Katrina's Legacy

Note to the hard of thinking: This is a work of fiction! I live thousands of miles away from, and have never been to, New Orleans.

"Haven't you heard?" enquired the woman in the coffee shop as I turned up there during my morning break. I confessed that I hadn't.

"We've been ordered to evacuate! The whole city!" she continued, with the look of a gossiper rather than a worrier gracing her eyes.

"'Cos of the hurricane?" I asked. "Hah! We've had worse, and my house is still standing. I ain't running from some storm!"

"Yeah, well said!" She looked relieved, a strange expression to see from someone who hadn't even given a hint of being worried in the first place. "Usual?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

I tossed her the change for the coffee, and sat down to drink it and read the paper.

That was four days ago, and I haven't had a coffee or read the paper since. I don't even know if there's been a local paper since that morning. There is no food, no water... There's nothing at all up here, up on this slanting slate-tiled island above the world's new suburban sea.

I'd been right, of course - this house weathered the storm with hardly a scratch. It was built to withstand that kind of thing. Sadly, like pretty much everything else around here, it wasn't built to withstand six feet of flood water. The timbers below me creak alarmingly, as if the whole thing were about to slip its moorings and float down the road. I keep losing roof tiles, too - as every hour goes by there is less and less to stand on.

The sound of rotor blades overhead signals the return of the soldiers, the angels of death. They take us away slowly, one by one, sick and injured first. I'm still healthy, though, so I must sit here and watch others escape while I slowly dehydrate on my own roof.

They don't come to take away the dead. Those angels that arrive in boats search the houses, and paint red crosses on the doors of those in which they find bodies. It might be the closest to a headstone they ever get, the mark of an angel on their door as their bodies slowly rot away into the filthy water.

There's no hope left here; all the hopeful ones are long gone from this city.

A crashing sound from the distance indicates that the looters have found a nearby shop, somewhere that the water is shallow, and are liberating food and water for themselves.

I wonder if I should join them - after all, I'm just as much in need of supplies as they are.

There's no law here, now, just us. No justice, no mercy, no hope, no honour... Just the rats who can't escape their sinking ship.

Gunfire sounds in the distance, and I instinctively reach for the fully-loaded pistol wedged between my belt and the back of my jeans. It feels almost comforting to touch - my protection, my last remaining possession.

I made up my mind, and I don't regret it. I'm drenched from the swim - who isn't, in this city? - but I'm not hungry or thirsty any more. We're armed and dangerous and free, running the streets, alive at last in this monument to death.

A cloud of smoke blows over us, thick and choking, blown on the wind from the burning chemical plant by the lakeside. It obscures every sense. My ears are thick with it, my lungs burn and my eyes sting and water.

Through that haze I never noticed the armoured vehicle pull up behind me, never saw the marine aim his rifle, never heard his words - "Sir, please put down your gun. Put down your gun. This is your final warning, drop your-"

The smoke cleared as quickly as it had arrived, and I could hear again.

"-gun now!"

I turned, startled by the sudden shout. Turned towards the source of the noise. Not having heard the warnings, I kept the gun in my hand, finger on the trigger.

A single, sharp burst of noise.

A single, sharp sliver of metal.

And my world went black.

I was wrong, there is still one law here. Shoot to kill. For us and for them, the same. Shoot to kill.

No angels came to take me to heaven. Even the black angels with their guns and armour left me on the ground, forgotten, my body just another of Katrina's legacies.

There's no hope left here; all the hopeful ones are long gone from this city.

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