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The sudden flood washed out the grid of civilization, made flotsam of mailboxes and fence posts and so much else. In both its surging nature and fecal color, the river gave the area the look of an open sewer, and even a hundred feet up in the Channel 7 Skywitness chopper, Ian could detect a fetid stench.
Awed by the fury he witnessed, Ian aimed the video camera he shouldered. The flood waters had nearly engulfed the neighborhood's single-story dwellings, whose roofs now suggested wedge-shaped rafts. From Ian's panoramic viewpoint, the scene below exemplified paradox: inundated, and yet starkly desolate. Except--yes, over there...
Ian turned to signal to his partner, but Charlie had already seen for himself and moved to pilot the helicopter accordingly. The object of their attention: a slender, middle-aged man--apparently one of the few who'd lacked the wisdom or initiative to evacuate--squatting on the apex of his roof. Barefoot, wearing a sopping, sleeveless T and a skewed toupee reminiscent of a drowned rodent, the man sat hugging his blue-jeaned knees. Chin tucked to chest, he slowly rocked on his haunches, no doubt meditating on the extent of his property damage.
The man sat there so huddled, he didn't even notice the shadow cast onto him by the helicopter as it hovered overhead like some outsized dragonfly. Finally, the rhythmic thunk of the propellers drew him alert. After craning his neck, he unfolded his gangly frame and stood gesturing. But the upraised arms weren't scissoring, Ian realized. Rather than beseeching attention, the man was waving them off. Silently urging them to leave him be for the time being, to go search out others who might be caught in more dire straits at the moment.
Awash with admiration of such utter selflessness, Ian kept recording. His thoughts flashed to tonight's news; this captured footage would make for a great human interest story.
He quickly nixed the idea, though, when he saw the first of the bodies come floating out the various apertures of the swamped home. The corpses--none of which were fully clothed or limbed, and all of which had long since ballooned and blackened--moved as leisurely as the faux boats in an amusement park Log Flume. Ian expected them to be swept up by the current and sent racing down the submerged street like entrants in a grotesque regatta; instead, the bodies all ended up snagged by tree branches or folded around telephone poles. The unruly Sabine proceeded to roll the corpses onto their sides, until the baker's dozen all appeared to lay facing toward the same roof-bound figure. Sunken, unblinking eyes stared distantly, leaving the stranded man cowering, and Ian wondering if the deluge of the past few days hadn't in fact brought an end to a terrible reign.
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