watery doom

Aug. 8th, 2006 05:11 pm
kespernorth: (eh?!)





Okay, I'm awake. What the fuck is that noise?


...That's the fire alarm, isn't it.


There weren't any notices about an alarm test today were there? No.


I really hope that isn't just our alarm going off and waking everyone up. I guess I'd better put some pants on and find out.


Nope. It's the whole building.


There's no smoke, but I guess I'd better get dressed and go outside.


I make it to the hallway.


Oh, fuck. The cat.

Some of you may be wondering why, at this point, I stopped and went back for a housepet, risking my life and limb for something which is not, well, not to put too fine a point on it, human.

You have to understand the very deep and special relationship that Allyson and I have with our cat. Namely, we love and adore her with an obsessive, all-consuming passion, and she ignores us except when she wants food, or treats, or something to bite. The more she ignores us, the deeper our obsession grows. We will stare at her adoringly for hours, like some poor benighted otaku trawling the web for pictures of his favorite actress, knowing that no matter how long we look or how hard we try, we will never, ever get to touch her. We will never know the ecstasy that is feline companionship. We can only dream of what it must be like to have a cat seek you out, jump into your lap and ask to be petted. We can only watch in awe as she drapes herself luxuriantly around the apartment and moves from pose to pose, finding new configurations of impossible, unattainable beauty. If you try to touch her, she will slither out of you grasp more effectively than any ten beefy bodyguards could hold you back from the object of your affections.

We are pet papparazzi, and Saga is our Princess Diana.

With that understood, let me continue my tale of woe. That's how the day started: with a horrendous klaxon sounding as I struggle into a pair of sandals and stumble around the apartment trying to find the cat, who has of course hidden herself somewhere utterly unknowable after being startled out of her wits by the horrendous noise. I grab her cat carrier out of the loft storage area and start moving things around in it, trying frantically to find her. But I can't see her. Crap, where is she? Is she under the bed? In the couch? I toss the cat carrier on the floor and practically hop off of the loft in my haste, not knowing if the building is going up in flames. It's been at least three minutes now.

I grab a box of her treats and start rattling it as I look for her. Under ordinary circumstances, she would be summoned almost instantly by this sound. But she fails to appear, so I start frantically hauling boxes out from under the bed in hopes of spotting her. No luck.

Five minutes, now. I can hear people running in the halls.

Minute six has me flipping the couch over in case she's hiding in its lining. Nope.

Minute seven and I'm back up in the storage area, the only place left where she could be, rattling the box. I still can't find her. I go back downstairs, seriously concerned at this point, and check under the bed again. As I do so I see her running down the loft steps in the corner of my eye, making a beeline for under the bed.

Minute eight: Grab cat by neck. Hold all limbs. Stuff into cat carrier.

Minute nine: Run out the door. Make it to the door by minute ten. Note that my feet got slightly wet along the way. Is someone's sprinkler going off? Crap.

There's a group of other residents assembled outside, talking in bemused tones. Saga starts mewing frantically at the sight of strange people, and a nice English lady tries to talk to her and tell her what a pretty cat she is. This of course freaks her out even more, and her mews increase in volume and stridency.

I look around and note that while all of the cat owners appear to have brought their cats, none of the dog owners have theirs. The annoying white Samoyed puppy downstairs is not present, though its owners are. The lady with the German Shephard has no German Shepard with her.

One man holds his bicycle protectively.

"So what's going on?" I ask the lady standing next to me. The cats in her carrier are silent, looking nonchalant in counterbalance to Saga's terrified attempt to compress herself into a paste at the back of her carrier, eyes wide and staring as she mews in distress.

"I'm not sure. I don't think there's a fire. There's water streaming down the walls in 114, though."

"Could be the sprinklers are going off in 214 or 314," says one of the other residents. "The people in those units aren't home, though."

"Has anyone called the fire department?"

"The alarm system called them already."

"But it's been like fifteen minutes, shouldn't they be here by now?"

"You'd think."

A woman pulls out her celphone and calls 911. A couple of minutes later, we hear sirens approaching, and kitted-out firemen troop into the building, prepared to do battle. A tall, slender gay couple join us all outside. "It's terrible. Our whole place is flooded. Water's coming out of the ceiling, down the walls..." I'd already seen a damp patch on the hallway carpet.

A fireman taps at the fire alarm system's control panel, and the horrendous noise finally ceases. A moment later, one of the firemen comes down with the verdict:

"The water heater in 214 let go. We've shut off water to it. There's no fire, you can all go back to your units if you like." My eyes widen: 214 is my next-door neighbor. Shit. He was looking for a job a few weeks ago. I sure hope he found one; otherwise he's going to be in a world of financial hurt.

Following the crowd back inside, I glance into 114, as its door is sitting open. The floor looks like an uneven tennis court after a hard rain: big deep puddles, water dripping from the ceiling. I can see curling, damp artwork bleeding on the walls, already a total loss. The two young men who live there are trying to get their plasma TV off the wall before more water drips down on it.

I go back to our condo and let Saga out of the hated cat carrier. She flees immediately into the safe confines of the couch and will not leave, not even for treats. It will be hours before she emerges after this trauma. This afternoon, I saw a small note slipped into the crack in the door to 214. I wince in sympathy, imagining the horror that awaits my neighbor when he gets home from work. I learn later that water was even running into the electrical and telco closet in the garage. The damage, while nowhere near as severe as a fire could have been, is not trivial. I await the community association reports with trepidation, and comfort myself with the fact that the cat, at least, survives.


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Kesper North

February 2011

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