I'm wet. My heart is racing as I scramble out of the water and climb, digging my fingers into the cracks and crevices in the cement wall. Gotta get out of the water. The thought is like a mantra, repeating endlessly in my head. And I am not alone.
There are dozens of others clinging to the ledges, huddling on the roofs of floating cars and they're all looking down...at the water. It's dark, like a creek when someone has run playfully through it and stirred up the sediment.
What stirs the sediment below is not playful, though.
As I lean back against the wall, my heels carefully balanced on the four-inch ledge, I too look down. Every now and then a ripple appears on the surface and we all watch it cut its path intently. No one breathes or dares to speak until it disappears again.
I'm dry now. It's been hours since I took my perch on the walls of the flooded tunnel. At least I'm near the entrance and have daylight to aid me. The screams of those further down, in the darkness, echo in the silence. A sudden gasp rips me from my thoughts and brings my attention back to the water. I freeze, terror stirring my heart on, at the sight of the glassy black eyes and moist brown flesh.
It's watching us.
Someone near bye whispers the scientific name for the fish as if dredging up a memory of some lesson learned in school. All I care about is its immense size; it looks like a plecostomus only it's the size of a school bus. After a moment the head of the fish plops back beneath the waters surface, as though it's saying just checking.
I have to get out.
Once the water is still again I ease down the wall. All eyes are on me now. Slowly I enter the cold water, careful not to disturb the surface too much. I don't know what lies beneath. Submerged, I begin swimming towards the entrance. Oddly I'm able to see clearly under the water. I can make out the sunken cars and the people trapped within moving in the slight current.
I come up for air and hear a frantic, "Don't move!" Inhaling deeply I go limp, my body sinking slowly to the asphalt below. I can see the shadow passing over me and find myself turning and staring at the underbelly of the largest shark I've ever seen.
Feeling safe below it and out of its line of vision, I begin my slow swim into daylight. Outside the tunnel I can make out a chain link fence and I head for it. My lungs are burning with need as I grip the metal links. Something touches my shoulder.
I jerk around and come face to face with a man. His skin is tinted blue but he's smiling at me. I know there are gills but I don't bother looking for them. "You will stay here," he says.
I glance up at the surface, he smiles at me and repeats his message and then he's gone. Looking around I see no threats so I start my climb towards the light, towards air and hopefully safety. When I break the surface I hear a cheer from above. After filling my lungs with new air I notice a ledge with some people on it, and I climb even higher.
Once dry again I walk around the building they live in. It feels like some abandoned castle with a monster filled moat below. There are fifty people living here, safer above than below. Spotting a little blonde girl on her tiptoes I head towards her and scoop her up. She wants to look at the water below.
"I used to live there," she says pointing to a broken window several floors down that is partially submerged.
We lean out the window together; I grip her little waist so she's safe. My heart flip-flops when I see something moving from inside the window. It looks like the back end of an eel, and like the rest of the creatures it is of monstrous proportions.
I back peddle out of the little room, already I see its snake-like head coming up out of the water swinging this way and that. I spin around and scream at everyone to run. A woman and I take off as everyone stares in horror at the head, now level with the windows.
We fly down stairs, across hallways and nearly to the next building when I stop and look down. I'm clutching a doll and not the little girl. I look at my friend and whisper, "Amelia..." Fighting the escaping crowd we run back for little Amelia.
She's huddled in a corner of the room, just under a window. When she sees me she runs and leaps into my arms. As I disappear around a corner I hear the breaking of stone and glass, the eel had finally broken through the wall. We won't get far. Frantically we search for a place to hide. I spot a small couch and begin ripping the pillows and cushions off of it. Amelia lies down and we cover her until only the edges of her dingy brown dress are showing.
My friend and I look around the room, then at one another. There's nowhere to hide.