The I.V. in Olivia’s arm was starting to feel irritated. She shrugged her shoulder and twisted around, causing a slight movement in the needle; a painless sensation, but an uncomfortable one nonetheless. The medics found she had been slightly dehydrated; the new fluids rejuvenated Olivia, and she was eager to be released.
“Excuse me. How much longer do I need to stay here?” Olivia asked a nurse passing by.
The nurse took a quick look at how much fluid she had been given. “You’re probably fine, but there’s no hurry.”
Olivia sat up. “I need to get back. They could use my help.”
“No, you don’t understand.” The nurse interrupted. “The flood stopped.”
“Stopped? You mean the water is under control?”
“More than that. It’s receding.”
The nurse gave Olivia a gentle pat on the wrist and left her there in a state of confusion.
Olivia would later find out that, soon after the Chicago River was dammed, the water began to withdraw from the city. The shoreline was restored to its normal place much quicker than the rate it had risen, and cleanup of the city had begun. All the lower level streets and businesses had been completely flooded. Basements and subway lines were filled from water leaking in through the earth. Damages were going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars; a far cry from the tens of billions it would have cost had the levee and dam not held. Twenty-two people were killed, mostly homeless who got caught under overpasses. The rest were freak accidents, more caused by hysteria than the water itself. Common discussions of a silver lining were that, surprisingly, no looting had occurred. Many chalked it up to the sudden and swift evacuation; crowds didn’t have time to gather and become riotous.
In the coming days, massive cleanup efforts would be made, and people would be permitted to return to their condos, although it was going to take nearly a year to completely repair the damages. Olivia was assigned shifts on sandbag removal. After all the hours, and enormous manpower put into shoveling sand into bags, they now needed to be towed away. It took eight days to offload what they put down in two. A week after that, the military began to pull out of the area, and Olivia was back on leave once again.
Though the communities’ focus was solely on putting things back the way they were, the question on everyone’s mind was; how did Lake Michigan flood without receiving a single drop of rain?
Major Dellucci was in an advantageous position, playing middleman between those tasked with figuring out the conundrum and high ranking officials. Information was passing through his desk; he saw all manner of theories being proposed. It was his job to sift through research that had been done or was being asked to receive funding. He would weed out the farfetched and exceedingly expensive ones, and present what was left. As each round of testing was done, data would be analyzed, and discussions would begin on whether or not each particular avenue was worth continuing down. He looked over piles of information, but the only things Dellucci could tell for certain was that a lot of money was being spent, and there was zero evidence as to what caused the flood.
“It doesn’t make any sense.” He muttered to himself as he read that change in water level had not occurred anywhere else on the lake. There were no waterways that had broken open; no underground rivers had been discovered that might have suddenly entered the lake. Even a sensible explanation like that couldn’t account for the sudden retreat of the flood.
He picked up yet another folder with more readouts and scanned the synopsis. It was something about electromagnetic radiation and how scans were done along certain parts of the spectrum. He flipped through pictures of an overhead view of the city with blotches that looked similar to weather formations. When he looked closely at one of the images, a chill ran down his spine. He froze and looked again and again to make sure he knew what he was seeing.
Ella’s office was giving everyone another week off while cleanup continued. She had evacuated to her parents house in the suburbs and was taking her time going back home. Her apartment was far enough inland that her neighborhood would not have been affected, but she had left a sink full of dishes and a trashcan filled to the brim that she was not looking forward to dealing with. She rode the Metra train in as far as she could and transferred to the subway. The elevated parts of subway lines, or the “El”, were the only ones running; the underground lines were being repaired. She got as close as she could and got on a shuttle bus the rest of the way. The whole ordeal was tiring, and she couldn’t wait to finally be home.
When she arrived at her apartment door, Ella could hear music playing inside. She tried to remember if she left something on as she hurried out the door, but was almost certain it could not have been her. She walked in and the scent of a candle filled her nose. The thought of Olivia being there had not even entered her mind as she rounded the corner to the kitchen to find her cooking something on the stove. Ella stood there a moment. The music must have been loud enough to cover the sound of her entering the apartment because Olivia’s back was still turned. Ella gently put down her bag and crept up behind Olivia. As she went to wrap her arms around, Olivia caught sight of Ella’s hands slinking around her and jumped, giving a short squeal. She turned and they both laughed and held each other.
“I didn’t know you were coming home!”
“They put me on leave out of the blue. I thought I’d surprise you.”
Ella squeezed her again. “It’s the best surprise.”
“Where have you been?” Olivia asked, seeing the luggage on the floor.
“My parents. Just letting the whole thing blow over. I don’t have to go to work tomorrow either, so… what do you want to do today?”
“First, I’m going to eat some real food.”
“Then, I’m going to climb in bed and I’m not getting up until I can feel my lower back again.”
Ella got close and flashed a smile. “Can I come?”
“Always.” Olivia said through a chuckle.
After eating, Olivia went to the dresser and pulled out her favorite pajamas.
“Middle of the day PJs?” Ella inquired sarcastically.
“You have no idea how good middle of the day PJs are going to feel right now.”
They lay down together and turned on Netflix. Olivia felt ache all over her body as she slowly relaxed her muscles. She couldn’t tell what show Ella had put on; she almost immediately slipped into that state where you’re not quite asleep but not quite awake. It was the kind of sleep you get when you’re too tired to sleep. A song that had played at some point on TV was on a loop in her head. She would open her eyes long enough to note an hour or two had passed and fade into it again. It wasn’t until night had fallen that she was able to get up, go to the bathroom, and reset herself. She quieted her mind and tried to get some decent rest.
Ella, on the other hand, was not much for naps. She watched as much Netflix as she could before grabbing her laptop from her bag. She sat up in bed next to Olivia all afternoon and into the night.
After twelve hours of good rest, Olivia finally came to.
“Are you getting up?” Ella asked from the other room. “Please get up; I’m so bored!”
“What time is it?”
“More like ‘what day is it?’ You’ve been out forever.”
Olivia rubbed her temples. “No, really.”
“It’s past eleven.”
“Oh shit!” Olivia slapped her pillow. “I’m gonna be late.” She rolled out of bed and rushed into the bathroom, slamming the door.
Ella looked around, and, in a puzzled tone, asked, “...For what?”