I must have been half conscious after I got shot. Because I remember being carried out of a car, I guess my car, and pulled into a place with white walls and ceiling. I remember hearing Alix's angry voice as she argued with a man dressed in a green suit about his refusal to see me. The rest were blanks.
When I next opened my eyes, it was to a place I recognized. My eyes kept closing and I couldn't move an inch of my body. My body felt very cold, though I was sweating profusely; I was shivering and I felt nauseous. I tried to speak, but all that came out was a croak. The thirst was killing me. I must be dying, I thought.
Alix was kneeling next to the bed, her forehead resting on the crook of my arm. She held my hand tightly, but I knew she was asleep. I realized we were back at her apartment and that I was on her bed. I couldn't speak or move, so I just squeezed her hand. Her head flew up and she stared at me with wide eyes. They were red-rimmed from crying. More tears came to her eyes and she began to sob. Julia! She said over and over.
I smiled, or tried to smile- I was too weak- and squeezed her hand again. Paul! She screamed, sitting up onto the bed and touching my face softly. I love you! She whispered gently. Paul! She screamed again.
Paul ran into the room, followed by a man I recognized as Alix's neighbor. From what she'd told me, he was a general surgeon and medical doctor. I was always impressed by this, because he was so young, no older than forty. His name was Charles Patterson. Charles had curly blonde hair and warm brown eyes that made me feel safe as he listened to my heartbeat and looked into my eyes with a tiny flashlight.
Why my eyes? I croaked. He gave me some water to drink. It was great! Thank You.
Charles didn't answer at first; he did when he was satisfied with what he saw. I have to see if there's any kind of brain damage. He said.
I frowned. Why should there be brain damage? I asked, confused out of my mind.
Charles looked at Alix, who nodded as she stared at me. He sighed and said: You were clinically dead.
I tried to sit up, the shock required, but I instantly fell back. I gasped in pain. Alix walked around the bed and sat next to me, taking my hand. I was still gasping and I clutched her hand. What do you mean? I choked out.
When Alix and Paul brought you to me you were clinically dead. He explained. You weren't breathing.
Then what happened? I croaked, feeling feverish and shivered. Alix grabbed a little towel from a bowl on the bedside table, squeezed the water out and wiped the sweat off my face. I was grateful.
Charles continued: You had been dead for some time, I don't know how long. He gestured to Paul and Alix. Neither did they. They said that after they took you to the hospital and the doctors refused to see you, you stopped breathing. He looked at Alix, then back at me. But your girlfriend here wasn't very satisfied with the turn of events. He smiled reassuringly. And here you are. You lost a lot of blood, a transfusion was necessary. Alix gave you her blood. You are fortunate to share the same type O negative.
I was completely shocked, I looked at Alix. She was staring at me and I felt even closer to her, felt like she was now inside me. And I loved her even more. She bent down and kissed my forehead tenderly. Paul and Charles walked out of the room and left us alone. I closed my eyes and sighed; when I opened them, Alix was looking into my eyes. I couldn't let you go. She said softly, shakily.
Tears burned my eyes. Thank you. I whispered.
She kissed my lips softly, then she pulled back. Sleep now. She whispered gently. I had no problem with that suggestion. I closed my eyes, and in seconds I was asleep, the comfort of her warm body pressed against my side a lovely dream.
IT felt like I'd been bed-ridden for months, but then, you never know. When the terrible news came, I was lying on the couch, covered by a thin bed sheet and my head rested on Alix's lap. Paul was sitting on the love seat, his long muscular legs crossed straight in front of him. Charles had left to his apartment for a few minutes to take a shower and change. We were watching a news program on a fuzzy channel seven; as always, the visibility was poor. They were speaking of the chaos around the world, saying that it was reaching frantic levels, that there was bloodshed in the specially populated cities. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, and many others.
Suddenly, they looked away from the camera towards somewhere to their left. The female newscaster reached out and someone handed her a piece of paper. She read it to herself and her eyes widened. Her male counterpart took the paper from her and read it out-loud: 'It seems,' He sighed and closed his eyes; when he opened them, there were tears. 'It seems that a major earthquake, a seven point eight, has struck the island once more.... The island that contained Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island has disappeared under the sea.' There was a collective silence in both the studio and Alix's apartment. 'There is mass death,' The newscaster paused, his voice shook with tears. 'There are bodies all over the ocean, Coast Guard is now searching for survivors in the sea.'
I tried to sit up and a stab of pain shot from my stomach, stunning me. I was instantly sweating. Alix caressed my head and tried to he me into relaxing. Calm down, baby. She whispered softly. Calm down.
The pain was unbearable. I thought I was getting better, that they were exaggerating. I realized I was wrong. Paul moved up beside me. He lifted up my shirt and groaned, looking at Alix through worried eyes. She's bleeding again.
Go get Charles! Alix ordered, her eyes widened with fear.
But I grabbed Paul's wrist and didn't let him move. We have to leave. I groaned, a wave of nausea dizzying me. We need to go! It's dangerous. I knew I sounded crazy, but I had to get my point across.
Alix looked at Paul. Get Charles. She said, reaching for the towel on the little table at the side of the couch. Paul pulled free of my grasp and ran out of the apartment.
I was gasping for air, my fever was rising; I could feel it. Alix lifted my head and slid from the couch, placing it slowly on a pillow. She took my hand and looked into my eyes. I knew I was delirious, the things I was saying. We have to leave! I whispered weakly.
Charles ran into the apartment pulling on his shirt, he lifted my shirt up and studied me for a second. Shit! He muttered. Alix, help me sit her up. He moved up closer to me.
Alix moved up to my shoulder, put me arm over her shoulder and her hand under mine. Carefully, she pushed me up to a sitting position. I groaned and buried my face in her neck. I felt Charles remove the gauze band from around my torso. I was weak and almost loosing consciousness, only the reality of Alix's comforting kept me anchored to what was happening. When my wound was uncovered, Charles studied it slowly and carefully.
He sighed. It's not bad, I heard Alix sigh also, relief. Paul, bring me some more gauzes, please. Charles said softly. I was asleep before they laid me down on my back.
I woke much later with a giant headache, my fever was gone, though. I was back in bed, Alix lay beside me, obviously in deep sleep. To my surprise, when I managed to sit up, there was no pain. Only a little pull at the strings of the stitches. I looked at my lover.
Alix was breathing heavily, she must have been so tired. Taking care of me, making sure I was okay, feeding me... I studied her, she was so beautiful lying there. Her beautiful delicate features were relaxed, her mouth soft and pink; her lips moved from time to time and she ran her tongue over them. I suddenly wanted her; turning slowly onto my side, I inched closer to her. Putting my mouth by her ear, I whispered: Alix, wake up. and pulled back to watch her.
She stirred and moaned softly, then she opened her eyes slowly and looked into mine. she smiled and moved her hand up to my face. If you weren't so beautiful, She whispered softly.
You wouldn't love me? I retorted, smiling.
She propped herself up on her elbows and smiled back. Now don't flatter yourself. I'm not with you for your looks. She admonished me jokingly.
I pressed my head against hers. I want you, Alix. I whispered hoarsely, closing my eyes against the wave of desire that hit me. Now.
Alix was instantly breathing hard, her lips parted, I felt her breath against my own. You can't, She argued breathlessly. You're still weak.
Oh no, I'm not. I whispered and turned her over onto her back. I lay half on top of her, my leg between her thighs, and kissed her. She moaned as our tongues met, pushing her hips up against my bare thigh. She was only wearing a T-shirt, and she had the grace of not wearing panties; I was in heaven! She was warm and quickly wet, her breathing was ragged and her hips sped up their rhythm against my thigh. She was being careful with me, but at the same time she was wild and hungry. Stop. I whispered, and she did.
She didn't resist when I pushed her legs open, when I slipped my finger between her lips and touched her clitoris. I groaned a she moaned, as she held me tightly to her and nibbled on my ear. I moved my fingers against her and heard the sound of her wetness. Her breath quickened and she groaned. Her legs fell open wider, an invitation. As I slipped my finger inside her, I pushed myself against her thigh, panting.
She was as always, moist and hot inside, quivering and needing more of me. Another, and then another finger and she was crying out my name, her hips jerking wildly. I was quickly close to orgasm and so was she; I felt it inside her. I pushed in and out of her as I pushed against her thigh. We were both crying out, aware of each other's approaching orgasms. Suddenly, I was exploding against her and she was quivering violently around my fingers, her arms shook around me, and her mouth bit into my shoulder. It all felt so beautiful, to touch her again, to feel her silky wetness around my fingers.
And I wanted more, but I was still weak. Alix was right. She pushed me gently onto my back and looked into my already closing eyes.
THE next time I woke, Alix allowed me to and helped me walk around a little. We walked around her room with my arm over her shoulder, her arms around my waist, supporting me. She said I was recovering fast, that Charles thought so too. Alix, I gasped, pulling her to a stop. I was already tired and needed to stop for a second.
She looked up at me with concern. Do you need to sit down? She asked me.
I shook my head, taking a couple of deep breaths. I asked her: Why didn't that doctor want to see me at the hospital? This had been on my mind ever since they told me.
Alix's eyes darkened in anger. He said that they were short on doctors, too many patients. Her eyes watered, her voice shook as she continued: He just glanced at you and he- he said that you were as good as dead anyway, why should he have to waste his time with you? By now she was holding on tightly to me and I gasped from the pain. She relaxed her hold. I'm sorry. She looked up at me.
I looked back at her. It's okay. I whispered.
I had your gun, I'd taken it from your pocket. She said. I could have shot him. She cried then, really cried. Her shoulders shook and she buried her face into the crook of my neck.
I spoke softly to her, assuring her, caressing her. Thank you, Alix. I love you all the more. I whispered.
She looked up at me again, took my face in her hands and rocked me with a soft kiss. It was slow, sweet, warm, and sensual. She slipped her tongue into my mouth and danced against me. I closed my eyes tightly and lost myself in her kiss. I was aware of nothing but her lips against mine. Alix! Charles' frantic voice rang out from the living room, interrupting our loving kiss. We pulled away from each other and looked at the bed-room door. Charles ran in. We have to leave! He said. Finally! I thought. Someone who agrees with me.
Why? Alix demanded.
They're raiding the building! They already shot some people! He explained impatiently. He started jumping like a little kid, his eyes wide with fear.
We have guns. Alix said. Brave! Like always.
No, Alix! There's lots of them. He argued, his eyes widened. We couldn't keep them back for long. Paul's getting food. All I have to do is get my medicines and clothes. It won't take them long to get up here!
Alix looked at me, worry in her eyes. I agree with Charles, it's going to be ugly enough when we leave. I said. They'll probably kill us, you're a beautiful woman and I don't know what I'd do if one of them tries to hurt you. There's bound to be some guys of that type.
Alix nodded and instantly began to move. She went all around the room, throwing some of her clothes into a bag. My clothes were still in my bag, so she didn't have to worry. I reminded her of the money and she nodded. Charles walked up to me and pulled me slowly towards the living room. He found my shoes and helped me step into them. Hurry, Alix! Paul, you too! He looked at me. I'll have to carry you, Okay? I nodded. Come on! He cried out to the other Alix and Paul.
Alix and Paul ran into the living room at the same time. Charles handed Paul my small box with the guns, it had been on top of the television. Suddenly, there was a loud crack as a gun shot a round a few floors below us. We all jumped. Alix took out my gun from her bag and looked at me with a reassuring fake smile. Charles took me up in his arms and gestured for Paul to take his backpack with his clothes and medicine. Paul reached down and grabbed the red bag, slung it over his shoulders and picked up my little box and the other bag full of canned food. I wondered where his stuff was, but then figured they must be in my car.
Paul and Alix ran out first, Alix glancing back one last time at her apartment, a little sadly. Charles ran out with me in his arms; I seemed to be no problem to him, the he was a little thin and seemed delicate. Can't underestimate anyone. Take Alix, for example, she was running ahead of us with a gun securely in her hand, looking like she was ready to shoot somebody's balls off. I felt strangely proud! She was never fond of guns, I could see at this moment that she was still reluctant to hold it, her knuckles were white as she gripped it tighter than she needed to. But it was necessary for her to hold it.
I always wondered the reason why she was so afraid of them. She finally told me the reason why she disliked the guns so much. It was when we were driving to Manhattan after the first earthquake. She told me of when she witnessed her parents' murders, they'd been shot down by gang youth after money. Her parents died in front of her five year old eyes. Her brother Michael had witnessed it also, he committed suicide- shooting himself in the head- also in front of her a few years ago. It was clear and simple that Alix'd had a bloody life. Guns brought back memories, and I could see in her eyes that she was struggling against them as she held my gun.
I already knew Alix when her brother had killed himself, though we had only been acquaintances from work. I'd always liked her, but never had the courage to tell her. And then one night, sweet Paul, whom I still thank for this, invited us both out. Alix and I ended up talking and good friends. Our friendship lasted about two years, until I realized I was in love with her. She felt the same way; we both told Paul, but never each other. Paul, good friend that he was of both of us, told us each of the other's feelings, then made us talk about it. We did, and soon became lovers. Since then, we've been inseparable; that was two years ago.
Presently, we were entering the elevator. Paul pressed for the parking lot, which was below ground level; he was praying audibly for no one to want to use the elevator too, specifically the raiders. We should take my jeep. Charles said. Paul and Alix nodded in agreement.
I frowned with sudden anger. I didn't want to leave my car. What about my car? I demanded.
Baby, Alix said reasonably. Charles' is faster and has more space for our stuff. While she spoke, she kept looking at the numbers above the elevator doors, they indicated that we were on the fifth floor. Please understand.
I wanted to cry, but I didn't want to seem like a child who didn't want to leave it's toy. Fine! I said shortly, pouting.
Lower level. What a relief! We headed towards the left. I could see my car. My beautiful car; I hated leaving it. I'd had it for a few years already, I was so used to it. Right next to it was Charles' jeep, a red four-wheel-drive Ford Explorer. It was huge! How could it be faster than my small neon, which was smaller and by all means lighter? I was the first one in, though, Charles practically threw me into the back seat. He turned away quickly and went to the front seat. Paul fished my car keys out of his pocket, and walked to the trunk. He inserted the key, the trunk snapped open and he pulled out his bag of clothes.
Everything was quickly put into the compartment at the back of the truck. Paul slammed my trunk shut, and with barely a glance, ran around the jeep to the front passenger seat of the jeep. Alix climbed into the back seat and sat close to me, reaching across me to pull the seat-belt over my chest and snapping it into place. She then did the same for herself, Charles and Paul did the same. Ready? Charles asked, glancing at me through the rearview mirror.
The jeep revved up and we were quickly out of the parking spot. We drove through the parking lot towards the exit, and that's when we saw that we weren't the only ones leaving the building. There was a long line of vehicles, with tops overflowing with luggage and furniture; inside, this was understandable, the vehicles were crammed up with families. Some rears were low, very close to the ground; hit a pothole and the car would be totaled.
Outside, it was as dark as ever. I looked out the window towards the sky; it was still the nasty, dark gray-black. The streets were worst now than when I'd gotten myself shot. People were running out of residential buildings, abandoned stores, with things in their arms, some chased out by presumably, the owners. I wondered were the cops were. I hadn't seen one since God knows when; not one after the Explosion.
The exit led us directly out to Christopher Street, where Charles made a left, heading towards the West Side Highway. Christopher Street was not the same as it was before, it was deserted, an occasional person here and there doing some crime or another, getting away with it. The West Side Highway was under repairs, had been for quite some time, the cars were rammed up close trying to get into the highway towards the Delancey, where Charles would take the FDR Drive, and we'd find our way out of New York for good.
West Side Highway was crammed with traffic, but it wasn't too slow once you got into it. We drove for a while, without incident. Then, we saw on the lane next to ours, that a family car overstuffed to it's limit had a flat tire. The wheel had probably popped because of the weight. A gray bearded man and what looked to be his son where working on it while their family waited. No one stopped to help, including ourselves. An overwhelming feeling of sadness overtook me and I bit my lower lip.
Alix took my hand and squeezed it gently. I glanced at her. You okay? She asked me softly, her eyes gentle with concern. She must have been feeling my sadness.
I nodded, grateful to have her beside me. She looked beautiful, her hair a mess; some of it was on her face and some flowed over her shoulders. Her eyes looked like they shone in the night-like darkness around us. Paul and Charles were both quiet at the front seats. Charles was concentrating on maneuvering us around slow cars and through traffic. Paul was pressing on the tuning buttons, trying to find a working radio station, an anchor to stability. Finally, he gave up and pressed one of Charles' tapes in. A soft chant-like music began to play a few seconds later. It's enigma, Charles explained, seeming embarrassed, his cheeks flushing.
I like it. I said. Paul and Alix agreed with me, voicing their agreement. We rode on for a long time, no words necessary in the mist of the beautiful music that soared from the speakers.
As we rode closer to Houston, the traffic seemed to clear a little. Charles sped up as he turned on Houston. He went even faster when it was time to turn on the FDR Uptown. I watched Charles as he glanced into the rearview mirror when he completed his turn. Jesus! He exclaimed, his eyes widening. I turned as far as I could to look behind me, Alix and Paul followed suit. There can't possibly be no words to describe what I saw, but I'll try anyway.
The giant structure that was the Williamsburg Bridge was no more. All of it was turned into a giant piece of rubble that now lay in shambles in the middle of the FDR Drive behind us. Giant blocks of cement, trusses, all kinds of broken bridge-road lay covering the passage way towards and from the deeper Downtown Manhattan. I looked to our east, where I would have, under normal circumstances, seen Brooklyn. There was nothing there, goosebumps ran through all of my body. All that was a mass of buildings, of piers, was no more, was lost under the sea. It was all now part of the great Atlantic Ocean.
Alix was mumbling to herself, her face turned towards the great disaster. Paul shook his head slowly, muttering: All those poor dead people .. and then he did the insignia to the cross. Charles pointedly kept his eyes on the road, obviously not wanting to deal with the death, as a doctor would react. I noticed that as we drove further uptown, traffic began to slow down.
I thought about it for a second, and realized that the Fifty-nine Street Bridge must have been in the same condition as the Williamsburg, there was probably no passage beyond it. I straightened my back, looking over Charles' shoulder, realizing that people were turning off on exit number ??????, the thirty-fourth street exit. Charles slowed down, unsure of what to do. Stop! I told Charles, leaning forward and grabbing his shoulder. He looked at me through the rearview mirror, surprised at my sudden burst of energy. I know another way out of here.
He stopped the jeep on it's tracks. Behind us, people began to beat on their car horns. He ignored them, and looked intently into my eyes. Okay, He said seriously. Which Way?
This was the moment I'd been waiting for. Let me drive, it'll be faster that way. I was aware that they were all staring at me as if I were stupid, but I kept my eyes on Charles. Charles, I'm much better now, I said over the blaring horns. I don't know how, but I feel much better. I un-strapped my seat-belt and opened the door, then I jumped out of the jeep. Easily, as if I'd never been shot at all. The horn-beating grew frantic.
Julia, Alix said warningly, but I ignored her.
I pulled open Charles' door and stared at him. Come on, Charles. Let me drive. I said. I swear I feel better. It was true, the energy was almost completely back in my body.
Charles put the jeep on the park gear, stepped out, and said: You do look better. I'm gonna do a check-up later, when we get to a safe place. Okay? I nodded, he eyed me closely. If you feel sick, please let me know. Just get us out of here. He patted my arm and went to join Alix in the back seat.
Are you sure you're okay? Paul asked, concern in his eyes.
I settled into the driver's seat, smiled and slammed the door shut. Putting the jeep into gear, I followed the vehicles that were passing us by, after impatiently waiting for us to move. They were, like the other cars I saw, exiting on thirty-fourth street, intent on reaching the other side of town, just so that we could get to the Inter-state. The streets were deserted, the traffic was almost non-existent, only the far-away flare of bright red tail-lights indicated any sign of life on the otherwise populated Manhattan.
We passed the avenues, basically skipping the red lights. On occasion, I was forced to stop at intersections, to let a few cars pass across the intersection or to turn onto our street itself. It was on one of these stops, on the intersection of thirty-fourth street and eighth avenue, that I saw the Macy's mall being practically gutted. Cars were strewn along the street, in front of the large structure. People of all ages ran out through the numerous glass doors, holding all kinds of stuff in their arms: clothes, electronics, every kind of thing that the mall could possibly contain. They weren't turning on each other, they were working together, probably had rallied together bent on having as much as they could have in these hard times. Hundreds of people running frantically to their cars and getting ready to leave. God, Where were the cops?
Paul was bending a little towards me, looking out my window to see what was going on. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung slightly open. As I drove past the intersection, he returned to his position on the seat. Through the side-view mirror, I saw what I feared the most. Bright head-lights behind us, closing in at full-speed. I pressed harder on the accelerator, reaching over fifty miles an hour. Through the wide rear-view mirror, I saw that Charles and Alix were still unaware of the approaching cars behind us.
Alix was staring out her window, her face grumpy, her mouth set hard. She was probably still mad at me. Charles was also staring out his window, looking at the darkened buildings around us. And that's when I realized that most of the city was most likely empty of people. I glanced at Paul, to see what he was doing. He was hunched a little to the side, staring into the side-view mirror intently, his eyes were worried.
I looked into the rearview mirror again, to see how far from us the cars were now. Not too far, they seemed to be gaining actually. I pressed down on the accelerator, at the same time looking around to find a street into which I could turn and hide out until these guys passed us by. I was growing nervous and shaky. By then, Alix had realized the situation. Turn off the lights and turn without breaking. She suggested, obviously sensing the anxiety building inside of me. I was grateful and let her know with a smile. Going faster, I turned off the lights, breaking suddenly when an avenue came into view and letting go of the brakes so no one could see me turn. Pressing on the brakes right after we turned, I lunged forward with the momentum, the seat-belts held me back. Shutting the car off, I waited. Not long passed before the multitude of cars passed by quickly, one after the other, horns blaring, and people screaming and hanging wildly out their windows.
Alix and Charles turned to watch the passing array of headlights. Paul looked through the side-view mirror, shaking his head. After a while, no more cars passed. I turned the ignition, and also the lights. On reverse, I turned back onto thirty-Fourth Street. I sped forward across our hide-out street and drove again for a long time, out of New York City, and eventually, the state.
Continued in part IV
Katia N. Ruiz