The elevators were jammed and Molly had to go down six flights of stairs in order to get outside after the floodwaters receded. Cars cluttered the streets, pointing every which way, some of them upside down, some lying on their sides, and the buildings sagged and tilted sideways. Doors gaped open on their hinges, showing cave-like interiors with splintered walls. Molly picked her way to the outskirts of the ruined city and across a strange, barren landscape. Her feet broke the crust of the sticky mud, and she trudged over rocks and bits of splintered wood that were all that remained of the stands of eucalyptus trees. For this expedition, she should have put on something practical like the gray coveralls she wore at work. She felt pretty in her pink angora sweater and matching bracelets, but they felt silly now. What was the point of preening, anyway? She had never been so alone. Where was everybody? Had they all drowned, or were they cowering in the ruined buildings? Two white towers in the distance looked familiar; she thought they might be part of the amusement park on the waterfront, but she wasn’t sure.
She was on a hard beach without any sand. The towers loomed over her like smokestacks on a sunken ship. Eerie, sinister music began to play, like a wheezing organ with holes in its bellows, and she caught her breath and froze. Danger! An arch like a gateway beckoned—safety was on the other side. If she could just make it through! She ran, feet slamming on the hard pavement. Just inside the arch stood a pair of gigantic conch shells, facing outwards, but as she drew near, they turned and aimed their points at her like guns or like spears, barring her way.