Her name was Patience. She was young, pretty, determined, and seemingly friendless. I might have been wrong, but I asked her if she had any friends she could call she said, “No.”
“No. I live alone.”
“I hook up with a few guys but… no. It doesn’t matter. I’m fine. Nobody will be looking for me, but everyone will be looking for you.”
After trying for a half hour to get a connection I finally got through to my wife Ava. I told her we’d been trapped in my office, underneath the building. Ava told me that two buildings had been bombed, and over 40 people had been shot. 24 were confirmed dead. The shooters were still at large. So far no parties had come out claiming responsibility. We told each other I love you. I told her to call the kids and tell them what had happened and that I’d be ok. I got off of the phone to save my battery. When I tried to call out a few minutes later to 911 I couldn’t get through to anyone.
A beautiful August day, the third day of school, started out like a typical day at the university. At 9:00 a.m. Patience Monroe had come in to see me about writing a letter of recommendation for graduate school. I liked Patience. She was smart, funny, and always the lead on team projects. She’d been in two of my classes, had a few internships with the department, and now was starting her Senior year. At 9:07 the building jolted with a deafening sound from the explosion. A narrow strip of emergency lights went on in the hallway. A sliver of light came through where a window was now covered in debris.
Campus emergency alerts rang over our phones. A lot of good that was going to do. We spent a half hour screaming at the top of our lungs in case anyone heard us. There was no response except the sounds of helicopters and sirens.
Patience had listened to me on the phone with Ava.
“How old are your kids?”
“Andrew is 17, a senior in high school this year. Chole in her second year at UC Merced.”
“Merced. Hmmm. Great school. I almost went there, but I wanted to be by the ocean. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. You know, college town, not a bad place to be, lots of arts and stuff, you know, go Big Red, but there wasn’t anything left there for me.”
“I didn’t know you were from Nebraska.”
“Yeah, then everyone died, so here I am, living the good life by the Pacific Ocean.”
“I’m sorry Patience, I didn’t know…”
“Don’t be sorry. They had a good life. Now I’m going to try to do the same. Um, I gotta go to the bathroom. I hope it wasn’t destroyed. I’ll be right back.”
She wandered down the dark hallway with a tiny flashlight she’d pulled out of her backpack. About ten minutes later she returned, but not alone. “Look who I found in the bathroom.”
Dr. Joanna O’Malley, one of the foremost experts in American Literature, came into my office. “Holy shit, Byron, I’m so glad to see you. I mean, not glad you’re trapped.
“It’s ok Joanna,” I said. “Is anyone else with you?”
“Yeah, Dave Harris and one of his grad students, Cody Wores. The room we were in collapsed. We’re all ok. Just some minor scrapes, and a lot of dust.” Joanna, a short round woman in her early 60’s looked as if she was ready to kill someone. In her hand was a metal pipe. She noticed I noticed it. “For protection, and I’m not afraid of using it.”
“Let’s go get Dave and Cody,” I said. “Patience, wait here in case anyone else comes along, or tries to get to us from the outside.”
“What if they have guns?” Patience asked.
“Hide under the desk,” I said. “You won’t need it but just in case, there is a sharp knife in my cooler. Apples too. Feel free if you get hungry. You’ll be safe. We’ll be right back.”
Dave and Cody were in a dark partially collapsed room. We brought them back to my office. After doing a little bit more exploring, I didn’t find anyone else in the basement offices, alive or dead.