaming with sinful excitement as she crouched slowly away from him. One of his eyes was popped open and the other looked as if it has seen death many times. He smiled slowly as he neared her with the bloody, cold, steel knife. Jamie closed her eyes as she tried to remember her family, one last time.