CNN NEWSBREAK SPECIAL REPORT. 11:33 P.M.
"This is Mark Able in the mobile unit above Groton, Connecticut. The lights are out down there and we can't see much yet, but here's what we know: A giant wave went through here a few minutes ago. There's heavy flooding on the ground. We can see overturned rail cars. There's debris everywhere, as if a big tornado had hit the area. Downtown is just flattened. John, I've never seen anything like this. It's just awful. There's nothing moving on the Connecticut Turnpike at all. And as far as I can see, there aren't any cars on it anywhere. There are some overturned vehicles north of the highway. And yes, John, I think that's what happened: The wave just swept the road clear.
"We have no estimates yet as to casualties, but I can't believe anyone down there could have lived through this. A couple of army helicopters have just arrived and are using spotlights to look for survivors. We're going to try to find a place to land, and we'll be staying on top of this developing story.
"Back to you, John." Manhattan. 11:35 P.M.
The mood at Louise's rooftop party had been going severely downhill for about an hour. Party-goers gathered around the TV to watch pictures from the helicopter. As the images of ruined bridges and mud-covered streets and downed telephone poles continued, there was talk that maybe Manhattan itself wasn't safe.
Marilyn became uneasily aware of their proximity to the Atlantic.
"Maybe," somebody said, "we ought to head out."
"Head out where?" asked Marvin. "We're four stories up. Where could you go that would be safer than this?"
Where indeed? Marilyn looked down into the street, which was locked tight with trucks and taxis. They could hear the distant wail of a police cruiser. "Marvin's right," Louise said. "Anybody wants to stay the night is welcome."
Marilyn had spent much of the evening with Marv. It irritated her that her husband showed no sign of jealousy, nor even any indication that he noticed. It struck her as odd that the world seemed to come into clearer focus when she was moderately under the influence. She understood that night with cold clarity that she'd married the wrong person.
Maybe it didn't matter who she'd married. Her husband had been like Marv at one time. She could still remember the nights when they couldn't keep their hands off each other. The marriages of her friends, those that had survived, had all gone much the same way. Dull and listless seemed to be the best you could hope for.
Maybe she needed kids. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be until kids came along.
She was sure of one thing: The talk about tidal waves, and watching people try to get out of town, had all made her think about her own mortality. She wasn't really afraid of death itself. Death was too remote, something that happened to other people. But she knew that the clock was running, that none of the dreams that had brightened her teenage years had come true. Working on idiot manuscripts by other people was less than fulfilling. And she knew no one, not one person, who would be grief-stricken if she died. Her folks, maybe, but they didn't count. Larry would be sad, no doubt. He'd come to the funeral, sniffle at all the right moments, bounce back, and move on.
If something were to happen to her, she wondered whether he wouldn't miss her more than her husband would.
There was a commotion inside, and the news was quickly passed to the people on the terrace. They were recommending evacuation of New York.
She looked out at the Natural History Museum, its congeries of dull brick buildings spread across several blocks.
Below, along 77th, people were blowing their horns.