Morning arrived and the sky was covered with low, thick, dark clouds, rain pelting the empty beach as thunder rumbled off in the distance, far across the bleak ocean. The surf was rough that day, crashing loudly on the shore and keeping the seaside residents on edge. A threat of possible flooding was very real, and the carnival had already been prepared since the first signs of the storm. All of the tents had been tightly secured; banners rolled up and tucked away in a safe place. The stakes of the king braces of the banner line were driven deep into the earth and tied down to prevent them from being pulled out. If even one corner was thrown off balance, the whole thing would come tumbling down as though it were a stack of dominos pushed over by a child. The rides, concession and game stands were weather-proofed as well, being boarded up for protection against whatever might come blowing towards them. News reports claimed the storm to be one of the worst that small community had ever seen. First of the season and it was going to be a powerful hurricane predicted to reach land before nightfall. Everyone at the carnival was on watch to ensure that nothing disrupted what made their living possible. The Carnies did not mind minimal damage that was easy to repair, but major destruction meant hard times. The previous year had been far too profitable to allow that to happen. The Carnies were not greedy by any means, but just wise enough to know when to keep a good thing going. They sat watching lightning dance across the sky as the ocean crept closer to the carnival — and ever so patiently, they waited.
Meanwhile, the sounds of hammers pounding nails into wood echoed down the deserted boardwalk as the casinos and arcades protected their valuable glass windows. The wind had already picked up, blasting sand, shells and pebbles through the air with intense speed, and even the smallest projectile would be costly should it cause a crack or chip. Lance had been lending a hand since the early afternoon hours following the news reports, knowing the Carnies had to take care of everyone and their investments. He sat with a group of rousties in the only bar that remained open, glued to the television as they drank pints of beer and kept their eyes on the approaching ocean. It was getting close to being high tide, and they were sure the water would soon be splashing up on the boards. In the back of his mind, Lance could not help but wonder where Jesse and Sacha were while he was on high alert. The curiosity took second place to his concern for the ocean-front property, as a large enough swell could swallow the boardwalk. There was a legend which still hung around, sort of like the ever-present salty aroma, that an angry sea had nearly wiped out the North end. The carnival was severely flooded instead, and the sacrifice prevented several dozen storefronts from being destroyed. The business owners were kind to the Carnies that year, allowing displaced workers free rooms and meals, with everyone forming a strong bond through survival.
The rain fell heavy, pelting the windows in a loud, chaotic rhythm. The house quaked with a loud clap of thunder, and a bolt of lightning made contact somewhere in the distance. The animals at the carnival were all silent as they lounged and calmly chewed hay. Most of the community had lost power, candles and oil lamps flickering everywhere, flames struggling to remain lit despite the strong wind. A dense fog lay across the ocean and beach, the humidity dense and prominent.
The rain had turned to hail, and the wind was so strong that it hurtled towards the earth in a sideways pattern. It was difficult for Jon to push the door open, but he knew they had to check on things. Holding Sacha’s hand tightly in his, they slowly made their way to the boardwalk, protected by the gear as random debris pelted their bodies. She understood why it had been so important for them to be properly suited, and felt quite safe with Jon’s leather-gloved hand in hers. Between the fog, hail and blackened sky, visibility was rather poor, causing them to move slowly in a harmonized step. The streets were already flooded, with the ocean still advancing towards the boardwalk, where some of the waves splashed against the wooden railing. Jon was not surprised by the scene, and yet it still managed to unnerve him. There was much to be concerned about, such as the possibility of the ocean tossing a piece of refuge towards those huddled in the safest place they could find. In the distance, he could see the Ferris wheel trembling violently, and wondered exactly how bad things would get. The foam that blew across the slick wooden boards already indicated the very real threat of hostile take-over by the angry sea. Wet sand coated the plywood windows of every place they passed, and dim lights that spilled out of the cracks were the only sign of life inside. They finally came to the bar where Lance and many of the Carnies had been stationed for several hours. Everyone exchanged greetings marked with relief, and after a few rounds of pints to get a bit relaxed, it was time to discuss the plan of action.
Those gathered in the bar gave supportive glances, and in their silence, prayed for the trio as they exited its safety. Jon held Sacha’s hand tightly, vigilant to ensure he maintained his promise to her. She could feel the adrenaline that surged through his body, as though a strange electric charge produced it. There still lingered in her mind the question as to what caused such a shift in his personality. Whatever the reason, she knew that he was her husband nonetheless and she trusted his every move. However, Lance harbored suspicion there was something strange about his half-brother, though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what. For the time being, he had to remain focused on the important task at hand; there would be time later on to sit down and figure all of it out. He certainly owed that much to his family — an idea he had grown quite accustomed to in such a short amount of time. So many years had been lost, and yet there he was, fighting against the storm with his cousin and half-brother with a sense of pride that had been previously absent. Though he certainly had the same feeling when he worked for Damien, whether it was driving a stake or stripping a pen — anything that man asked him to do — Lance was always rewarded for his loyalty, and finally coming to terms with what it all meant. The carnival was just as significant to him as it was to Jon and Sacha — after all, their family ensured it would be there for them to preserve so that future generations could enjoy all it had to offer.
The surging tide now threatened their legacy, as did the high winds, driving hail and deadly lightning. Sand bags had been piled up to create a barrier between the carnival and the ocean, but the three of them could already see that it would spill over as the tide continued to come in. Jon held onto his wife’s hand as they sloshed through the midway in ankle-deep water, and he was pleased to see that the games, concessions, rides and tents had been taken care of. However, he was still not at ease, admitting to himself that he was extremely concerned about flooding as it seemed inevitable. Nonetheless, he led Sacha and Lance towards the funhouse where oil lamps still flickered inside, discovering that the entire sideshow crew had taken refuge on the second floor.
Without another word, the two of them went out to encounter the chaos once again, struggling to walk as their boots were constantly getting sucked into the muddy ground. The water level had already risen to their knees, which meant the tide was coming in sooner than had been expected. When they reached the wall of sand bags that was supposed to be acting as protection, they discovered a large portion of it had collapsed and the sea rushed towards the grounds with great speed. The current was quite strong, pushing and pulling their bodies with each surging wave. Ignoring the advice she had just given, as well as her own request earlier, Sacha released Jon’s hand. Together they pulled sand bags from under the water in an attempt to rebuild, their progress slow as the waves continued to crash high upon the beach. It felt as though they were standing on the shoreline and attempting to repair a sandcastle. Their bodies grew weary from the constant beating of wind and rain and ocean, the latter of which was proving to be their greatest enemy. However, their determination paid off, and soon the wall was becoming whole again.
Meanwhile, Lance was doing his best to dig through the mud alongside Ian and several rousties. They had already successfully diverted the flow from the carousel and were working on the deep trenches in the sideshow tent. However, it seemed that the more they dug the more water they were inviting in. While that was the point, being on the wrong side of the trenches would become far too dangerous. Lance decided that it was better to be satisfied with the depth achieved, suggesting everyone headed for the tavern with little protest from the Carnies, who were quite soaked and fairly tired.
Jon and Sacha continued to fight off exhaustion while they labored on the wall — a few more bags had to be placed, and then they could join the others in being warm and dry.
A huge swell formed out in the ocean and grew as it traveled towards the shore. All eyes of the community helplessly watched as it crashed onto the beach, followed by several others. The boardwalk shook, and those that were stationed in the tavern sighed in great relief that the windows were only slightly splashed. Further down the shore, the carnival was struck with great force, water spilling over the retaining wall and flooding the grounds completely. It was strong enough to knock Jon and Sacha off their feet, the current pulling them both under as the attack continued. She remained calm despite the fact that she could not see in the muddy water, nor did she know where her husband was. Sacha kicked and pushed her way to the surface, gasping for air as she fought to remain there. Frantically, she looked all around but did not see Jon, and that is when panic finally set in. Diving back down would be absurd, as it would have been nearly impossible to get a visual of anything, and there was also a strong possibility of getting sucked into the undertow. Instead, she swam until the ground could be felt beneath her feet and then dragged herself out of the water. Sacha surveyed the ghastly scene, hope of spotting her husband fading while realizing it had been a bad idea for them to make an attempt at repairing that wall. Settling down on a piece of driftwood to cry, she did not even know if Jon could swim — it was something Sacha had learned at a young age and just assumed that others did too. There was no sign of him, nor did she have the strength to search for him. Suddenly, the wind died down and the rain petered out, leaving only the ocean to roar as the eye of the storm swirled overhead — for a moment, the sun made an appearance.