wormwood, pt. 15

Winston closed his laptop and slipped into the stacks while the crowd at the library panicked--some were bolting for the exits and others were clamoring for light, looking for employees. It was a mess. He never carried a flashlight--Rosalind always insisted that he always have at least that on him, but he always said he was fine. He hoped that one day she would shut up about it. He was navigating by the light of his cell phone now, and starting to regret not taking her advice.

Someone shouted for everyone to calm down. The uproar didn't die down. Then there was a crash--a table being upturned--and silence settled over the library. After some further shuffling, some lights were set up--a few flashlights and a handful of candles.

"We need you to please be calm," said a very frazzled-sounding young man. "We've got emergency supplies to last and I'm sure the storm will pass soon. We'll be alerted by radio as soon as we know when the power will be back. In the meantime, if anyone has any flashlights or anything else that could be helpful, please help us out."

The man kept talking for a while, but Winston tuned him out. Everything he took with him for camping was in his car, which was currently being buffeted by hailstones which, according to a woman at the window, were the size of her head.

There was some more commotion at the window. He looked over to see a red glow on the horizon. Then the radio crackled at about the same time as someone shouted that the forest was on fire.

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