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Appisode 4: Five Seconds

Previously on Five Seconds: Andy goes to a party, only to realize that she was used by Parker so he could get back with his ex Tessa. Andy realizes that Downtown wasn't the best decision, and decides to move to the suburbs.

Andy doesn't feel like she can validate her hurt. Does she have validation? If so, should she really forgive Parker and remain friends?

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One thing led to another and a year passed. Parker had continued with his film stuff, he was still with Tessa, and I had moved. I now lived in the basement of a small house far away from that mess. Parker and I still talked, I had forgiven him and decided we should be friends, but it was only over text and happened too few and far between.

           I let out a breath. It was what it was, and only made me stronger and better than before.

           It was strange when I moved. When I dropped my bags in this house and was handed the key, it was like I could finally breathe. Perhaps moving to downtown Vancouver wasn't the best decision, but moving away from that mess certainly was cleansing.

           I stood in my squat kitchen (if you could even call it that, for it was more a sink and a fridge in a corner of my living room) gathering my supplies for the day. Although this was the basement of a house, it was more of a shack, and I cou    ld barely afford it with my job. I used a little help from home—not something I was happy about, but my job offered plenty of raises, and I could see a new one coming in the horizon. The sounds of the news drowned the silence.

           "An evacuation order has also been issued for a 200 hectare fire east of Lake Koocanusa, southeast of Cranbrook. A smaller 50 hectare fire is burning north of Highway 95 between Harrogate and Brisco. An evacuation order is in effect for the Huckleberry fire burning in Joe Rich, east of Kelowna, has now been lifted for all but 30 properties. That fire, which had been at 80 hectares, is now 100 per cent contained," the newscaster reported.

           We were currently in the middle of a horrible heat wave. The temperature record in Vancouver had been broken last month by four degrees and was even hotter inland. There also hadn't been rain for a record sixty days, something 'Raincouver' had never seen before. These days most people hid in their air conditioned homes, and many others were crowding the beaches on the lakes and coastline.

           "...Most of the province has now been declared an extreme fire risk. A Level 4 drought rating is  in effect for southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Even traditionally moist Coastal B.C. is at Level 3 drought conditions on the four-stage drought rating. Residents are required to cut water use by another 20 per cent..."

           The news caster reported the usual about wildfires and repeatedly warned stupid people to be smart with their fire. Many battles with wildfire were currently being fought up and around the Okanagan. My aunt said it was hard to breath with all the smoke in the air, and that you couldn't see the other side of the lake.

          I had talked to her last week about the weather. She said the temperature up in Green Lake was higher than ever. I shuddered at the thought of trying to sleep in that stuffy cabin.

           I had woken up unnerved this morning when the smell of smoke had filled my house. I had searched my whole place for the source of fire. When I opened the door to see if a neighbour’s house was on fire, I saw others standing on their front porches gazing at the brown sky. Apparently, smoke had wafted in from the interior and had covered the whole city in a haze. Although we weren't in immediate trouble, it was still nerve wracking, and tried its best to bring back young memories, but they stayed buried. I didn't let that spark grow to a flame.

           In the background, my television switched to something about a series of earthquakes in the Queen Charlotte region. There had been a total of five this month, but all weren't severe enough to cause damage. Unfortunately, there had been a large one there this morning. Thankfully, there was minimal damage, but it was the reason why I had to go downtown today.

           I zipped my bag up and slung it over my shoulder. Newt was unusually antsy today, so I opened the back door so he could come and go as he pleased before leaving. I said one last goodbye, he whined and begged with those big brown eyes for me to stay, but I closed the door before he could persuade me. Today I was bussing to the sky train, then taking that downtown. It may have been public transit, but it had AC —something my truck decided it didn't need anymore.

           I walked up the road, thankful for the slight breeze that licked at the back of my neck, and waited for the bus to come. I fanned my face with my hand, trying and failing to cool myself down. I resented my job for making me have to travel today. The late September heat left the land hot and muggy, the streets would be crowded with people, and the smoke was invading my senses, putting me on edge.

           Moments before I was going to turn back home and ditch work, the bus arrived. I paid my fare and grabbed a seat. Thankfully, it wasn't crowded.

           In the back there was a lady wearing a large sun hat; a few rows down from me, a man with a strange look on his face—the boots on his feet made me feel even more hot. I turned around just as the bus ran over a bump.

           Cackling sounded from behind me, and I whipped around to see the ratty man one row away. He was making direct eye contact. "Eventful day," he said with a gravelly voice. A smirk developed on his face, revealing yellow and black teeth.

           I forced a smile.

           "Aw, you're too pure for this," he whined.

           "Excuse me?"

           He jumped another row up. "Catastrophe. You've seen it?"

           I didn't answer.

           He hummed a laugh again. "You better be careful little girl. Go home. City's not for you today."

           He threw his head back and howled, revealing his missing teeth. Fear ignited in the pit of my stomach. Fortunately, the bus stopped, and I got out as fast as I could.

           I couldn't help the bubble of nerves that nestled tight in the pit of my stomach. I'd managed to avoid Vancouver for a whole year. I dreaded the thought of bumping into someone familiar.

           The words of a sad song spun around my head once. I had forgiven him and tried to forget, but his name seemed to stick to my tongue like the aftertaste of hard liquor.

           The rumble of the train grew louder, and it slid to a stop in front of me. I forced my chin up and stepped on board. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of how much I had grown in the last year.

           What had happened, happened, and it was just another lesson to learn from.

           A smile tugged at the corner of my lip. The weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders sometime in the past year. It was nice to know that whatever this feeling was in the pit of my stomach was now a foreign feeling.

           This was what independence was.

           The sky train ride was just as eventful as the bus: two fights broke out at separate stations, and one of them caused me to miss my stop. I jumped out of the crowded train as fast as possible at the next one.

           Disoriented, I exited the station into the blinding sun. I was hit by the scorching heat. The weight of the sun knocked my breath out. I looked left and right, trying to decide which way was the way to work. I went left, and fished through my bag for my sunglasses—the reflection from the glassy apartments was blinding me.

           I stopped short. No. I wasn't going the right way. I was heading east, away from the station I was supposed to have stopped at. I turned around—still fishing through my bag—and immediately bumped into someone. I landed hard on the hot pavement.

           "I'm so sorry!" I apologized. Humiliation tinted my cheeks, and I failed at making eye contact.

           A hand was held out, I grabbed it hoping my palm wasn't sweaty, and was pulled up.

           I brushed the dirt off myself and looked into the stranger’s eyes. "I'm so sor—"

           It was Parker.

           My same look of shock was mirrored on his face. "Hey," he said with a small smile. 

           My eyes were wide. One year had passed with minimum talk – and here he was. Real. I didn't know whether to hug or hit him—no, I had accepted his apology. What was in the past was in the past.

           Yet, I couldn't help but wonder, did he remember me the way I remembered him? I brushed my hair back—the wind was sweeping it around wildly. My mouth opened to say "hey" but it got caught in my throat. Or maybe I was going to scream at him for everything that had happened, but my heart closed my throat before I could wreck the thin line between us.

           I swallowed hard. What was past, was past.

           The pep talk I had given myself on the skytrain seemed pathetic and empty now.

           "You know, last time I checked, the first time we met I got run over by your dog." The smile on his face grew, reminding me why I fell for him so many months ago. But there was a wall there now. An indestructible wall that wouldn't let anyone pass.

           I shrugged my shoulders. "Some things never change." A small smile rose to my lips.

           The air hung heavy between us.

           "How've you been?" he asked.

           "Alright." The wind blew my hair sporadically. It was a nice contrast to the heat from the sun.

           "What's that?"

           "Alright!" I had to raise my voice over a strong gale of wind. "And you?"

           "I've been good. Crazy weather hey!" The wind was growing stronger, and held an icy punch.

           An umbrella from a balcony flew out of place onto the street.

           "Yeah. Something else. At least you've got the ocean within a few blocks." The air was a battering ram of icicles.

           "Yeah, if you wanna be packed like sardines!" he said something else but I couldn't hear him over the wind.

           "What's that?" I yelled.

           He tried again, but I couldn't hear. The wind was as loud and as powerful as a wind tunnel. The umbrella tumbled across the road. A car swerved around it. A newspaper flew past my head.

           Then suddenly, as if someone put a cap on the tunnel, the wind died.

           It was eerily quiet. There was no traffic to be heard, people, animals. It was as if the wind took them with it. The umbrella came to a stop.

           "What was that?" I dared breaking the silence.

           The city lights flickered and went out. Traffic lights went black, store signs turned off. A feeling of dread seeped into the pit of my stomach.

           And then there was a loud explosion. A thundering roar followed. I looked at the horizon—it was as if I could see it rising like a wave. Fear crashed into me. And then the senseless made sense.

           "Earthquake!" I had just enough time to scream before the ground detonated.

           I was thrown into Parker. I grabbed onto his shirt for dear life as the ground exploded, but soon he was lost. I yelled out, but it was drowned by the wine of alarms, screams of people, concrete shattering, buildings collapsing, windows erupting.

           Glass rained down. Jagged objects fell like knifes. A large piece shattered beside my head—instant death if I hadn't be thrown out of my previous position.

           "Parker!" I screamed. He was to my left, turtling against the side of the building. He looked up to the source of his name. "Glass!"

           Fear fed my adrenaline like gasoline in a race car. I scrambled to my feet and pulled Parker away with the strength of a hundred, as a shard as large as a dinner table fell in his previous spot. Immediately, I was thrown off my feet, head cracking on the unstable pavement. Nausea swept through me, my vision clouded. I closed my eyes, and lay there. The earth let out its anger as wave after merciless wave pulsed through the ground.

           My brain was in a muddy fog. Something fed urgency into my brain; I should be aware of something. Perhaps it was the sadistic moans of buildings straining, or the wicked cries from the concrete folding like paper maché… I was too groggy to listen.

           "Andy!" I heard Parker shriek. But it was distant. It wasn't important. "Andy!"

           Behind my closed eyes, a shadow passed. Somewhere in the distance there was a deafening explosion. I felt arms wrap under mine, and I was being violently jerked away. My eyes shot open. The building that I had been next to moments before came crumbling down. Dust and debris huffed out, rolling forward with the speed of an avalanche. I covered my face as it engulfed us. I felt something hit my leg, but I felt no pain. My back hit the ground again—Parker must have fallen over. I blindly crawled up to him and embraced him tightly.

           I wasn't going to lose him again.

           The ground continued to shake, fire hydrants burst, cars crashed, people screamed. Wires snapped and sparks flew.  Glass rained down like missiles.

           It was loud. So, loud.

           I screamed, as hard and as loud as possible. Until there was nothing left of my vocal chords but shreds.



           How much time had passed? Five seconds, six minutes, one hour?

           As abruptly as it came, it left. Everything was quiet again. I opened my eyes and saw nothing but grey. Coughs wracked my body—it was so dusty. My hands pawed for Parker, but he wasn't there.

           "Parker!" I called out. I couldn't hear myself. "Parker!"

           Had I gone mute? Or had my ear drums ruptured. I brought my trembling hands to my ears—no blood.

           I sat up in my mute bubble, but quickly found the ground again. My mind swelled with dizziness.

           I groaned.

           No, I could hear. There was ringing. Piercing through the dust, there was ringing. So loud. I covered my ears with my hands. I yelled out, the ringing was so loud. I shook my head to get it out.

           The ringing faded. It was replaced by something more excessive. It was replaced by screams for help, screams for loved ones, screams of terror. There were car alarms coming from crumbled piles of aluminum. Somewhere in the distance was a smoke alarm by a building that had managed to survive the incredible vibrations of the ground. There was a dog barking, a horn blasting, the spray of a fire hydrant.

           I sat up again slowly, and gazed with glazed eyes ahead of me. Hardly a meter away the ground was gone—a sink hole. About ten meters wide. If Parker hadn't taken three extra steps we would've been swallowed whole. My stomach turned at the thought.

           My stomach continued turning as I climbed to my feet, turned in a circle, and observed the destruction. I immediately dropped to my knees and hurled, until the last remains of my stomach were gone.

           Where buildings once obstructed view, a thick cloud of dust replaced them. Glass was everywhere, some still falling from the sky. People. So many people. Some moving—most of them not. The taste of copper was heavy in the air. People began crawling out of an overturned bus. I thought to help, but refrained. I had to find Parker first.

           I dizzily climbed to my feet. Violent shakes of fear racked my body.

           Concrete was torn apart, ditches and piles of broken street. Lamps lay on their sides, one was half inside a building—a toothpick compared to the rest of the city. In the distance I could see the once bright friendly light blue ocean, now an angry navy. That was when the urgency hit me—we had to get out of here now.

           "Parker!" I screamed again. My breath caught in my throat and I fell into a violent fit of coughing. "Parker?" Still no answer. Where could he have gone? How could I lose him after holding onto him so tight? I looked at the building that we were beside when it happened. He wouldn't be under there—he dragged me away from that spot. Would he have gone back? Was there someone he knew in there?


           "Parker!" I yelled, and broke into an unsteady run. There was rubble everywhere. No one in that building could have survived. I threw away pieces of whatever they once were, but that was useless. Fistfuls of rock were nothing compared to the entirety of a whole building gone down. I would've needed a crane to reach the bottom. "Parker!" My voice cracked.

           There was a dark figure up ahead. I scrambled towards it. "Parker!" It was him. Relief surged through me. I climbed over concrete chunks the size of trucks towards him and grabbed his arm. "Run. Come on, we gotta get out of Vancouver."

           "No!" he yelled, yanking his arm from me.

           I knit my eyebrows. This boy was crazy. "What do you mean? Parker we have to go."

           "Tessa. . . She's in here."

           I cursed under my breath. That was a lost cause.

           "Tessa!" he screamed. No answer. "Tessa!"

           I was about to voice my thoughts on the chances of her being alive, but I saw the panic in his eyes. He was losing the one he loved as every second ticked by—a feeling I was familiar with.

           I hated myself that I still felt jealous of this girl.

           He gripped my wrist, his manic eyes looked straight into mine. "Andy, you need to help me find her. Please."

           I swallowed my pride, and half heartedly called for her.

           In less than a minute we found her, but it was too late.

           Parker gripped her broken body and wailed. I adverted my eyes. I could feel my heart breaking with his. So much death. So much loss. I knew that pain—the one that made you question whether or not you could make it to tomorrow. But my eyes landed on the ocean. We had to go.

           I gently placed my hand on his shoulder. "Parker, we have to leave this place."

           "No just leave me here!" he screamed into Tessa's shoulder.

           I tugged on his arm, panic rose in my chest. "Parker we have to go!"

           "There's no point!"

           "What are you talking about?" I argued.

           "I can't live without her. Just go. Leave me here to die."

           I rolled my eyes. There was a time and place for everything, and now was not the time. "Dammit Parker," I growled. "Are you really gonna pull this right now? There's no time for this shit. We need to go." I tugged him again.

           "I'm not going," he pouted.

           "Yes you are Parker," I snarled. I tugged, but he wouldn't let go. I slapped him. "You see that blue thing out there?" I shoved his head so he would look. "The water? That's about to become our worst enemy. See how it's receding? I don't care if we have an island in the way. With an earthquake of that magnitude—the island can only block so much. The whole city will still flood." I moved his head so he was looking at me. "We've got six minutes until the ground we're standing on goes under water. That tsunami is going to be more destructive than what happened in the past few minutes. We have to go!"

           A muscle in his jaw twitched. "No."

           "What about me!" I screamed. Hysteria rose higher in my throat. "You're gonna leave me all alone in our broken world, our broken home? Smarten up! We need to leave."


           I held out my quivering hand. "Take my hand Parker. The world's about to get a lot more scary."

           He sat back on his heels, wiping his eyes. He looked up at me. There was anger, there was pain—I couldn't help but feel responsible for that, but there was also fear. "My family." He shook his head. "I can't leave them here to die."

           And then smoke and fire enveloped my brain and I was back to that day so many years ago. Images of that night slammed against that door I fought so hard to keep closed. Smoky fingers reached out to strangle me. Fire licked my toes. Sirens and falling trees. Collapsing buildings.  Screams.


           The look on Parker's face broke me. His baby blues were a stormy grey—his porcelain skin shattered.

           And then it was seven years ago.

           Soot covers my body head to toe. It is hot, but the sun is nowhere to be found. The sun hasn't shined on me for a long time. I am shaking but I am not cold—empty, but not cold.

           It is hard to breathe.

           And I do not know if that's because of the smoke or the look on my aunt’s face. The fire chief is talking to her. He must've told her that my home is gone. Everything I have is gone—except my aunt and the clothes on my back.

           My aunt should cry—he was her brother after all. But I am here. She will not cry in front of me—she is too tough and smart to do that.

           But she cannot hide the anguish on her face. The colour has drained like a bath full of blood. Her lips are tight, her eyes hard. In mere moments she has aged a decade.

           In an instant she is beside me. She grabs my hand. "You're coming with me now. Don't worry. I'm not leaving."

           I look in her brown eyes that, despite tonight's events, still hold warmth, and there's a hope inside for a new tomorrow.

           "They're dead," I say with nothing but emptiness. "They're all dead."

           She runs a hand through my dirty hair and caresses my cheek. "But I'm not. I told you: I'm not leaving. And I'll see you through till the end of your life."

           My lip quivers as I try to find words to shoot at her.

           "Fear isn't a thing—it only exists in your mind. Don't bury it. Let it out, embrace it. One day you'll have to learn to love your fears. But tonight is not the night. Come with me—my cabin hasn't been touched by the fires. You can sleep with me and I'll hold you till morning. I'll protect you forever."

           Grief and fear grip my shoulders and threaten to take me under. I look to my aunt for help.

           "It's okay. Take a deep breath and count to five with me."

           I'm surprised there was still enough oxygen left in the world to fill my lungs.

           "One." Demons and monsters darken the charred woods.

           "Two." Smoke hangs heavy in the air, burying us below.

           "Three." Diamonds come from underneath.

           "Four." I am not a survivor.

           "Five." I am a fighter.

           I stood up off the ground.

           "Count to five with me Parker."


Should Parker stay behind and look for his family, or run away with Andy?

You Decided

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If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
~Toni Morrison

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