The end was near. We all knew it, though some still screamed denials.
I led my family down the center of the street, staying away from the sidewalks and alleys. We kept the children in the center, while the adults encircled them with weapons ready. We'd fought twice already, once with another family and once with a group of men. My brother lay dead three streets back; when his wife wouldn't leave his side, we left her behind. The steady rain hid their forms from sight, but I carried that last glimpse with me.
Once, I would have prayed that she would be safe. Now... I could only hope, and I hoped with all my heart that her end would be quick and painless.
The rain continued its relentless descent, weighing us down, trying to drive us into the earth. The street was a steady stream, as deep as my ankle. We struggled against it, up the hill and away from the docks. One of the children slipped; another helped her up. Nobody slowed their pace.
The forecasters hadn't predicted this downpour. They had been as surprised as anyone when it came - maybe more so, not that it mattered. Surprised by its appearance, surprised by the way it covered everything, surprised by the way it never let up. We'd had stormy weather before, to be sure; but this was different. A week of storms was one thing, but this was one unbroken storm, and it had been going on for nine days, now. None of the forecasters could say when it would end; at least one swore that it wouldn't, not until it had consumed the world and everything in it.
We passed a shattered church and kept going. Two days ago, the steady flooding had chewed through the foundations and collapsed the building, crushing the minister and a crowd of devout worshipers; but still there were people clambering over the rubble, screaming for rescue and salvation. Their wails were audible even over the steady roar of falling rain.
No place was safe. Houses and places of business were targets, not shelters. The streets were even more dangerous. The docks... everyone wanted to get to the docks. Everyone wanted passage on a boat. Never mind that half the ships were gone, swept down the river and splintered by floating debris or underwater obstructions. Never mind that the docks themselves were half-shattered and sagging. Never mind that the remaining boats were overwhelmed with passengers, packed almost too tight to breathe. The docks were a steady riot of desperate violence. We wouldn't stand a chance there.
So we went in the only direction we could: the crazy old man in the hills. It was madness, but what choice did we have? There was no other way to go, no other way that we might survive. Not unless the rain stopped, and it showed no sign of doing that. So the old man was crazy - so what? So we'd all laughed at him - so what? If he'd done what he said he was doing, he was our only chance.
Continued in Part Two...