As she walked, careful always to land on one of the many steps set for the tourists not to fall into the floodwater, she thought of the whole thing as very funny. Well, it wasn’t really funny if you thought about it, but there was some humor in seeing a bunch of people that looked like tourists (flip flops, maps, binoculars and big backpacks included), crossing a large square at five in the morning, all in their version of a pajama. To the native, the people from Venice, Jean knew all of he situation looked funny as hell. I mean, they had been staying in a hotel that wasn’t very good and now the hotel was slowly decaying into the lagoon. That was the part that wasn’t so funny and maybe the one that worried the neighbors and the people in general more.
Jean tried to stop smiling like a fool and asked her brother Peter to take her hand, as they finally reached the other end of the square and waited behind a long line of people to continue their journey through Venice. It was a late tour of a city that Jean hadn’t particularly loved. She had noticed how many lovers and people who adored romance could see all the beauty of the place but she had founded boring after only two days. And she had to stay there with her brother for a week until their parents arrived to Europe. They would meet them somewhere and share a city, most likely Paris, and then go back home. Jean at least thought the midnight tour to the replacement hotel was the best thing that had happened in a while.
Her brother wasn’t of the same mind. He was very worried about people that were older that them and had to be at the end of the line, being helped by the people from the hotel. He was one of those people that care about everyone but himself, which is always seen as a very good thing but his sister thought it was his worst trait. He cared about others so much he wasn’t able to see when his own family or even himself was on trouble. For a time, he had been in a very difficult financial situation but he had failed to address it as he was using the few bucks he made to help a poor family. His family had to intervene because he was about to lose it all because of his kindhearted nature.
When most people had finally crossed the square, the people from the hotel indicated with lights the way they should follow to get to the replacement hotel. Apparently, according to a map Jean had, the place was crossing the side of Venice they were on. So they started walking and thought it wouldn’t be long until they had a bed to sleep in, as the city wasn’t so big. They thought, initially, that the city would be asleep and quiet as the roamed around, but the truth was just the opposite. They could her people talking in Italian very fast, some people going around the streets and disappearing with ease. Something was wrong, they could all feet it. Maybe the news about their hotel had spread.
But it wasn’t about their hotel. At one turn, they heard a woman screaming at the top of their lungs from a building. Peter, savior to all, was about to run and save her but she was just an older woman being dramatic. Her building was fine and if she could scream like that there was nothing really bad going on. The explanation to her screaming came in the form of a gossip, which came from the back, where an older man had been hearing the radio since he had gotten out of the hotel. He wasn’t very good at Italian but he could easily understand from what he was hearing that other buildings in the city had started to sink like their hotel. When the news reached the front, people just stopped and some even fell to the floor, causing a small chaos when people got pushed and stepped on.
But the people from the hotel ignored the news and just asked people to keep on walking. Eventually, they reached Campo de la Maddalena, a very small open space were they could feel a little less trapped and were people were able to just sit down on the floor and have something to drink and eat. The hotel people still weren’t talking about the news but they were talking amongst themselves and they looked very worried. Their hand gestures were enough to confirm the news. Then, screaming some more news, the older man told the crowd that tram and train service had been cut off and that the bridge to the mainland was only open to buses getting people out of the islands.
Some people checked their maps with haste and realized that the train station wasn’t that far away, and as the road ran alongside of the tracks, maybe they could be able to walk to the mainland or at least reach on of those buses. They formed a little committee and send a person to talk, which happened to be Peter as he was deeply concerned for everyone around him. He talked to the people from the hotel and tried to convince them to go to the train station or the bus station instead of the other hotel. They heard what he had to say but then explained they couldn’t do anything that wasn’t approved by the company. So they had to ask first.
One of the staff, a very young man, called on his cellphone and started speaking a very fast Italian, trying to get as far from people as he could. Everyone could see him gesturing and trying to convey every thought in what he had to say but then he turned to everyone. He was one of those very pale people but now he seemed to look even paler. He hung up, walked towards the crowd and demanded their attention. He had received orders to get them to the replacement hotel as some areas of the city were beginning to flood, namely the train and bus stations. He had also received news that their hotel had fully collapsed into the water, as it was located just at the Grand Canal.
People stood up to keep on walking but others thought it wasn’t a very good idea to stay. Their best chance, they said, was to get to the mainland by anyways possible. But it has to be explained that those who said that were young tourists, people that could walk and run if they needed to. Most of the people that wanted to do as the hotel said were older and they couldn’t afford to go hopping around without a real plan or a real way of doing nothing. Peter intervened, saying the most important thing for everyone was to be safe and that the elderly were first. Then a battle of voices ensued and Jean was bothered now by the fact her brother always needed to be a hero instead of trying to worry for his own.
She was decided to leave that place. As people argued, she took a look at her map and realized it was all very near: the bus station was probably only fifteen minutes away, less if they made good time. So she decided that she would walk and try to get into one of the buses. Then, a very loud sound interrupted the voices and the thoughts. Something was doing a very haunting noise, like of something about to snap. Some people even felt the environment move a little, like shaking beneath their feet. Then, they knew something bad had happened because the sound was awful and it seemed like a thousand people screamed at the same time. Some people fled, others couldn’t. Jean grabbed Peter and ran.
He fought her initially but then stopped opposing her and just looked over his shoulder from time to time. Some others were running, and then walking with them. They crossed a canal and noticed there were many bricks and pieces of walls and roofs floating on it. They reached the train station and were amazed to see it partially collapsed. That may have been the reason why the closed it, and not for just safety. They crossed the square in front of it, crossed another bridge and then reached the bus station. The place was full of people and they were all complaining. Apparently, there were no buses there to get to the mainland. Some policemen could be seen on the rooftop of a building, possible trying to control what couldn’t be controlled.
For Jean, the response was simple and it got simpler when people started screaming because they started to fill the puddles of water grow larger beneath their feet. Again, Jean grabbed her brother and pulled him through the crowd following the road. People were so scared they were barely moving, others had taken the route Jean had thought to be the only way out: just follow the road to the mainland. They started walking, being joined by many people, but they didn’t get too far as another one of those horrible sounds broke the chaos of the march towards the mainland. The sound, however, was much stronger now. People felt it inside, in their hearts and all other organs.
Then, the ground just started to collapse and people just ran like crazy. Many died there, been trampled by other people that were as scared as them. Jean took Peter’s hand hard and they ran too, trying no to lose each other in the process. The sad thing was that the police had failed to tell people the bridge had collapsed in its middle part. So running was of no use. They had to find another way to live.