Previously on Five Seconds: An earthquake happens, creating havoc in the city. Parker and Andy must decide whether to remain in the city and look for his family, or run.
Should Parker stay behind and look for his family, or run away with Andy?Click To Reveal Results
The next hour was a series of motions. We decided to stay and look for his family. I was so against this but couldn't put up a valid argument that didn't make me feel toxic. We climbed up on a big black truck and a wave bigger than it should've been purged the city. The water came with the roar of a lion and the strength of a thousand horses. Ships collided with buildings, screams of terror were cut silent.
The water snatched the truck and yanked us back. Bedposts and office chairs tumbled along the sides. A tree swept across almost taking us off the road. A propane tank exploded on the left. Several meters away there was a dog. I reached my arm out to beckon it over, but it yelped and was pulled under. Dark water replaced it. My heart dropped along with my arm. But then it reappeared with a man under it.
I beckoned the man over. My words seemed to be drowned out, but the dog rescuer heard and began a slow swim over. I reached out my arm as if that would help. The rescuer was ten meters away. Then five. Then four. Our fingertips were inches away. But then a bus took him and the dog away. Gone forever.
The air was hard to swallow.
So much loss. So much destruction. So much death. Eventually the water slowed, and came to some sort of a stop. The truck was touching the ground, and water lapped the sides. All I could hear were the laboured breaths of Parker and I.
But we weren't out of the woods yet.
Several breaths of silence passed and then the water roared again. It pulled back and took its destruction with it. The truck was pulled as well, but only moved a few meters. I let out a minuscule breath of relief.
Who knew how many minutes of stillness we had before the water returned.
I tried to hold onto the positives. That wave was perhaps seven metres. If we didn't have an island in the way it could've reached fifty easily. I tried not to think about the inhabitants of the area.
I turned around to look at Parker. He was covered in dust and his hair was a rat’s nest. His lip was bleeding and he had a bad case of road rash extending from his cheek past his neck.
"Lead the way Parker," I said as soon as the water was ankle deep.
We went west, away from the destination I wanted us to go. It was a slow moving trek through a labyrinth of destruction. Many obstacles had to be climbed; others had to be evaded in a wide detour. I rolled my ankle badly on one torn up part of the road, but Parker kept moving. I hopped along to catch up. Thankfully, the pain subsided a little when I started walking again.
My stomach was in knots and my throat was tightening. At any moment another wave could come crashing through the barrier of buildings laid like jacks. I prayed for the first time to no one in particular that my house was fine and that my dog was safe. Every step took me further and further away from him.
My Aunts face flashed through my mind. Was she ok? Did the earthquake reach her? Home seemed like it was in a different universe now. A utopia, where safe waves lapped the boat ramp, the smell of cedar was thick in the air, and somewhere on the lake, Jimmy Buffet was cranked to eleven.
We turned left at the next intersection, now moving away from the harbour. But this street was a maze of people. With emotions running high it would be too dangerous, especially considering the riots that broke out because of a hockey team. One could only imagine this growing hysteria.
I grabbed Parker's shoulder and guided him away. "Take a detour."
My ankle was throbbing but I pushed past the pain. There were worse things to deal with right now. "How much further?" I asked.
There was no response.
He stayed silent and kept trudging on. I clenched my jaw. The fact that I felt like I was stuck with him now made me irritable. There was no way he would ever have my back if our roles were reversed, and I hated myself for not having the guts to leave him right here.
"Parker how far do we need to travel?"
Rage rushed through my veins like a thousand horses. Exhaustion lapped at my toes. How dare he take us away from safety and ignore me. I gripped his shoulder and turned him around.
"Parker. What's wrong with you?" I growled. "Are we close or not? It's getting dangerous out here."
"I don't know just a little longer," he said.
"What do you mean you don't know." A year later and he was still ruling my life. I didn't know if I was more angry at him or myself. "Do you know where you're going?"
"Yes I know where I'm going," he snapped.
"Well how far, we don't have much time."
"I know that!"
"So take some leadership!" I shoved him.
"Don't tell me what to do. It's not like I caused this," he retorted.
"I'm not telling you what to do. I'm telling you to grow a pair." His words were pathetic, but I was too irritated to shut up. I just had to yell at him, because it made things feel better.
"Well screw off! I don't need you." He began walking away.
"Are you kidding me?" I thundered. "If it wasn't for me, your sorry ass would be half way across the Pacific by now."
He stormed up to me until we were almost chest to chest. "Congratulations. You ran away. I'm not running away from my family. If you don't care for my family then you can leave."
"I didn't run away—you can't even run from a tsunami!"
Parker opened his mouth to say something but he was silenced by a familiar roar.
We froze and looked north towards the harbour. Water galloped in a million miles a minute, defying the power of man and swallowing whatever it came in contact with.
I clasped onto Parker and he held me tight as a noose—the argument about nothing was long forgotten. We braced ourselves before a wall of water hit us harder than an avalanche of semi-trucks. The water ripped through our bodies, shredding our skin. The force of the water had to be supernatural. There was no way it could hold so much wicked strength.
And there was the darkness.
The icy, angry, liquid swallowed us whole and tossed us around like a washing machine, but I held on tight. I wasn't going to lose Parker this time—that wasn't an option. We tumbled along over and under, bumping and crashing through unforgiving objects. My body collided against hard entities, but I couldn't tell if they were objects, buildings, the ground, or the wave. My nails dug tight into Parker. My face was pressed tight against his chest in an almost claustrophobic inducing way. We dizzyingly spun around in a despairing dance with death.
My lungs burned.
Fear clawed away at me, threatening to free the air trapped in my lungs, and drag me down to the bottom. It ripped at my hair, gnawed at my fingers, clenched my throat; it mauled my spine, fired uppercuts at my heart, and jabs to my stomach. The fear was a spindly monster that weighed a thousand pounds, and clamped onto me tighter than a guillotine. Its death grip was infinite—it's perseverance eternal. A taloned hand clasped my mouth. My lungs were searing.
Water made strange sounds. Sometimes it roared like a dragon; sometimes it hissed like a snake. Sometimes it sauntered along at a peaceful rate, or it darted and dashed faster than a blistering wind. This water made a different sound… it was haunting—it was agonizing. There was ripping, breaking, scratching, tearing, and snapping. There was crashing, there was shattering, there was popping, moaning, exploding, and whispers.
Whispers of a grave full of silence, not terror. This grave promised no pain… or no fear. This grave was a deep, deep slumber beneath this disaster, rocked to sleep by the push and pull of waves. All one had to do… was take a breath.
I was gripped tighter and I remembered Parker. Above our heads was a glistening object of promise and life. The object pierced through the tumultuous body of destruction, and remained the tiniest bit of heat on my face. The object reminded me of my aunt, and my dog, and wet socks hung on the hearth in a log cabin in the middle of the snowy woods, and I pushed off the ground. A dark object passed above, only for a moment, and then the bright object was back. My lungs were bursting with the need for air. My muscles and my bones and my skin were laced with pain. My face broke the surface. Parker and I rose.
The sun. The beautiful gorgeous sun was on our faces fighting against the icy grip of death the water held.
My throat burned as my lungs greedily gulped down breath after breath of sweet oxygen. Parker was breathing just as hard as I was, and suddenly I was submerged under a wave of grief much larger than what had just crashed into us. My entire body erupted into violent tremors. I let out a whimper.
Parker gripped me tighter. "I'm sorry," he whispered between laboured breaths. "I'm so sorry."
"Come on. Let's get out of this water before we get pulled to Oahu."
A harsh breath escaped both our throats.
Humour didn't exist anymore.
Three hours later, at the crest of a hill, we looked back.
What we saw was a city levelled. Smoke filled the air, raining ashy grey snowflakes. They crept towards us from far away, falling on our shoulders like the words from an old history book full of the deepest secrets torn to shreds. The bright lights of the city had burned out, and were replaced by the devilish glow of fire. Smokey tendrils curled into the air, grasping at the sun with wicked witch’s fingers. The sky was a dull smoky bronze. I couldn't help but think of the people being smothered to death by the blaze.
The sounds of another building collapsing from those foul embers reverberated across the land.
That was when the tears began rolling down Parker's face. A stark comparison to the charming rambunctious man he was. At first I was confused, and didn't know whether or not I should start panicking. Men didn't cry, it was a show of weakness, a blemish in their armour. Sure it was hard to look at the destruction knowing just how many people may have died today, and how many were currently dying.
"My whole life,' he finally uttered, his voice hoarse.
I looked at him. I looked at the tears he wasn't ashamed to shed.
"It's gone," he swallowed hard. "My city is gone."
That was why he was crying. Parker wasn't weak, nor were the tears unnecessary. He had just seen his whole life ripped to shreds. He lost the woman he loved, his house, all of his possessions. His childhood memories, his schools—all destroyed. He didn't even know if his family had made it—his friends. His home, his city, was gone. I mentally slapped myself. These feelings… I should know better than anyone what it's like to lose everything.
"Parker," I whispered. "I—I'm so sorry."
He looked at me. That face… I would never forget. Absolute emptiness.
We continued on our way.
Now, as we neared another town centre, people were reappearing by the hundreds, the thousands. Large buildings still stood—others did not. A skytrain rail was collapsed and had taken a train with it. The road was still broken, but wasn't nearly as torn apart as the roads in Vancouver.
People were everywhere. They would've had to evacuate their apartments. I tried hard not to think about the people who lived in the towers that were now piles of rubble. The people were milling about, the air held a heavy weight, and the crowd was congregating to one particular place.
"A mall," Parker said with a sudden peak of interest and life in his voice. "Come on, let's go get food. Supplies." He changed direction in his steps.
I shuttered. "Oh no Parker. You're crazy."
"Me!" His voice was raised. He looked around before coming closer and saying in a lower voice, "You're crazy for thinking that we're going to survive without pillaging for stuff?"
I swallowed back a retort. At least he said we.
We were in this together now. Perhaps we didn't mix well like Coke and whiskey, but we just had to fight together, and survive. Living came later.
Fight together and survive.
He continued walking towards the mall. I ran up to him. "Parker, the mall is no place to go during a time like this," I warned.
"What do you mean? There's food, Andy—gas maybe. Blankets, and weapons even."
"And people. Lots, and lots of dangerous people. That mall is a madhouse. Every single person in that building will stop at nothing to get what they need… even if that means killing."
He rolled his eyes. "You need to stop living in so much fear Andy. Not everyone out there is bad." He waited for a response that I didn't have. "Well, you can starve to death but I'm going. Nobody would dare mess with me—I won't let them."
I buried my rage as best as I could. Our 'teamwork' was hanging on a razor’s edge. I pulled him back by his shirt. "You're going to go in there and what? Grab a couple burritos? Some poutine? How long is that going to last you? This is a mall, Parker. Not a grocery store."
"You're being stupid Andy. You're always too cautious. I'm used to crowds. I lived downtown all my life."
My grip on his shirt loosened. He left and disappeared in the crowd. I couldn't stop him, because he was right about one thing. I was always over cautious. But caution was good, right? Caution was moving away from Downtown Vancouver, to a small suburb in the tri-cities. Caution was the only thing I knew in life, and now was when I needed it most. Parker was going to get himself hurt in there. If I was over cautious, then he was overconfident.
And I couldn't lose him now.
I swallowed my caution, and went after him.
"Parker!" I yelled. "Parker!"
I meandered through people, rushing to catch up. The crowd was large, and I was not. I pushed past one man, and he threw me to the ground.
"Watch it!" he spat.
I was kicked and thrown about, as the crowd continued pushing into the mall.
"Parker!" I yelled. I managed to scramble to my feet, and moved as fast as I could to the doors. How could I lose him so fast?
I was herded through Sears like a cow, but without Parker. No—there on the right, the back of his head. "Parker!" I called after him. He turned around. I ran to catch up, but tripped. I tried crawling to my feet but couldn't. I was knocked down by an invisible force. The ground wasn't stable.
An aftershock. Strong enough to rival the first.
"Parker!" I screamed. Our eyes locked just as a light fixture fell between us.
Screams filled the building, mixed in with the rumble of the earth. A knee flew through the air, connecting with the space between my eyes. Suddenly Parker was beside me, pulling me in. I couldn't tell whether it was him or someone else that had hit me. I was very dizzy. But fixtures kept falling from the ceiling. We had to get to a safe spot.
I scooted into the nearest store—a bridal store, pulling Parker with me. We curled up against the wall away from the windows as the ground continued to shake. Deafening alarms blasted through the mall. Mannequins toppled over, dresses fell from the store. Screams began to die out, whether from death or bravery—I didn't want to know. I clasped onto Parker's hand for dear life. For comfort, for stability, and to make sure I didn't lose the damn guy again.
The shaking stretched on, threatening to never end. I shut my eyes tight and focused on my breathing. I was so scared.
Eventually the rumbling stopped, but the terror didn't.
I took a deep breath then coughed. The dust hadn't settled yet. I opened my eyes. The electricity was gone, rebar poked out of concrete like mangled fingers. I looked towards Parker and saw the idea fade in his eyes. Home was the only answer now. No detours, no scavenging, no distractions.
"You ready for this?" I asked. The exhaustion weighed me down and threatened to pull me under, but I fought one last time.
He squeezed my hand. "As ready as you."
We climbed to our feet, hands still clasped. I pushed a few wedding gowns aside, and stepped over several mannequins to get to the broken windows in the front of the store. Out in the mall was chaos. The escalators had collapsed, along with half of the top floor. Massive pieces of the ceiling had toppled to the ground, glass littered the floor. The moans and screams of injured people made me want to retch. The dust was heavy, so I pulled my shirt over my mouth. Parker did the same.
We stepped carefully over the treacherous ground. It was hard to keep my eyes up because I needed to place my feet carefully; however, the need to advert my eyes from the bodies was greater.
"So many people, Parker," I whispered. "So many."
I looked back to see what made Parker freeze. My heart leapt out of my chest. He stood there confined against a lanky guy with a face that resembled a flattened football. He held a knife against Parker's neck.
"Help me!" the man begged, a quiver in his voice.
Parker raised his hands. "We can't."
"Yes!" he bellowed, phlegm flew from his lips. "Come on man. Help me out."
"I'm sorry, I'm not trained in first aid."
"What about your girlfriend?" He flashed the knife at me.
Parker hesitated for only a moment. "She's not my girlfriend." His voice wavered. "My girlfriend is dead."
"Then save mine!"
Parker looked at me, looking for an answer. Looking for my yes. "Where is she?" he asked before I could say no.
I bit my lip. No, no, no. I didn't want this. I wanted to run away. We had to leave and go home. I had a dog at home, I needed to see if he was okay. I needed to make sure that my house wasn't a blazing inferno.
There were a million different reasons why I didn't want to help, and I didn't want to be here, but we were all humans. Maybe we didn't always get along, maybe I hated all of them with good reason, but at a time like this we needed to bond together, and I would be a terrible human if I didn't. If someone could be saved, they should be saved. My mind screamed at me like an angry hinge. I silently promised that if she was beyond help we would leave.
"Lead the way." The words felt like an engine running with no oil.
He led us over to where the escalators were situated.
It was only a broken leg—if you could call it that. The swollen limb was a deep violent shade of purple, and blood was oozing out of where part of the bone was protruding. The woman was in a land between consciousness and I was almost envious of that. But not the injury. The injury was life threatening even in a perfect world.
I never had formal medical training, I had just learned from experience. But that was with cuts, and road burn, and stinging nettle. The girl was going to die if she didn't get admitted to a hospital—a proper one that still worked.
"We need to wrap it," I said in a small voice. No one heard. I cleared my throat and tried again. "She needs a splint. We need to wrap it."
I knew that wasn't the perfect answer, but I knew it wasn't terribly wrong either.
"My friend and I," I pointed at Parker. "We can go back to the bridal store and grab some fabric. That should work fine, but she needs a real doctor."
The man looked offended. "You expect me to let you go? You'll never come back," he accused.
Parker and I made eye contact—he didn't have an answer either. "Take my shoes," I said, and looked back at the man. I treaded cautiously with my words. "I'd be a fool to leave with no footwear. I wouldn't make it down the block in fact."
We stood there for a moment while the man weighed his options. After a delicate moment, he motioned with his knife. "Give me your shoes."
I reached down, and removed my runners from my feet. Instantly, I felt stripped of any security I had left.
"You have four minutes."
I nodded my head. Parker and I turned around and headed back towards the store. Vision was limited, and now I absolutely had to look down to see where to place my feet. We walked through the real entrance to the store because there was less glass here. Once we were as far back in the store as possible, I leaned into Parker's ear.
"We have four minutes to get wrapped up in his mess or escape," I breathed.
Should Parker and Andy escape, or help the couple?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.