The grain elevator protected them from the Omega dust and the rain. It could not protect them from the Mississippi Sea.
“Do you feel anything odd?” Jerry inquired.
“Yeah, the building is leaning toward the river.”
“When I told you how the Mississippi now connects to Hudson Bay, one thing made no sense until this very moment. That was how Burlington, at five hundred feet elevation could suddenly be sitting on the seashore. That could only happen if we’re on the edge of one hell of a deep crack in the earth. We should improvise backpacks for a few things. We’ll want both our arms and legs free in case we have to go swimming.”
His journal, rations, and water secure in bags strapped to his back; Steve made his way to the high side of the building. He followed Jerry on down the gallery to the access hatch, and they climbed out on the roof.
“Shouldn’t we try to get to the ground somehow?” Steve wanted to know.
“That idea could kill us. Omega dust may still be on the lower floors. Also, the stairs are over toward the river side. When this place falls into the water, I don’t want to have to deal with being underwater and this whole structure on top of me.”
Just then, the building lurched toward the river, making both of them grab for support. Steve looked over at Jerry.
“How about if we get ready to swing onto the bluff side of the building? We would need to time it to when the building gets to a forty-five-degree angle.”
“Now you finally came up with a good idea, Steve. Give yourself a promotion. Hell, if we live through this, I’ll give you the newspaper.”
It felt like the grain elevator was holding together. The ground beneath it was another problem. There was a strange vibration, something like when the New Madrid earthquakes were going on.
“Underwater landslide?” Steve gasped, as he tried to maintain his grip on the corner of the building.
“That would be my guess,” came the rasping reply.
The building tipped again. At this point, the edge of the roof seemed the highest point on the building.
“Looks like forty-five degrees to me,” Jerry puffed, and flipped around so he was hanging against the increasingly horizontal side wall.
Steve followed as fast as he could, and not a moment too soon, as the grain elevator capsized in slow-motion, not even making much of a splash as it hit the water. They were at the south end of the building. The other end turned out from the shore in a ponderous fashion. Steve could feel the place scraping along the bottom. They were heading slowly toward where the bridge had been. Steve suddenly noticed Jerry was walking along the wall. He was going toward the end of the building still hugging the shore. Steve stood up and followed as fast as he could, avoiding windows and spots that looked weak.
Just as he caught up to Jerry, the building stopped, knocking him over. He could hear the concrete grain bins grinding against something, and the whole structure shuddered. Steve saw they were at the location of the downed bridge span. The wooden beams began to splinter and rotate in unexpected directions. Finally, the place collapsed. It must have been in slow motion, since both he and Jerry found themselves deposited on the shore, with little more than scratches.
They both hurried uphill away from the wreckage, which now looked like a strange sort of pier going into the water. Jerry looked at Steve.
“So what are you going to do now? We’ll need to get on up the bluff. The first time our little ocean here decides to get storms and such things, this whole area is likely to get very wet.”
Steve felt giddy, realizing he was still alive, and his poor reactions took over once more. “We can divide the town between us. The grain elevator can now function as a pier. Maybe we can get cruise ships to stop here. We can sell margaritas to the tourists here on the beach beside the new sea.”
Jerry laughed and shook his head. “You’ll wait a long time for those cruise ships. In the meantime, I suggest you finish writing about all these events.”
He paused, and then added, “Survivors might come through here. Just remember terrorists might still be wandering around. Also, wild animals will become a problem. The Omega bug might have bothered them, but it will not kill them. Oh, you’ll need to go scrounging for food and supplies. When you do, be very careful. Any little piles of dust you find may very well be the Omega bug.”
Steve suddenly sobered. “Those who show up here are as likely to want us dead as alive. Maybe we ought to stick together for a while. One of us might see what the other misses.”
Jerry agreed, and Steve turned back to look at the sun sparkling on the waves of the Mississippi Sea. Maybe they could survive in this strange new place. If they could learn quickly and if luck favored them, it was possible. At least he could hope. Yeah, there was always hope.
The End … for now.
Steve may have further adventures in Steam & Trust, Book 5 of Dust & Cannibals