Previously on Five Seconds: A wave engulfs the city, Parker and Andy are trapped in a mall with an angry man with a knife and a woman with a serious injury.
Should Parker and Andy escape, or help the couple?Click To Reveal Results
One, two, three, four,
Five, six, seven, eight.
Everything was in eights.
Eight steps. Count again. Another eight steps. Count again. Step. Step. Further away from home. Step. Step. Closer to the dumb hospital we had to bring this useless couple to.
Eight breaths. Eight lifeless breaths.
Eight was her favourite number.
Eight years I'd known her.
I stared at the ground. I didn't dare look at the collapsed buildings around me. Or the woman with a broken leg residing in a wagon. Or the idiot who stuck a knife against me. Or the defiler next to him who stopped me from going in that building to save her.
Another building collapsed beside us. The others stopped to watch. I kept going.
The reverberations created a path around me. Part of the building collapsed—just like the one that crushed Tessa, but I didn't feel it. I didn't think about the repercussions, the people that could've been buried in an unceremonious tomb.
I was stuck in a room of silence in a vegetative state and I couldn't find the door. The walls were closing in and the roof was crumbling down. It was unfair that the beautiful girl who had a way with words was lost to the world. And no one would know her name. No one even knew she was dead except for me.
And there was nothing to remember her with. I had no pictures, no clothing that smelled like her perfume. I didn't even have any friends to grieve over her with.
The others quickly caught up to me. My saunter wasn't a hard pace to match.
I looked down at the lady with the broken leg beside me. Her eyes were closed. I ran my tongue between my teeth. Her boyfriend was a lucky man to have Andy saving her. Lucky bastard he was.
What if I had been in that building when the earthquake struck, instead of dealing with a stupid girl that had a problem with bumping into others? Would I have been able to get her out in time, or would we both be buried beneath a thousand bricks? I looked down at my shoes that were once kept so diligently clean. Now they were covered in dust and blood.
So much death.
The lady lay motionless.
I bit my tongue. All life had escaped my body, and left me with an empty husk.
So much death.
So much destruction.
We made it to the hospital. Royal Columbian. New Westminster. Not Andy's house. Not my home. Not Tessa's arms. The guy and Andy shared a few quick words. They didn't break through my bubble of silence.
And then we were on our way again. The death was in my bones—I could feel it. It thumbed through my veins like thick black paint. I was so tired, I wanted to collapse right there. But my feet kept going. One… two… Andy spoke s few words. I didn't hear them.
The sun set a scarlet brush across the world. Everywhere was red. Red, like the blood on my shoes.
More muffled words. "Coquitlam… aftershock… …perfectly fine."
Eight more steps.
It was dark now. There were no streetlights. No moon. No stars.
And then silence drained out of my ears like a bath full of water. The sound hit me with a harsh force.
I looked at Andy.
"Do you hear what I'm saying?"
I just stared at her, still getting used to the sounds in my ears.
"Home," she announced.
I looked down. We were standing in a driveway.
"Here she is," Andy breathed. She was on her knees.
I looked up. A ringing in my ears.
"This is your house?" My voice felt weird. Like it wasn't connected to my body.
"You mean you own the whole thing?" Why were those the first words that came to mind?
"No… just the basement," she said wearily. "The family upstairs has been gone on vacation in Cambodia since July."
"How the hell did you afford it?" Again, not the words that were in my mind.
"Well, you know."
"What do you do for a living?"
I finally looked at her. "Andy? What do you do?"
She remained silent.
"What do you do!" I snapped.
"I um." She sat up. "I'm like, a uh, assistant scientist. I research earth science er, I research seismology. I, research plate tectonics and I. . . record, when the earths crust moves."
Eight counts. One… two…
"YOU MEAN YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING AND YOU DIDN'T WARN ME? YOU DIDN'T WARN ANYONE?"
"No! It, it's not like that."
"Not like what? Just because you knew the end of the world was coming doesn't mean it's your fault that I'm stuck with you?"
"Hey, hey. It's not the end of the world."
I pushed her against her ugly truck. "My girlfriend is dead. My family is dead. All my friends. Dead. And you could've prevented it all."
"Prevented it how?" she yelled back. "I didn't know this was coming I swear!"
"So all that research you do about the earth's… whatever, and you didn't know there was going to be an earthquake here?"
"God Parker, do I have to give you a brief science lesson? We live right on the coast of BC. That's 150,000 km away from the Juan de Fuca plate—you know, one of those things that continents sit on? They make up the crust of Earth. For years and years and years, the North American plate and the Juan de Fuca plate have been stuck against each other. Most plates slide just fine, but these two aren't. It was only a matter of time before all that pressure was released."
She stood there, chest heaving from rage. The silent haven I was in was long gone.
"Yeah. We knew this was coming. We didn't know when. We didn't know how much destruction there would be. It was only supposed to affect Vancouver at the most. Maybe a few taller older buildings in Burnaby. But not this."
"Not one warn—"
"We gave plenty of warnings! Why the hell do you think BC has annual earth quake drills? Why do you think we teach our students what to do in earthquakes? We don't teach them what to do in a tornado, because that's irrelevant. The warnings have been there since the beginning of time. The world's just too ignorant to listen to them."
"I can't believe this. I cannot believe you."
"I didn't do anything wro—"
"Just shut up." I sat down on her lawn defeated.
"Look at it all. My house. It's destroyed. " My voice was mere whispers.
A tree had fallen and taken the right corner of the house with it. Where the chimney must have been built, a gaping hole replaced it. The only thing that seemed unscathed was the front door, left slightly ajar.
"But I thought you said it wouldn't," I piped up. "You said the fault line was far enough away that it wouldn't affect Coquitlam. That it was on some bedrock thing."
"The epicentre must've been right under the city."
"You said Burnaby would barely be touched, just some of the taller buildings but you saw that mess. You saw the destruction, the dead bodies, the panic. And here we are, where there is nothing, and now we don't even have a shelter."
"Shut up Parker."
"You were wrong."
"This house was mainly built with brick. Brick is horrible in earthquakes."
"This is a dead end."
"Well it's the only option we have right now."
A sound emitted from the side of the house. Our heads snapped to the source. Tin rustled against gravel, something heavy fell over, a branch snapped.
"What is it?" I whispered, fear crawling up my legs. "Is it a bear? Grab something to hit it with."
"No," Andy said in a small voice. She crept towards the side of the house.
"What are you doing?" I whisper shouted. "What if it's a wolf!"
There was something, or someone under a sheet of plywood, part of the fallen tree and an old garbage bin. It rustled. Fear shot up my spine. Pictures of bloody faced murderers crossed my mind. Bodies mauled to death by bears, headlines in the news of escaped convicts. Andy reached to move the plywood.
"No!" I said in the same voice. "Andy get away!"
She gripped the plywood. She yanked it away.
Out bounced a giant shadow. It toppled Andy to the ground. I stood up to move and tripped over myself. A strangled sound escaped my mouth. The thing on Andy was the size of a pony, and as black as night. Beady eyes and razor teeth. And Andy was making a noise. A vicious noise of… laughter?
I grabbed a piece of fence that had snapped in half and ran to help Andy. I swung at the vicious animal but missed. And then it pounced on me.
I screamed at the top of my lungs. "Andy! Save yourself."
"Calm down Parker," she said in a joyous voice. "It's Newt."
I paused my struggle to look. I made eye contact with a big wet sloppy tongue that proceeded to fondle my face. The fear was still imminent. Disease was a big issue with no trained professionals.
"Oh lighten up Parker. He's just saying hello. I've been gone for almost twenty hours. Poor guy was all alone, trapped. I don't see any injuries, do you?"
"All I can see are the diseases he's spreading on my face with that blasted tongue. Make it stop."
She got the nut off of me, and I choked down the bile that was rising in my throat. I wiped the slob away with my shirt. A shudder tore through my body. "Do you have any alcohol wipes? Or should I just amputate my head before the disease spreads."
"Oh stop being such a negative Nancy. We're not going to survive if you keep thinking like that."
"So if we're not allowed to think like me, what are we allowed to think about?" I sat up and watched her walk to her front door.
"I don't know, just think of what will come out of this." She searched for something in the carport.
"A large death count."
"Will you stop it!"
"I'm trying to make light of this situation!"
After everything that happened, as soon as she gets her damn dog back everything is fine again? Rage warmed my body. I bit my tongue before any other horrors escaped my mouth.
"Well, clearly my house is no longer a haven. I'm no engineer, but I wouldn't want to sleep in there. It must have been poorly built. But, the summer has extended all the way through September, so I think if we sleep in the bed of my truck tonight, we'll be okay. We can grab blankets, jackets, whatever. This truck will be a blessing. Wherever we go from here, we can keep all our stuff in the truck. I don't have a canopy, so we'll have to find a tarp. We can look in all the other houses I suppose. I just, don't want to confront anyone."
"Where do we go from here? Shelters?"
"There's shelters set up somewhere I'm sure. But, people will be there. Lots. We'll need gas. But there's plenty of cars here."
"Well, maybe we can check out one of these shelters. I'm sure other people will be there with their vehicles. Not everyone's a monster. "
"This isn't temporary though, Parker. Look around you. This isn't going to be righted with the snap of someone's fingers. It's going to take a long time to feel okay again. Be okay. For things to be rebuilt. Everything and everyone needs to heal, and that takes time."
It'd be months of living like barbarians for normalcy to reappear. The options were thin. We couldn't stay here, and a Red Cross shelter was just a shelter. "So where do we go from here?"
She bit her lip. "Well, maybe . . . um, it's really improbable that we could get there. It's far, but, with the truck it's possible," she said more to herself than me.
"Where? Where do we go?" I climbed to my feet.
"Well, I mean, it would be nice to go back. I never thought under these circumstances, but better than others."
"What Andy? Where?"
"We go back home. To my aunt's place. On Green Lake." She looked into my eyes. "It's about a five hour drive, maybe six, depending on which highway we take. I say, we pack as much stuff as possible, and head out tomorrow at dawn. The roads won't be clear. I'm sure there will be tons of rock on the road, but we'll see how far we can make it on wheel. It's far enough away that it may have power. Green lake may not have been affected at all by the earthquake. I'm sure my aunt will welcome you there."
Her aunt’s house. A haven. A hiding place. A home.
I slowly nodded my head. It didn't sit well in my stomach, to travel so far away from my home and family, bt sometimes we have no choice in the choices we are given.
"While I'm looking for stuff in my house, you wanna check the radio?"
She tossed me the keys that miraculously stayed in my pocket through the whole venture. I walked to the beat up truck and sat with one foot dangling out at the wheel, and turned the ignition. The headlights lit a ghastly light on the destruction. I almost felt like turning them off.
Now began the arduous journey of finding life in the static. I sifted through channels, all bringing static. One held a voice, but it was in a language I was unfamiliar with. I sifted through more, the static seeped into my bones.
I eventually came across another station that was producing sound through the static. A song. A light twangy happy song. Not something I would listen to, but the sounds ignited a small fire inside of me, allowing life to grow.
I tilted my head. The song was about dancing. I couldn't remember the last time I'd danced. Was it at my high school prom, or that one time in grade seven when my mom threw me in a ballroom dancing class? The corner of my mouth twitched. I was kicked out faster than a shooting star. I had accidentally tripped my dancing partner, who in turn fell into another dancer, and the domino effect resulted. I was the only one left standing.
Just like today, except this time, I was joined by Andy.
In the distance I could hear Parker sifting through radio channels, but all that was found was static. I pulled a dirty bag out from under what used to be a wall, and crawled over to where my kitchen once stood. I blindly grabbed at cans, and other non-perishables, and placed the intact ones in the bag.
I had an emergency kit somewhere, but it was created for a person and her dog to last 72 hours. Plus, it was now buried deep under a pile of bricks. I scolded myself for not placing it in a safer spot. It had all the things I couldn't find now: a flashlight, batteries, rope, a pocket knife, and much more for girl and dog.
I felt like puking. What about water? Would the pipes still work, or were they busted. Would the water still be clean? It seemed all education I had was slipping my mind, and I was doing a terrible job of grasping on. A shiver ran down my spine. I couldn't tell if it was physical or mental.
I looked down at my shoes. Thankfully, I chose today of all days to wear runners. I looked over at Parker. He was sitting drivers side with one foot dangling from the door. He had on some fancy runner sneaker thing. It's not like my tiny shoes would fit his huge feet, but if we found better ones in the neighbours’ houses there would be no one there to say no.
I thought about a blanket. There was so much debris I doubted I could find one suitable enough. I had my duvet, but that meant going in my bedroom, and that was both terrifying and sad.
What about clothing?
I ran my shaking fingers through my hair and groaned in frustration. The radio static was really starting to set my teeth on edge, there was not one square foot of level ground, there was no food, no supplies, no nothing.
Where was I going to find gas?
The monotonous whine behind me grew louder, and I recognized a pattern in the sound. It was a song. Parker was wasting my battery playing a song. I angrily marched out the door.
"Come on," I scolded. "This isn't the time for this."
Parker stood next to my truck awkwardly swaying his body to the twangy baritone sounds of an old George Strait hit.
"Parker you look ridiculous. Stop. Do something productive."
He lifted a hand into the air, and, mimicking the motions of swinging a lasso, he swung it around his head and sent it my way, pretending to rope me in.
I stood there bewildered by his movements. "Are you serious?"
Of all people to get stuck with, it had to be him? He continued awkwardly swaying his lanky body, and continued to mime pulling me in.
Just for the sake of making him stop that, I let him pull me in by the invisible rope. He grabbed my hand, and placed his other on my waist, and twirled me around. If there was a word for his dancing it'd be 'rhythmically impaired.'
He twirled me, and swung me, and dipped me, and I attempted to return the favour. But those attempts just turned into awkward jumbles. Suddenly a small smile formed on my lips, and it grew. I found myself laughing at his awkward attempts at dance. He twirled me, our feet tangled, we tripped over each, and landed on the ground.
We burst into laughter, a magical sound compared to the ones earlier in the day. We both must be crazy. Who could laugh after everything that happened?
"You're crazy," I told Parker.
"You're pretty crazy too," he replied with a growing smile.
"Thank you," I said after a short moment.
He pulled me in close. After all that happened, I couldn't help but think back to how long I spent in love with him, and how he barely noticed my existence. Perhaps this was a cruel turn of events in my favour. Maybe someone finally answered my prayers to give me love.
Or maybe, after all that had happened over the past years I was still an idiot.
Later, as I waited for sleep to find me, I contemplated our next move. We could certainly use supplies, but that would mean snooping around my neighbours’ houses, and was that okay? It would be technically stealing, and we may encounter some unfriendly people trying to defend their own supplies? Or, what if someone tried to steal my truck while we were searching? Perhaps it would be better just to leave at the crack of dawn?
Should Andy and Parker snoop around the neighbours' houses or leave at the crack of dawn?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.