Day Zero – Chapter 1 – 04

             The wind was worse out in the open, away from the sheltering trees of the ravines, whistling between buildings, down along the brickwork pathways of the campus.  The clocktower was listing sideways.  Kellin grimaced.
            “…that’s probably not good, huh?”
            Rory followed her gaze and shook his head, pursing his lips half thoughtfully.  “Nope.  Nope, probably not good at all.  Think we need to avoid this section until it comes down.”
            Kellin nodded.  Drew nudged her.  “Let’s keep moving.”
            Together, the trio forged onward, moving quickly along the pathways of campus, skirting wide of buildings along the campus’s main drag rather than moving along the ravine’s edge.  They were checking the parking lots, after all, to do a count of how many people should be around.
            The field house was mostly a pile of wreckage and rubble, twisted metal and shattered glass, but the parking lots around it were mercifully empty, it appeared, which made Kellin exhale a sigh of relief.  Gods, but I hope there’s not many.  I hope there’s not many.  Please let there not be many.  She wasn’t looking forward to burying anyone, though she already knew they were going to—and probably many—in the hours and days and weeks to come.
            In the years to come.
            They continued along the concrete sidewalk, stopping as the ground began to heave.  The trio grasped for each other, hanging on for balance.  Kellin went down, and Drew took a knee to steady Rory before he joined Kellin on the ground.
            The feeling of ley lines twisting made her stomach flip-flop, and for a moment she thought she was going to offer everything she’d eaten that day up to the grass nearby.  Kellin swallowed hard, covering her eyes with her hand, trying to breathe through her nose so she wouldn’t vomit.
            Drew squeezed her shoulder.  His face was pinched, pale—clearly he was having the same problems.  A glance at Rory revealed that while he struggled to keep a straight face, he was suffering from the same wrenching feelings as they were.
            “This is bad,” Kellin whispered.
            Rory nodded grimly.  If he was feeling it with the same intensity as they, it was very bad.  For all sides, and all stripes.  As the tremors eased, he reached down, pulling Kellin to her feet and steadying her gently.  “Come on.  Sooner we get all this done, sooner we can get back to the others and give them a hand.”  He glanced toward Mackinaw Hall, one of the largest buildings on campus, and grimaced, pointing.  “Look.  Part of the south corner’s come down.”
            “Columns in the courtyard are probably down, too,” Drew murmured.
            Kellin nodded.  “We knew that this section was probably the most solid but not,” she mumbled, scrubbing a hand over her eyes.  Something destabilizing below.  Pilings can’t fix that.  They weren’t building these things to be seismically sound, anyhow.  Why worry about that crap this far away from a major fault line?  Something devastating would have to happen for us to get quakes here.
            Something like this.  She exhaled shakily.  “Let’s go, guys.  You’re right.  We need to get this done so we can move on to the next thing.  Whatever that’s going to be.”
            Drew grunted.  They moved on, heading toward the resident parking lots on the so-called “freshman” end of campus.  Several of the dorms were already collapsed—Neimeyer looked like something had crashed into it, Frey was rubble, Stafford collapsed as well, and the buildings nearest to the treeline were simply gone, buried as rubble and under fallen trees.  A few scattered cars were in the parking lots nearest to the dorms—some of them belonged to the friends and were checked off a mental list each of the three were keeping of approximately how many people might still be yet to be found on the campus—alive or otherwise.
            There was one car, an old silver BMW, settled in a corner parking spot not far from where they were standing.  Kellin stared at it for a few long moments.  It was naggingly familiar, though she couldn’t quite place it.  Her frown grew as she wrestled with her own mind, pushing the impressions she was catching from the ravines, from the world around her, of twisting leylines and shifting energies, to the back of her mind as she tried to remember.  Finally, it clicked.  “…that’s Thom’s car.”  Why is Thom’s car still here?  He was driving to Chicago this weekend to see his folks.  And he’s got that interview Monday for that job down there…why the hell would his car still be here?  “Did he take the train down from Holland to the city, Drew?”
            Drew looked at her, blinking.  “Who?”
            “Thom!  His car’s still here.  Did you drive him to the station?”
            “Thom didn’t go to Chicago this weekend.”
            Why wouldn’t he go?  That interview…he made it sound like his big shot at being someone and something.  “What about his interview?  Seeing his parents?”
            Drew shrugged a little.  “He called them Thursday night and said that he had something come up, had to reschedule.  I don’t know how the rest of that conversation went.  He seemed…out of sorts, I guess.”  He scratched the back of his head.  “When I asked him, though, he said that Chicago wasn’t going anywhere, and neither were his parents.  He didn’t want to miss Marin leaving.”
            Rory glanced back at them.  “Wasn’t that why he was going to go to the city this weekend and stay ‘til Tuesday in the first place?”
            Drew shrugged again.  “Guess he couldn’t bring himself to miss saying goodbye.  Even to Marin.”
            Especially to Marin.  Kellin grimaced.  “We have to find him if he’s still here.”
            “With any luck, he’ll find us.  He usually does.”  Rory hopped down off the curb.  “Come on.  More lots to check.  Should check Kleiner while we’re here.  See if there’s anyone there.”
            “What if there is and they’re dead?”  Kellin tried to catch the words as they slipped out of her mouth, to no avail.  Her tongue had gotten away from her—again.
            Rory stopped, turning toward her slowly.  He exhaled, then shrugged slightly.  “Then I guess we bury them.”
            “Was afraid you’d say that.”
            The façade cracked and he grimaced.  “Better than leaving them to rot, Kel.  Come on.  Let’s get this over with.”


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