The Survivors: A short story

Nairobi. Unified States of Central Africa. (USCA) Year 2021. Day 4.

Chelewa and I grappled for the last packet of prawns this morning. At least my body contortions retrieving the package made her smile. I guess there was nothing much for us to smile about, for we have been entombed beneath the Norfolk Hotel for more than three weeks.

The Fish Food delivery truck that we constantly pilfered for food, now lay empty and on its side. Fifty or so other vehicles lay wrecked, some hurled two hundred meters when the catastrophe occurred.
Today, Chelewa and I intend climbing the lift shaft cable in an attempt at getting into the Hotel above us.

The emergency stairway is completely blocked. No, not from rubble. Pack-ice! For those who are lucky enough to have survived, please remember this day, September 24th. in the year 2021. The day the earth did a `flip’.

Oh yes, we had warning. Top geological boffins had predicted the event with some accuracy. Man in his stupidity had mouthed the two simple to understand words for five decades before the truth dawned.
Do you remember them? “Global Warming”

Believe me, those massive polar ice caps did melt. The sea rose, just like they said it would.

There was a brief warning on the news on Thursday morning, it said something like, “Mean sea level has increased by six inches on the Florida coast line.”

How could the man in the street possibly know the significance of a statement like that! I had a lunch engagement, and had parked my car conveniently in the basement of the Norfolk. Chelewa, was delivering a bouquet of flowers to an octogenarian on the fifteenth floor. We arrived at the lift together.

No time for introductions, with a roar like thunder, we were both thrown against the inside wall of the lift. The lights flickered and then went out and the doors luckily never closed! Then came the change in the earths gravitational pull. It distorted our faces and I stared at the face of the young black woman and wondered what my own looked like.

For more than a minute, we were both pinned to each other against the structure, the colorful arrangement of flowers flattened between us, and we were unable to move a muscle. Wide eyed, we watched each vehicle parked beneath the building hurl itself crazily towards the far end. One after the other, they tippled, then piled up into one monstrous tangle of wreckage. The infernal din was phenomenal, and the tremendous pull of gravity contorted the loose skin on our faces, making us both look like ghouls.

The green light above the push button to open the lift doors flickered and went out, together with every light in the underground parking area.

Then all was quiet.

“What the Hell was that?” I enquired. “Earthquake?”

Before Chelewa could answer, I felt the sudden onrush of cold envelop me like some ghastly shroud. I wore a khaki light-weight safari suit, in seconds my teeth were chattering, and I could barely talk. Miraculously, the emergency lighting plant automatically cut in.

In the half light, I could just make out the white of Chelewa`s eyes. She screamed and threw her arms about my neck. “Oh God, Dear God, don`t you see, it`s happened, my God, it`s happened.”

Confused, I must admit I had no idea what she was talking about, and it was all I could do to unravel myself from her.

“What`s happened,” I asked. For God`s sake, what`s happened.?”

“The..the…the f.f flip…the earth has done the f.f. flip, like they said it would.”

Coming to my senses, alas, my first thoughts were not for my dearest wife and family. The black lady and I were standing there literally freezing to death. “Blankets!” I yelled. …”Search the cars, get the doors open and search for anything that will keep us warm.”

Running from one car to the next, and some were so completely mangled we couldn`t gain access, we managed to find three car rugs and copious amounts of newspaper. That saved our lives. Only after stuffing pages of newspaper between our body and clothing did we realise that we hadn`t been introduced. “Chelewa, Express Floral Delivery Service.” She didn’t smile.

“Call me Tommy, nice to meet you….and such a warm welcome!”

It took less than an hour to realise that we were trapped. The first two flights of the emergency staircase were clear. Beyond that was solid ice. We decided that the lift shaft would be our last resort. On the first night, the temperature must have plummeted to twenty or thirty degrees below freezing. Despite our sheltering in the comparative luxury of a Lincoln Limo, with an inoperable heater, we knew our bodies were going into hypothermia, we were freezing to death.

Were it not for Chelewa, I would never have survived that first night. Nor would she! We shared our body heat. Wrapped and bound together in a pod of newspaper and car rugs, we survived our first night.

Today we heard a voice! Chelewa and I went insane. To our astonishment, it was coming from the mobile radio of the fish delivery van.

“Zulu one five, calling Zulu one five….”

I grabbed the microphone.

“Yes, this is Zulu one five, Zulu one five returning.”

“Mapephwe, is that you Mapephwe?”

I pressed the transmit button, “Negative, negative, we are trapped beneath the Norfolk Hotel, in the car-park.”

“I want Mapephwe, where is he?” The voice was breaking up badly now. I made another attempt.

“Listen, we are trapped and need help, what`s it like out there, can you see anything?”

A minute went by, then two.

“Zulu one five, do you copy?”

“Yes, yes, I copy, I copy, who is this?”

“Uhuru Civillian Help Force, stay put brother, we`re coming to get you, just stay cool.”

I threw myself at Chelewa, and we hugged each other like school kids, laughing and chiding……
“He said stay cool… must be twenty below…and he said stay cool…”

Geoffrey Kennell
Off the cuff

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