Something streaks past overhead, so close I'm certain I feel the heat of it. The next second there's an explosive boom, a fresh wave of screams, another horrifying lurch of the ground beneath my feet. I keep running, shoved and buffeted by the panicking crowd. I pass a police van, abandoned like so many other vehicles in the middle of the road, the police themselves nowhere in sight. That's when I realise something: I can't hear a single siren, a single alarm. Nothing but the babble and roar of the crowd.
I glance down a side street as I pass, and see an inferno blazing at the end. Whatever used to stand there is now no more than a few teetering piles of brick and fallen girders, engulfed by wild yellow flame. The smoke is pumping up into the sky like a signal and people are fleeing crazily from it, their eyes wide and their faces stained with soot and blood. One terrified woman almost runs straight into me. I grab her just before we collide and for a second our eyes meet, and it looks as though she's trying to say something, her lips moving, eyes pleading. And then she's gone, wrenching herself from me and stumbling off into the chaos.
For a moment I stare after her, feeling unpleasantly helpless in the face of all this. Then the ground shudders again, and the noise of an explosion echoes through the streets again, and I remember Sharon, and I start once more to run.
It's not far to the river, but it seems to take an age. When I finally get to the waterfront it is as crowded with people as the streets before it. The nearest bridge is heaving with people crossing in both directions. It's a crush, a stampede. There are even people in the water, looking as though they're trying to swim from one bank to the other. I watch as a speedboat passes under the bridge and then swerves to avoid a couple of the swimmers, throwing up a bow wave that almost submerges them.
If she was coming to find me, then this is the bridge that Sharon would use. The next nearest one is almost twenty minutes away. But has she made it across already? Or would she stay in the studio and wait for me to come to her? If only my phone was still working...
I fight my way over to the barrier and grab hold, anchoring myself against the crowd. I watch the bridge, watch the heaving mass of people surging across it. I don't have a choice. I have to find her. However bad it might be, being without Sharon in the middle of all this is worse. Grimly, I start to make my way along the barrier towards the bridge.
At first I don't hear the voice calling my name. There's so much noise and confusion all around that I just tune it out. But it comes again, and again, and I whip my head up to look, to search the hundred faces that surround me.
"David! David, it's me." And it's a voice I recognise, and after a moment I spot her, on the other side of the waterfront road, pushing her way towards me, waving and yelling my name. My heart fills up: it's Sharon. It's really her. I feel as though I'm about to cry with relief and happiness. I let go of the barrier and start pushing towards her, fighting the flow of the crowd.
And then, quite suddenly, I'm face to face with her. She's right there in front of me, alive and uninjured and so, so beautiful. I grab her and pull her against me, and we're both saying each other's name over and over. She smells of sweat and fear. She's shaking.
"Oh, God, David," she says. "I thought I'd never see you again."
"It's okay," I say. "It's okay. We're going to get out of this."
Her hand finds mine, and now--now that we're together--I feel a hundred times stronger. I never want to let her go again.
"How did you--" I begin.
She's sobbing, but holding me still. "I came as soon as I knew what was happening. I thought... Oh, David, I thought you might be dead."
I hug her again. We're right in the middle of the street, and the people are knocking into us as they pass. We're an island in a stream.
"Come on," I say. "Let's move." And holding hands as tight as we can we turn and start to make our way out of the crush, pushing towards a narrow alley between two buildings that leads away from the waterfront.
We're almost there when I hear that noise again. The screeching, tearing sound of something huge and burning plummeting from the sky. Except this time there's no explosion at the end, but instead a giant, deafening crash of water. I turn to look, but I can't see a thing over the heads of the crowd, and then the crash turns to the loudest, most tortured hiss I've ever heard, and I realise what has happened. One of those things, those falling rocks has hit the river. And in that split-second I realise what's going to happen and I push Sharon ahead of me into that narrow alley and we run like all the demons of hell are after us.