TWO MONTHS AGO
They missed the eight o’clock train. She wasn’t upset, though. That SkyTrain sucked. Being packed like a sardine in a closed compartment that made frightening noises was not a desirable way to start the day.
Unfortunately, they also missed the considerably less full train fifteen minutes later.
They did, however, catch the 8:26 train.
But it broke down.
So they sat and waited at the Brentwood Town Centre station.
“Do you think if we leave now to get food the train will still be here when we get back?” Amie Beckham-Gibbs asked, accompanied by the symphony of her growling stomach.
“You were the one that wanted to leave during prime breakfast time,” her friend, Joy Moon, replied monotonously.
Amie let out an audible groan. “You were the one that wanted to go to English Bay. We’d be at the beach already if I was the one calling the shots.”
“If you were the one calling the shots we wouldn’t even be having a last outing before law school starts.”
Joy had a habit of snatching the truth from the air and laying it out like a smack across the face.
They sat and waited some more.
Although it was nearing the end of September, Joy and Amie had had an extended summer full of prepping for university. Joy was to move into her single dorm room in UBC tomorrow. Amie was set to fly to the University of Toronto the same day.
“I’m craving cashews,” Joy blurted.
“Hey, just because my face looks like one doesn’t mean I’m not offended,” Amie joked.
Just then a transit worker rushed onto the train and powered to the front.
“Barbara, 37, three kids, and a husband that owns season tickets to the Canucks,” Amie said, playing their silly game of guessing the lives of strangers.
“Jodie, 31, dropped out of nursing school, goes on weekly pub crawls,” Joy replied.
“Mmm, she has no problem throwing down beers.”
The chimes of the train sounded, and they began moving again.
“Finally,” Joy sighed.
“You know,” Amie began, changing the topic. “With my luck, the breakdown of this train is probably a sign or something that I’m going to die today.”
“You wanna shake on that?”
They missed their train again.
At Commercial station, when they were making the grand traverse from one train to the other, a massive brawl blocked their way. A swarm of police and security surrounded the congregation of cranky people, but there was not much they could do.
So they had to wait until they could squeak by to the stairs.
They lucked out.
A pristine new train arrived at their feet. It was big and blue and shiny and proud. It didn’t smell like mildew, and when the two friends walked in they were greeted by a cool embrace of AC.
Although the train had four extended compartments, every seat was taken. But Amie didn’t mind. If standing up meant no creepy strangers breathing down her neck, she was perfectly content.
Leena and her twin sister Samantha Mortenuilar were sitting together in the sun outside a coffee shop on Granville. Leena had a fancy Starbucks drink in one hand, Sam was finishing her wrap. Leena was off to Kansas at the end of the week for university. Sam was not.
“And don’t forget to feed the dog if Mom doesn’t get home in time,” Leena said, continuing her long list of duties Sam had to remember when she left. “Wednesday is her least busy day at work so you won’t have to worry about it on that day, but you know Tuesdays are the worst. And Mondays. Oh and don’t forget Thursday and Friday.”
Sam just simply nodded her head. The list was redundant, and her sister had a habit of talking non-stop. But Sam didn’t mind. She knew that as soon as Leena crossed the border she’d miss her voice more than anything.
“Oh, and make sure Dad takes his blood pressure medication. He’ll pull it out, but then he’ll get distracted and forget about it,” Leena continued.
“You mean that orange fizzy drink?” Sam clarified.
Leena sighed in exasperation. “No. that’s not the blood pressure meds, that’s the antacid. But you’re right. He does forget to take that as well. Man,” her voice was a level higher. “I can’t believe how far we’re going to be away from each other.”
“It’s okay, Magnog,” Sam reassured. “We’ll talk over video every day.”
“Please don’t forget, Magnog.”
Magnog was the nickname they had given each other. Sam had created it, but neither knew if it was a misspelling of eggnog, or mango, or something entirely different.
“I won’t. Come on, let’s go shopping.”
He streaked into the train just as the doors closed. He leaned against the window.
Amie turned to Joy. “Stoner Dave. 19. Typical west coast douche bag.”
“Kind of looks like a young Justin Trudeau,” Joy responded quietly.
Amie glanced over her shoulder at him. He had long curly brown hair, and not an ounce of fat. A colourful tattoo peeked out from below his sleeve. He smelt like cigarettes.
She leaned into Joy. “I can’t tell if he’s attractive or not.”
“Yeah, he’s got that model look to him. A good facial bone structure. It’s like a low key attractiveness.”
The SkyTrain jostled as the tracks descended to the Stadium-Chinatown station. The stranger lost his footing and fell into the door, dragging it open with him.
Amie screamed and threw her arm out to grab him.
“Dude!” he yelled.
“You alright?” Amie asked.
She pulled him into the train, gripping his shirt tightly.
And then the train was jostled again. Violently. And Amie was nearly thrown over the boy and out of the cart. The cart bucked back, sending Amie into the pole. But it wasn’t the train’s fault. It was the earth’s.
Out the window, the ground rose like a wave, and then crashed down. The buildings around swayed, and the earth exploded.
The tracks came undone, and the rails – like spindly claws – shot out from their place.
One moment Amie was looking into the deep brown eyes of the stranger. The next moment the rail had penetrated through his neck, severing his spine and spurting his life’s blood supply all over Amie and the compartment.
She tried to scream but there was no air in her throat. With wide eyes, she looked for Joy. She wasn’t at the pole. Fear sent a sheet of ice over Amie’s body. It seeped into her pores and punctured her organs. She was thrown into the ground. Amie looked up through the window and saw the last cart of the train whiplash off the tracks and into the next one. She rolled off her back and pushed onto her hands and knees. She glanced through the front window.
The train was still moving, and would careen right into a tunnel that was bound to collapse.
She found her voice. “JOY!” she screamed.
A hand gripped Amie’s ankle. She whipped her head around. It was Joy.
She pulled her close and sent them over the stranger who used to be Stoner Dave, and out the door seconds before the train entered the tunnel. They tumbled across the ground and watched as the tunnel collapsed and the train and all of its passengers were swallowed whole by the earth.
Leena heard it before they felt it. The wind had picked up since she and Sam had meandered from the Starbucks. The quiet sunny morning had turned turbulent. The wind was so strong it could’ve blown them off the road if they weren’t holding onto each other.
But then it stopped.
Like a cap on a bottle, it all just stopped. And so had every sound she had ever become accustomed to on the busy street.
And then there was a rumble. Leena thought it was thunder, but the sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. She then briefly thought it was fireworks, but she was knocked off her feet by an unseen force and the thoughts quickly flew from her mind.
Fear ripped her mind in two. One side wanted to run and run and never look back; the other side wanted to protect Sam.
“Sam!” Leena shrieked.
“What’s happening?” Sam yelled.
The ground underneath them bucked and jerked. The shadow of the buildings they were in swayed side to side. Cables snapped, violently whipping against buildings, the ground, the people. Streetlamps groaned in protest – one fell and skewered a woman against the side of a building.
“Don’t look, Sam,” Leena uttered.
Sam obeyed, yet Leena couldn’t. Regardless of how terrified she was in that moment, her eyes stayed wide open, scanning the area for anything that may harm them.
Panels of glass exploded at random, as if someone was firing bullets at the windows. Leena kept her gaze locked on a building of glass walls, watching the reflection of the Scotia Bank tower sway dangerously.
There’d be no escape if that tower was to collapse.
A boy their age was thrust towards them. Leena held her arm out to catch him, but he was too heavy. Her arm was jerked funny and somehow, above the wine of screams, concrete shattering, pipes bursting, and signs falling, a sharp crack sounded from her arm. Her vision flashed and she seethed in pain.
Leena yelled out, pain tracing from her limb like electricity.
Sam jostled her good arm.
“It’s okay, I’m okay,” Leena muttered, putting on a brave face.
“No. Leena,” Sam said in an urgent tone.
Leena ignored her. As the older twin, it was her duty to be brave and protect.
It was okay. She was going to be okay. Sam had a big heart. She worried too much about others.
“LEENA!” she shrieked.
“What! Sam,” she snapped.
Sam simply pointed.
Leena followed her hand, and her gaze fell on the boy she tried to catch. His body still lay, crumbled on the vibrating ground, but his head was missing.
Leena blinked hard. Maybe she was just imagining it. But it stayed the same. This couldn’t be real.
A boy. Younger than them.
Without a head on his shoulders.
Leena let out an ear-splitting scream.
The twins had to get out of there.
Without saying anything, they got up and managed to travel off the sidewalk, but soon ended up on the ground again. The street was rocking like a boat in a storm. It was impossible to go anywhere other than where the floor was throwing them.
Leena looked back at the ominous tower, swaying back and forth like a metronome.
“Crawl!” she growled.
The twins slithered across the ground, bruising their elbows and scuffing their knees. Destruction rained down, Sam’s hand entwined in Leena’s, the earth seemed to swallow everything around them.
They continued on.
“What do we do Amie? What do we do?” Joy asked in a hushed panic when the earthquake stopped. “I took Geo 12. The water is right there. There’s going to be a tsunami isn’t there. The teacher said we didn’t need to worry about it because of the island, but I feel like being near the harbour still isn’t a good idea.”
“Shush! I’m trying to think,” Amie ordered.
There was destruction everywhere. Joy’s hair was matted down with blood, but she hadn’t seemed to notice, so Amie didn’t mention it. Amie had several cuts and scrapes littering her body, but none were too serious. At least she hadn’t been burnt – she tended to have bad luck with that, but of course, the two friends weren’t out of the woods yet, so she really shouldn’t have been counting her stars.
The viaduct had collapsed. Cars were strewn everywhere in various amounts of disarray. People ran to and fro like a swarm of bees. Panic was heavy in the air. A tower near them had partially collapsed. Huge blocks of concrete blocked the paths of many, separating families and friends.
A police officer with a megaphone surfaced from the dust and stood on top of her car. Her partner lay in a heap beside their vehicle. Dead.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm!” she ordered through the speaker. No one was listening. She turned the speaker up and spoke again. “Ladies and gentlemen. Please stop. Listen to me. People!”
Some heads turned to look, while more ran in a panic, pushing people over to find their loved ones.
The officer rang her alarm, and suddenly the whole place stopped and turned to listen.
“Please, if you could make your way in a calm and orderly fashion to the stadium. It is built to standards, it is safe.”
The swarm of people began running as if they were being chased by bulls. Amie pulled Joy and herself against a wall so they wouldn’t get trampled.
“BC Place. You think it’s really safe?” Joy asked.
“When Hurricane Katrina failed the levee system in New Orleans, the people were sent to the stadium so they could have shelter.”
“So that’s where the cop got the idea. Smart... right?”
“No. A crowd that size that scared – I’d rather be floundering in the middle of the Pacific.” Amie grabbed Joy’s hand. “Come on, we’ll find someplace else to wait out the storm.”
Leena and Sam were able to make it to their feet when the ground stopped shaking. They stood in the intersection of Robson and Granville, unable to decide what to do next.
“Leena, your arm!” Sam shrieked.
She looked down. The limb was bent at an unnatural angle. She cursed under her breath. Hopefully, her softball career wouldn’t be ruined.
“Sam, are you okay?” she asked for the umpteenth time.
She nodded her head, her long eyelashes were woven together with droplets of tears.
“What do we d—” Sam was cut short by a chorus of screams. The twins looked north, to see a massive crowd running as fast as they could towards them. “What’s happening?”
Leena’s eyes darted to the tower. It was solid. It wasn’t moving, it wasn’t falling.
So what were the people running from?
“Should we...” But Leena didn’t get to finish her sentence. Her words were drowned out by the roar of a thousand lions.
There was something chasing the crowd. It was like a wall, or the ground had risen up and all the cars and busses and food carts were chasing them...
“Tsunami!” a woman near them screamed.
Leena grasped Sam’s hand and they took off in a frenzy.
Leena tried to think of the chase as an old exercise she and Sam did in ball.
One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, you can breathe later. Push now, breathe later. You can do it.
The wave drowned out the screams of the others, and Leena didn’t want to know if that was from the sound the wave was making, or that those people couldn’t scream because they were under water.
There was no way they could outrun it.
Leena yanked Sam to the right and pushed through the glass doors of a taller building. She rammed open the door to the stairs, and shut it behind them, but not before hearing the unmistakable sound of glass breaking.
“Go! Go! Go!” Leena screamed at Sam.
The twins charged up the stairs two at a time. If they were lucky, the door to the roof would be unlocked by the time the water flooded the place. And if it was locked, knowing Vancouver Island was in the way might mean the water wouldn’t reach that high.
But that was a very large might.
They made it just past the second landing when the wave crashed the door open and began flooding the staircase. The scent of gasoline and brine invaded her nostrils – if it was possible, the twins moved even faster.
Leena’s thighs were on fire, but she didn’t let that stop her. She kept her eyes on Sam’s back, and her focus on the churning water spinning below.
They reached the third floor – the water was already pooling on the second.
Leena didn’t need to tell Sam to move faster.
Their feet were thundering up the stairs faster than their beating hearts. Leena peered up. There were three more floors. The water was rising faster than they were climbing.
Doubt settled hard, deep in her gut.
Death had never felt so close.
Her toe caught on the lip of the stair, and she violently crashed down. An animalistic scream erupted from somewhere deep inside as frigid water curled around her knees. But Sam was there, just like she always was, and wrenched Leena to her feet.
She lay a supportive hand on her back. “Come on!”
They hurtled upward as the water lashed at their feet like iron-tipped whips. Leena tried not to think about what would happen if there was no escape route to the roof. She tried hard not to think about what might be lurking under the surface of the water, waiting patiently to seize the two.
The water had made it to the last landing before them, but the door to the roof was there. Leena nearly sobbed when she saw the door was propped open, a stranger who must’ve occupied the building was beckoning them out.
Sam shot through the door first, and Leena was right behind her. The door was slammed shut by the stranger.
Sam wrapped Leena up in a tight embrace, and the two let their tears fall.
For now, they were safe.
Amie and Joy ended up on the roof of the Canada Post warehouse. They were the only two up there. And that, of course, was because the two were swept onto it by the tsunami that wasn’t supposed to happen. Amie couldn’t believe they were on the roof of the Canada Post warehouse.
Give it to Canada Post to be the most unreliable any other day but today.
She couldn’t stop shaking. Joy couldn’t stop muttering about her star sign being connected to water. The last time Amie was submerged in water, she was in a bath and had a panic attack because it was too hot. Joy was mumbling that it was her fate that she was going to die by water.
Amie didn’t know how to swim.
Neither knew how they were alive.
“What do we do now?” Joy asked.
Amie couldn’t answer.
“I think I remember my geo teacher saying something about when the wave recedes being more dangerous than the actual tsunami,” Joy breathed.
Words still didn’t come to Amie.
“Are we all alone up here? How did we even manage to get up here?” Joy let out a strangled squeal. Amie looked up into her distressed face. “I lost my Louis Vuitton bag!”
Finally, Amie spoke. “I got my weave wet.”
In her head, she had imagined herself saying something more intelligent and brave.
“Should we make a sign?” Joy asked.
“With what?” Amie ridiculed. “We’re stuck. We’re stranded. Do you expect me to do some crazy voodoo magic and pull a sign out of my ass?”
“We could swim for it, but, it is ocean water. . .” Joy pondered.
“I’m scared to even look,” Amie whispered.
“Me too,” Joy replied softly.
A moment of silence passed between the two.
“Oh god,” Joy moaned. “This is it. Natural selection has finally come for me.”
“Maybe we can build a raft,” Amie mentioned.
“With what – your weave?”
“No, we’re on the Canada Post warehouse. There has to be a million things inside that we can use to build.”
“Yeah, along with a whole bunch of dead bodies and half of the Pacific Ocean!”
Amie was interrupted by the voice of someone in the water screaming for help. The two went dead silent. Joy widened her eyes, silently questioning her friend. Amie shook her head furiously.
Joy dismissed her and peeked up over the wall at what lay before them. A quick intake of breath at the sight. “Amie, he has a dog. We have to do something.”
Amie shook her head. “I’ve never had a pet. I have no attachment to some dog.”
But the words carried no weight.
“Help!” the words were distant, but loud enough that they couldn’t pretend to not hear them. “Hey! You! Please help!”
“He has a dog.”
“He... he’s kinda attractive.”
“Amie, you can’t just let everyone around you die. An earthquake just happened. A tsunami happened. This is the time when people need to band together and help, otherwise there will be no people left to help. You’re not being fair.”
“Yeah, but we’re already stuck. If we rescue him then we’re stuck with another mouth to feed, another body to protect, another ass to stick somewhere convenient because we don’t have toilets.”
“Well maybe he’ll be useful – we’re wasting time.” Joy turned to the stranger and called to him. “Hey! Over here!”
“Joy! Don’t you dare try to rescue him – you’ll die!”
She whipped her head around. “Marcus, 26, graduated head of the class in botany.”
Amie’s jaw was tight. “George, 54, homeless drug addict.”
“Good. He’ll know how to survive.” Joy turned back around and waved her arms in the air. “Come here!”
“No!” Amie tackled Joy to the ground. “If you die trying to save his ass then I’ll be all alone on this roof by myself. You’re crazy if you think I’m not being fair.”
“Help!” the stranger called.
Do the girls rescue the stranger or not?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.