We had been watching the rolling coverage of the earthquakes like everyone else, but it just hadn’t occurred to us that we’d need a tent. When we realised, Marcy ran out to find one before the sirens started. She came back an hour later with one of those pop-up tents that are supposed to be easy to assemble. It was only a two-person tent, so I wasn’t sure it would fit us, and a week’s worth of supplies, but it was too late to do anything about it.
For practice we opened it up in our sitting room. It sprung open with surprising force, smashing into a vase and knocking it to the floor. As we tried to put the tent away, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find John standing there with a look of concern on his face. I invited him in, and he smiled when he saw Marcy struggling with twisting the tent into the required closed position. Together we managed to wrangle it back into its bag and lent it against our other emergency supplies.
There was another small tremor, which wasn’t large enough to rattle anything off any shelves, but it was enough of a cue for John to excuse himself to finish his preparations. We spent the rest of the evening watching the clips on the news from previous tsunamis in Japan and India. The clips were always preceded by a comparison to the expected magnitude of the earthquake that the scientists had been tracking. We were assured that our twenty-storey building wouldn’t be too badly affected by the earthquake off the coast, but the subsequent tsunami would be immense.
It was almost a week before the siren eventually came. The earthquake violently shook the building, loosening plaster and knocking the television off its stand, sending shards of glass careening across the floor. The tremors had gradually been getting worse and at that point everything we owned, besides the television, was sitting on the floor. The shrillness of the siren caused us to cover our ears with our hands until it eventually stopped. Marcy gathered the bags while I ran around like a headless chicken trying to gather up the various cables needed to charge our devices. By the time we began climbing the stairs to the roof the stairwell was empty. We opened the door and the whole area was covered with people.
The Turner family already had a gazebo and a giant tent set up in one corner. It looked like they’d already been there for a few days with a half-filled rubbish bag hanging from one of the guy lines. A few other residents had started to lay out tents and it was evident that my delay had left us with the only space left, which was next to the collection of buckets at the edge of the encampment.
As we walked over to the space, Marcy scowled at John who had left a space between him and the edge just small enough to prohibit another tent but giving him far more space than he needed. We set up our temporary home, making it as comfortable as possible and waited. We’d been waiting by the edge watching for about an hour, when John sheepishly approached and apologised for being thoughtless. He told Marcy that he’d just gotten overwhelmed and panicked, but we’d seen him sneaking off to the roof on numerous occasions in the run up to the sirens.
Mr Turner suddenly shouted that he could see water coming up the road and we all carefully craned out as far as we dared. Not only had the Turners secured a large expanse of the roof, they’d also carefully placed themselves to secure the first glimpse of the impending flood waters. The waters were moving quickly, in under a minute vehicles, trees and powerlines were flowing down the street. We could hear the shattering of glass as the large debris smashed against the side of the flats. I looked over at Mr and Mrs Rodriguez who were holding each other, Mrs Rodriguez was quietly sobbing, while he held her. They were surrounded by their fellow ground floor neighbours, all of whom looked sombre.
The waters continued to rise until the first to third floors were also decimated by the flood, then it swiftly receded, dragging all the human detritus with it. By this time the crowd around the Rodriguez’s had grown exponentially and Mrs Rodriguez was leading them in prayer. Marcy scoffed at what she called the illogicality of praying to something that would do all this, but I found their faith to be a little reassuring. I didn’t agree with it, but there was a quiet grace to the way they were dealing with the destruction of their homes.
Now they thought the worst was over, some of the residents wanted to leave the roof and return to their flats, but both the Turner’s and the Rodriguez’s had sway over the group and urged caution. Mr Turner and Mr Rodriguez said they’d researched tsunamis in detail and told everyone that they came in waves. I wanted to point out that the information they had claimed to garner through research, had been in several news broadcasts and the official advice. Marcy elbowed me in the ribs when I began to voice my opinions.
Over the next couple of days there were more earthquakes, and the waves of water got higher and higher. By the third day it was up to the fifteenth floor and the residents were getting nervous, which is when the 9.5 magnitude earthquake happened. It was dawn when it struck, and Marcy gripped my arm. Even in the half-light I could see the blood drain from her face. I could hear someone praying and for a second, I couldn’t work out where it was coming from, then I realised it was Marcy.
When it was over, people cautiously left their tents. The radiance of the morning sun shone down on the battered structure, giving it a serenity that belied its severity. The edges of the building had crumbled dramatically, and cracks had spread out under the majority of the roof. Both the Turner and Rodriguez families were silent as everyone inspected the damage. Another tremor struck and people instinctively dropped to the ground or clung on to anything they could, but it was over quickly and did no further damage.
After 30 minutes the tsunami arrived. We heard it before we could see it. The noise was like a stampede of thunder as it roared down the road, surrounding us before we had a chance to even dare look over the sides. Everyone was huddled together in the middle of the roof, scared of what the waters might throw up over the sides. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t seen John for quite some time. I looked over at his tent and I could see him sitting inside, hugging his knees and terrified of moving.
At the edges of the roof, we could see the waves lapping, with some spilling over onto the roof itself. Water was rising up through the cracks and people hung their head, unwilling to watch what was happening. Then slowly the flood water began to fade, and people began to breath again. They cautiously approached the edges to see what damage the tsunami had caused, but the waters hadn’t receded completely. It was several hours before the waters had finally left, leaving the road and surrounding area looking like a war zone.
Lorries and boats lay next to each other, with whole chunks of buildings strewn randomly as if a child had knocked over a Lego house. Poles and trees stacked up against each other, like a giant game of pick-up sticks. I laughed out loud at the thought that it was all just a giant child’s playground, Marcy scowled at me and I stopped. I noticed that a group of people had gathered around John, who was still sitting there, mute and unresponsive.
Marcy wandered over to the group to check on John, muttering that she’d be back when she’d gotten him to pull himself together. It was then that I saw it in the rubble, sprawled out between a big yellow digger and a sailing boat. Somehow in the chaos of the flood waters a perfectly intact dragon skeleton had been dumped onto the roof of a bus. Its clubbed tail ran up to a ridged spine, which extended out to two huge wings. The wings dropped over the edge of the bus and spanned out for two car lengths, its horned skull and pointed teeth rested on a car bonnet. I turned towards the group and began to shout for their attention, when another earthquake struck, and the roof collapsed.
I’ve been working on this one on and off for about a week now and it seems fitting that it’s published on Earth Day. Hope you enjoyed it – don’t forget to like and follow! K’thanks.