#11 Short Story: Keep Believing

I know that I said I was going to post the activities from the A215 day school here today, but I didn’t get around to them yesterday so instead I’m going to post another short story. This one was included in Write For Japan, an anthology that I put together to raise money for the tsunami relief fund the Red Cross put together in 2011. I wrote this one when I was 20.

Keep Believing

You prepare for these things, you read all the information, buy all the supplies, do everything that you’re supposed to do and yet when the time comes you find out just how utterly unprepared you actually are. All the reading and preparation in the world can’t help you when the very foundation of your life is shaking beneath you and all you can do is find someplace to hide. The utter destruction that happens around you goes by temporarily unnoticed as all you can focus on is the beating of your heart, magnified in your ears, blocking out everything else.

I had been in the kitchen when it first struck, my plates and pans bouncing off the counters and crashing to the floor. I remember the intense fear that struck me at the time; I panicked for just a second before I remembered all the preparation I had done for just such an event. I dropped everything, they were only objects after all, and ran towards the nearest door. Standing under the doorframe all I could think about was him, Kaori. He would be on his way home from work, probably stuck in the usual evening traffic jams. I wondered what he was thinking.

The vibrations coming through the floor became more violent, more furniture bounced and fell over. I tried to remain where I was, although it became more and more difficult to stay still against the moving floor. Our apartment was on the third floor, it frightened me a little to know that if the building started falling, I would have no way out. I remained where I was, arms firmly held out and holding onto either side of the door as I waited for the shaking to stop. Surprisingly, it stopped rather quickly.

I took a few shaky steps away from the door and glanced around the room to see the damage. A few small items had fallen and broken but apart from that everything seemed to be fine. I could hear people shouting in the streets and approached the window to see what had happened outside. Apparently not everyone was as lucky as I had been. I rushed to the door and ran down the steps two at a time, the sight of the street below me fuelling my speed. I was thrown into a wall as I approached the front door, the aftershocks had started. Finding my feet again, I threw open the door and ran out into the street.

People were everywhere, some screaming, some shouting. Pieces of walls had crumbled, car alarms were blaring, it was utter confusion and panic. I tried to make my way through the crowds to see if anyone was hurt that we could help but I kept getting shoved and knocked out of the way. Another aftershock sent more screams ripping through the air as a building close to where I was standing began to lean dangerously close to the road, one more shake and it would be on top of us. I ran as far as I could away from it, following the rest of the people in their attempt to find safety.

I soon found myself wandering down a quieter street, wobbling slightly under the vibration of yet another aftershock. The people in this street were less fortunate than those in my own street. The buildings had collapsed, some of the homes resembling dollhouses with one whole side of the building having fallen to reveal the rooms within. I watched as a family shifted through the rubble of what must have been their home, looking for trinkets and treasures that they could still save. I continued to wander up the middle of the road. I was determined to find Kaori, I needed to know that he was safe.

I walked the familiar route to his office, the same route he would take to drive home. I was hoping to bump into him as he was making his way home to me. I turned a corner into the next street and my eyes widened. The buildings in this street had completed collapsed onto the road, crushing the cars and everything else that was underneath it. My eyes hadn’t widened just because of the destruction that lay before me, they had widened because I recognised the car that was just poking out from under one of the closer buildings, it was Kaori’s. I ran over to it and tried to see inside, I could just see into the passenger side at the front, the rest of the car was crushed under the building. I searched desperately to see if there was any sign of him inside, I just managed to see some of the driver seat, empty. I breathed a sigh of relief, he wasn’t in the car.

I followed a crowd that seemed to be heading to the same place. Mothers were holding their children close to them as the group stumbled up the street. I asked a few of the people where they were heading. A safe placed had already been set up for people who had been hurt or those whose homes had been destroyed. It sounded liked the kind of place Kaori would head to. I walked determinedly alongside the others.

The safe place turned out to be a large hospital, people were gathering on the roof there. As I entered the building the chaos from outside seemed serene compared to the madness inside. Mothers were searching for their missing children, husbands for their wives. I headed to the stairs, I wanted to stand on the roof and see exactly what destruction the earthquake had caused. I squeezed past anxious families huddled together and made for the stairway as another aftershock rippled underneath us.

There was a cool breeze blowing as I opened the door to the roof. I looked around the large group that was gathered there but couldn’t see Kaori anywhere. I hadn’t seen him outside on my way to the hospital nor had I seen him inside on my way to the roof. I stepped closer to the edge of the roof, surveyed the damage my town had endured. A large black mass was sweeping across the ground in the distance, dragging with it ships, car, buildings…and people. I sighed and felt tears trickling down my cheeks. I feared for Kaori, I imaged the worst, that he was in the belly of that black watery beast.

“Naoko!”

I spun around as soon as I heard his voice. He was pushing through the people towards me. His clothes were torn and dusty, he had some blood dripping from his forehead but he was there and he was safe. I ran to him, hugged him, never let him go.

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