“Category Five” — Marc Paoletti

Marc Paoletti is the coauthor (with Patricia Rosemoor) of the novels The Last Vampire and The Vampire Agent. He is also the author of Scorch, a thriller that draws upon his experiences as a Hollywood pyrotechnician. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Young Blood, Book of Voices, Horror Library Vol. 2, The Best Underground Fiction, The Blackest Death Vol. 2, Cold Flesh, and Thou Shalt Not. Earlier this year, he had a story published in First Thrills, edited by Lee Child.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Almost 2,000 people died, both in the storm itself and in the severe flooding that followed. And bad as the storm was, the real horror was the human element—the engineers’ failure to maintain the levees, the incompetence of the federal response, and the disorder that ensued. People attempting to flee the storm-ravaged city of New Orleans were turned back at gunpoint by locals who feared looters. FEMA director Michael Brown, a political appointee whose most relevant prior experience had been managing horse shows, became a laughingstock after the president absurdly praised him for doing a “heck of a job.”

Most of us never imagined we’d see corpses lying unattended on the streets of an American city. The author of our next story writes, “I watched Hurricane Katrina decimate New Orleans live on CNN. Talk about horror. I was shocked by the devastation, and appalled that the most disadvantaged people were bearing the brunt of the disaster. I finished the first draft of this story in one sitting. Funny what happens when you’re fueled by outrage. Also my childhood home in Sacramento was almost flooded a few years back. I was in Los Angeles at the time. Believe me, it’s grim to get a call from your folks in the middle of the night and hear the fear in their voices as they tell you the levee—which is less than a mile away from them—is about to break.”