It was a Friday at the Winterfell office of Steampunk Explorer in Laudanum and I was about to sneak out early to spend a quiet weekend at my Caledon retreat on the shores of Cape Wrath. But the best laid plans… A dispatch arrived with news of a terrible storm in New Toulouse. As a homeowner in that fine city I had no choice but to go and assess the situation.
Upon arrival it was clear that this was no mere rainstorm. A hurricane had struck and there was much activity as people boarded up their windows and placed sandbags at their doors. I immediately followed suit. I spent the evening by the wireless, cup of soup in hand, monitoring the weather bulletins. In the morning, though the wind and rain were strong, I could not resist the temptation to get a first hand look at their effect on the city.
The streets of New Toulouse proper were empty. Shops were closed but the bars were open. I had heard a report that things up north in the Bayou were already quite bad. Only a fool – or an explorer – would venture up there under such conditions. I put my new rowboat in the channel and headed north.
On the way I encountered Mr. Denny Kozlov who had come from Caledon after reading a dispatch I had sent. We paddled close enough to each other to discuss which way to proceed through the high water. I chose to head up through the inland river and he to approach from the western edge of the Bayou. We wished each other luck.
Along the way I offered help to a couple of locals though there was not much one could do at that point. They declined to evacuate but were grateful to hear news of how the city was faring. I rowed home, leaving my boat alongside the canal that separates New Toulouse proper from Bourbon parish. The channel waters were rushing wildly but their level was not much higher than normal.
I live just across the channel from Mari Moonbeam’s bistro in Bourbon. She had been to Babbage where she got a good deal on boards for her windows. She remarked (in a colorful manner) how much more expensive the lumber would have been in Caledon. Her place was surrounded by sandbags and she was preparing coffee and donuts for rescue workers and other stragglers. Back at the house things were holding up well except for a minor leak from the roof
A few hours later the city streets of Bourbon parish were underwater and there was some water in the streets of New Toulouse proper too but most buildings were still dry at ground level. An invitation went ‘round by word of mouth of a Hurricane Party at Le Vieux Canal Jazz Club up in Algiers parish. In the three months I have had a home in these environs I have found that the locals are never at a loss for a reason to party. At this point my only options were to huddle in my boarded up house alone by the radio until the electricity gave out and await the waters to enter my living room – or to go hear hot music and enjoy the company of others in Algiers – the highest ground in New Toulouse. Off I went.
The party was a smashing affair and very well attended. I joined in with the band and, though I had not played the bass fiddle since my school days, I was able to keep up. The music director, the famed Gabrielle Riel, displayed a touch of dark humor, calling one song about rain and water and wind after another. The musicians were wailing, the people were dancing, the liquor was flowing…and then the zombies attacked!
I was not aware of what was going on outside when Mr. Breitman suddenly leaped up from the piano and headed for the door calling, “Keep the music going Mr. Whitfield.” I happily obliged until Abi and Amber, the club’s owners, began passing around the moonshine. It was my first taste of this famous local concoction and it certainly packed a punch! As I drank someone shouted, “New Babbage has sent naval assistance!” I assumed this was to help with hurricane relief and I went to the window to see. Had the music and partying not been so loud I would already have heard the sounds and not been so shocked at the sight of Mr. Breitman, rifle in hand, firing away at the dreaded zombies with the help of other locals and navy personnel from Babbage, including the Commodore. The fighting went on for some time but it didn’t stop the music and dancing. I saw one zombie take a direct hit and fall into the river. The militia seemed to have things under control so as the bullets passed by the window I returned to the safety of the bandstand. Such a wild time!
Back in New Toulouse proper the streets were now full of water but the sandbags at my door were still holding. I read several messages left by friends who had come calling while I was gone. Robyn came from the mainland and watched the channel rise from a bridge connecting to Bourbon. Seamus had come to take a tour but was unprepared, not expecting a storm of this magnitude. He had taken refuge in my guest house for a time and left a note, “Danko, are you sure you want to live in a place where such a thing as this can happen? Please send word when it’s over so I know you have survived.” Ms. Macchi, late of Winterfell, had explored the parishes more than once during the storm. While the streets were flooded she noted that the streetcar (named Desire) continued to operate. “Such service!” she wrote.
Much as I felt the need to remain and keep watch over the house there were a couple of items on my calendar and I thought a break from the intensity of the situation might be healthy. I ventured back to Winterfell and up to Ray Weyland’s estate for a party featuring a performance by Mr. Weyland, a noted writer and singer of songs in the acoustic style. It was my first chance to hear him and what a pleasant time it was. His relaxed presentation of original songs and a fine selection of familiar tunes was the respite I needed. I wore my steaming top hat with the settings on a purple hue in tribute to Winterfell and watched the dancing and hummed along.
Afterward I left on a brief journey to a faraway place on another grid. I found my way to Lost Pages, the lands Ms. Macchi has told me about so often. She is resettling there and so I established a time link and had transported there for a preliminary look. After further investigation I shall record my observations here.
On the return trip from that world I encountered a burp or “glitch” in time that had me back in New Toulouse in daylight. This was the “eye” of the storm – blue skies, gentle breeze. The water in the city streets was much higher now and I knew what that meant. When I got to the house it was just as I’d thought, the ground floor had flooded. Worse yet, long time residehnts of the city had told me that the worst of a hurricane comes after the eye passes. They were right.
The skies darkened and the wind picked up. The rain returned, the thunder and lightning too. The storm was at its height when I foolishly decided to venture outside for one more look. The rowboat was tied up in front of the house and was filling with water. I climbed in anyway for what turned out to be a very short trip. As I passed the cemetery I saw three zombies staggering about. It would have given me the chills if the hurricane had not done so already. Now that intrepid street car was approaching. A strong gust came up and pushed me toward it. I lost control of the boat and slammed into the street car, nearly capsizing. Struggling to right the tiny vessel I paddled as hard as I could back toward the house and looked up to see a tornado coming right down the middle of the street. This was absolutely unexpected and I paddled even more furiously, narrowly escaping the twister. The zombies, the streetcar, the tornado had all appeared in the space of five minutes or so. I got the message and took shelter. I stayed in the house for the remainder of the storm.
This storm is like none I have seen in all my years. I have heard tell of storms such as these and have experienced some hurricanes in the past but this was surely the worst. It was so mighty the local authorities chose to give it a name, Hurricane Adolphe. A proclamation was issued that all hurricane-level storms in New Toulouse in the future will be given a moniker following the letters of the alphabet. The next shall begin with B, then C and so on.
It is now Sunday afternoon and Adolphe is gone for good. As I write this, the sky is blue, the winds are near normal and the water in my living room is nearly waist-deep. I took a tour by rowboat thru New Toulouse proper, up to the Bayou and back via Bourbon parish to view the damage. Tonight I will give a prayer of thanks that no lives were lost and tomorrow, if the water recedes, the clean up will begin.
I hope never to paddle down these streets again. I hope the next time I see that blasted street car I am riding it through the city. I could go back to Cape Wrath, where I’d hoped to spend a quiet weekend, to enjoy the few hours the weekend has left but I don’t think the sounds of the sea are what I want to hear right now. Nor do I want to look at any water for awhile. So I’m off to my main home in Winterfell Laudanum for a stiff drink and some much needed rest.