The end of the world was rolling towards the eastern seaboard at the speed of sound, and Dave was driving the wrong way, south on Route One. He’d get to his parent’s place, down in Georgetown, with maybe an hour to spare. He’d kept it for his sister… The towering waves would sweep across the Delmarva Peninsula, and that would be ‘The End’.
People with foolish hope were headed north. Maybe any other day they could have run 85 all the way to the PA state line, but not today. Too many other people were trying the same thing, and enough assholes had tried it at a 120, and failed to bring it all to a crawl.
That wasn’t how he was going to die. Not that he wanted to. Take care of what’s important on the way out, right? Words to die by.
Joanie was waving at the cars on the road, as he pulled up. There was no sign of the paid care-taker, and Dave wasted no time thinking about her. She wasn’t here. His sister, his beautiful, slow, emotional, dysfunctional, happy sister, was. She babbled as they went into the house.
“I made a fort downstairs in the old shelter that daddie builded, do you remember, David?”
“Yes, honey, I do,” Dave said, and pulled her in tight.
“Are you okay? Why are you crying? Aren’t we going to be okay?”
No, we’re not, he thought. I’m an engineer. I know that we can go hide in that crappy old fallout shelter, but in about fifty minutes- no, thirty-five, a few million tons of water are going to pass over, and then we will be-
“Yeah, Joanie, we’ll be alright; why don’t you show me?”
He didn’t bother to shut the door, but she remembered to. She made them comfort food, peanut butter toast with big cold glasses of milk. Dave was actually hungry. They ate their last meal together.
She told him about her day, and asked about his. He’d had a very important meeting in Clayton right about now, he told her. But that was rescheduled for another time, of course... She showed him her sketchbook, with buildings, just like her brother made. There was a library, happy children, a dog, and a few trees. Nothing childlike in technique, they might have been drawn by an artist without Joanie’s... gifts, that was the way Dad had always put it.
Mom and Dad were dead. He felt a twinge of guilt as he thought how much easier that made this.
Distantly, they heard the freight-train sound, loud even through all the concrete. Then everything seemed to groan, as if the weight of the entire world was settled over their heads. A little water trickled. Long seconds passed, and Dave began to hope again, even believe that they might survive somehow after all.
He turned to Joanie just as a torrent of muddy seawater shot slantways down into his shoulder with sledge-hammer force. Dave was slammed into the door of the fallout shelter. Joanie screamed and tried to run to him, but was swept by the flood towards the back of the little room. Something heavy shifted and he was pinned under cloudy water, the flashlight showing him a frantic Joanie trying to reach him.
More long seconds passed, and he almost exhaled on purpose. But he found himself tied to this world and the one he needed every bit as much as she needed him. He was blacking out when he was startled by a kiss. Joanie breathed air into his lungs. She had found him, and a pocket of air. It did not change the facts of their situation in any practical fashion.