The Cloud

For the first two days afterwards the smoke was thick, drifting between buildings and obscuring much of anything from view. The power was out, of course. Properly out, so no cell phone towers to relay signals. A few people probably had access to battery-operated televisions or radio and could pick up signals from farther out, but only a few. More than a few went down stairs and fire escapes and out into the streets – to find family and friends, to find food, to find help for themselves or for others. They were the brave ones. But not the smart ones. They did not come back. On the second night, the rain came. A thunderous storm, like God’s wrath. Sound and fury. It signified nothing, for his wrath had already been done.

The morning came and the smoke was gone from the air above, but down below something like it remained. Reaching almost to the fourth floor, it was thick, dark and somehow angry. The city above looked like it had broken through a storm cloud – the sun was out, and here and there people were standing on balconies and terraces. There were smiles. There was relief. Those who looked out over the city, still standing, felt that everything was going to be okay. Back inside, those who stood on fourth floor landings and looked over balconies and down stairwells and stationary escalators into the cloud, just as thick indoors as it was out on the streets, were not so sure.

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