Current, Part Seven

    A levee was patched together the entire length of the city, but a new issue was arising… The Chicago River, which previously had several feet of clearance between water level and street level, was creeping its way towards the bottoms of bridges. Units were pulled from the lakeshore wall to begin construction on the riverfront. More personnel and civilians arrived to help save the city as the realization was setting in… the water was not stopping.

The organized effort ripped apart at the seams as people flocked towards their favorite landmarks to sandbag the surrounding area; The Art Institute and Wrigley Field were among the favorites. Droves of people did everything they could to fend off the coming flood.

The water finally reached the edge of the riverfront ravine and trickled over, oozing into the streets like it had a purpose. A state of emergency was declared and the transport trucks that had been bussing in troops were now evacuating civilians. Over 2.7 million people were scrambling for higher ground.

Through all of the chaos and panic, Olivia kept working. Her unit had been moved south of the river. They watched as Navy Pier was enveloped in water. The restaurants and attractions were all waterlogged. Some of the cruise ships had broken off and were floating adrift while others, tied securely to the pier, were pulled to one side and toppled over, eventually sinking. Olivia couldn’t help but notice the shift in locations had put her exceedingly close to the tomb. She knew if she looked over her shoulder she could probably spot it, so she stayed facing the lake and continued bagging.

“The river is overflowing. Why are we still doing this?” One trooper asked.

“I know! What’s the point? The city is flooding behind us.” Another pointed out.

    Olivia was immediately annoyed with the dissention. “If they dam up the river, these walls need to be reinforced to hold back the water! Keep bagging!” She snapped.

    “...You think they’re gonna dam up the river?”

 

    “There’s no way we can move enough material to stop the river. Even without the flooding it would be a major task.”

    All the city’s high-ranking officials were gathered, along with FEMA, and military personnel, including Major Dellucci. They had been arguing possible solutions and getting nowhere.

    “You’ve got plenty of material already in place.” A General noted. “There are skyscrapers practically hugging the river… Knock one of them over.”

    Some in the room gasped.

    “Leave it to the military to suggest blowing something up.” Grumbled a FEMA representative.

    “...But it could work.” Said Major Dellucci, realizing it as he spoke. He grabbed a map of downtown Chicago that was laid out on the conference table. “There’s nothing large enough at the mouth of the river, but if you move inland just a bit…” He slid his finger across the paper. “There!” He barked as he jabbed the map. “Enough concrete at a narrow point in the river should dam it up.”

    The General leaned in for a closer look. “A controlled demolition would lay it right in the water. Good work, Major.”

    The FEMA people didn’t like that sound of that and looked to the others in the room for pushback. “So that’s it? That’s the plan?”

    “It’s the only option.” The General said, turning to another officer. “Get a demolition team suited up with whatever they need to rig the building. I want Trump Tower leveled and in the river in two hours.”

 

    Olivia’s body ached; she had been tossing around sandbags for nearly twenty hours with no break in sight. She tried not to focus on the parts of her back that felt like they were burning, or her feet, that had been soaking wet so long the skin would probably peel when she took her boots off. She kept up a repeating mantra: quiet her mind, push past the pain, don’t get agitated. She took a deep breath and, in the momentary silence between inhale and exhale, heard someone cry out in the distance. Staying completely still, she watched the skyline and listened; everyone around her kept working, evidently having heard nothing. Olivia was on the verge of chalking it up to her imagination when she heard it again. She dropped her shovel and instinctively moved in the direction she thought the sound came from. Her unit had been placed at the northern end of Grant Park. There were two city blocks of park ground between her and the first row of buildings on Michigan Ave. The only way she was able to hear someone yell from that far away was due to the stillness of the air that had remained since the beginning of the flood.

    Olivia was walking cautiously, still trying to pinpoint the location of the sound, when she heard it again. It was clear this time that a woman was calling for help. Olivia snapped into a dead on sprint. As she got closer to the road she began calling back.

    “Yes!? Where are you!?”

    “Help me!” Was all the voice said, but Olivia was getting close. She crossed Michigan Ave. and ran south along the buildings, looking into their large front windows for any signs of the woman. She passed a bank with a large, open lobby and a stairwell leading to a lower level. Just as Olivia rushed past, heading for the next block, she heard it again.

    “Someone, please!”

    Olivia turned on a dime and laid her shoulder into the heavy front door, which had been left unlocked in the panic of the evacuation. She dashed down the stairs to find a woman at the bottom behind a retractable cage. She had her hands up, clasped to the steel. The rest of her body from her shoulders down was under water.

    “Oh, thank you! Please, get me out of here!” Whimpered the woman, shaking with fear.

    “It’s okay, calm down. How do we open this thing?”

    “I don’t know. These cages are for high security measures, they’re only used when the bank is on lockdown, I don’t have the code for that.”

    “What are you doing down there in the first place?”

    “I’m an accountant for the bank, Ok? My office is down here. I wanted to make sure our hard drives were sealed in the safe before I left.” She shook the cage. “Some asshole guard must have locked me down here.”

    Olivia looked closely at the lock, then to the hinges that hold the cage in place. “I’m not going to be able to force this thing open. Is there any other way out at all?”

    “Yes, on the other side of the building... but the ceiling is lower over there, it’s underwater.”

    “How far would you have to swim?”

    “It’s the whole length of the hallway! It’s that entire half of the floor, there’s no way I can swim it!”

    “How far!?” Olivia demanded.

    “It’s over 100 feet… maybe 150.”

    “That’s doable.”

    “No! You have to open the gate, I can’t do it.”

    “Yes, you can. You have to.”

    The woman started to shake with nervousness again. Olivia searched for an alternative, but she knew there was only one way to save her.

    “Go down to where the water reaches the ceiling and I’ll meet you there.”

    Olivia bolted up the stairs and out the door; she ran around the building, finding the opposite stairwell. She took a few deep breaths to prep her lungs and dove down. The ceiling had ridges every few feet large enough for her to grab onto and propel herself along. She kept herself calm, not allowing thoughts of claustrophobia enter her head. She knew if she went too fast, her muscles would suck up her oxygen, too slow… she’d run out anyway. Just as her lungs began burning for more air she reached the end.

    “Oh my god, you’re crazy!” The woman yelped.

    Olivia sucked in oxygen and took a moment to normalize her heart rate.

    “Get ready. We’re getting out of here together.”

    The woman frantically shook her head. Olivia grabbed her by the shoulders.

    “Damnit! Do you want to die in your fucking office?”

    She shook her head again.

    “Then get ready to take a deep breath on three!”

    The woman looked down at the dark water. “Oh my god, oh my god!”

    “One… Two… Three!”