Bill woke up to dawn’s light shining on his face through the crack in the bedroom’s curtained window. He quietly pulled the covers off, careful not to wake Sara who slept peacefully at his side. Walking to the bathroom, he dressed for work and then went into the kitchen, absently going through his normal routine of making coffee and eating cold cereal. Sitting at the kitchen table, he gazed out the window at the peaceful morning, tasting and smelling the rich coffee, waiting for his head to clear from the night’s shadows. Finished, he poured coffee into a well- worn thermos and left the house. His Ford Ranger started smoothly and Bill drove the long road to the Black Rock Hydro-Power Plant where he had worked for 20 years. He had hired on at the plant right after he married Sara. As he drove along the beautiful Black River he couldn’t help his thoughts which always strayed back to their lives together and the love he still felt for her. His revery was interrupted only when he got to the Plant and saw an unusual amount of activity in the parking lot for this time of the morning. The seven o’clock shift had just started so it was a surprise to see people milling about with an unusual amount of cars in the lot.
He got out slowly and walked to the entrance and was quickly greeted by his assistant, Mike who came hurrying out to meet him.
“So glad you’re here boss. Lots of things happening. Word is there’s a cavitation in the hydraulic turbine that seems more pronounced than normal.” Mike said.
“Why didn’t someone call me?” Bill said
“I was just about to but the higher ups just arrived. I know how prompt you are and didn’t have time.”
“Well, who called them?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know, but I bet it was that asshole Jenkins. He’s always looking for an opportunity to brown nose the higher ups and get his share of attention, ahem, promotion.” Mike mumbled the last couple words with obvious cynicism.
“Okay, Mike, let’s see what’s up”.
They walked into the plant and saw a dozen people, all standing around with clipboards, looking lost. When they saw Bill, they all looked up. He didn’t recognize most of the people, but he did recognize one woman and his stomach turned. It was a reporter from the local newspaper. “How did she get in here and who called her?” Bill said angrily.
“Someone called her.” Mike said, “I don’t know who.” She made a beeline for Bill, somehow knowing or perceiving he was in charge by his confident stand.
“Could you tell us what’s happening? Is there a breach in the dam? Is the town in danger?” She shouted to Bill, even though they were close enough for her to be heard in a normal voice.
“As you can see Ms.….? “
“Sheldon, Amy Sheldon, the Black Rock Gazette.”
“As you can see Ms. Sheldon, I just arrived and will need time to evaluate the situation although I assure you we are a safe plant and there is nothing to worry about.” Bill said as he walked quickly to his office, with Mike and now a half dozen people following him. He turned around and said “Please give me a minute folks, it’s going to take some time to sort out what’s happening.”
A heavy set man in his 50’s walked up aggressively to Bill. “I’m Earl Stanley from the Sacramento home office, we got an emergency call early this morning about a breach in the erosion of the main turbine. I need to know now what the severity of that breach is. All our systems check out, something is wrong and I need to know now!”
“Please Mr. Stanley, I need time to assess what’s happening. Give me 15 minutes. I can’t tell you anything until I know something.” Bill said trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice. “Mike, please show these gentlemen and Ms. Sheldon to the cafeteria and make sure they’re comfortable while I find out the details.”
“Sure boss. Right this way.” Mike said. Though begrudging, the crowd of officials and the reporter let themselves be led to the cafeteria by Mike, secretly glad to get a needed cup of coffee.
Bill turned into his office, shut the door and started making calls to the workers in charge of the turbines. He became alarmed when he couldn’t reach anyone. He shot out of his office and walked briskly to the main Power House trying not to show his panic to the workers around him. Once on the main floor, he was struck by how quiet everything was which didn’t help his fear. He soon saw the reason as he turned a corner. Three workers were laying on the floor, blood puddles and streaks everywhere. The superintendent in charge, Hank Jenkins was looking terrified standing next to a man who held a gun to his throat. The man, dressed in dark green clothes, had a vest on with explosives. He looked up at Bill and said, “Ahh, here’s the man in charge, just who I was waiting for. Mr. Jenkins here told me you’d be coming soon. He knew if he reported a breach it would get some attention down here” he said as he jammed the gun further into Hank Jenkins’s throat. “If you want to keep the rest of your workers alive and not have this whole plant, dam and all demolished, bring the reporter and the big boss from Sacramento and I will tell you my demands.” Bill tried to speak but the man quickly stopped him. “Don’t, don’t try and talk to me or I’ll shoot your man. Just get the reporter and the main boss who were called this morning and bring them here, NOW!” Bill turned around and ran to the cafeteria, no longer now trying to hide his panic. He arrived in time to see their startled faces as he ran up to them shouting. “Quickly, Mr. Stanley, Ms. Sheldon, come with me. We have a terrorist in the Power House and he’s threatening to blow up the dam.” He turned to Mike, “Call the authorities, call the Sacramento office, tell them what’s going on and evacuate everyone from the building! Tell them to head up the mountain.” Bill said. Not waiting to see his response, he hurried the two people from the cafeteria and they all ran to the turbines in the Power House. When he arrived, he saw the man in green pacing with his hands free. Jenkins lay on the floor a bullet in his head. Amy Sheldon screamed and Stanley went white. “Here they are, now what do you want?” Bill said as evenly as he could. “Please, don’t shoot anyone else. Let me call the paramedics”
“He won’t need a Doctor and neither will you if you don’t listen. I want two million dollars and a helicopter here to pick me up in 30 minutes or I blow the whole place. I’m here to stop the energy department from ruining anymore waterways and giving all our water away to the south. I’m the only one who can stop the insanity” he said, clearly insane and getting more excited as he talked. Reporter lady, make the call, now and you,” he pointed his gun at Amy, “come’re, I have a manifesto on this flash drive that you need to publish in your paper.” She slowly walked towards him, and took the drive. When she walked back, he said. “Go! Get busy.”
“What’s your name, what’s your plan?” she asked.
“It’s all in the flash drive I gave you, now go.” Amy quickly left the room and ran, trying to call 911. On her way out of the plant, she ran into Mike.
She said, “Can you show me how to get out of here?”
“Yes, let’s go together, I know a short cut up the mountain” There was mass chaos as workers were all making a mad dash out as warning sirens continued to go off. Amy and Mike rushed out together, and jumped into Mike’s Camaro Z28 speeding for higher ground.
When Bill returned to the Power House the man in green was on a long rant about the way water was being managed in the state. He talked on and on as if in a daze while Bill and Earl stood still. Bill was desperately trying to think of how to stop him and aware that Earl was acting strangely. The man in green suddenly remembered where he was. He pointed to Earl Stanley, “you, come here.” Earl stayed where he was, frozen in place. “I said, come here.” the man in green said. “I want to see up close the type of man who is responsible for the ruination of nature’s best natural resource.” Earl seemed to come out of a fog and started walking towards him. He was sweating as he walked to the man slowly. Bill saw with alarm that Earl began to clinch his fist as he walked and knew this was trouble. He seemed to be transforming from a statue to a bull as he picked up steam and then began running towards the man in green.
“Oh, no you don’t, you little piss ant commie greenpeacer! You will not do this here and now, you will not!” Earl screamed and with horror, Bill saw him slam into the man with all his might. The last thing Bill saw was a blinding light. The last thing he thought was of Sara. The last thing he felt was heat.
Amy and Mike were racing up the mountain road, past the dam when they heard the blast and saw the smoke billowing in the air. They pulled over to a side road and looked down. They saw the dam give way from the Black River Reservoir rushing down into the Valley, smothering the land. They stood in shock, unable to comprehend the disaster that they had just witnessed.
Abandoned House © Suzanne Lorenz 2015
Six months later Bill’s brother, Jim was finally able to make himself drive out from the mid-west to see what was left of Bill’s property and assess the damage. He felt an overwhelming sadness as he carefully drove onto the once beautiful estate. So much love and beauty had been there and now so much sorrow. The ground was covered in mud and debris from the flood that occurred when the dam broke. It was horrible. Garbage and sewage covered the fertile fields. The once beautiful house. now ruined and abandoned, was oddly still standing. He shook his head. Poor Bill, how could this have happened? They had worked so hard to build the house they both loved. He thought the worst was over for Bill when he lost Sara, so many years ago. They’d only been married 10 years when she died of cancer. Bill never seemed to get over the loss. He had loved her so much. Jim wondered if the house would ever live again.
Two Graves ©Suzanne Lorenz 2016