“I know I haven’t really been out here since the funeral.”
Olivia tried to remember that painful day, but the only thing she could recall was being exhausted from so much grief.
“I guess I deal with these things differently than you’re supposed to. You already knew that, though.” She let a smirk curl up on one cheek, which quickly faded. “I don’t know what to do, Mom. It’s like I’m trying to prove half of the world wrong and half of the world right, at the same time. I’m being pulled in different directions, and the stakes are as high as it gets. I’ve screwed things up so badly, at this point, I have to either stand up to this thing, which will probably kill me… or run.” She paused to swallow the cracks in her throat. “Running means being alone. Forever. Hardly an existence.”
A tear dripped from the corner of her eye as she blinked several times in rapid succession. It fell to the ground; Olivia didn’t bother wiping away the streak of wet from her face.
“What do I do?” Her voice was barely holding up.
Suddenly, off in the distance, sirens began to howl, then car alarms, and more. The wailing grew louder and came closer. Olivia looked over her shoulder in the direction where the sounds first came from. Her eyes squinted as the realization came to her; she was looking toward the city. She was too far out to see the skyline, but she knew it was happening again, the call from the tomb. Last time, the flood followed soon after. She wondered if it would be the same again or something new, like the plagues, frogs raining from the sky and swarms of locusts blanketing Chicago.
If those jerkoffs were right, she thought, and this is all directed at me, then more people will get hurt if I don’t do something.
Olivia started for the exit. She didn’t say goodbye to her mother’s grave; she didn’t even look back. Her brisk walk turned into a run as she searched for a way back to the city. She thought about ways to get a hold of Ella. Calling wouldn’t work; the military would zero in on her in seconds. Email is essentially the same scenario at this point.
Twitter, maybe… from a different phone, she thought, but that plan was too complicated for the time crunch she was in.
Olivia decided the best strategy was going to be brute force. She walked to the nearest streetlight and looked for the best place to pick her spot.
Anthony Sanchez had gotten fed up with working minimum wage jobs that wouldn’t go anywhere. He figured, he could work for himself and make that much money. Why bust his ass, getting talked down to by customers and a boss at a dead end job? He looked into Uber’s leasing program and did the math; subtracting the lease, insurance, and current gas prices from what other drivers said they made at peak hours and weekends. The resulting figures after a full time amount of work per week came out to the equivalent of a minimum wage job. It wasn’t anywhere close to what they advertised once you got past the fees and all, but Anthony could be his own boss, and that sounded pretty good.
The morning rush hour was required driving time for Anthony. He picked up people having car troubles who couldn’t be late to work, or someone with a packed schedule opting for Uber instead of chancing it with public transportation. He heard all kinds of stories, and with the surge in price, he was happy to oblige.
He had just finished up dropping off a woman at work and was stopped at a light off the corner of the cemetery. Anthony noticed that his morning coffee was wearing off; he would need a refill soon. His eyelids drooped a little, watching and waiting for the light. It took him longer than it should have to process the loud crash. He first looked to his left, out the driver’s side window through the rearview mirror before turning back to find a woman reaching into his car. She had busted through his back seat window and opened the door from the inside. In what seemed like one fluid motion, she ducked in, lunged forward and grabbed Anthony by the arm. She extended it and put pressure on the elbow while simultaneously twisting his head by the chin in the opposite direction.
“I need you to get me to Chicago as fast as you can. I’m not a bad person, but if you don’t agree to help me, I’m going to break your arm and steal your car anyway.”
Anthony made up his mind in a hurry. From around the palm of the woman’s hand he calmly asked,
“Can we stop for coffee?”
Olivia picked the blue Nissan Sentra because of the Uber sticker on the windshield. She wanted to believe that, since she ultimately just needed a ride, a person already out doing that very thing could be persuaded. Her theory proved to be correct and, after stopping at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through; the two were on their way.
“I’ll pay for the window.” Olivia said, over the wind blowing about. “If I don’t die. I might die, but you’re helping me save the world, so that’s worth more than a window.”
“I don’t know. If you’re dead and the world is saved, then I have to get this thing fixed on my own.” Replied Anthony, sarcastically.
“Ok, but I’ll feel bad.”
“No you won’t! You’ll be dead!”
Olivia laughed. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Not for a second.”
“Then why are you helping me?”
“Are you kidding? You could have easily broken my arm back there.”
“True, but you could have fought once I let go… or you could drive to a police station and start honking the horn and pointing at me.”
“That is a solid plan, but I don't know…” He shrugged. “Whatever you’re doing, I think you needed someone’s help. I believe that much.”
Anthony drove down N. Milwaukee Ave., but when they approached the loop they found themselves in a traffic jam. Vehicles were at a full stop or poorly attempting to turn around into the other lane against a swarm of oncoming traffic.
“We’re evacuating this whole area past the river, you’re gonna have to turn around.” An officer said, leaning down to make eye contact with Anthony.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s precautionary. We need everyone back!” He shouted as he moved on down the middle of the road, gesturing to the cars to find a place to turn.
Anthony and Olivia could see the bridge ahead, one side being blocked off while officers kept cars and people moving out of downtown. Anthony turned to Olivia.
“Are you going to break my arm if I say, ‘this is as far as I can take you’?”
Olivia scanned the bridge, calculating the chances of her getting past the officers. It didn’t look good, but something in her knew that she could find a way.
“You’ve done enough. Send me a bill when this is all over.”
And with that, Olivia stepped out of the car without looking at Anthony, her focus squarely on the task at hand.
She walked closer to the bridge, making sure to keep her face hidden, and, when she got close enough, hopped a fence at the edge of an office building along the riverfront. From there, she was able to get close to the river. The backsides of many riverfront buildings had courtyards or walkways along the water. She was out of sight down there; the only problem she had at that point was being on the wrong side of the river.
Olivia didn’t think it should be much of an issue; an easy swim, really, but as she inspected the high walls keeping the river several feet below the city for a place to climb up, military trucks transporting dozens of troopers crossed every bridge connecting the loop with the rest of Chicago. Olivia took cover behind the corner of a brick building and watched as they spread out, taking up watch posts. Her plan was dashed, she would have to come up with a different route to the tomb.