Thursday, September 01, 2005

This Moment of the Storm

--by Roger Zelazny, 1966

Candles burned, churches burned, people drowned, beasts ran wild in the streets (or swam there), houses were torn up by the roots and bounced like paper boats along the waterways, the great wind came down upon us, and after that the madness.

It rained buckets, it rained vats; it rained swimming pools and lakes and rivers. For awhile it seemed that it rained oceans upon us. This was partly because of the wind which came in from the gulf and suddenly made it seem to rain sideways with the force of its blasts. It began at about noon and was gone in a few hours, but when it left our town was broken and bleeding. Wyeth lay on his bronze side, the flagpole was gone, there was no building without broken windows and water inside, we were suddenly suffering lapses of electrical power, and one of my eyes showed three panda-puppies devouring a dead child. Cursing, I killed them across the rain and the distance. Eleanor wept at my side. There was a report later of a pregnant woman who could only deliver by Caesarean section, trapped on a hilltop with her family, and in labor. We were still trying to get through to her with a flyer, but the winds... I saw burning buildings and the corpses of people and animals. I saw half-buried cars and splintered homes. I saw waterfalls where there had been no waterfalls before. I fired many rounds that day, and not just at beasts from the forests. Sixteen of my eyes had been shot out by looters. I hope that I never again see some of the films I made that day.

We watched the gallery on the wall. Man is the reasoning animal? Greater than beasts but less than angels? Not the murderer I shot that night. He wasn't even the one who uses tools or buries his dead. --Laughs, aspires, affirms? I didn't see any of that going on. --Watches himself watch himself doing what he knows is absurd? Too sophisticated. He just did the absurd without watching. Like running back into a burning house after his favorite pipe and a can of tobacco. --Devises religions? I saw people praying, but they weren't devising. They were making last-ditch efforts at saving themselves, after they'd exhausted everything else they knew how to do. Reflex.
The one who loves?
That's the only one I might not be able to gainsay.
I saw a mother holding her daughter up on her shoulders while the water swirled about her armpits, and the little girl was holding her doll up above her shoulders, in the same way...I know that it is what made me leave my post, running, and what made me climb into Eleanor's flyer and what made me fight my way through the storm and out to that particular scene.
I didn't get there in time.
I shall never forget how glad I was that someone else did. Johnny Keams blinked his lights above me as he rose, and he radioed down:
"It's all right. They're okay. Even the doll."
"Good," I said, and headed back.

Hurricane Katrina relief links:

Red Cross Donations
Salvation Army Online Donations
Refugee housing via MoveOn
ACORN Hurricane Recovery
NAACP Disaster Fund
America's Second Harvest
Many more links are here
Response is slow at some organizations' websites because of high traffic. Be patient and keep trying.
If you're healthy, donate blood.

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