The door flew open, and a wave of water shot across the floor slamming Wyn into the wall. She woke up coughing and flailing, her head going under before strong hands grabbed her and hauled her onto her feet.
“Come on, girl, we can’t stay here,” Clive said standing her up.
Wyn brushed the wet hair out of her face and stared at the two feet of water swirling around the room. Clive retreated to the door and held onto the sides as more water raged past him.
“Tay, where is she?” Wyn staggered back and forth, sweeping a hand through the water.
“She’s not here!” Clive reached back and pulled Mrs Cran out of her flat, the cat clinging to her chest. “We need to get to the stairs!”
“Tay, I can’t leave without Tay.”
Clive pointed urgently at the window behind Wyn just before he pulled Mrs Cran out of sight.
Wyn turned as something hit the glass. A dark cloud rose up from below, rushing towards the cracked window, but her mind couldn’t comprehend what it was, not until it was too late. The glass splintered as the wave hit and gushed into the room, knocking Wyn from her feet and sweeping her out of the room. She caught sight of Clive standing at the stairwell door, shouting at her but water flooded Wyn’s ears as she went under.
She rolled along the floor, thrashing her arms, and desperately trying to grab hold of something. Shards of glass cut her, and she banged against a wall, knocking the air from her lungs. Another wave crashed and she popped up long enough to take a breath before she was pushed back the way she’d come. Her back cracked on a corner and then she was falling, bouncing down steps before she hit another wall.
“Wyn, get up!”
The shout came from above and Wyn fought back against the water rushing around her. She grabbed hold of a metal railing and hauled herself onto her feet. A torrent of water rushed down the stairwell threatening to knock her feet out from under her. Mrs Cran peered over the steps reaching for her and Wyn glanced at the levels below to where the water was rapidly rising.
Wyn climbed onto the bannister and hauled herself up through the gap, squeezing through and onto the next set of steps. Clive and Mrs Cran were already on the move, climbing as fast as they could. More people were emerging from the next floor and Wyn did what she could to help.
“We have to reach the roof. Keep going up,” Wyn said as she held the door open. The last person came out and she sprinted up the stairs, encouraging everyone to keep moving.
“Did you see Tay?” Mrs Cran asked when Wyn caught up to her. She was holding the cat in one arm and a photo frame in the other. “She can’t swim, I just know she can’t. She’ll be scared.”
“She must have gone up already. We’ll find her.”
The water was climbing steadily up the steps, keeping pace with them. Wyn tried to think about what was happening, but every time she did, she could only imagine it was a dream and that she’d wake up back at Auntie’s.
“We have to hurry!”
A man collapsed on the stairs, dropping a stack of books clutched to his chest. He scrambled for them, but Wyn picked him up, adrenaline driving her on. They burst out onto the top floor and the covered walkway that connected the towers. Hundreds of people crammed into the wide corridor cowering from the windows as they cracked under the waves.
Clive and Mrs Cran walked among them searching faces and grasping the hands of those that had made it. Families huddled together, children crying as their parents stared dumbfounded at the world around them.
“Keep moving,” Wyn said putting a hand on Mrs Cran’s back. “We need to find somewhere for you to sit. When did this happen? I don’t understand how the water is so high.”
“It’s not going to end well,” Clive said, wide-eyed and ashen-skinned. “This is it.”
“You’ll be alright. It can’t get any higher. Look, over there.” Wyn pointed to an empty seat outside a cafe and helped Mrs Cran over to it.
“She’s got to be up here,” Mrs Cran said staring up at Wyn. “Leave us and go and find her.”
“I will, once I know the pair of you are safe.” Mrs Cran turned the photo around to show Wyn. Two men, one younger, the other older, the space between them obvious. “Your husband?”
Mrs Cran stroked the picture and a tear fell on the glass. The cat burrowed under her arm desperate to escape the noise.
“It will be alright, Doris,” Clive said. Someone gave up their chair and Wyn pulled it over so that he could sit down next to her. “We’re safe up here.”
“I don’t want Tay being alone,” Mrs Cran said. “She’s a good child. I wish I could have taken her in.”
“She can’t have gone anywhere else,” Wyn said searching the faces nearby.
“Go and find her. Please help her,” Mrs Cran said.
“Will you be okay?”
“We’ll be fine.” Clive smiled grimly at her. “You do what you got to do.”
Wyn bent over and kissed Mrs Cran on the cheek.
“You owe me a drink, remember?” Clive said grasping Wyn’s hand and winking at her.
“I haven’t forgotten,” Wyn fought back the tears. “I’ll be back with Tay.”
Wyn set off at a jog, searching the faces as she went. People were running across the bridge, braving the high winds that whistled through the smashed windows and dumping the rain inside so that it washed down on either side. Wyn held her breath and went for it. The water stung her face and whipped at her shirt. She could feel the bridge creaking beneath her feet, sagging in places but she reached the other side and found another cluster of people.
“Tay!” Wyn added her voice to the shouts as she hurried past.
She was about to go back when she caught a glimpse of a figure on the roof of the next tower. She pressed her face to the scratched glass and waited for a gap in the rain. It was Tay, caught in the storm but she was frozen like a statue, poised at the edge and looking down.
The centre of the Longsal was a choppy lake surrounded by the top few floors of the towers and the remaining bridges. Waves rolled in through the gap, each one battering the remaining bridges from the opposite side. Wyn ran on, sprinting past people in her haste to reach Tay.
She raced across a bridge as it creaked and shifted, battered by the waves as they sought to tear it apart. Wyn dug deep and sprinted for the other side as it gave way beneath her, each footfall barely landing before it fell away. She jumped the last few metres and slid across the wet floor, coming to a rest against a metal shutter. She was alone, everyone else having fled to one of the other towers or perished on the bridge. The door to the lift maintenance room swung open, banging against the wall, the wind howling through an open access hatch to the roof. Wyn took the ladder at a sprint, almost losing her grip as the winds caught her and threatened to knock her from the tower.
Tay was standing in the far corner staring down into the Longsal, hair whipping around her face, at where the garages would have been.
“Tay!” Wyn shouted as a gust of wind dragged her sideways. She gripped an aerial to stop herself from being thrown from the roof. “We have to get back inside.”
Tay turned her head and smiled at Wyn. “You don’t have to keep saving me.”
“Please, Tay!” Wyn screamed.
“I put my mind to sleep so that I wouldn’t hear the voices all around me, but I should have been listening. It was always so loud. I never understood my part in it. I couldn’t hear myself.”
“It’s not too late. We can make it.”
Another of the sky bridges collapsed as a wave topped one of the towers. Wyn shouted and reached over the water as people were carried out to disappear under the surface.
“Stop this, Tay, just stop this.”
Tay crouched beside Wyn, and it seemed as if the wind and the rain curved around them, leaving them in a sheltered bubble.
“Why can you never let go?” Tay said. “I promise you that the world to come is better than this one. We won’t grow old and die. We’ll remember everything. Just take my hand.”
Tay reached out and Wyn stared at her. She wanted to give in, close her eyes and fall asleep. She’d lost everything and everyone but Tay.
“I can’t,” Wyn said lowering her head.
“You’ll be the only one left. Once I’m gone, you’ll be alone.” Wyn felt Tay’s hand resting on the back of her head, her voice close to her ear. “Just trust me.”
“I’ll find you again.”
Tay pulled her hand away and stepped to the edge. Wyn looked up just in time to see her jump.
Wyn raced to the edge, searching the water but there was no sign of Tay.