Prelude to the apocalypse – Cliff

Los Angeles, USA

“Get your hands off my car,” the annoyed Hispanic voice said. Cliff looked out of his repo truck at the overweight man running towards him. It was too late for the poor guy, Cliff already having hooked the towing apparatus in place. For a brief moment, he contemplated having a unique and in-depth conversation about the benefits of keeping up with your car payments, but instead he simply drove off, the forty-thousand-dollar vehicle with four missed payments dragging easily behind.

The Hispanic gentleman chased after him for about ten metres, before giving up. It wasn’t wise to run in this heat, especially when you were that out of shape. In the three years he’d been doing this job, Cliff had only been stopped from taking a car twice, both times by idiots wielding guns. Didn’t they understand how ridiculous that was? One call to the cops had seen them arrested, as well as losing their cars. Usually, he was in and gone before the hapless motorist even realised.

That was the way he preferred it.

This was Cliff’s second repossession of the day. He absolutely loved this job, and preferred to start early because that way he could catch people at home when they were off guard. It was rare for people to actually park their cars in the garages they owned, driveways and streets making it easy for him to do what he was paid for. The GTM he had snatched reared up in his rear-view mirror, Cliff’s GPS Satnav showing exactly where he was to deliver it. This one was going to give him a handsome bonus.

He loved this country. It was filled with so much opportunity.

Cliff would never make that delivery. He was on the 10 where it crossed over the 110 when the catastrophic earthquake struck. The impact was swift and violent, the road beneath him shaking and cracking, causing the surrounding cars to swerve as drivers panicked. To his left, a black Ford Ranger slammed on the brakes. The semi-trailer behind it, unable to stop, slammed into the truck and jack-knifed across the carriageway. This naturally led to more collisions, with drivers travelling too fast to react in time.

As accidents went, that was bad enough, but it would barely register when the death toll of the morning’s disaster was tallied up.

Cliff slowed, concrete dust exploding into the air as parts of the freeway fractured. Unbeknownst to him, the support pillars under him were devastated by the suddenness of the earth’s revolt, and almost in unison, they shattered. The road collapsed in on itself, Cliff’s truck falling down, the vehicle he was dragging crunching loose. Before he impacted the road below, his whole world rushed into his throat as gravity claimed him.

Like hundreds of people that day, Cliff didn’t get to recount his experiences of the greatest earthquake to hit California in recorded history. It was 9.6 in magnitude, damaging most of downtown LA, as well as setting parts of the city on fire as gas lines fractured. Most of the hospitals in the impacted area became inundated by the thousands who were injured by falling debris and flying glass, and the emergency services were too swamped to make any kind of impact.

As natural disasters went, it wasn’t the worst thing to hit the United States of America in its recorded history. That would come later. Not just for America, but for the world.

 

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